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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 1:11

There is no remembrance of earlier things; And also of the later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Vanity;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Time;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Ecclesiastes, the Book of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ecclesiastes, Book of;   Poetry;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ecclesiastes;  
Encyclopedias:
The Jewish Encyclopedia - Yiẓḥaḳ Nappaḥa;   Zealots;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for October 3;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse Ecclesiastes 1:11. There is no remembrance — I believe the general meaning to be this: Multitudes of ancient transactions have been lost, because they were not recorded; and of many that have been recorded, the records are lost. And this will be the case with many others which are yet to occur. How many persons, not much acquainted with books, have supposed that certain things were their own discoveries, which have been written or printed even long before they were born! Dutens, in his Origin of the Discoveries attributed to the Moderns, has made a very clear case.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:11". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-1.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


1:1-4:16 ACCEPT THE LIFE GOD GIVES AND ENJOY IT

Is there a purpose to life? (1:1-11)

At times life does not appear to have much meaning. People have to work to keep themselves alive, but in the end they lose everything they have worked for. Generation after generation passes, but the same things still happen (1:1-4). The sun rises and sets, then the next day the cycle is repeated. The wind blows and circles around, coming back to begin its course all over again. Rivers flow unceasingly into the sea, but the sea is never full and the rivers never dry up (5-7). Life is wearisome; nothing satisfies; history will go on repeating itself; past generations die and are forgotten, and the same will happen to future generations (8-11).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:11". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/ecclesiastes-1.html. 2005.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Things - Rather, men.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/ecclesiastes-1.html. 1870.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Book of Ecclesiastes begins,

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

So that identifies the author as Solomon. The Hebrew word that is translated preacher is a word that can mean one of the assembly or a debater. And it is determined that the translation preacher is not necessarily a good translation of this Hebrew qoheleth, that it might be better translated the debater. "The words of the Debater, the son of David, the king of Jerusalem." He refers to this, and in Ecclesiastes is the only time this Hebrew word is used, and it is in the feminine form. And it is used seven times here as Solomon is referring to himself. And really a debater or one who is searching, the searcher. The son of David, the king of Jerusalem. And the book of Ecclesiastes is indeed a search.

Vanity of vanities, saith the Searcher [or the Debater], vanity of vanities; all is vanity ( Ecclesiastes 1:2 ).

Now he starts out with the conclusion of his search. After searching through everything, this is his conclusion of life. Now it is important that we note that the book of Ecclesiastes is a book that deals with the natural man searching for meaning in life. The word Jehovah is not used in this book. He does refer to God, the Elohim. But not unto Jehovah God in the personal sense that a person can know God. But God as a worldly man speaks of God, just a force, a power, a title--the Elohim.

Those who truly know God in a personal way know God as Yahweh or as Jesus Christ. But this is that worldly, impersonal concept of God. As he is searching for the meaning of life, he searches through all kinds of natural experiences. But there is throughout the book the denial of the spiritual. It is putting man on the level of animals. It is looking at man as an animal. And it is trying to find the reason or the purpose for life on the animal plane and it must follow that life on the animal plane is totally empty. It is totally frustrating. Looking at life on the animal plane sees man as an animal possessing a consciousness and a body, but the spirit is not related to God. So man as an animal is aware and conscious of his body needs. And he is living to seek to satisfy his body needs. And a person who lives on the body level seeking to only satisfy his body needs, denying the spiritual aspect of his nature, is going to end up ultimately with this feeling of emptiness and frustration.

The word vanity literally means that which vanishes. It's nothing. You go to get it and it vanishes. It's not there. It's an emptiness. The vexation of spirit is that frustration of the spirit. Now, man is a three-fold being, and one of the problems of our whole educational system today is the denial of the spiritual nature of man. Our whole humanistic evolutional, our whole humanistic educational system embracing the Evolutionary theory sees man as a highly-developed form of animal existence. So it sees man as a highly-developed animal living in a body, possessing a consciousness. And the denial of the spirit is the basic flaw in the educational system. For unless you see man as a three-fold being, unless you see man with his spiritual nature, then you are going to only have life on the human level, a life that is filled with emptiness and frustration.

