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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 1

Wells of Living Water CommentaryWells of Living Water

Verses 1-18

The Man under the Sun

Ecclesiastes 1:1-18


In order to introduce this study we can think of no better way than to go to our booklet on Ecclesiastes for a quotation.

1. Ecclesiastes stands by itself in its message to men who live "under the sun." Many of its conclusions are voiced in other portions of Holy Writ, but no other part of the Bible deals exclusively with the things which concern the natural man.

Satan knows that Ecclesiastes demonstrates, to a conclusion, that all things "done under the sun" are "vanity and vexation of spirit."

Satan himself would paint every world picture with pleasing outlines; he would magnify the glory of things terrestrial and minify the glory of things Heavenly.

It is, therefore, no marvel that every satanic energy is set toward discounting and denying the Book of God which lifts the mask from blinded eyes and displays the real value of the things "under the sun."

Men, too, who know not the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection and the vision of the things to come; men whose all is centered in, corruptible, earthly thing's which shall be shaken and pass away, such men are desirous to discount God's testimony of things done "under the sun," because those things are their all in all.

Thus Satan and men mock the Book that manifests the folly of men, and criticize the Book that is God's critic of all they are and have and do.

2. Believers, sometimes, stumble in mind as they read Ecclesiastes, because they fail to grasp the intent of the Book. There are passages concerning life and death and the future state that startle the saint passages, indeed, altogether foreign to those of other Scriptures.

It is necessary, therefore, to find the key that unlocks the mysteries of the message of Ecclesiastes. Solomon was God's servant. He had a checkered experience. He first sought wisdom from the hand of God. This was given him, and with it he was given wealth. Solomon did not, however, profit by his. gifts.

God, long before, had said of Israel's king: "He shall not multiply horses to himself." But "Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen." "And they brought unto Solomon horses out of Egypt, and out of all lands."

God had said of Israel's king: "Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away." "But King Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; * * concerning which the Lord said * * 'Ye shall not go in to them, * * for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.' Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart."

God had said of Israel's king: "Neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold." But Solomon made "silver to be in Jerusalem as stones."

No wonder that "Solomon was not perfect with the Lord his God." No wonder that "Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord." No wonder that "The Lord was angry with Solomon," and that in later years the kingdom was rent from him.

3. The Book of Ecclesiastes is Solomon's review of the experiences and observations that came to him in the days of his departure from a covenant God. God inspired His servant to relate these experiences and observations; but God did in no sense inspire the experiences and observations. All of the statements of Ecclesiastes are man's view of things, and not God's. God only directs Solomon in what he shall write. "Holy men of God" wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit; but what they wrote was sometimes the words or the wisdom of men, and sometimes even the words of Satan. In all such cases, however, the context clearly designates the one who speaks. For instance: in Matthew we read: "If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." Satan speaks the words, but Matthew is inspired to record them. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon is inspired to write a vision of things "under the sun" just as the man of this world, living under the fear of a great creative God, sees and knows them.

God inspired Solomon to write much of his own observations during the time of his wanderings. And who could better write of the vanity of the things of this world, than the man who led the world in wisdom and in riches and in every opportunity to "try out" the things of the natural man.

I. THE THREE KEYS TO THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES (Ecclesiastes 1:17 ; Ecclesiastes 6:12 )

God always places the keys to His Books where they may be easily found, and this Book will be readily understood when we apply the three keys which we are now presenting to you.

1. The first key. This is found in chapter Ecclesiastes 1:13 , "I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under Heaven." This plainly tells us that the revelations of this Book are such as are searched out by the wisest man who ever lived. Of course Solomon wrote under the direct inspiration of God.

However, God is giving us everything that human wisdom could discover. Mark you, these discoveries have to do exclusively with the things "under the sun." Never once do we get any clear light as to the things above the sun.

We find this latter in the Book of Ephesians. There is nothing in Ecclesiastes about the victorious life; it merely discusses the natural man as he walks on earth.

