Saturday 01 October 2022

Bible Book:

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, 'See, this is new'? It has already been done in the ages before us. (vs 9-10)

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 Saturday 1 October 2022

Psalm 70


The first verse identifies the philosopher/prophet whose book this is as 'the son of David, king in Jerusalem', which is a reference to Solomon who is associated with much of Jewish Wisdom literature. It can be argued that the words of Ecclesiastes do not necessarily describe how the author feels, but are an attempt to convey what he believes many people do feel about life. 

Verse 2 “Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”  is effectively a refrain as throughout the book all the things that people are inclined to value and seek are written of as “pointless”, a word we might these days prefer to “vanity” or “in vain”. It is fair to say that reading the whole book reveals some shafts of light in that bleak picture and the book’s closing verses (12:13-14) suggest what life’s purpose should be in the light of all the observations and experiences explored in what comes before.

“Under the sun” appears in verses 3 and 9. It is not just more poetic than “on earth” would be, but emphasises the presumed eternity of the heavens relative to the brief episode of a single human life. Verses 4 to 7 continue in poetic language to describe the circularity of the generations matching that of day and night, the passing seasons and the natural water cycle.

You might notice that the sun’s daily journey is characterised in different terms from verse 5 in Psalm 19, where it is a strong man and bridegroom, affecting all by its heat. Streams endlessly emptying into the ocean but never filling it (v. 7) is a graphic illustration of how one’s efforts might seem pointless.


To Ponder:

  • Does what is described convey how you currently feel about life?
  • Is life pointless as the author claims? Why might one take that view, and what reasons are there for rejecting it?
  • Why do you suppose creation is designed with many circular patterns built into it? What words other that “wearisome” (v. 8) might be useful to describe the repetitiveness of things?
  • With reference to the life and passing generations of humanity can you find things of which it can legitimately be claimed, “This is new”, contrary to v.10?   Or do we always repeat the past, mistakes and all?
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