|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:9-11 Men's hearts and their corruptions are the same now as in former times; their desires, and pursuits, and complaints, still the same. This should take us from expecting happiness in the creature, and quicken us to seek eternal blessings. How many things and persons in Solomon's day were thought very great, yet there is no remembrance of them now!
Verse 9. - The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be. The LXX. and the Vulgate render the first clauses of the two parts of the verse in both cases interrogatively, thus: "What is that which hath been? The very thing which shall be. And what is that which hath been done? The very thing which shall be done." What has been affirmed of phenomena in the material world is now affirmed of the events of man's life. They move in an analogous circle, whether they are concerned with actions or morals. Plumptre sees here an anticipation or a reproduction of the Stoic doctrine of a recurring cycle of events, such as Viral mentions in his fourth 'Eclogue' -
"Magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo," etc. But Koheleth is speaking merely from experience, and is indulging in no philosophical speculations. There is no new thing under the sun. The Vulgate transfers this clause to the next verso, which, indeed, supports the assertion. From classical authors commentators have culled examples of the same thought. Thus Tacitus, 'Annal.,' 3:55, "Nisi forte rebus cunctis inest quidam velut orbis, ut quem ad modum temporum vices, ita morum vertantur." Seneca, 'Epist.,' 24, "Nullius rei finis est, sod in orbem nexa sunt omnia; fugiunt ac sequuntur Omnia transeunt ut revertantur, nihil novi video, nihil novi facio. Fit ali-quando et hujus rei nausea." M. Aurelius, 'Medit.,' 6:37, "He that sees the present has seen all things, both that which has Been from everlasting and that which shall Be in the future. All things are of one birth and one form." Again, 7:1, "There is nothing new; all things are common and quickly over;" 12:26, "Everything that comes to pass was always so coming to pass, and will take place again." Justin Martyr, 'Apol.,' 1:57, has, perhaps, a reminiscence of this passage when he writes, Οὐ γὰρ δεοίκαμεν θάνατον τοῦ πάντως ἀποθανεῖν
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be,.... The thing that has been seen and heard is no other than what shall be seen and heard again; so that what is now seen and heard is only what has been seen and heard before; it is but the same thing over again; and that is the reason why the eye and ear are never satisfied; the same objects, as the visible heavens and earth, and all therein, which have been from the beginning, these are they which shall be, and there is nothing else to be seen and heard, and enjoyed;
and that which is done, is that which shall be done; what is done in the present age, nay, in this year, month, or day, shall be done over again in the next;
and there is no new thing under the sun; which is to be understood of things natural, as the works of creation, which were finished from the beginning of the world, and continue as they were ever since, Hebrews 4:3; the various seasons of day and night, of summer and winter, of spring and autumn, of heat and cold, of seed time and harvest, come in course, as they always did; these ordinances never fail, Genesis 8:22. The things before mentioned, the constant succession of men on earth, who are born into the world and die out of it, just as they always did; the sun rises and sets at its appointed time, as it did almost six thousand years ago; the winds whirl about all the points of the compass now as formerly; the rivers have the same course and recourse, and the sea its ebbing and flowing, they ever had; the same arts and sciences, trades and manufactures, obtained formerly as now, though in some circumstances there may be an improvement, and in others they grow worse; see Genesis 4:2, Exodus 31:3; and even such things as are thought of new invention, it may be only owing to the ignorance of former times, history failing to give us an account of them; thus the art of printing, the making of gunpowder, and the use of guns and bombs, and of the lodestone and mariner's compass, were thought to be of no long standing; and yet, according to the Chinese histories, that people were in possession of these things hundreds of years before; the circulation of the blood, supposed to be first found out by a countryman of ours in the last century, was known by Solomon, and is thought to be designed by him in Ecclesiastes 12:6; and the like may be observed of other things. The emperor Mark Antonine (f) has the very phrase , "nothing new": so Seneca (g),
"nothing new I see, nothing new I do.''
This will likewise hold good in moral things; the same vices and virtues are now as ever, and ever were as they are; men in every age were born in sin, and were transgressors from the womb; from their infancy corrupt, and in all the stages of life; there were the same luxury and intemperance, and unnatural lusts, rapine and violence, in the days of Noah and Lot, as now; in Sodom and Gomorrah, and in the old world, as in the present age; and there were some few then, as now, that were men of sobriety, honesty, truth, and righteousness. There is nothing to be excepted but preternatural things, miraculous events, which may be called new, unheard of, and wonderful ones; such as the earth's opening and swallowing men alive at once; the standing still of the sun and moon for a considerable time; the miracles wrought by the prophets of the Old and the apostles of the New Testament, and especially by Christ; and particularly the incarnation of Christ, or his birth of a virgin, that new thing made in the earth; these and such like things are made by the power of, he divine Being, who dwells above the sun, and is not bound by the laws of nature. Spiritual things may also be excepted, which are the effects of divine favour, or the produce of efficacious grace; and yet these things, though in some sense new, are also old; or there have been the same things for substance in former ages, and from the beginning, as now; such as the new covenant of grace; the new and living way to God; new creatures in Christ; a new name; the New Testament, and the doctrines of it; new ordinances, and the new commandment of love; and yet these, in some sense, are all old things, and indeed are the same in substance: there is nothing new but what is above the sun, and to be enjoyed in the realms of bliss to all eternity; and there are some things new (h), new wine in Christ's Father's kingdom, new glories, joys, and pleasures, that will never end.
(f) De Orig. Error. l. 2. c. 6. (g) "laboriosae", Pagninus, Vatablus, Mercerus, Gejerus, Schmidt. (h) Vid. R. Alshech in loc.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
9. Rather, "no new thing at all"; as in Nu 11:6. This is not meant in a general sense; but there is no new source of happiness (the subject in question) which can be devised; the same round of petty pleasures, cares, business, study, wars, &c., being repeated over and over again [Holden].
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