Ecclesiastes 1:15
That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) Made straight.—The verb occurs only in this book (Ecclesiastes 7:13; Ecclesiastes 12:9, “set in order”) and in Rabbinical Hebrew. So likewise “that which is wanting” is peculiar to this passage, and to later Hebrew.

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.He saw clearly both the disorder and incompleteness of human actions (compare the marginal reference), and also man's impotence to rectify them. 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).

wanting—(Da 5:27).

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.

That which is crooked cannot be made straight; all our knowledge serves only to discover our diseases and miseries, but is oft itself utterly insufficient to heal or remove them; it cannot rectify those confusions and disorders which are either in our own hearts and lives, or in the men and things of the world.

That which is wanting, to wit, in our knowledge, and in order to man’s complete satisfaction and felicity, cannot be numbered; we know little of what we should or might know, or did know in the state of innocency, or shall know in the future life. 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.

That which is {k} crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is lacking cannot be numbered.

(k) Man is not able by all his diligence to cause things to go other than they do: neither can he number the faults that are committed, much less remedy them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. That which is crooked] The words are apparently a proverbial saying quoted as already current. The complaint is that the search after wisdom brings the seeker face to face with anomalies and defects, which yet he cannot rectify. The Hebrew words are not the same, but we may, perhaps, trace an allusive reference to the promise of Isaiah 40:4 that “the crooked shall be made straight,” and the Debater in his present mood looks on this also as a delusive dream. There is nothing left but to take things as they are and “accept the inevitable.” Comp. chap. Ecclesiastes 7:13, as expressing the same thought.

that which is wanting] The second clause presents the negative aspect of the world’s defects as “crooked” did the positive. Everywhere, if there is nothing absolutely evil, there is an “incompleteness” which we cannot remedy, any more than our skill in arithmetic can make up for a deficit which stares us in the face when we look into an account, and the seeker had not as yet attained to the faith which sees beyond that incompleteness the ultimate completeness of the Divine order.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. "That which hath been is that which shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is nothing new under the sun." - The older form of the language uses only אשׁר instead of מה־שּׁ, in the sense of id quod, and in the sense of quid-quid, אשׁר כל (Ecclesiastes 6:10; Ecclesiastes 7:24); but mǎh is also used by it with the extinct force of an interrogative, in the sense of quodcunque, Job 13:13, aliquid (quidquam), Genesis 39:8; Proverbs 9:13; and mi or mi asher, in the sense of quisquis, Exodus 24:14; Exodus 32:33. In שׁ הוא (cf. Genesis 42:14) are combined the meanings id (est) quod and idem (est) quod; hu is often the expression of the equality of two things, Job 3:19, or of self-sameness, Psalm 102:28. The double clause, quod fuit ... quod factum est, comprehends that which is done in the world of nature and of men-the natural and the historical. The bold clause, neque est quidquam novi sub sole, challenges contradiction; the author feels this, as the next verse shows.
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