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Bible Commentaries

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes
Ecclesiastes 1



Verse 1

The words. Rashi says that, when this expression occurs at the beginning of a book, it shows that the book is meant for reproof, and he gives evidence from Deuteronomy 1:1 (Compare Ecclesiastes 32:15). Amos 1:1 (Compare Ecclesiastes 4:1). Jeremiah 1:1 (Compare Ecclesiastes 30:6). David, 2 Samuel 23:1 (Compare Ecclesiastes 1:6).

the Preacher. This comes from Luther"s version "Prediger"; but "Koheleth" does not include the idea of preaching. Some of its teaching is individual (Ecclesiastes 3:17); and succeeding appeals are in the second person.

Verse 2

Vanity of vanities. Figure of speech Polyptoton. Note also the Figure of speech Epanadiplosis (App-6), by which Ecclesiastes 1:2 begins and ends with the same word. These Figures are used for the greatest emphasis, and denote utter vanity.

all = the whole, or "the sum total". Not everything in the universe, but all the human labours of Ecclesiastes 1:3, Ecclesiastes 1:8.

vanity. Heb habal, used of that which soon vanishes.

Verse 3

man. Hebrew. "adam = the natural man. App-14.

labour = toil.

under the sun. This expression is peculiar to this book, and occurs twenty-nine times: (Ecclesiastes 1:3, Ecclesiastes 1:9, Ecclesiastes 1:14; Ecclesiastes 2:11, Ecclesiastes 2:17, Ecclesiastes 2:18, Ecclesiastes 2:19, Ecclesiastes 2:20, Ecclesiastes 2:22; Ecclesiastes 3:16; Ecclesiastes 4:1, Ecclesiastes 4:3, Ecclesiastes 4:7, Ecclesiastes 4:15; Ecclesiastes 5:13, Ecclesiastes 5:18; Ecclesiastes 6:1, Ecclesiastes 6:12; Ecclesiastes 8:9, Ecclesiastes 8:15, Ecclesiastes 8:15, Ecclesiastes 8:17; Ecclesiastes 9:3, Ecclesiastes 9:6, Ecclesiastes 9:9, Ecclesiastes 9:9, Ecclesiastes 9:11, Ecclesiastes 9:13; Ecclesiastes 10:5). It is equivalent to "upon the earth" (Ecclesiastes 5:2; Ecclesiastes 8:14, Ecclesiastes 8:16; Ecclesiastes 10:7; Ecclesiastes 11:2, Ecclesiastes 11:3). It refers to all that is connected with earthly things as such, and with man apart from God, but what is stated is inspired truth. If what is stated here seems to be a "discrepancy" when compared with other scriptures, then these latter must be dealt withand reconciled and harmonized as other supposed "discrepancies" usually are; not cast aside as uninspired. It may be that it is man"s theology which has yet to be conformed to these inspired statements.

Verse 4

abideth = standeth still, as in first occurrence (Genesis 18:8, Genesis 18:22; Genesis 19:27. Joshua 18:5. Psalms 119:90).

for ever. Hebrew "olam = for ages; "olam occurs in Ecc. seven times: Ecclesiastes 1:4, Ecclesiastes 1:10; Ecclesiastes 2:16; Ecclesiastes 3:11, Ecclesiastes 3:14; Ecclesiastes 9:6; Ecclesiastes 12:5. See the notes thereon.

It = the world in relation to time past and future: as we use it when we speak of the ancient world, the old world, the modern world, the world to come, the Roman world. -

Verse 5

The Hebrew pauses in this verse are remarkable, and need a semicolon between each clause.

Verse 6

wind. Hebrew. ruach. App-9. The first part of Ecclesiastes 1:6 continues the motion of the sun, going to the south (in winter) and turning about to the north (in summer).

it whirleth: i.e. the wind whirleth. This is the subject of Ecclesiastes 1:6.

Verse 7

they return again. This is the point of the illustration. Compare Job 36:27.

Verse 8

labour = weariness.

man. Hebrew. "ish. App-14.

the eye. Some codices, with Aramaean, Septuagint, and Syriac, read "and the eye".

Verse 11

remembrance = memorial.

of former things. Supply the Ellipsis (App-6) with the word "men", to complete the argument from verses: Ecclesiastes 1:2-4 -. The Chaldee for the former [men] version supplies the word "generation".

after = "after [them]", or at the last.

Verse 12

I. Solomon knew that the kingdom was to be rent (1 Kings 11:11, 1 Kings 11:12) and the People scattered; therefore he sought to kill Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:39-40). The Chaldee Targum says, on Ecclesiastes 1:1, "These are the words of the prophecy which Koheleth delivered when Solomon foresaw, by the Spirit of prophecy, that the kingdom of Rehoboam his son would be divided by Jeroboam the son of Nebat".

was = came to be.

over Israel. Solomon was the only king of which this was wholly true.

Verse 13

wisdom. Hebrew. chokmah. See note on Proverbs 1:2.

under heaven = under the heavens. Some codices, with one early printed edition, Aramaean, Syriac, and Vulgate, read "under the sun".

God. Hebrew. Elohim. App-4. The title "Jehovah" is not used in Ecclesiastes, as this book refers to man in relation to his Creator only; not to man in covenant with Him as "Jehovah". Hence the frequent use of Hebrew. "adam for "man" in this book.

exercised = humbled.

Verse 14

vanity. See note on Ecclesiastes 1:2.

vexation of spirit = feeding on wind. The expression occurs nine times (Ecclesiastes 1:14, Ecclesiastes 1:17; Ecclesiastes 2:11, Ecclesiastes 2:17, Ecclesiastes 2:26; Ecclesiastes 4:4, Ecclesiastes 4:6, Ecclesiastes 4:16; Ecclesiastes 6:9.)

spirit. Hebrew. ruach. App-9.

Verse 16

my heart = I myself.

had = saw.

Verse 17

madness = the opposite of wisdom, as displayed in the loss of self-control; raving with self-conceit. So elsewhere in this book.

folly = infatuation. Hebrew. sakal. See note on- "wisdom", Proverbs 1:2.

vexation, &c. Not the same phrase in Hebrew as in Ecclesiastes 1:14.

Verse 18

grief = mortification.

sorrow = smarting.


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Bibliography Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

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