So we have today men who make excellent livelihoods trying to help people deal with their frustrations. Because people feel that life is worthless. Life is not worthwhile. Life is empty. Life is meaningless. And they just feel despairing and discouraged and despondent. They go to someone who just talks to them about life. And they pay money to try to understand why it is that I feel like life is just not worth living and all, you know. Well, that's because you haven't come into the third dimension of life--life on the spiritual plane. There is where life takes meaning. It all comes back to the three-fold nature of man.

Living in a body I have certain body needs. God created the body. Marvelous instrument. Fantastically designed. With my little hypothalamus and my pituitary, the various glands that are excreting the different chemicals into my system that give me my different feelings, numbing my pains or telling me that I'm thirsty as it is monitoring my blood system. Telling me that I need oxygen and all of these functions that are going on in the body. Keeping the balance, the homeostasis. For the body balance is important. Important that I have enough sugar. It's important that I have enough oxygen. It's important that I have all of these things within the body, so this body balance. My body drives. My air drive. My thirst drive. My hunger drive. My bowel and bladder drive. My sex drive. All of these have been created by God, a part of the body in which I live.

But I also have a consciousness. And in the area of my consciousness, there are also needs, drives. I have a need for security. I have a need for love. I have a need to be needed. These sociological drives. Now that's about as far as your psychologist and sociologist take you. But what they are denying in the denial of the spiritual nature of man, they're denying the fact that there is deep down inside of me, in my spirit, in this part of my nature, a drive that also exists and this drive in my spirit is for God. "My spirit thirsts after Thee, O God," David said. "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God" ( Psalms 42:1 ).

There is within man that desire to know God. That desire to have fellowship with God. There is within man a vacuum that only God can fill. And if you deny the spiritual nature of man, then man can never be satisfied because this deep-down spiritual thirst will always be haunting him, telling him there's something more. There's something more. There's something more. And I feel this dissatisfaction with life. I have a thirst that I can't define. I know it's there. I know that life hasn't yet brought me fulfillment. I know there's got to be more than to life than what I've yet experienced. And I have this frustration and this is what Solomon went through. That's what he is describing. "Emptiness, emptiness, all is empty and frustrating." He's talking and the phrase is used some nine times, "Life under the sun, it is a frustrating existence."

Now according to the psychologist, frustration leads to inferiority complex, which is the rationale by which I explain to myself why I still feel unfulfilled and empty. Why is it that I'm not satisfied? Why is it that I'm not been able to achieve and attain that which I feel? There must be. And I say, "Well, if I only had a better education, then. If I only had more money. If I only were better looking. If I only had hair." And I am explaining to myself why I haven't been able to achieve this some intangible something that I know must be there in life, that somehow it's passing me by and I can't quite grasp. And so I feel this emptiness because I can't quite get hold of it. And I am explaining to myself in the inferiority complex the shortcoming that causes me not to be able to grasp that which I know must be there.

Now, this in turn leads to escapes. I feel the emptiness. I feel this dissatisfaction. I feel that there must be more to life than what I've yet experienced. I can't seem to find it, and so I'm going to escape. And I can escape overtly or invertly. In the inverted escapes I escape within myself. I start building walls around myself. I get to where I don't want to open up to people. I start closing off myself from people. I don't want them to know the truth about me that I know about myself. So I make this facade and I project this image and they see this out here but they don't know the real me. I'm not going to let them get through to know the real me. And more and more I get within myself. More and more I begin to disassociate myself from people. In its final form, it's manifested as a hermit, a man who just goes out and lives in the desert by himself so he doesn't have to see people, talk to people. Nothing to do with people. That's the extreme form of escapism in the inverted way.

Or if I go to overt escape mechanisms, I may go to compulsive eating behavior patterns. Start eating all the time and escaping. Or I might become a compulsive gambler. Or I might turn to drinking. Or I might turn to drugs. Or I might look to a variety of sex experiences. All escaping. Or Nomadism, start moving from job to job or from place to place. "Oh, if I were just in San Francisco, that's where I'd be happy. Oh, if I just lived in Hawaii." It's interesting, more suicides in Hawaii than almost any place else, because you get over there and where can you go? You know, this is it. This is paradise. This is heaven on earth. But the problem is, you had to take yourself. And the same emptinesses that you feel here you'll feel there. And you find out that Hawaii didn't do it. It didn't satisfy. It didn't meet that deep cry that is within you. If it's not here, it's nowhere. Emptiness. Emptiness.

