Ecclesiastes chapter 1

Kohelet the author greets his readers. He says everything is meaningless. And he provides examples of meaninglessness.

 


 

GREETING

 

VERSE 1. The words of Kohelet, the son of David, king in Jerusalem:

Kohelet. The author is identified as Kohelet, which means “the Preacher.”

son of David, king in Jerusalem. Reading those words, many people assume the author was king Solomon, writing under the pseudonym of “Kohelet.” Other verses support that assumption:

Ecclesiastes 1:12. I, Kohelet, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.

Ecclesiastes 1:16. I said to myself, “Behold, I have obtained for myself great wisdom above all who were before me in Jerusalem. Yes, my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.”

Ecclesiastes 2:9. So I was great, and increased more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also remained with me.

Ecclesiastes 12:9. Further, because Kohelet was wise, he still taught the people knowledge. Yes, he pondered, sought out, and set in order many proverbs.

 

EVERYTHING IS MEANINGLESS

 

VERSE 2. “Vanity of vanities,” says Kohelet; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

Vanity of vanities. In the Hebrew, this is a superlative expression. It conveys the maximum of futility and emptiness.

all is vanity. That is, “everything is meaningless” (NAB translation).

If you only read this far, you might see infer that Kohelet was a grouchy old man. But that is not the case. Keep reading!

 

VERSE 3. What does man gain from all his labor in which he labors under the sun?

under the sun. That is, “on the earth.”

 

VERSE 4. One generation goes, and another generation comes; but the earth remains forever.

the earth remains forever. In those days, people imagined that the world was unending. And from our limited human perspective, it might seem that way. However, we know that the earth is only temporary. At some point, the entire created realm will come to an end.

 

VERSE 5. The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hurries to its place where it rises.

rises … goes down. Nature is in constant motion. It is nonstop monotony.

 

VERSE 6. The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north. It turns around continually as it goes, and the wind returns again to its courses.

 

VERSE 7. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, there they flow again.

 

VERSE 8. All things are full of weariness beyond uttering. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

 

VERSE 9. That which has been is that which shall be; and that which has been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

NLT translation: History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.

History merely repeats itself. How many times have you heard somebody say this very thing? Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

 

VERSE 10. Is there a thing of which it may be said, “Behold, this is new?” It has been long ago, in the ages which were before us.

Behold, this is new. Many people in society are captivated by the new. They live for the newest news, the juiciest gossip, the latest fashion, the trendiest trend.

has been long ago. While those things can be exciting, none of it is truly new. They are almost always a re-invigoration of things that have already been done in the past.

 

VERSE 11. There is no memory of the former; neither shall there be any memory of the latter that are to come, among those that shall come after.

 

EXAMPLES OF MEANINGLESSNESS

 

VERSE 12. I, Kohelet, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.

 

VERSE 13. I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under the sky. It is a heavy burden that God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with.

to seek and to search out. We are born to seek. We seek out meaning and purpose. We seek inspiration and explanation. We are dry sponges, thirsty for knowledge and wisdom.

a heavy burden. The Hebrew words areinyan ra. It means “a thankless task.” To seek and to search out is a heavy burden, a thankless task.

 

VERSE 14. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

chasing after wind. The pursuit of wisdom can be as frustrating as chasing after the wind.

 

VERSE 15. That which is crooked can’t be made straight; and that which is lacking can’t be counted.

 

VERSE 16. I said to myself, “Behold, I have obtained for myself great wisdom above all who were before me in Jerusalem. Yes, my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.”

 

VERSE 17. I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also was a chasing after wind.

I applied my heart to know wisdom. Have you applied yourself to seeking wisdom?

 

VERSE 18. For in much wisdom is much grief; and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

 


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Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


 

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