2. The second and third keys. These are found in chapter Ecclesiastes 6:12 , and we find here what is good for a man in this life: this will be discussed in future studies. The whole story is contained in these three keys.

(1) The things that are done "under the sun."

(2) The things that are good; for a man "under the sun."

(3) What shall be after a man "under the sun"?


In addition to the threefold statements we have just considered; we, also, have two expressions. It will be well for you to take colored pencils so as to underscore these two expressions throughout the Book. You will be surprised.

1. The first expression is "under the sun." This occurs 29 times. One feels as he reads this over and over that he would love to fly above things terrestrial, and into the realm of things supernal. Here are some of these expressions:

1. "Man's labour which he taketh under the sun."

2. "There is no new thing under the sun."

3. "The works that are done under the sun."

4. "There was no profit under the sun."

5. "I have shewed myself wise under the sun."

6. "A time to every purpose" under the sun.

7. "The oppressions that are done under the sun."

8. "I saw vanity under the sun."

9. "What shall be after a man under the sun."

10. "The living which walk under the sun."

In these expressions we begin to grasp the real intent of the Book of Ecclesiastes; for, elsewhere, God has plainly told us to set our affections on things above: that we should love not the world.

2. The second expression is "vanity of vanities." This may be found 28 times. The words give the conclusion of everything done under the sun. Some one has suggested that the words mean, "soap bubble of soap bubbles."

Everything under the sun is like a bubble that glitters under the rays of the sun, but breads and disappears when we seek to grasp it.

3. A third expression is the name of God, "Elohim." This name is in the very beginning of the Bible, and it speaks of the Creative God. None of the marvelous revelations of God, in the names which are elsewhere given to Him, are familiar to the man "under the sun." Just the Creator. Many call Him Allah, the Great Spirit, the Supreme Grand Master, etc.


As Solomon looked with his wisdom upon the physical earth and the heavens, all he saw was endless monotony. Then he cried out, "There is no new thing under the sun." Let us consider the things of which he speaks.

1. One generation passeth away, and another cometh. In Genesis 5:1-32 we find something much like this: "he lived, and he died" repeated many times. It is the way of generations.

2. "There is no new thing under the sun." "The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down," etc. It has ever been so since God created the sun, the moon, and the heavens. They have always been the same. There is nothing new about their movements.

3. "The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually." Once more there is a ceaseless ever-going, ever-turning, and ever-returning wind, and so it will always be.

4. "The rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full" a continual, monotonous motion. This is what Solomon saw "under the sun."

IV. SOLOMON'S QUEST FOR WISDOM (Ecclesiastes 1:13 ; Ecclesiastes 1:16-17 )

As we come to the 13th verse we behold Solomon in his personal quest, seeks to try out the things done "under the sun." If anyone on earth ever had an opportunity to follow out his ambition, Solomon did.

1. The first thing Solomon tried was wisdom. Beyond a doubt, the very best thing which there is "under the sun" to the man of the flesh is wisdom. Of course, in Grace, there are many other things, but to a man who knows nothing of the Spirit, wisdom ranks highest.

Solomon said he had more wisdom than all they who were before him in Jerusalem. Solomon is universally considered the wisest man of all ages. He was, indeed, a sage. He outstripped not only his own contemporaries, but all those who followed him. This wisdom which he had was a gift from God.

However, he concluded wisdom's search with the statement: "This also is vexation of spirit." He added, "For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow."

It is true to this hour that the wise find much of grief because of the things they know. There is, however, something that is far beyond the wisdom of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Worldly wisdom crucified the Lord of Glory. The world in its wisdom knew not God. We need to seek the wisdom which is from above. For that wisdom, God has said we should ask Him.


"I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure; and, behold, this also is vanity." Ecclesiastes 2:2 reads, "I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?"

