8All things arefull of labor;
Man cannot express it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor the ear filled with hearing.
9That which has been iswhat will be,
That which isdone is what will be done,
And there isnothing new under the sun.
10Is there anything of which it may be said,
“See, this isnew”?
It has already been in ancient times before us.
11There isno remembrance of former things,
Nor will there be any remembrance of thingsthat are to come
By those who will come after.
The Story: Solomon continues his synopsis of what he wants to say to his son, which will take up the substance of Ecclesiastes. He insists that nothing new – nothing beyond what he had learned or experienced – was to be gained by reading, observing, studying, or trying to make a name for ourselves. All things are wearisome, Solomon advises, when we look at them as ends in themselves or as the highest achievements or experiences that we may know in this life. Every generation seems bent on trying out everything for itself, heedless of the advice of wise forebears, because they believe they can find meaning and purpose on their own terms. But if they won’t remember the advice and experiences of their forebears, what can they hope to attain or achieve that anyone after them might want to remember? Everything is fleeting in a world where people live only for the moment, only for themselves, and only with a view to the material horizon and personal happiness.
The Structure: Solomon introduces here one of two key phrases for understanding his meaning in Ecclesiastes. “Under the sun” (v. 9) occurs over twenty times in this book, and it always refers to man’s attempt to make his life make sense apart from God. Wherever this phrase occurs, “vanity of vanities” or “striving after wind” is not far away. God alone is able to make sense of our experience in this world. Only by conducting our lives before Him, with Him, in Him, and unto His glory can people hope to find lasting satisfaction and pleasure in life. “Under the sun” everything is weariness, frustration, disappointment, and impermanence. This, apparently, was the road Rehoboam had chosen to follow – taking his father’s later years as his example. But now Solomon was hoping to call him back to his senses. For Rehoboam, however, it was already too late.
Is there any aspect of your life which you pursue from an “under the sun” frame of reference? How do you know? How would that part of your life be different if you lived it more “under the heavens” and less “under the sun”?
T. M. Moore
Each week’s studies in our Scriptorium column are available in a free PDF form, suitable for personal or group use. For this week’s study, “Vanity of Vanities: Ecclesiastes 1,” simply click here.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.