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This earthly life is vain-- Ecc_1:1-4 : The Book of Ecclesiastes is the preacher's sermon. The book is one continued speech or sermon from Solomon. Solomon is called by several different names in the Bible. God called him "Jedidiah." ( 2Sa_12:25-26 ) "Lemuel" was one name that he was called. ( Pro_31:1 ) He was also possibly called "Agur." ( Pro_30:1 ) He identified himself as the son of David. He might have mentioned David out of the great honor and respect he had for this good man. The mention of David could have been out of guilt being a descendant of such a good man and yet his life was one of folly.
The expression "vanity of vanities, all is vanity" summed up Solomon's earthly life. What can man take with him from his labor "under the sun?" Paul wrote, "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." ( 1Ti_6:7 ) Solomon said, "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever." ( Ecc_1:4 ) This shows that a man can have no profit of all his labour under the sun. He works hard to gain something only to die and leave it behind. Soon death takes an entire generation. Solomon said the "earth abideth for ever." We know now by God revelation that, "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." ( 2Pe_3:10 )
Things continually change yet remain the same -- Ecc_1:5-8 : Solomon pictured man as being like nature, changing quickly but continually remaining the same. The runner is quick to find the course and stay on it. Psa_19:5-6 pictures the sun in just that fashion. "Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof." One generation comes and another goes just as the sun is quick to repeat its circuit. A generation, like the sun, never stands still. They are one moment at the noon of prosperity and then quickly cut off at the midnight of life.
Solomon used the wind to picture the instability, and restless state of man. Man attempts to fill he belly with stuff and it satisfies no more than being filled with the wind. The frailty of human life is seen, as man's life is quickly gone just as the wind passing over the earth. Age after age passes, just as rivers flowing into the sea. Just as the sea is never full with the rivers that flow into it, so the mind of man is never satisfied with all the riches and honour he gains on earth. Solomon pictured the unsatisfying nature of all these things -- vanity of vanities. Man has no profit in these things "under the sun."
There is nothing new under the sun -- Ecclesiastics 1:9-11: Things of this world are very fatiguing to those that have them. Solomon's goal was to cause us to understand the unsatisfying nature of all things under the sun. "The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing." Man searches for something new continually. The eye and the ear are never satisfied because they see and hear the same kind of things over and over again. When Solomon said, "there is no new thing under the sun" he likely referred to things of nature.
Solomon asked the people to name any new thing under the sun. We now know that there are many "new things." Especially, there are many things that are "new" spiritually. There is (1) the new covenant, (2) the new commandment, (3) the new and living way (4) a new name, and (5) the New Testament. Solomon said that the reason that some things appear new is because man does not remember what has been done. He said things that are and things that are to come will soon be forgotten.
Solomon's situation and his studies -- Ecc_1:12-18 : Solomon showed that things that would normally be considered as what would make a person happy do not. Surely being king would make a man happy. However, that was not the case. Solomon was "king over Israel in Jerusalem." Yet he described his life as vanity of vanities. He was a wise king over "a wise and understanding nation." ( Deu_4:6 ) Solomon gave his mind and ability to search out wisdom.
Solomon searched for wisdom concerning "all things that are done under heaven." His desire was that he might be able to judge between right and wrong. He realized that men often want to know about things that are none of their business. Solomon said, "I have seen all the works that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, a striving after the wind and a feeding on wind." ( Ecc_1:14 ) The search for this wisdom brought Solomon weariness to the flesh, and pain and uneasiness to his mind.
Solomon realized that no man could make right the wrongs of the world. The deficiencies in the human race are so numerous, as that they cannot be understood and counted. Only God can correct the wrongs of the world. Isaiah wrote, "And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." ( Isa_42:16 )
Solomon looked into his own heart and realized that he had much wisdom and knowledge of the world and of mankind. He had become a great man in the world. It was said of Jesus, "The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here." ( Mat_12:42 ) Solomon delighted in obtaining more and more knowledge, but then he "perceived that this also is vexation of spirit." In much wisdom there is much grief: (1) in the effort it takes to gain it, (2) In how easy it is to forget it, and (3) the folly of man that you learn by it. This increased knowledge brought Solomon sorrow.
There is a wisdom that brings the result that Solomon described. There is also true wisdom. "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace." ( Jam_3:13-18 )
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
Box, Charles. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1". "Box's Commentaries on Selected books of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent