1. the Preacher—and Convener of
assemblies for the purpose. See my Preface. Koheleth in Hebrew, a
symbolical name for Solomon, and of Heavenly Wisdom
speaking through and identified with him. Ec 1:12 shows that "king of Jerusalem" is in
apposition, not with "David," but "Preacher."
of Jerusalem—rather, "in
Jerusalem," for it was merely his metropolis, not his whole
2. The theme proposed of the first part of his
Vanity of vanities—Hebraism for the
most utter vanity. So "holy of holies" (Ex 26:33); "servant of servants" (Ge 9:25). The repetition increases the
all—Hebrew, "the all";
all without exception, namely, earthly things.
vanity—not in themselves, for God
maketh nothing in vain (1Ti 4:4, 5),
but vain when put in the place of God and made the end, instead
of the means (Ps 39:5, 6; 62:9; Mt 6:33); vain, also, because of the "vanity" to
which they are "subjected" by the fall (Ro 8:20).
3. What profit … labour—that is,
"What profit" as to the chief good (Mt 16:26). Labor is profitable in its proper
place (Ge 2:15; 3:19; Pr 14:23).
under the sun—that is, in this
life, as opposed to the future world. The phrase often recurs, but
only in Ecclesiastes.
4. earth … for ever—(Ps 104:5). While the earth remains the
same, the generations of men are ever changing; what lasting
profit, then, can there be from the toils of one whose sojourn on
earth, as an individual, is so brief? The "for ever" is comparative,
not absolute (Ps 102:26).
5. (Ps 19:5, 6). "Panting" as the Hebrew for
"hasteth"; metaphor, from a runner (Ps 19:5, "a strong man") in a "race." It applies
rather to the rising sun, which seems laboriously to
mount up to the meridian, than to the setting sun; the accents too
favor Maurer, "And (that too, returning)
to his place, where panting he riseth."
6. according to his circuits—that is, it
returns afresh to its former circuits, however many be its previous
veerings about. The north and south winds are the two prevailing winds
in Palestine and Egypt.
7. By subterraneous cavities, and by
evaporation forming rain clouds, the fountains and rivers are supplied
from the sea, into which they then flow back. The connection is:
Individual men are continually changing, while the succession
of the race continues; just as the sun, wind, and rivers are ever
shifting about, while the cycle in which they move is invariable; they
return to the point whence they set out. Hence is man, as in these
objects of nature which are his analogue, with all the seeming changes
"there is no new thing" (Ec 1:9).
translates, "All words are wearied out," that is, are
inadequate, as also, "man cannot express" all the things in the world
which undergo this ceaseless, changeless cycle of vicissitudes: "The
eye is not satisfied with seeing them," &c. But it is plainly a
return to the idea (Ec 1:3) as to
man's "labor," which is only wearisome and profitless; "no new"
good can accrue from it (Ec 1:9); for
as the sun, &c., so man's laborious works move in a changeless
cycle. The eye and ear are two of the taskmasters for
which man toils. But these are never "satisfied" (Ec 6:7; Pr
27:20). Nor can they be so
hereafter, for there will be nothing "new." Not so the chief good,
Jesus Christ (Joh 4:13, 14; Re 21:5).
9. Rather, "no new thing at all"; as in
Nu 11:6. This is not meant in a general
sense; but there is no new source of happiness (the subject in
question) which can be devised; the same round of petty pleasures,
cares, business, study, wars, &c., being repeated over and over
10. old time—Hebrew, "ages."
which was—The Hebrew plural
cannot be joined to the verb singular. Therefore translate: "It
hath been in the ages before; certainly it hath been before us" [Holden]. Or, as Maurer: "That which has been (done) before us (in
our presence, 1Ch 16:33),
has been (done) already in the old times."
11. The reason why some things are thought
"new," which are not really so, is the imperfect record that exists of
preceding ages among their successors.
those that … come after—that is,
those that live still later than the "things, rather the
persons or generations, Ec 1:4, with which this verse is connected, the
six intermediate verses being merely illustrations of Ec 1:4 [Weiss],
that are to come" (Ec 2:16; 9:5).
12. Resumption of Ec 1:1, the intermediate verses being the
introductory statement of his thesis. Therefore, "the Preacher"
(Koheleth) is repeated.
was king—instead of "am," because he
is about to give the results of his past experience during his
in Jerusalem—specified, as opposed to
David, who reigned both in Hebron and Jerusalem; whereas Solomon
reigned only in Jerusalem. "King of Israel in Jerusalem," implies that
he reigned over Israel and Judah combined; whereas David, at
Hebron, reigned only over Judah, and not, until he was settled
in Jerusalem, over both Israel and Judah.
13. this sore travail—namely, that of
"searching out all things done under heaven." Not human wisdom in
general, which comes afterwards (Ec 2:12, &c.), but laborious enquiries into,
and speculations about, the works of men; for example, political
science. As man is doomed to get his bread, so his knowledge, by the
sweat of his brow (Ge 3:19)
exercised—that is, disciplined;
literally, "that they may thereby chastise, or humble
14. The reason is here given why investigation
into man's "works" is only "sore travail" (Ec 1:13); namely, because all man's ways are
1:18) and cannot be mended
vexation of—"a preying upon"
the Spirit—Maurer translates; "the pursuit of wind," as in
5:16; Ho 12:1, "Ephraim
feedeth on wind." But old versions support the English
15. Investigation (Ec 1:13) into human ways is vain labor, for they
are hopelessly "crooked" and "cannot be made straight" by it (Ec 7:13). God, the chief good, alone can
do this (Isa 40:4; 45:2).
numbered—so as to make a complete
number; so equivalent to "supplied" [Maurer]. Or, rather, man's state is utterly
wanting; and that which is wholly defective cannot be numbered or
calculated. The investigator thinks he can draw up, in accurate
numbers, statistics of man's wants; but these, including the
defects in the investigator's labor, are not partial, but total.
16. communed with … heart—(Ge 24:45).
come to great estate—Rather, "I
have magnified and gotten" (literally, "added," increased),
all … before me in
Jerusalem—namely, the priests, judges, and two kings that
preceded Solomon. His wisdom exceeded that of all before Jesus Christ,
the antitypical Koheleth, or "Gatherer of men," (Lu 13:34), and "Wisdom" incarnate (Mt 11:19;
had … experience—literally, "had
seen" (Jer 2:31).
Contrast with this glorying in worldly wisdom (Jer 9:23, 24).
17. wisdom … madness—that is,
their effects, the works of human wisdom and folly respectively.
"Madness," literally, "vaunting extravagance"; Ec 2:12; 7:25, &c., support English
Version rather than Dathe, "splendid
matters." "Folly" is read by English Version with some
manuscripts, instead of the present Hebrew text, "prudence." If
Hebrew be retained, understand "prudence," falsely so
called (1Ti 6:20),
18. wisdom … knowledge—not in
general, for wisdom, &c., are most excellent in their place; but
speculative knowledge of man's ways (Ec 1:13, 17), which, the farther it goes,
gives one the more pain to find how "crooked" and "wanting" they are