Let’s finish off chapter 1: Ecclesiastes 1:12- 18
v12: This verse is very similar to what we read in Eccl 1:1.
v13: Search: In modern Hebrew this is a word that is related to being a tourist, or someone who investigates something new.
- Under heaven: We also see a change/transition in Solomon’s use of this phrase. This change in word (from ‘sun’ to ‘heaven’) is very significant. ‘Under heaven’ is a phrase that carries with it a perspective that is partially religious or spiritual in nature.
- Grievous task: Evil matter. Something which is not pleasing. If we are under the impression that G-d wants us to understand all the things that are done in this world, we are missing out on His will. Our pursuit should not be a knowledge of this world, but a knowledge of The Creator of this world. When we seek things that are outside of His will (setting our hearts towards knowing this world rather than knowing G-d) then anything we do becomes grievous, an affliction or an inward torture – from a spiritual perspective. When G-d is not part of the “equation” (when we leave Him out) our lives will be very burdensome to us.
v14: Under the sun: We’re not supposed to understand this world – that’s not our pursuit. We’re supposed to understand and seek knowledge of G-d. It’s only when we know G-d, that we are going to be able to see this world from His perspective. Only then will it have relevance or purpose.
- Grasping for the wind: Chasing the wind is futile. It cannot listen to us, respond to us or sustain us. There is no substance to it.
v15: Crooked: Twisted or distorted.
- Cannot be made straight: It is like a scar. It might heal but there will always be evidence that something had gone wrong. Once something has been broken or distorted it cannot be put back exactly as it was. Some people wrongly believe that their failures are part of G-d’s will for their lives. They believe that G-d, like a puppet master, orchestrates the good and the bad in their lives and they have little to no say in it. Their excuse is that because G-d is Sovereign, He can turn all their bad into good, but the problem is that the Kingdom of G-d is not advanced by disobedient people. His will is best advanced through obedience. Disobedience doesn’t mean that all is lost (Roms 8:28), but with disobedience comes unnecessary scars, pain, suffering.
- What is lacking cannot be numbered: Man can never know exactly how to make brokenness or incompleteness whole again.
v16: Communed with my heart: Spoke to my thoughts. Said to myself.
- Jerusalem: Most Rabbinical scholars see Jerusalem as a seat of wisdom and knowledge because G-d is there. Solomon, here, states that of all the wise who have been in Jerusalem none have surpassed his wisdom – as far as understanding wisdom is concerned, he is the chief.
v17: Set my heart: Solomon wholeheartedly pursued wisdom and knowledge from an intellectual standpoint.
- Madness and folly: Although there is nothing wrong with education, when we set our hearts to become intelligent (smart, full of knowledge) but we reject G-d then all of our knowledge will be in vain. There has to be a balance. As we pursue knowing G-d, we can also study His creation. The only way to rightly understand creation is by knowing G-d. When we leave G-d out of our education (our pursuit of knowledge and understanding) it leads to madness and folly.
- Grasping for the wind: Trying to understand the wind is a futile exercise as we will never be able to fully figure it out (John 3:8).
v18: Grief: In the original this is better translated “vexation” or “anger”. Intellectual knowledge leads to frustration. Solomon understood things better than anyone else and the world made him angry because it didn’t operate accordingly to how he thought it should. Wisdom, apart from understanding G-d, His purpose and plans, makes us angry people.
- He who increases knowledge increases sorrow (pain): For example: if we knew we were going to die in 3 years’ time we would live with a constant dread. Not knowing the date of our death keeps us from constant sorrow. Knowledge and wisdom aren’t the solution. We can know everything, have perfect wisdom, but if we leave G-d out of it (ie we don’t have a Kingdom perspective) in the end we are going to be angry and bitter and experience inner pain rather than the joy and the satisfaction that G-d wants us to gain from having Kingdom knowledge.