Now when a person gets into these escape patterns, it develops a guilt complex, because I know I shouldn't be eating like this. Why do I eat like this? I hate myself looking so fat. Why do I eat these chocolates? You know, I can't stop. But yet, I'm escaping and I get guilty. I start feeling guilty over the things that I'm doing. I know it's not right. I know it's not helping. I know it's destroying me. I know it's destroying my family or my relationships, but I can't seem to quit. It has a hold on me. And so I'm feeling guilty. And the guilt complex then leads to a subconscious desire for punishment. It goes inward then and underground. And I can't follow it at this point from the conscious level, but subconsciously I get a desire for punishment and I start a neurotic behavior pattern that will bring punishment to me.

And neurotic behavior patterns usually stem from a subconscious desire for punishment. I'm feeling guilty over what I've been doing. I want someone to punish me so that I can feel like I'm not guilty anymore. Now, when you were a child, your parents took care of your neurotic behavior patterns. And they took you in and spanked you, the healthiest thing in the world for you psychologically, because it made you feel free of your guilt. I've been punished. There's something about the guilt that I desire punishment in order that I might be freed from that feeling of guilt. Once I've been punished, then I feel, "Oh, I'm innocent now." I'm free from the guilt feelings because I've been punished. I'm free to go back to my frustration and start the cycle over again. To my inferiority complex. To my escape. To my guilt. To my punishment. To my frustration. And so life moves in a cycle, and Solomon will point out here in a little bit the cycles.

As we get in the first part of the chapter here, they're just... life seems to move in cycles, and this, according to psychologists, is the cycle of life. And you think, "My God, is this all there is? Stop this crazy merry-go-round. I want off. I'm tired of it." And that's what Solomon came to. "Vanity, vanity; all is vanity." And frustrating. And it all comes from the denial of the spiritual nature of man. It is living life on the human plane apart from God. For the gospel of Jesus Christ comes into this cycle. And the gospel of Jesus Christ comes to me. Now, when I'm in the neurotic behavior pattern it is so often that people say, "Hey, man, you better go see a shrink. You're crazy. You're doing nutty things. You better get some help."

And so I go to a head shrink and he sits me on the couch and he gives me a series of tests and he seeks to determine what I'm feeling guilty about. And then he starts to talk to me. "Now, when you were a little boy, did your mother tell you that you shouldn't tell lies? And did she teach you that it was wrong to cheat? Well, you see, these are a part of the old Puritan ethic. They're part of the old Victorian system and everything is really relative. You've got to face the fact that there are certain situations in which it is perfectly proper to tell a lie. You shouldn't feel guilty about this, you see." And he tries to remove your guilt by telling you that it's not wrong. It's not guilty. Everybody's doing it so you've just got to join the crowd and realize that the part of that old Puritan ethic by which you were trained is the thing that's your hang-up today.

But Jesus Christ comes to me and says, "Hey man, you are guilty. That's bad news. That's wrong. But I love you. And I took your guilt and bore your guilt when I died on the cross. I took all of your sins, all of your guilt, and I paid the penalty for it. Now, if you'll just believe in Me and trust in Me, I'll forgive you." Hey, that's something no psychologist can do, is totally erase that guilt feeling. Take away this haunting feeling of guilt. But Jesus Christ and the gospel does. It's the greatest thing in the world for removing the guilt complex. If that's all the gospel did, it would be fantastic. But it does much more than that.

It comes back to the very beginning. Frustration, where it all started. And we hear Jesus on the last day of the great day of the feast as He is standing there on the Temple Mount crying to the crowds, "If any man thirsts, let him come unto Me, and drink. For he who drinks of the water that I give, out of his innermost being there will flow rivers of living water. And John said, 'This spake He of the Spirit'" ( John 7:37-39 ). That third dimension of man that man in his educational processes today is seeking to deny, and by his denial has created all of this confusion in our society today.

