|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:1-3 Much is to be learned by comparing one part of Scripture with another. We here behold Solomon returning from the broken and empty cisterns of the world, to the Fountain of living water; recording his own folly and shame, the bitterness of his disappointment, and the lessons he had learned. Those that have taken warning to turn and live, should warn others not to go on and die. He does not merely say all things are vain, but that they are vanity. VANITY OF VANITIES, ALL IS VANITY. This is the text of the preacher's sermon, of which in this book he never loses sight. If this world, in its present state, were all, it would not be worth living for; and the wealth and pleasure of this world, if we had ever so much, are not enough to make us happy. What profit has a man of all his labour? All he gets by it will not supply the wants of the soul, nor satisfy its desires; will not atone for the sins of the soul, nor hinder the loss of it: what profit will the wealth of the world be to the soul in death, in judgment, or in the everlasting state?
Verse 1. - The words of the Preacher, the son of David, King in Jerusalem; Septuagint, "King of Israel in Jerusalem" (comp. ver. 12). The word rendered "Preacher" is Koheleth, a feminine noun formed from a verb kalal, "to call" (see Introduction, § 1), and perhaps better rendered" Convener" or "Debater." It is found nowhere else but in this book, where it occurs three times in this chapter (vers. 1, 2, 12), three times in Ecclesiastes 12:8, 9, 10, and once in Ecclesiastes 7:27. In all but one instance (viz. Ecclesiastes 12:8) it is used without the article, as a proper name. Jerome, in his commentary, translates it, 'Continuator,' in his version 'Ecclesiastes.' It would seem to denote one who gathered around him a congregation in order to instruct them in Divine lore. The feminine form is explained in various ways. Either it is used abstractedly, as the designation of an office, which it seems not to be; or it is formed as some other words which are found with a feminine termination, though denoting the names of men, indicating, as Gesenius notes (§ 107, 3. 100.), a high degree of activity in the possessor of the particular quality signified by the stem; e.g. Alemeth, Azmaveth (1 Chronicles 8:36; 1 Chronicles 9:42), Pochereth (Ezra 2:57), Sophereth (Nehemiah 7:57); or, as is most probable, the writer desired to identify Koheleth with Wisdom, though it must be observed that the personality of the author often appears, as in Ecclesiastes 1:16-18; Ecclesiastes 7:23, etc.; the role of Wisdom being for the nonce forgotten. The word "king" in the title is shown by the accentuation to be in apposition to "Koheleth" not to "David;" and there can be no doubt that the description is intended to denote Solomon, though his name is nowhere actually given, as it is in the two other works ascribed to him (Proverbs 1:1; Song of Solomon 1:1). Other intimations of the assumption of Solomon's personality are found in Ecclesiastes 1:12, "I Koheleth was king," etc.; so in describing his consummate wisdom (Ecclesiastes 1:13, 16; Ecclesiastes 2:15; comp. 1 Kings 3:12; 1 Kings 5:12), and in his being the author of many proverbs (Ecclesiastes 12:9; comp. 1 Kings 4:32) - accomplishments which are not noted in the case of any other of David's descendants. Also the picture of luxury and magnificence presented in Ecclesiastes 2. suits no Jewish monarch but Solomon. The origin of the name applied to him may probably be traced to the historical fact mentioned in 1 Kings 8:55, etc., where Solomon gathers all Israel together to the dedication of the temple, and utters the remarkable prayer which contained blessing and teaching and exhortation. As we have shown in the Introduction (§ 2), the assumption of the name is a mere literary device to give weight and importance to the treatise to which it appertains. The term, "King in Jerusalem," or, as in ver. 12, "King over Israel in Jerusalem," is unique, and occurs nowhere else in Scripture. David is said to have reigned in Jerusalem, when this seat of government is spoken of in contrast with that at Hebron (2 Samuel 5:5), and the same expression is used of Solomon, Rehoboam, and others (1 Kings 11:42; 1 Kings 14:21; 1 Kings 15:2, 10); and the phrase probably denotes a time when the government had become divided, and Israel had a different capital from Judah.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The words of the preacher,.... Or the preacher's sermon. The whole book is one continued discourse, and an excellent one it is; consisting not of mere words, but of solid matter; of things of the greatest importance, clothed with words apt and acceptable, which the preacher sought out, Ecclesiastes 12:10. The Targum is,
"the words of the prophecy, which the preacher, who is Solomon, prophesied.''
