Ecclesiastes 1:1-18 . INTRODUCTION.
10. old time--Hebrew, "ages."
which was--The Hebrew plural cannot be joined to the verb singular. Therefore translate: "It hath been in the ages before; certainly it hath been before us" [HOLDEN]. Or, as MAURER: "That which has been (done) before us (in our presence, 1 Chronicles 16:33 ), has been (done) already in the old times."
11. The reason why some things are thought "new," which are not really so, is the imperfect record that exists of preceding ages among their successors.
those that . . . come after--that is, those that live still later than the "things, rather the persons or generations, Ecclesiastes 1:4 , with which this verse is connected, the six intermediate verses being merely illustrations of Ecclesiastes 1:4 [WEISS], that are to come" ( Ecclesiastes 2:16 , 9:5 ).
12. Resumption of Ecclesiastes 1:1 , the intermediate verses being the introductory statement of his thesis. Therefore, "the Preacher" (Koheleth) is repeated.
was king--instead of "am," because he is about to give the results of his past experience during his long reign.
in Jerusalem--specified, as opposed to David, who reigned both in Hebron and Jerusalem; whereas Solomon reigned only in Jerusalem. "King of Israel in Jerusalem," implies that he reigned over Israel and Judah combined; whereas David, at Hebron, reigned only over Judah, and not, until he was settled in Jerusalem, over both Israel and Judah.
13. this sore travail--namely, that of "searching" out all things done under heaven." Not human wisdom in general, which comes afterwards ( Ecclesiastes 2:12 , &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 ( Genesis 3:19 ) [GILL].
exercised--that is, disciplined; literally, "that they may thereby chastise, or humble themselves."
14. The reason is here given why investigation into man's "works" is only "sore travail" ( Ecclesiastes 1:13 ); namely, because all man's ways are vain ( Ecclesiastes 1:18 ) and cannot be mended ( Ecclesiastes 1:15 ).
vexation of--"a preying upon"
the Spirit--MAURER translates; "the pursuit of wind," as in Ecclesiastes 5:16 , Hosea 12:1 , "Ephraim feedeth on wind." But old versions support the English Version.
15. Investigation ( Ecclesiastes 1:13 ) into human ways is vain labor, for they are hopelessly "crooked" and "cannot be made straight" by it ( Ecclesiastes 7:13 ). God, the chief good, alone can do this ( Isaiah 40:4 , 45:2 ).
wanting--( Daniel 5:27 ).
numbered--so as to make a complete number; so equivalent to "supplied" [MAURER]. Or, rather, man's state is utterly wanting; and that which is wholly defective cannot be numbered or calculated. The investigator thinks he can draw up, in accurate numbers, statistics of man's wants; but these, including the defects in the investigator's labor, are not partial, but total.
16. communed with . . . heart--( Genesis 24:45 ).
come to great estate--Rather, "I have magnified and gotten" (literally, "added," increased), &c.
all . . . before me in Jerusalem--namely, the priests, judges, and two kings that preceded Solomon. His wisdom exceeded that of all before Jesus Christ, the antitypical Koheleth, or "Gatherer of men," ( Luke 13:34 ), and "Wisdom" incarnate ( Matthew 11:19 , 12:42 ).
had . . . experience--literally, "had seen" ( Jeremiah 2:31 ). Contrast with this glorying in worldly wisdom ( Jeremiah 9:23 Jeremiah 9:24 ).
17. wisdom . . . madness--that is, their effects, the works of human wisdom and folly respectively. "Madness," literally, "vaunting extravagance"; Ecclesiastes 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 ( 1 Timothy 6:20 ), "craft" ( Daniel 8:25 ).
18. wisdom . . . knowledge--not in general, for wisdom, &c., are most excellent in their place; but speculative knowledge of man's ways ( Ecclesiastes 1:13 Ecclesiastes 1:17 ), which, the farther it goes, gives one the more pain to find how "crooked" and "wanting" they are ( Ecclesiastes 1:15 , 12:12 ).