All of the frustration that people experience results from the denial of the Spirit. And Jesus is saying, "You have a thirst for God in your spirit. Come to Me, come to Me and drink." And so this frustration where the whole thing started, Jesus comes to me and not only does He fill my life, does He fill that spiritual void, but He keeps pouring in until it begins to pour out from me. And my life is no longer just a sponge, thirsty, seeking to grasp for the draw, but my life now begins to flow out with that love and that grace of God's goodness that He has bestowed upon me. And now as David said, "My cup runneth over" ( Psalms 23:5 ). My life is an overflowing cup. No longer going around with this cry and thirst and frustration within, but now the fulfillment and the fullness of God within my life as my life overflows God's goodness and grace.

So you look at life on just the human level as Solomon is looking at it, you look at man like an animal as Solomon does, you deny the spiritual dimension of man, that which places him apart from animals and above the animal kingdom, and you're opening Pandora's box to all kinds of psychological ills. You're opening to a life that can never be filled, a life of vanity and vexation of spirit. And so we are looking now through the eyes of Solomon at the world under the sun, apart from God. Man on the animal plane. And man at the highest on the animal plane is hopeless. It is not until you interject the spiritual plane and bring man into the divine plane that man can have any hope for a fulfilling, enriching, complete life.

So, verse Ecclesiastes 1:3 :

What profit hath a man ( Ecclesiastes 1:3 )

And I promise we won't take so much time on the rest of the verses.

What profit hath a man in all of the labor which he taketh under the sun? ( Ecclesiastes 1:3 )

Looking at a man and all of the things he's doing, all of the pursuits, all of the labor, what profit is there? And now he turns into the cycles of life. It seems that life just moves in cycles, monotonous cycles. You can't escape it. You're in the cycle and someday you're just going to pass out of the cycle.

One generation passes away, another generation comes: but the earth abides for ever. The sun rises, the sun goes down, and it comes back around to the place where it rose from. The wind goes toward the south, turns about, comes to the north; it whirls about continually, the wind returns again in its circuits. All of the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. All things are full of labor; man cannot [understand it or] utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear with hearing. The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: there is no new thing under the sun ( Ecclesiastes 1:4-9 ).

Life just moves in cycles. History repeats itself and the cycles of life go on. The cycle of one generation following another. The sun or the earth actually in its orbit and spinning on its axis, and its relationship to the sun. The wind, the rivers, life just moves in monotonous cycles.

Is there any thing whereof it may be said, Look, this is new? Hey, it's already been from old time, which was before us ( Ecclesiastes 1:10 ).

There's nothing really more discouraging than to think that you've got some new inspiration and revelation from God. "Oh, this is great. No one's ever seen this before. Oh, what an understanding." And then you pick up some old commentary written by one of the saints back in 1849 and he says the same thing that you just discovered. There's nothing new. Life moves in cycles.

There is no remembrance of the former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of the things that shall come with those that shall come after ( Ecclesiastes 1:11 ).

Life just moves in cycles.

Now I the Preacher [the Debater] was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I gave my heart to seek out and to search out by wisdom concerning all of the things that were done under heaven: and this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. And I have seen all the works that are done under the sun ( Ecclesiastes 1:12-14 );

That's one of your key phrases now. Life on the human plane, not on the divine, on the human plane under the sun.

and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered ( Ecclesiastes 1:14-15 ).

Now, this is life on the human plane. If it's crooked, if a man's life is crooked, it can't be made straight. It is interesting that the Greek philosophers concluded that redemption of man was impossible. That once a man had gone wrong, gone bad, that there was no way of changing him. That which is crooked cannot be made straight.

It is also very interesting to read of Jesus Christ in Luke's gospel, chapter 3, as He is proclaiming the new kingdom, or actually it is the words of the prophet proclaiming the things of the kingdom as Simeon or as John the Baptist was declaring concerning the ministry of Jesus that was to come, he said, "Every valley shall be filled, every mountain and every hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough made smooth." The redemption through Jesus Christ, Luke 3:5 . But on the human level, no. On the divine level, you bet.

I communed with my own heart ( Ecclesiastes 1:16 ),

I wasn't communing with God. I wasn't seeking God. I was communing with my own heart. I was using now and exercising now earthly wisdom. He was in TM.

saying, Lo, I am come to a great estate, I have gotten more wisdom than all of they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yes, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is [frustrating or] vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow ( Ecclesiastes 1:16-18 ).

Now, it is very interesting to me today as we study the evolutionary processes of the philosophical systems of man, a history of philosophy is an interesting course to take, because as you follow the history of philosophy and see the development of the philosophical thought, we come finally to this present state of the philosophical thought expressed in existentialism. That there is no universal base of good or evil. Every man must experience truth for himself, but there is no universal truth. The philosophers have concluded with all of their study that in reality is only despair. And reality will lead you to despair. Thus, the philosophers, being brought to despair by their philosophy, declare that it is necessary for each man to take his own leap of faith into unreality in order to escape the despair that only exists in reality.

So you have to take a leap of faith hoping to have some kind of an experience that there is no way of rationalizing or explaining. That's why TM is so popular today. It's the leap of faith into a non-reasoned religious experience. That's why your eastern religions are so popular today and gaining popularity, because they are a leap of faith into non-reason religious experience which philosophy has taught us is necessary because with much knowledge is much sorrow. They've come to the same conclusion that Solomon came to years ago. Years ago before the whole history of philosophy ever began, Solomon had gone through the whole system of thought that has brought philosophy through its whole history to this final conclusion that Solomon reached thousands, three thousand years ago: that in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Now as kids we used to understand a certain aspect of the futility of education. We used to write in our textbooks, "The more you study, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know. So what's the use of studying?" But Solomon said, "Hey, with much understanding, increasing your knowledge is only going to increase your sorrow."

"





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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:11". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/ecclesiastes-1.html. 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

I. THE INTRODUCTORY AFFIRMATION 1:1-11

The first 11 verses of the book introduce the writer, the theme of the book, and a general defense of the assertion that Solomon made in the theme statement (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:11". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-1.html. 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

B. The Futility of All Human Endeavor 1:3-11

In this pericope, Solomon gave general support to his theme (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Essentially he said that it is impossible for any human endeavor to have permanent value. This section is a poem. [Note: See Addison G. Wright, "The Riddle of the Sphinx: The Structure of the Book of Qoheleth," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 30 (1968):313-34.] Solomon chose the realm of nature as the setting for his argument.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:11". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-1.html. 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

2. The illustrations from life 1:4-11

To clarify his meaning and to support his contention in Ecclesiastes 1:3, Solomon cited examples from nature. Work produces nothing ultimate or permanently satisfying, only what is ephemeral.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:11". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-1.html. 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

By saying, "there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9), Solomon was not overlooking inventions and technological advances that have resulted in civilization’s advancement through the centuries. Nevertheless, these have been only innovations, not basic changes. Man still struggles with the same essential problems he has always had. This is the round of work that is weariness to people, similar to the repetitious rounds observable in nature (Ecclesiastes 1:5-7). There appears to be a significant advance (e.g., social evolution), but that is only because people evaluate history superficially (Ecclesiastes 1:11 a). We dream of futuristic utopias because we fail to see that man has made no real progress (Ecclesiastes 1:11 b). Future generations will make the same mistake (Ecclesiastes 1:11 c-d). Technology changes, but human nature and human activity remain the same.

What about the doctrine of eternal rewards? The New Testament teaches that what a person does in this life, for good and for evil, affects his or her eternal state (Matthew 7:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; et al.). Is there not eternal "net profit" for believers who do good works? Solomon had an unusually broad perspective for a person living when he did. Evidently most of the Hebrews were aware that there is life beyond the grave. The patriarchs also had some revelation of life after death (cf. Genesis 1:27; Genesis 25:8; Genesis 25:17; Genesis 35:29; Psalms 16; Psalms 73; et al.). [Note: See articles on "immortality" in Bible dictionaries and encyclopaedias.] However, Solomon evidenced no knowledge of revelation that deals with the effect a person’s work has on his or her eternal condition (cf. Job). In this respect, his perspective was not as broad as those of us who benefit from New Testament revelation. Solomon was correct within his frame of reference. New Testament revelation has not invalidated Solomon’s assessment of life from his perspective.

