The key word in Ecclesiastes is vanity, the futile emptiness of trying to be happy apart from God. The author of Ecclesiastes is believed to have been Solomon, although some scholars believe it was later edited by Hezekiah or possible Ezra. Jewish tradition asserts that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes in his latter years: The songs of Solomon in his youthful years; and Proverbs in the middle of his years.
Verse 1 – The words of the preacher, the son of David, King in Jerusalem.
Verse 2 – “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
Verse 3 – What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?
Solomon wanted to show that earthly possessions and accomplishments are ultimately meaningless without God. Under the sun, means here on earth, temporal things.
Verse 4 – One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever.
Verse 5 – The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose.
Verse 6 – The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; the wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit.
Verse 7 – All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place to which the rivers come, there they return again.
Each generation comes and goes but does not change the world in any fundamental way. Worse yet, each generation of people, unlike the sun, wind, and waters, passes away.
Verse 8 – All things are full of labor; man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
Verse 9 – That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
Verse 10 – Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us.
This does not deny that there are technological innovations or new works of art, literature, and architecture, but these things are variations on what has already existed, and they do not deliver humanity from its bondage to death. The “new thing” that changes life can only be found in Jesus Christ!
Verse 11 – There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after.
These verses are not for the casual reader of scripture who only know a few verses. These verses are for the mature who spend time meditating on the Word of God that causes them to think of deeper and spiritual things of God. Verse 11, doesn’t mean that people are not remembered down through history. It simply means that fame and glory have no lasting significance.
Verse 12 – I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.
Verse 13 – And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that was done under heaven; this grievous tasks God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.
Verse 14 – I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.
Verse 15 – What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be numbered.
The problem of understanding life is beyond human knowledge.
Verse 16 – I communed with my heart, saying, “Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge!”
Verse 17 – And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly, I perceived that this is grasping for the wind.
Verse 18 – For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
Solomon highlights two types of wisdom in this book. One, being human knowledge, reasoning or philosophy, and the other, the wisdom that comes only from God. In these verse, he is talking about human knowledge. When human knowledge ignores God, it only highlights the problem. We should try with every situation to see God’s perspective.