According to which this book is prophetic; and so it interprets it, and owns it to be Solomon's. The word "Koheleth", rendered "preacher", is by some taken to be a proper name of Solomon; who, besides the name of Solomon, his parents gave him, and Jedidiah, as the Lord called him, had the name of Koheleth; nay, the Jews say (i), he had seven names, and to these three add four more, Agur, Jake, Ithiel, and Lemuel; the word by many is left untranslated (k); but it seems rather to be an appellative, and is by some rendered "gathered", or the "soul gathered" (l). Solomon had apostatized from the church and people of God, and had followed idols; but now was brought back by repentance, and was gathered into the fold, from whence he had strayed as a lost sheep; and therefore chooses to call himself by this name, when he preached his recantation sermon, as this book may be said to be. Others rather render it, "the gatherer" (m); and was so called, as the Jewish writers say (n), either because he gathered and got much wisdom, as it is certain he did; or because he gathered much people from all parts, to hear his wisdom, 1 Kings 4:34; in which he was a type of Christ, Genesis 49:10; or this discourse of his was delivered in a large congregation, got together for that purpose; as he gathered and assembled together the heads and chief of the people, at the dedication of the temple, 1 Kings 8:1; so he might call them together to hear the retraction he made of his sins and errors, and repentance for them: and this might justly entitle him to the character of a "preacher", as we render it, an office of great honour, as well as of great importance to the souls of men; which Solomon, though a king, did not disdain to appear in; as David his father before him, and Noah before him, the father, king, and governor of the new world, Psalm 34:11. The word used is in the feminine gender, as ministers of the Gospel are sometimes expressed by a word of the like kind; and are called maidens, Psalm 68:11; to denote their virgin purity, and uncorruptness in doctrine and conversation: and here some respect may be had to Wisdom, or Christ, frequently spoken of by Solomon, as a woman, and who now spoke by him; which is a much better reason for the use of the word than his effeminacy, which his sin or his old age had brought him to. The word "soul" may be supplied, as by some, and be rendered, "the preaching soul" (o); since, no doubt, he performed his work as such with all his heart and soul. He further describes himself by his descent,
the son of David; which he mentions either as an honour to him, that he was the son of so great, so wise, so holy, and good a man; or as an aggravation of his fall, that being the descendant of such a person, and having had so religious an education, and so good an example before him, and yet should sin so foully as he had done; and it might also encourage him, that he had interest in the sure mercies of David, and in the promises made to him, that when his children sinned, they should be chastised, yet his lovingkindness and covenant should not depart from them.
King of Jerusalem; not of Jerusalem only, but of all Israel, for as yet no division was made; see Ecclesiastes 1:12. In Jerusalem, the city of Wisdom, as Jarchi observes, where many wise and good men dwelt, as well as it was the metropolis of the nation; and, which was more, it was the city where the temple stood, and where the worship of God was performed, and his priests ministered, and his people served him; and yet he, their king, that should have set them a better example, fell into idolatry!
(i) Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 2. 3. Midrash Kohelet, fol. 60. 3.((k) "Koheleth", Broughton, Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius. Rambachius. (l) , "anima congregata", Cocceius, (m) "Collector", Arabic version; "congregator, q. d. sapientia congregatrix", Amama, Rambachius; "the gathering soul, either recollecting itself, or by admonitions gathering others", Lightfoot, vol. 2. p. 76. (n) Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 2. 3. & Jarchi, Aben Ezra, & Baruch in loc. Pesikta Rabbati apud Yalkut, ut supra. (in Kohelet, l. 1.) (o) "Concionatrix anima", Vatablus, Piscator.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ec 1:1-18. Introduction.
1. the Preacher—and Convener of assemblies for the purpose. See my Preface. Koheleth in Hebrew, a symbolical name for Solomon, and of Heavenly Wisdom speaking through and identified with him. Ec 1:12 shows that "king of Jerusalem" is in apposition, not with "David," but "Preacher."
of Jerusalem—rather, "in Jerusalem," for it was merely his metropolis, not his whole kingdom.
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