"Koheleth knew no such scenario as Jesus gave us in the parable of talents. The old sage had no real inkling of the ultimate judgment that offered, ’well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Enter into the joy of your Lord,’ and ’You wicked and lazy servant,’ your destiny is ’outer darkness’ with ’weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 25:21; Matthew 25:26; Matthew 25:30)." [Note: Hubbard, p. 205.]

Whether or not Solomon had insight into life beyond the grave, in this book he chose to limit his observations to life this side of the grave, "under the sun."

A factor that makes our work of lasting value is God’s enablement with His grace by His Spirit. Reference to either of these supernatural resources is totally absent in Ecclesiastes. This omission further highlights the fact that Solomon’s viewpoint was that of earthly life without supernatural intervention.

The fact that the name "Yahweh" does not occur in the book also clarifies the writer’s perspective. The name "Elohim," however, appears about 37 times. Yahweh was the name God used to describe Himself in His relationships to people. The man "under the sun" in Ecclesiastes is one unaided by a personal relationship with God, not that he was necessarily unsaved. The man in view is every man, including the Israelites. Solomon’s analysis simply omitted God’s enablement in the human condition. He did assume man’s belief in God, however, since it is a perversion of what is self-evident to deny God’s existence (Psalms 14:1).

"Ignoring the book’s title (Ecclesiastes 1:1), epigrams (Ecclesiastes 1:2, Ecclesiastes 12:8), and epilogue (Ecclesiastes 12:9-14), one discovers that Qoheleth begins with a poem concerning the ’profit’-lessness of man’s toil (Ecclesiastes 1:3-11) and ends with another poem calling man to enjoy life which he can (Ecclesiastes 11:9 to Ecclesiastes 12:7) . . . . These two poems set the tone and direction of Qoheleth’s investigation and reflection. From a focus on the pointlessness of a work orientation-on the profitlessness of man’s toil when it is absolutized and, thus, misguided-Qoheleth turns to argue for the importance of enjoying life from God as a gift while we can. ’Enjoyment,’ not ’work,’ is to be our controlling metaphor of life." [Note: Robert K. Johnston, "’Confessions of a Workaholic’: A Reappraisal of Qoheleth," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 38 (January-March 1976):17-18.]

"The enigmatic character and polarized structure of the book of Qoheleth is not a defective quality but rather a deliberate literary device of Hebrew thought patterns designed to reflect the paradoxical and anomalous nature of this present world. The difficulty of interpreting this book is proportionally related to one’s own readiness to adopt Qoheleth’s presupposition-that everything about this world is marred by the tyranny of the curse which the Lord God placed upon all creation. If one fails to recognize that this is a foundational presupposition from which Ecclesiastes operates, then one will fail to comprehend the message of the book, and bewilderment will continue." [Note: Ardel B. Caneday, "Qoheleth: Enigmatic Pessimist or Godly Sage?" Grace Theological Journal 7:1 (Spring 1986):21.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:11". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-1.html. 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

[There] is no remembrance of former [things],.... Which is the reason why some things that are really old are thought to be new; because either the memories of men fail them, they do not remember the customs and usages which were in the former part of their own lives, now grown old; or they are ignorant of what were in ages past, through want of history, or defect in it; either they have no history at all, or what they have is false; or if true, as there is very little that is so, it is very deficient; and, among the many things that have been, very few are transmitted to posterity, so that the memory of things is lost; therefore who can say with certainty of anything, this is new, and was never known in the world before? and the same for the future will be the case of present things; see Ecclesiastes 2:16;

neither shall there be any remembrance of [things] that are to come with [those] that shall come after; this will be the case of things present and future, that they will be buried in oblivion, and lie unknown to posterity that shall come after the things that are done; and if any person or persons should rise up and do the same things, they may be called new, though they are in fact old, for want of knowing that they were before. The Targum is,

"there is no remembrance of former generations; and even of later ones, that shall be, there will be no remembrance of them, with the generations of them that shall be in the days of the King Messiah.''

R. Alshech interprets it of the resurrection of the dead.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:11". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-1.html. 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Change without Novelty.

      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.   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.   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.

      Two things we are apt to take a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction in, and value ourselves upon, with reference to our business and enjoyments in the world, as if they helped to save them from vanity. Solomon shows us our mistake in both.

