Ecclesiastes One

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

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Ecclesiastes 1:1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

the Preacher. Solomon calls himself “the Preacher” no less than seven times in this book, using a word (Kehleth) used nowhere else in the Old Testament. He seems here to assume the role of a pastor over his flock rather than as a king over his subjects.

Ecclesiastes 1:2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Vanity. The words “vanity,” “vanities,” and “vain” (all the same Hebrew word) occur no less than thirty-eight times in Ecclesiastes, almost as much as in all the rest of the Bible put together.

Ecclesiastes 1:3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

under the sun. This phrase, “under the sun” occurs twenty-nine times in Ecclesiastes. If one's thoughts and motives are all “under the sun,” then indeed everything is vanity. Each believer is exhorted to “set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

Ecclesiastes 1:4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

earth abideth for ever. This is one of many biblical affirmations that God created the earth to last forever. Like our mortal bodies, it must be made new again, but once renewed, it will abide forever.

Ecclesiastes 1:5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

sun goeth down. Just as modern astronomers, in their everyday speech, talk of the sun rising and sun setting, so the Biblical writers, following the principle of relative motion, use similar terminology. This is scientifically pragmatic, not “unscientific.”

Ecclesiastes 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.

whirleth about continually. This is a remarkable anticipation of the modern discovery of the world's great wind circuits, in the global circulation of the atmosphere.

Ecclesiastes 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.

thither they return. Similarly, this is an excellent summary of the earth's amazing hydrologic cycle, as confirmed scientifically only in modern times.

from whence they come. For a long time it was believed that rain waters came by evaporation from local lakes and rivers. Meteorologists have now proved by extensive upper-air research that they come from oceanic evaporation, just as this passage indicates.

Ecclesiastes 1:8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

Ecclesiastes 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.

no new thing. There is no new thing under the sun, since God has completed His creation (Genesis 2:1-3). But God is above the sun, and He can still create “new things” by miracles (e.g., Numbers 16:30; Jeremiah 31:22).

Ecclesiastes 1:10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

Ecclesiastes 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.

Ecclesiastes 1:12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.

Ecclesiastes 1:13 And I gave my heart to seek and 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.

Ecclesiastes 1:14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

all the works. King Solomon, the Preacher, had the greatest wealth, the greatest wisdom, the greatest power, and the greatest sensual pleasures and comforts of just about any man who ever lived. Yet when these works were done only “under the sun” (and this is the recurring theme of Ecclesiastes), it was soon found by him all to be done in vain, and merely vexed his spirit, rather than satisfying it.

all is vanity. “Vanity” in this book, does not mean foolish pride, of course (although Solomon surely had much he could boast about), but rather the emptiness of life when lived outside the will of God.

Ecclesiastes 1:15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.

Ecclesiastes 1:16 I 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.

Ecclesiastes 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.

Ecclesiastes 1:18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

is much grief. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon extolled wisdom and knowledge; in Ecclesiastes, he says it only brings trouble. The difference is that in the one he is speaking of true wisdom and knowledge, as founded on “the fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). In the other, he is lamenting the futility of the pseudo-wisdom and knowledge falsely so called of those who build on humanistic or pantheistic foundations.