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Ec 1:1-18. INTRODUCTION.
1. the Preacher--and Convener of assemblies for the
purpose. See my
Koheleth in Hebrew, a symbolical name for Solomon,
and of Heavenly Wisdom speaking through and identified with him.
shows that "king of Jerusalem" is in apposition, not with "David," but
2. The theme proposed of the first part of his discourse.
3. What profit . . . labour--that is, "What profit" as to the chief
Labor is profitable in its proper place
(Ge 2:15; 3:19;
4. earth . . . for ever-- (Ps 104:5). While the earth remains the same, the generations of men are ever changing; what lasting profit, then, can there be from the toils of one whose sojourn on earth, as an individual, is so brief? The "for ever" is comparative, not absolute (Ps 102:26).
5. (Ps 19:5, 6). "Panting" as the Hebrew for "hasteth"; metaphor, from a runner (Ps 19:5, "a strong man") in a "race." It applies rather to the rising sun, which seems laboriously to mount up to the meridian, than to the setting sun; the accents too favor MAURER, "And (that too, returning) to his place, where panting he riseth."
6. according to his circuits--that is, it returns afresh to its former circuits, however many be its previous veerings about. The north and south winds are the two prevailing winds in Palestine and Egypt.
7. By subterraneous cavities, and by evaporation forming rain clouds, the fountains and rivers are supplied from the sea, into which they then flow back. The connection is: Individual men are continually changing, while the succession of the race continues; just as the sun, wind, and rivers are ever shifting about, while the cycle in which they move is invariable; they return to the point whence they set out. Hence is man, as in these objects of nature which are his analogue, with all the seeming changes "there is no new thing" (Ec 1:9).
8. MAURER translates, "All words are wearied out," that is, are inadequate, as also, "man cannot express" all the things in the world which undergo this ceaseless, changeless cycle of vicissitudes: "The eye is not satisfied with seeing them," &c. But it is plainly a return to the idea (Ec 1:3) as to man's "labor," which is only wearisome and profitless; "no new" good can accrue from it (Ec 1:9); for as the sun, &c., so man's laborious works move in a changeless cycle. The eye and ear are two of the taskmasters for which man toils. But these are never "satisfied" (Ec 6:7; Pr 27:20). Nor can they be so hereafter, for there will be nothing "new." Not so the chief good, Jesus Christ (Joh 4:13, 14; Re 21:5).
9. Rather, "no new thing at all"; as in Nu 11:6. This is not meant in a general sense; but there is no new source of happiness (the subject in question) which can be devised; the same round of petty pleasures, cares, business, study, wars, &c., being repeated over and over again [HOLDEN].
10. old time--Hebrew, "ages."
11. The reason why some things are thought "new," which are not
really so, is the imperfect record that exists of preceding ages among
12. Resumption of
the intermediate verses being the introductory statement of his thesis.
Therefore, "the Preacher" (Koheleth) is repeated.
13. this sore travail--namely, that of "searching out all things
done under heaven." Not human wisdom in general, which comes afterwards
&c.), but laborious enquiries into, and speculations about, the works
of men; for example, political science. As man is doomed to get his
bread, so his knowledge, by the sweat of his brow
14. The reason is here given why investigation into man's "works" is
only "sore travail"
namely, because all man's ways are vain
and cannot be mended
into human ways is vain labor, for they are hopelessly "crooked" and
"cannot be made straight" by it
God, the chief good, alone can do this
(Isa 40:4; 45:2).
16. communed with . . . heart--
17. wisdom . . . madness--that is, their effects, the works of human wisdom and folly respectively. "Madness," literally, "vaunting extravagance"; Ec 2:12; 7:25, &c., support English Version rather than DATHE, "splendid matters." "Folly" is read by English Version with some manuscripts, instead of the present Hebrew text, "prudence." If Hebrew be retained, understand "prudence," falsely so called (1Ti 6:20), "craft" (Da 8:25).
18. wisdom . . . knowledge--not in general, for wisdom, &c., are most excellent in their place; but speculative knowledge of man's ways (Ec 1:13, 17), which, the farther it goes, gives one the more pain to find how "crooked" and "wanting" they are (Ec 1:15; 12:12).