Ecclesiastes 1



Everything Is Meaningless (1:1–11)

1–2 The Teacher (Solomon) begins his sermon: “Everything is meaningless” (verse 2). To be “meaningless” is to be without purpose. The Teacher is setting out to show us that apart from God, “everything” is futile, vain and worthless—without purpose or meaning. Only when our life is based on God does it become worthwhile and meaningful.

3–11 Here the Teacher shows us what he means by “everything”: he is referring to everything under the sun—that is, “on earth”2 (verse 3). In these verses, he mentions the activities of man, the rising and setting of the sun, the ever-blowing wind, and the flow and evaporation of the earth’s water. Everything repeats itself; everything goes round and round: there is nothing new under the sun3 (verse 9).

Note that modern science can explain many things; man’s scientific knowledge has advanced greatly. However, it cannot answer the question: “Why?” Scientific advances have improved life, but they have not improved humans—their characters, their morality. There is as much evil in the world today as there has ever been.

When we look only at nature and at secular history, we find nothing that tells us about the meaning of life. But nature points us to the Creator (Romans 1:20), and history points us to the Redeemer4—our Creator-Redeemer God. Ecclesiastes shows us that to find the meaning of life, we must look beyond what is “under the sun” to the God who is the Creator of the universe and the Redeemer of all mankind. Then we shall discover what is truly “new”: a new birth, a new self,a new creation (John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Ephesians 4:24).

The Teacher was right: there is nothing new “under the sun.” But there is something new “under the Son.” Indeed, for Christians, everything is new under Jesus the Son of God, for it is He who makes all things new.

Wisdom Is Meaningless (1:12–18)

12–14 The Teacher had sought wisdom (verse 13), but the only thing wisdom had taught him was that everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind (verse 14)—that is, a chasing after something unattainable. In other words, human wisdom itself was meaningless! Not only was all human striving meaningless, but even seeking wisdom was meaningless!5

15 Here the Teacher inserts a proverb, which states that things are unchangeable (they can’t be straightened out) and that what is lacking is too great to be counted—it can’t be supplied. Therefore, one should accept things the way they are and “make the best of it.”

16–18 Here the Teacher acknowledges that his pursuit of wisdom—and also of madness and folly—was a chasing after the wind; it was in vain. For the only thing that “wisdom” led to was sorrow and grief. The Teacher is, of course, referring to purely human wisdom;6 such wisdom reveals much about our human situation, but it offers us no meaning, no hope.