1:1 The words of the a Preacher, the son of David, king of Jerusalem.
The Argument - Solomon as a preacher and one that desired to instruct all in the way of salvation, describes the deceivable vanities of this world: that man should not be addicted to anything under the sun, but rather inflamed with the desire of the heavenly life: therefore he confutes their opinions, which set their happiness either in knowledge or in pleasures, or in dignity and riches, wishing that mans true happiness consists in that he is united with God and will enjoy his presence: so that all other things must be rejected, save in as much as they further us to attain to this heavenly treasure, which is sure and permanent, and cannot be found in any other save in God alone. 1:2 b Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all [is] vanity.
(a) Solomon is here called a preacher, or one who assembles the people, because he teaches the true knowledge of God, and how men ought to pass their life in this transitory world.
(b) He condemns the opinions of all men who set happiness in anything but in God alone, seeing that in this world all things are as vanity and nothing. 1:3 What profit hath a man of all his c labour which he taketh under the sun?
(c) Solomon does not condemn mans labour or diligence, but shows that there is no full contentment in anything under the heavens, nor in any creature, as all things are transitory. 1:4 [One] generation passeth away, and [another] generation cometh: but the earth abideth for d ever.
(d) One man dies after another, and the earth remains longest, even to the last day, which yet is subject to corruption. 1:6 The e wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about to the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to its circuits.
(e) By the sun, wind and rivers, he shows that the greatest labour and longest has an end, and therefore there can be no happiness in this world. 1:7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea [is] not full; to the place from f which the rivers come, there they return again.
(f) The sea which compasses all the earth, fills the veins of it which pour out springs and rivers into the sea again. 1:9 g 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.
(g) He speaks of times and seasons, and things done in them, which as they have been in times past, so come they to pass again. 1:12 h I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.
(h) He proves that if any could have attained happiness in this world by labour and study, he should have obtained it, because he had gifts and aids from God to it above all others. 1:13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all [things] that are done under heaven: this grievous labour hath God given to the sons of man i to be exercised with it.
(i) Man by nature has a desire to know, and yet is not able to come to the perfection of knowledge, which is the punishment of sin, to humble man, and to teach him to depend only on God. 1:15 [That which is] k crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is lacking cannot be numbered.
(k) Man is not able by all his diligence to cause things to go other than they do: neither can he number the faults that are committed, much less remedy them. 1:17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know l madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.
(l) That is, vain things, which served to pleasure, in which was no convenience, but grief and trouble of conscience. 1:18 For in much wisdom [is] much m grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
(m) Wisdom and knowledge cannot be come by without great pain of body and mind: for when a man has attained the highest, yet is his mind never fully content: therefore in this world is no true happiness.