Ecclesiastes: Vanity of vanities (1:1-3)

Day 1: Vanity of vanities (1:1-3)

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”

We begin our journey through Ecclesiastes with three important considerations, which relate to themes repeatedly referred to throughout the Book, about which we will return to several times during the course of these reflections.

Firstly: there is the matter of the author, who identifies himself at the outset (and six times after that) as the Preacher (or Teacher), and was discussed in our introduction. While true he is the son of King David (we assume Solomon), this is of lesser importance compared with his ability to teach and what it was he had to say. To be able to teach things that listeners can benefit from learning about is a wonderful service that one is able to render to others. It is not one that should be under-estimated and, as far as the Preacher was concerned, he was well qualified to make the profound observations that he did. As a further thought, seeing life in the raw and experiencing disappointments can have its benefits.

Secondly: there is the recurring statement that “all is vanity” (everything is meaningless). In this first reference, it is to do with peoples’ labours, for which they have toiled hard for. This might come as a shock upon first hearing it, except it gets worse, as throughout the “sermon” more examples are cited concerning the vanity of life. As far as the Preacher was concerned, such labouring was pointless and, as we will soon see, so is almost all other human endeavour. Few of us take easy to the thought that our toil should not produce anything in terms of lasting gain, but that is precisely what happens when it is seen in purely human terms.  

Thirdly: there is the other recurring statement: “under the sun”. It matters, for it indicates the Preacher is speaking from a human perspective, and does so when giving many of his further examples. We still have to wait patiently for when God is brought into the equation, for only then does life, which he otherwise regards as meaningless, becomes meaningful. The truth, which the Preacher was all too well aware off, is most people look at life from the perspective of “under the sun”. With the benefit of years of experience and his God given wisdom, the Preacher could see what many value, who under the illusion their human endeavours have meaning, is in fact pointless. Our challenge is to look beyond life under the sun to life above the sun, to be found in the unseen and sometimes incomprehensible spiritual world or, failing that, making the most of whatever is our lot in life. Prayer: We thank you for the Preacher and his valuable insights. Help us to be wise as far as this world is concerned and seek the wisdom that is from above.

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One thought on “Ecclesiastes: Vanity of vanities (1:1-3)

  1. Melanie Biddle says:

    How easy it is to feel we have nothing to show for our lives, especially when we compare it to what the world values. But we know, as New Testament believers that God looks on us, He is no respecter of persons and doesn’t despise the ‘little things’. This past year especially, seems wasted but God has His plan, and it is good, that will bring us, His people, to that expected end and His glory.

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