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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Ecclesiastes 1

 

 

Verse 1

Ecclesiastes 1:1. See Introduction.


Verses 2-11

Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 may be called an introduction to the book; it also presents the writer's conclusions. He has surveyed life from many angles and decided that all human effort is fruitless and unavailing, or as he puts it, vanity. This is his key-word (the Hebrew means "vapour," "breath," and so "nothingness"): it occurs forty times.—Vanity of vanities is the Heb. way of saying "utmost vanity." Man toils "under the sun," i.e. upon the earth, but reaps no gain; like players on a stage the ever-changing generations come and go, while the earth, man's scene of toil, abides. As with man so with nature; sun, winds (north and south, cf. Ca. Ecclesiastes 4:16), streams, all pursue a dreary round of endless repetition and accomplish nothing, e.g. the sea is never filled. The whole creation groans and travails but makes no ascent, and its futile activities so react on man that his faculties, e.g. seeing and hearing, enter on equally profitless and unsatisfying orbits. Everything moves in monotonous and steady cycles, there is no novelty in life (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:15), but men do not perceive the repetition because each generation is ignorant of the experiences of preceding generations—"there is no remembrance" (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:5).

Ecclesiastes 1:5. hasteth: lit. "panteth." The idea is that of the chariot of the sun drawn by panting steeds. 2 Kings 23:11 shows that the Hebrews as well as Greeks and Romans had this notion.


Verses 12-18

Ecclesiastes 1:12 to Ecclesiastes 2:26. Qoheleth's Investigations.—Assuming the character of Solomon the writer tells of his search for happiness under many forms. The pursuit of wisdom (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18), absorption in pleasure (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11), the study of human nature (Ecclesiastes 2:12-17), the acquisition of wealth (Ecclesiastes 2:18-18), alike fail to yield satisfaction. After all his experience the only verdict he can reach is that there is "nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink" and enjoy life as well as he can while he has it (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26).

Ecclesiastes 1:12 to Ecclesiastes 2:26. Qoheleth's Investigations.—Assuming the character of Solomon the writer tells of his search for happiness under many forms. The pursuit of wisdom (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18), absorption in pleasure (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11), the study of human nature (Ecclesiastes 2:12-17), the acquisition of wealth (Ecclesiastes 2:18-18), alike fail to yield satisfaction. After all his experience the only verdict he can reach is that there is "nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink" and enjoy life as well as he can while he has it (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26).

Ecclesiastes 1:12; Ecclesiastes 1:16. See Introduction.

Ecclesiastes 1:13. Cf. Ecclesiastes 7:25; Ecclesiastes 8:16, and for God as a hard taskmaster Ecclesiastes 3:10.—seek and search: get to the bottom of the problem and survey it on all sides.

Ecclesiastes 1:14. striving after wind: see mg., a strong phrase for aimless and futile desire.

Ecclesiastes 1:15. Life is incurably twisted and imperfect.

Ecclesiastes 1:17. Qoheleth would discover truth by the study of contraries. For "madness and folly," however, LXX by a slight change of the Hebrew reads "comparisons" (or parables) and "science." But increased knowledge only means increased perplexity (Ecclesiastes 1:18).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/ecclesiastes-1.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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