I have chosen Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 as the passage to exegete as part of my current studies and these are a few of my rambling thoughts on the passage.
2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
You can imagine this speaker throwing his hands into the air, perhaps throwing something, or even replacing the words Meaningless with a few well chosen cuss words. Perhaps you can sympathise with these words as you think of times you have uttered the same intent; even if not the exact words…of What is the point!
The author continues
3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
What is the point of working hard. What am I really gaining from it. What is the real meaning of life. These are deep questions to ponder. In effect he is reflecting on what is his purpose in life in the here and now. He reflects on the fact of the many generations behind him and in looking at the future generations ahead of him; perhaps he is thinking of his small place on earth in comparison… and in the same way perhaps the song Monday Monday is coming to your mind when you think of your own responsibilities.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
He reflects on how the sun continues to rise and set and rise and set in a continual circular motion. How the wind continues to blow to the south and comes from the north and never ceases. How the rivers and streams continually flow towards the oceans and yet they are never full…they are never satisfied and yet the streams continue to flow and flow and flow. Its a reminder to him of his own toil and labour that seems never to cease. No matter what he does, no matter how much he will do; there will be work to be done tomorrow and the next day and the day after that and he seems to be asking what will really satisfy me in life?
8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
You can hear the despair within this cry. Perhaps he is bored. Perhaps he is sick of the routine of life and needs a holiday of some description. He is sick of what he see’s. Tired of hearing the same old, same old and thinks that tomorrow will bring the same. And despairs of the possibility that this is his lot in life and nothing will ever change.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.
He has a longing in his heart for something new; for something different. But deep within he believes there is nothing new, because what exists today exists because it was here yesterday. And so his routine continues as he routinely does what ever it is he does. You can imagine his sigh… as he thinks about the former generations who toiled before him and he sighs even deeper as he ponders his lot in life and asks himself the question… will what I have done and who I am, be remembered in the future, when I am gone?
Perhaps you too, have asked yourself these questions? I know I have!