Solomon's conclusions about pleasure, laughter, and mirth are, no doubt, true, The pleasures of this life never satisfy. "She that liveth in. pleasure is dead while she liveth." Earth's pleasure is a butterfly that lives but for a day. From the day of Adam's sin down to this very hour the world has ever sought to invent some new form of pleasure; yet, those who seek after pleasure among men are always disappointed.

Solomon was correct when, in chapter 7, he said, "It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting." The pleasures of this world choked the seed, which "is the Word of God." Even in the days of Moses there were many pleasures in Egypt, but when Moses came to years, he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God "than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season."

Let us beware lest we run after the goddess of pleasure. The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life can do no better than to lead us into the labyrinth of despair.


Our Scripture reads this way: "I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men, which they should do under the Heaven all the days of their life."

Solomon in seeking after wine recognized those things which he wrote about wine in the Proverbs: because, in his search for wine he guided himself with wisdom. Some one might answer and say, "I too will seek after wine," but remember that very few men who seek after wine, gird themselves with wisdom.

In Proverbs 23:31 it is written, "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." In connection with this statement, the wise man added, "Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things."

Perhaps, that is the reason we hear so much of wine and women. Of course, the reference is to impure women. In Proverbs 20:1-30 Solomon tells us that "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise."

We do not wonder that Solomon, after he had tried the wine cup, could put it with all the other things he had tried, saying: it is vanity and a vexation to the spirit.


If we had passed along in front of the palaces and the gardens, and the pools which Solomon had; if we had beheld his silver and his gold, his peculiar treasures of kings and of provinces, his men. and women singers, we would have thought him, of all men, the most happy. He said:

"I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards; I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits; I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees." What a paradise was this! What more could heart have wished, or mind have conceived? He had houses surrounded by irrigated vineyards, gardens, and orchards. That was not all. We read: "I got me servants and maidens and had servants born in my house."

And cattle must be secured to graze and to feed on his surrounding fields. So, he said, "also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me." Nor was this all. Solomon sought to beautify his own palace. He brought rare and costly relics from afar. "I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces."

Moreover Solomon was a man of poetical nature, a lover of song and of musical instruments. Therefore, with free hand, he provided for himself the best that the world of music could afford.

"I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts" (Ecclesiastes 2:8 ).

What more could heart have wished? Yet, houses, and well watered gardens, and paradises, and servants, and cattle, and wonderful riches, and relics of all lands, and musical instruments, and musicians were not enough for Solomon.

"And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy" (Ecclesiastes 2:10 ).

In our next study we will see what befell Solomon's life.


We touch the world at so many points, how can we remain unspotted? Scientists tell us of an insect which, though you immerse it in water, yet never touches the water. Enveloped with the element, yet the element never penetrates to the insect itself. The reason of this wonder in nature is that it carries with it its own atmosphere. Enveloped first in this atmosphere it can bid the other element defiance and, though submerged in it, is untouched by it. If we cleave to God we shall carry about with us the secret atmosphere of communion, and then, though in the midst of sin, we shall remain without blemish, unspotted by the world. Rev. W. L. Mackenzie.

"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." Nathaniel Hawthorne has given us a story entitled "Earth's Holocaust." It is the tale of some men and women who had become weary of their foibles and follies and who had decided to be rid of their foolishness and fripperies. They determined to make an end erf them by burning. A great mountain of useless and silly possessions was lighted. The flames and smoke of them rose to the sky. There were present a number of reprobates, sad of countenance, now that their business was gone. Satan himself came to comfort these. "Be not cast down, my peers," he said, "there 13 one thing these wiseacres have forgotten." "What is that?" they all shouted. "Why, the human heart; unless they hit upon some trick of purifying that foul thing it will soon be the same old world again." A changed heart makes a changed person. We will change the world when we have changed persons. "The soul of every reform is the reform of the soul," said Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Bibliographical Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lwc/ecclesiastes-1.html.
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