Ecclesiastes 1:10-18


Ecclesiastes 1:10

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


Then Solomon poses the question which gets right to the heart of the matter and that is, “can anyone really present anything that is new?”  Sure we can say they didn’t have computers 100 years ago or they did not drive cars in the 1800’s or they didn’t have airplanes before 1903.  These are things which came about as God began to give the knowledge of the gospel out to the world as we head pell-mell toward the last day.  Daniel had prophesied that knowledge will increase.  But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.  (Daniel 12:4)  This is primarily pointing to the fact that biblical knowledge will increase but along with increased biblical knowledge will be the means to get that knowledge to the entire world and as usual Satan is right there to help corrupt each method.  Has politics changed from ancient times to today?  Has material desires changed from ancient times to today?  Has crime changed from ancient times to today?  Has hatred changed from ancient times to today? I think you get the point that knowledge has increased but wisdom along with that knowledge has lagged.  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.  (Proverbs 1:7)  Wisdom is despised or hated by the unbelievers which is the same today.  Knowledge with wisdom is a marriage but knowledge without wisdom is a dangerous disconnect.


Ecclesiastes 1:11

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


Spanish Philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) made two tremendous observations: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” and “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”  We may have history books and archaeology which digs up the remains of the past but as for remembrance of the actual events, we choose not to remember them and make a justification for our actions.  War has been around for thousands of years whether wars of defense or wars of offense and what was accomplished when you really get down to it?  We choose not to remember the past and the futilities that past generations have faced and choose to bring them up to our day but future generations will not remember any of the accomplishments or disasters we will make.  Intentional rejection of true history and its consequences is passed on from generation to generation.  Many times history is studied but it is studied through the eyes of bias or through an edited version leaving only the parts we know will make our case for whatever we have in mind.


Ecclesiastes 1:12

I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.


Solomon after broaching the subject of wisdom and knowledge now begins a new discourse concerning the particular things that people seek on this earth which cannot fulfill but only increase lust for more and more.  Solomon is still the king of Israel while he is writing this book.  Solomon would have been in a great position to write on these subjects since he was probably the wealthiest man on earth at that time and had the opportunity to know firsthand about the deceitfulness of riches and how they really do not satisfy.


Ecclesiastes 1:13

And 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.


When Solomon speaks about giving his heart, he is stating that he has “applied or assigned” his heart with a determination to seek out all things under Heaven.  Notice Solomon is stating that he is using wisdom to make an evaluation of all the things that he would study.  This means that he is not just looking at things with a cursory view but wants to know the reason behind the things that are done under Heaven, that is, on earth.  When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, they thought that the tree of knowledge of good and evil would be all good but in this verse Solomon is telling us that the searching out of things according to wisdom is literally a full time occupation with much evil being revealed in the process.  This is what God has given to the human race as we see them continually trying to figure out the things of earth and their conclusions are many times erroneous such as evolution or climate change.  Both of these deny the creative and keeping power of God by rejecting the fact that he exists.


Ecclesiastes 1:14

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


Growing up in the house of David and now as king who had prayed and asked the LORD for wisdom to rule the people, not only does he have the ability according to God’s wisdom to see many things through the eyes of a saved man but he also assesses the fact that many things done on earth are of vanity.  If Ecclesiastes was written in his later years, then he would have also been involved in idolatry by this time and he includes false religions as nothing but vanity.  Within the meaning of “vanity” is “transitory or temporary” which means that everything that is done on earth which has nothing to do with serving or worshipping the LORD is nothing but a temporary state and will have its end on the last day when the world is destroyed.  The vexation of spirit is a spirit of “discontentment, dissatisfaction, or troubling.”  In other words when man sets out to do something they think is great, it is really the anticipation that outweighs the actual results of whatever is in view.  The results are normally disappointing and that is the vexation of spirit.


Ecclesiastes 1:15

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


This verse is saying that man does not have the ability to change things which are set by God’s hands.  Did you ever see a crooked tree become straightened after some years?  The word “wanting” carries with it the meaning of “deficiencies, faults, or defects.”  The greatest defect carried over from the fall in the Garden is the defect of sin which has caused all human beings to be separated from God who willingly walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden.  The number of sinful defects in one person cannot be numbered because any person can sin at any moment with a number of different sins.  The creation also suffered from many defects as we see all around the world.  We see Tsunamis like the devastating one that hit Japan in 2011, or the F5 tornadoes that leveled Joplin, Missouri, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Moore, Oklahoma.  Included in that are hail storms, mud slides, lightning strikes, floods, etc.  The wanting cannot be numbered because somewhere on the earth happening at any given time is some type of disaster whether it be large or small.


Ecclesiastes 1:16

I 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.


Solomon then states that he has communed or spoke with his heart.  That is he began to assess within himself the things that he is pondering or musing on.  He states that he has come to large estate, that is, he has come not only to greatness in wisdom but he was also great in material things which God gave him.  And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.  (1 Kings 3:13)  Solomon was the only king who had the blessing of God upon him in the area of great wisdom and massive riches which Solomon didn’t even ask for.   This means that he was given greater wisdom than his father David and king Saul before him.  True wisdom and knowledge are a marriage because wisdom without knowledge has no outlet and knowledge without wisdom leads to trouble as in the Garden of Eden.  Solomon had great experience in both of these.  Below describes the wisdom and knowledge of Solomon:


{30} And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.  {31} For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about.  {32} And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five.  {33} And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.  {34} And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.  (1 Kings 4:30-34)


Ecclesiastes 1:17

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


Then Solomon contrasts two areas of study or investigation.  He gave his heart to know wisdom and with it knowledge in the good sense.  Then he investigated madness and folly.  “Madness” would be “foolhardiness” and “folly” would be “silliness or foolishness.”  By knowing the madness and folly, he would have a better understanding and desire for wisdom which leads to life instead of folly and madness which can have fatal consequences.  The madness and folly he came to know is also vexation of spirit which would be the disappointment that that folly and madness brings.  Then he gives the reason why below.


Ecclesiastes 1:18

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


When one increases in wisdom, they begin to see that those who reject wisdom are dooming themselves and within the person who has the wisdom to see it, it causes anger or much grief knowing the end of the person of foolishness.  Then those who increase in knowledge will also have an increase in sorrow because as they begin to assess things around them they will experience much sorrow since they will see the foolish of the world rejecting that knowledge.  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.  (Proverbs 1:7)  The greatest knowledge we have is the gospel because it is eternal and those who become saved are wise.  And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  (2 Timothy 3:15)  Another principle about gaining knowledge is that the more we know, it shows how much we don’t know!  Those of us who are saved will have grief and sorrow over the fact of someone who rejects or mocks the gospel knowing what their end will be.