      1. The novelty of the invention, that it is such as was never known before. How grateful is it to think that none ever made such advances in knowledge, and such discoveries by it, as we, that none ever made such improvements of an estate or trade, and had the art of enjoying the gains of it, as we have. Their contrivances and compositions are all despised and run down, and we boast of new fashions, new hypotheses, new methods, new expressions, which jostle out the old, and put them down. But this is all a mistake: The thing that is, and shall be, is the same with that which has been, and that which shall be done will be but the same with that which is done, for there is no new thing under the sun,Ecclesiastes 1:9; Ecclesiastes 1:9. It is repeated (Ecclesiastes 1:10; Ecclesiastes 1:10) by way of question, is there any thing of which it may be said, with wonder, See, this is new; there never was the like? It is an appeal to observing men, and a challenge to those that cry up modern learning above that of the ancients. Let them name any thing which they take to be new, and though perhaps we cannot make it to appear, for want of the records of former times, yet we have reason to conclude that it has been already of old time, which was before us. What is there in the kingdom of nature of which we may say, This is new? The works were finished from the foundation of the world (Hebrews 4:3); things which appear new to us, as they do to children, are not so in themselves. The heavens were of old; the earth abides for ever; the powers of nature and the links of natural causes are still the same that ever they were. In the kingdom of Providence, though the course and method of it have not such known and certain rules as that of nature, nor does it go always in the same track, yet, in the general, it is still the same thing over and over again. Men's hearts, and the corruptions of them, are still the same; their desires, and pursuits, and complaints, are still the same; and what God does in his dealings with men is according to the scripture, according to the manner, so that it is all repetition. What is surprising to us needs not be so, for there has been the like, the like strange advancements and disappointments, the like strange revolutions and sudden turns, sudden turns of affairs; the miseries of human life have always been much the same, and mankind tread a perpetual round, and, as the sun and wind, are but where they were. Now the design of this is, (1.) To show the folly of the children of men in affecting things that are new, in imagining that they have discovered such things, and in pleasing and priding themselves in them. We are apt to nauseate old things, and to grow weary of what we have been long used to, as Israel of the manna, and covet, with the Athenians, still to tell and hear of some new thing, and admire this and the other as new, whereas it is all what has been. Tatianus the Assyrian, showing the Grecians how all the arts which they valued themselves upon owed their original to those nations which they counted barbarous, thus reasons with them: "For shame, do not call those things eureseis--inventions, which are but mimeseis--imitations." (2.) To take us off from expecting happiness or satisfaction in the creature. Why should we look for it there, where never any yet have found it? What reason have we to think that the world should be any kinder to us than it has been to those that have gone before us, since there is nothing in it that is new, and our predecessors have made as much of it as could be made? Your fathers did eat manna, and yet they are dead. See John 8:8; John 8:9; John 6:49. (3.) To quicken us to secure spiritual and eternal blessings. If we would be entertained with new things, we must acquaint ourselves with the things of God, get a new nature; then old things pass away, and all things become new,2 Corinthians 5:17. The gospel puts a new song into our mouths. In heaven all is new (Revelation 21:5), all new at first, wholly unlike the present state of things, a new world indeed (Luke 20:35), and all new to eternity, always fresh, always flourishing. This consideration should make us willing to die, That in this world there is nothing but the same over and over again, and we can expect nothing from it more or better than we have had.

      2. The memorableness of the achievement, that it is such as will be known and talked of hereafter. Many think they have found satisfaction enough in this, that their names shall be perpetuated, that posterity will celebrate the actions they have performed, the honours they have won, and the estates they have raised, that their houses shall continue for ever (Psalms 49:11); but herein they deceive themselves. How many former things and persons were there, which in their day looked very great and made a mighty figure, and yet there is no remembrance of them; they are buried in oblivion. Here and there one person or action that was remarkable met with a kind historian, and had the good hap to be recorded, when at the same time there were others, no less remarkable, that were dropped: and therefore we may conclude that neither shall there be any remembrance of things to come, but that which we hope to be remembered by will be either lost or slighted.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1:11". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/ecclesiastes-1.html. 1706.