Much has been written about the meaning of Solomon’s words, where he wrote (at Ecclesiastes 11:1):
‘aposteilon ton arton epi prosopon tou hydatos oti en plethei ton hemeron heureseis auton,’
‘Send the bread yours on face the waters and in many the days find it.’
And we have often been repulsed by the thought of receiving cold, soggy bread.
So, what was King Solomon actually talking about?
While the Greek word arton is usually translated as bread, loaf, or loaf of bread; in ancient times, it also referred to just grains of wheat. This was the case where Jesse gave ‘bread’ to his youngest son David to carry to his brothers in battle, which consisted of both roasted grain and loaves (see 1 Samuel 17:17).
So the apparent meaning of Solomon’s words are as we they appear in our translation:
‘Scatter your [seeds] on the water,
And after some time you will find them.’
The meaning of these words may still seem a bit vague until you realize that birds usually only eat seeds that are scattered over dry ground. So, the practice at the time was to plant seeds only before or after a hard rain or after irrigation; then the seeds were figuratively scattered ‘on the water,’ causing them to germinate and quickly root.
Of course, Solomon wasn’t really giving advice on planting.
His words were in the form of a parable or illustration, and they implied that giving much to others will result in our receiving much in return.