Ecclesiastes 1 and 2
Under the sun (chapters 1–2)
In these two chapters, we have an introduction, the search for meaning in life, and some conclusions made from the search.
Introduction by narrator (1:1–2)
Examples of futility (1:4–11)
These are reflections on the monotonous routines of life. Life under the sun is meaningless, and the writer gives some examples of futility.
Passing of generations (1:4)
Is man born only so he can later cease to exist?
Cycles of nature (1:5–7)
Nature is always repeating itself. There is no real, lasting change.
Curiosity of man (1:8)
With the curiosity of man and all his efforts, the more he learns the more questions he raises.
Absence of newness (1:9–11)
What a desire to find something new!
Philosophies of futility
Man has created philosophies of life to help him live/cope with this conclusion. The answer is not "there is no answer."
Those spiritully minded do not settle for "life is vain" but they search for meaning beyond this life. If the answer is not found beneath the sun, then it is found above the sun, beyond ourselves.
For every need of man there is a corresponding satisfaction (hunger—food, etc.). If we find a desire for which nothing in this world can satisfy, it is logical to assume we are made for another world.
The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.
—C. S. Lewis
The search for meaning (1:12–2:23)
Acquiring wisdom and knowledge (1:12–18)
The search of the natural man for satisfaction and happiness. Qoholeth explains how he reached the conclusions stated in 1:12–13. Qoholeth also expresses what he had learned in his searching:
- All lifestyles are meaningless (1:14)
- Nothing can be changed (1:15)
- Knowledge is useless (1:16–17)
What proftit is there in the mere accumulation of knowledge?
- Desire for knowledge brings much pain (1:18)
The current generation is a prime example of the vanity of just "more knowledge." People say, "I've got all this knowledge and now I feel worse." Why? You can't know what you need to know in order to produce peace, contentment, joy, etc. People say, "Let's build high, let's fly to the moon, to Mars, etc." What have we discovered? More information on the parts and not explanation of the whole. Qoholeth is not anti-knowledge, but he is concluding rigthly that human knowledge without reference to God is never satisfying.
Worldly pleasure (2:1–3)
Art or agriculture (2:4–6)
Ecclesiastes 2:4-6 — I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: 5 I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: 6 I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:
Great possessions (2:7–11)
Ecclesiastes 2:7-11 — I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: 8 I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. 9 So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.10 And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. 11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
A wise man is superior to the fool (2:12–21)
Ecclesiastes 2:12-21 — And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done. 13 Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness. 14 The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all. 15 Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. 16 For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. 17 Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit. 18 Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. 19 And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity. 20 Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun. 21 For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil.
"nothing better than to eat and drink and enjoy life" (2:24–26)
Ecclesiastes 2:22-26 — For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun? 23 For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity. 24 There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I? 26 For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.
The main thought is that some answers will not be found here on earth. They answers are found "beyond the sun" and are spiritual in nature. Under the sun, you will not find the answer why you are under the sun. The answer is beyond the sun.