Dave Burnette's Commentary

Ecclesiastes Chapter 1

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Solomon
Date Penned: (935 BC)
Overview: Wisdom's Lessons from Experience (c 1-12)
Theme: Solomon's Personal Experience (c 1-2)
Message: Everything is Futile (v 1-18)

Ecclesiastes 1 Commentary 

(1:1-11) A Book of Meaning - Solomon, the author of this book, had a purpose for writing skeptically and pessimistically. Near the end of his life, looking back on everything he had done, he saw that it all seemed meaningless. A common belief was that good people prospered and wicked ones suffered, but that hadn't proven true in Solomon's experience. Solomon wrote this book after he had tried everything and achieved much, only to find that nothing apart from God made him happy. He wanted his readers to avoid the same senseless pursuits. If we try to find meaning in our accomplishments rather than in God, we will never be satisfied, and everything we pursue will become meaningless. 

(1:1) The Preacher - Solomon ("son of David, king in Jerusalem"; see also 1:12) referred to himself as the Preacher, meaning "one who gathers or assembles." He was both assembling people to hear a message and gathering wise sayings (proverbs). Solomon, one person in the Bible who had "everything" (wisdom, power, riches, honor, reputation, God's favor), discusses here the ultimate emptiness all the world has to offer. His purpose in this book is to help us realize that without the right guide to show us why we are here and where we are going, our lives will ultimately be meaningless. On the other hand, commitment to God's way of living provides direction for us and ultimate meaning for eternity. 

(1:2) Vanity - Vanity means "futility" or "meaninglessness." Solomon's kingdom, Israel, was in its golden age, but Solomon wanted the people to understand that success and prosperity don't last forever (Psalm 103:14=16; Isaiah 40:6-8; James 4:14). All human achievements will one day disappear; we must keep higher values in mind in order to live wisely. If we don't, we will become either proud and self-sufficient when we succeed or sorely disappointed when we fail. Solomon's goal was to show that earthly possessions and human accomplishments are ultimately futile and leave us feeling empty. Only the pursuit of a relationship with God brings real satisfaction because only through him can we truly understand reality. And only when we understand what is real, the way God created the world to work, will we see the way to live with joy, contentment, and purpose. 

(1:8-11) Restless - Many people feel restless and dissatisfied. They wonder, (1) If I am in God's will, why am I so tired and unfulfilled? (2) What is the meaning of life? (3) When I look back on it all, will I be happy with my accomplishments? (4) Why do I feel burned out, disillusioned, dry? (5) What is to become of me? Solomon tests our faith, challenging us to find true and lasting meaning in God alone. As you take a hard look at your life, as Solomon did his, you will see how important following God is over all other options. Nothing else ultimately matters. God wants you to think through your purpose and direction in life, just as Solomon did as he wrote Ecclesiastes. 

(1:15) Unanswered Questions - "That which is crooked cannot be made straight" is a statement about the ultimate perplexity and confusion that come to us because of all the unanswered questions in life. Solomon, writing about his own life, discovered that neither his accomplishments nor his wisdom could make him truly happy. We find true wisdom in God, and true happiness comes from serving him. 

(1:16-18) Wisdom - After writing that everything is futile (1:2-11), Solomon recorded that even his great wisdom could not offer the satisfaction he was seeking. Wisdom in itself brought grief rather than satisfaction. It analyzed his problem, but it could not solve it. When he discovered that his earthbound wisdom could not alter his fate, he became sorrowful. Without God and the perspective of divine wisdom, life is no more than a series of repetitive cycles.

(1:16-18) Struggles - The more you understand, the more you come to see pain and difficulty all around you. For example, the more you know, the more imperfection you see around you; and the more you observe, the more evil becomes evident. As you set out with Solomon to find the meaning of life, you must be ready to feel more, think more, question more, hurt more, and do more. Are you ready to pay the price for wisdom? 

(1:16-18) Knowledge and Wisdom - Solomon highlights two kinds of wisdom in the book of Ecclesiastes: (1) human knowledge, reasoning, or philosophy; and (2) the wisdom that comes from God. In these verses, Solomon is talking about human knowledge. Human knowledge that ignores God only highlights our problems because it can't provide answers without God's eternal perspective and solution.


Dave Burnette's Life Application


Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today, we start the Book of Ecclesiastes with Chapter 1. In our text today, we look at this book, which means "the Preacher," as the wisdom of God preaches to us that all earthly things are futile. In making application, we see that many spend all their time on earth attempting to gain the world's riches, knowledge, or pleasures when the truth is that there is no satisfaction in achieving these earthly treasures. Today, we see that the wealthy and self-indulgent are among the most miserable folks on the planet. They have learned that our text proclaims that "things" do not make a person happy. How about you? Do you see that "things" do not bring happiness? Let us learn from our text today that attaining worldly things is vanity compared to the riches of knowing our Lord.


Ecclesiastes 1

Ecclesiastes 1

 1The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

 2Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

 3What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

 4One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

 5The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

 6The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.

 7All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.

 8All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

 9The 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.

 10Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

 11There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

 12I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.

 13And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.

 14I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

 15That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.

 16I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.

 17And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.

 18For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.