1:1. “The words
of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.”
Solomon’s describing himself
first as “the Preacher” reminds us that his position here as the amanuensis
of the Holy Spirit was far more important than the fact that he was David’s
son, and that he was king in Jerusalem. No greater honor can be bestowed upon
a man than that he be chosen to hear God’s Word, and pass it on to others; nor
should we make the mistake of believing that this is a unique honor reserved
only for the few. It is, in fact, a distinction conferred upon every man who
has trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, for every believer is responsible
to warn others of the need to be saved, and to proclaim the good news of
salvation to all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
peaceableness; David beloved; and Jerusalem,
dual peace shall be
taught: lay (set) ye double peace.
These meanings combine to teach the lesson that he who is the son of the true
David, i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ, the One of Whom God has declared, “This is
my beloved Son,” will not only be himself peaceable, but he will dwell
continually in the enjoyment of the peace of God, as it is written, “And the
peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds
through Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:7.
1:2. “Vanity of
vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”
“Vanity” is also translated
without lasting advantage: utterly futile: empty as the wind: meaningless.
This is God’s description of all the earthly things with which men busy
themselves in the course of their brief lives here in this poor perishing
world, His advice being, “Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat ... or
drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed? .... But seek ye first the kingdom
of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,”
profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?
“Profit” here means
lasting advantage, and the truth being declared is that there is no
eternal gain in the things which men pursue with such diligence here on
earth. No matter what riches a man may accumulate, he must leave them here on
earth when he departs this earthly scene, “For we brought nothing into this
world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out,” 1 Timothy 6:7. The folly
of setting our hearts on earthly riches is declared in what is written of the
rich man mentioned in Luke 12:20-21, “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this
night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be,
which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and
is not rich toward God.”
generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth
The generations succeed one
another, each occupying for a brief time a place here on earth, but then
passing away, not out of existence, but passing to an eternal experience of
joy or torment, depending on whether the individual accepted or rejected the
Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
Relative to the eternal
endurance of the earth, it is to be remembered that this present earth is to
be destroyed, and replaced with a new earth, as it is written, “But the day of
the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall
pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,
the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then
that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to
be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the
coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be
dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we,
according to his promise, look for a new heavens and a new earth, wherein
dwelleth righteousness,” 2 Peter 3:10-13.
The believer, however, has
an eternal treasure which he will take with him into heaven, for he who
has trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior has within him what is
priceless: eternal life, relative to which it is written, “But we have this
treasure in earthen vessels (our bodies), that the excellency of the power may
be of God, and not of us,” 2 Corinthians 4:7.
1:5. “The sun
also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he
Here the Lord accommodates
the general belief of that distant day when men were unaware of the circular
motions of the heavenly bodies, and He uses the imagined rising and setting of
the sun to demonstrate the passing of one generation and its replacement with
another. The futility of everything under the sun is illustrated in the fact
that for all its endless circumnavigations of the earth the sun never arrives
at any destination.
“... hasteth” is connected
with the thought of panting, and illustrates the frenzied effort with which
man pursues the worthless things of this world.
1:6. “The wind
goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about
continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.”
The activity of the wind is
used also as an illustration of the successive ephemeral generations: to the
natural eye they appear to have as little substance as the wind.
1:7. “All the
rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full: unto the place from whence
the rivers come, thither they return again.”
The same seemingly
purposeless flow of the rivers into the sea is used also as a demonstration of
the futility of every earthly endeavor, because for all the water which the
rivers pour into the sea, it remains the same size, evaporation maintaining
the volume at a constant level, while the rain replenishes the rivers, thus
maintaining the constant monotonous weary cycle.
1:8. “All things
are full of labor; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.”
“All things are full of
labor,” is also translated all these considerations are wearisome, tiresome;
man can’t recount them. Unable to comprehend spiritual verities, the
natural man sees life as a tiresome round of labor which yields no enduring
satisfaction, but leads him rather in the fruitless pursuit of happiness which
always eludes him.
1:9. “The thing
that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that
which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
Modern scientific and
technological wonders have caused some to question the veracity of this verse,
but it has to be understood that the reference is to that which constitutes
the natural course of men’s lives, and in that respect nothing has changed.
What marks the life of twenty-first century man is exactly the same as that
which marked the life of first century man: each comes into the world by
natural birth; each lives his alloted span pursuing virtually the same
activities, and eventually each dies; the soul of the believer going to
heaven, and that of the unbeliever, to hell.
1:10. “Is there
anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old
time, which was before us.”
This is to be understood in
the same context as the preceding verse.
1:11. “There is
no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of
things that are to come with those that shall come after.”
In the present context
“things” refers to people, so that what is being said is that there is no
remembrance of former people by those who succeed them. This is not to be
construed as meaning that we know nothing about them, but rather that we
didn’t know those people personally. We may feel that we know the Apostle
Paul, for example, but we didn’t know him personally: we only know of
him by what is written about him. And so is the meaning here: we may know
about past generations, but we didn’t know them personally. Likewise,
future generations may know about us, but they won’t have known us personally.
1:12. “I the
Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.”
This doesn’t mean that he
was no longer king, but that future generations will not know him personally,
but only as the man who was once king over Israel, his throne having been in
Jerusalem the capital and administrative center of the Jewish nation.
1:13. “And I
gave my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom concerning all things that
are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to
be exercised therewith.”
Solomon had given his mind
wholeheartedly to the task of searching out wisely everything that is done
under the sun, i.e., on the earth. And concerning what God has “given to the
sons of man to be exercised therewith,” he describes it as “this sore
travail,” i.e., this vexatious employment; this evil exercise or task;
unhappy, sorry business; weary task,” that “sore travail” seeming to be the
same task as that which he, Solomon, had himself undertaken.
As to why man should have
been assigned this arduous task, the explanation seems to be that by it man
will learn the futility of all that pertains to this world, and the wisdom of
applying himself with a whole heart to the pursuit of all that pertains to the
world to come.
1:14. “I have
seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and
vexation of spirit.”
He had seen and considered
all the different things with which man busies himself here on earth, and he
had found it all to be as worthless, empty, futile as chasing the wind.
which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be
The “crooked [which] cannot
be made straight” is generally understood to have reference to the inherently
corrupt nature with which man is born, hence his need of being “born again”
through faith in Christ as his Savior. The “wanting [which] cannot be
numbered” is that evil in man which makes him defective, and which cannot be
cured. He must become a completely new creature in Christ by being born
again, that new birth endowing him with Christ’s life and sinless nature, thus
fitting him for heaven.
communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have
gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea,
my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.”
Solomon is not taking any
personal credit for his riches, or his wisdom and knowledge. He knew that he
was debtor to God for everything he possessed, all his blessings having been
given because he asked God for wisdom to rule His people wisely, as recorded
in 1 Kings 3:9-13, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge
thy people, that I may discern between good and bad .... And God said unto
him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long
life; neither hast asked riches for thyself ... but hast asked for thyself
understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words:
lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was
none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto
thee. And I have given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and
honor: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy
1:17. “And I
gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that
this also is vexation of spirit.”
He had given himself
wholeheartedly to the acquisition of wisdom, and to know madness, i.e., to
know rightly the ways of the foolish, not to ape their folly, but to avoid it.
“... vexation of spirit” is
also translated striving after, or feeding upon wind; futile.
1:18. “For in
much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth
Solomon, like many another,
had learned that contrary to what might have been expected, increased wisdom
or knowledge brought not pleasure, but sorrow, for it is only the right use of
knowledge that yields peaceable profit, and those endowed with such knowledge