|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:12-18 Solomon tried all things, and found them vanity. He found his searches after knowledge weariness, not only to the flesh, but to the mind. The more he saw of the works done under the sun, the more he saw their vanity; and the sight often vexed his spirit. He could neither gain that satisfaction to himself, nor do that good to others, which he expected. Even the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom discovered man's wickedness and misery; so that the more he knew, the more he saw cause to lament and mourn. Let us learn to hate and fear sin, the cause of all this vanity and misery; to value Christ; to seek rest in the knowledge, love, and service of the Saviour.
Verse 15. - That which is crooked cannot be made straight. This is intended as a confirmation of ver. 14. By the utmost exercise of his powers and faculties man cannot change the course of events; he is constantly met by anomalies which he can neither explain nor rectify (comp. Ecclesiastes 7:13). The above is probably a proverbial saying. Knobel quotes Suidas: Χύλον ἀγκύλον οὐδέποτ ὀρθόν. The Vulgate takes the whole maxim as applying only to morals: "Perverse men are hardly corrected, and the number of tools is infinite." So too the Syriac and Targum. The Septuagint rightly as the Authorized Version. The writer is not referring merely to man's sins and delinquencies, but to the perplexities in which he finds himself involved, and extrication from which is impracticable. That which is wanting cannot be numbered. The word חֶסְדון, "loss, defect," is ἅπαξ λεγόμενον in the Old Testament. We cannot reckon where there is nothing to count; no skill in arithmetic will avail to make up for a substantial deficit. So nothing man can do is able to remedy the anomalies by which he is surrounded, or to supply the defects which are pressed upon his notice.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
That which is crooked cannot be made straight,.... By all the art and cunning, wisdom and knowledge of man, that he can attain unto; whatever he, in the vanity of his mind, may find fault with in the works of God, either of nature of providence, and which he may call crooked, it is not in his power to make them straight, or to mend them; see Ecclesiastes 7:13. There is something which, through sin, is crooked, in the hearts, in the nature, in the principles, ways and works, of men; which can never be made straight, corrected or amended, by all the natural wisdom and knowledge of men, which shows the insufficiency of it: the wisest philosophers among men, with all their parade of wit and learning, could never effect anything of this kind; this only is done by the Spirit and grace of God; see Isaiah 42:16;
and that which is wanting cannot be numbered; the deficiencies in human science are so many, that they cannot be reckoned up; and the defects in human nature can never be supplied or made up by natural knowledge and wisdom; and which are so numerous, as that they cannot be understood and counted. The Targum is,
"a man whose ways are perverse in this world, and dies in them, and does not return by repentance, he has no power of correcting himself after his death; and a man that fails from the law and the precepts in his life, after his death hath no power to be numbered with the righteous in paradise:''
to the same sense Jarchi's note and the Midrash.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
15. Investigation (Ec 1:13) into human ways is vain labor, for they are hopelessly "crooked" and "cannot be made straight" by it (Ec 7:13). God, the chief good, alone can do this (Isa 40:4; 45:2).
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.
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