Everything in life continues without paying any attention to us and our particular situations. We “tow that barge” and “lift that bail,” and all things of the world just keep rolling along. The world around us couldn’t care less about us and our circumstances. We like to think that we’re different and special in some way. Our contribution is special. At least our generation is seeing things in a new and better way. I think of the songs of the 60’s that purportedly identified the “love child” generation as having the answers to life’s problems. Scott Mackenzie sang, “There’s a whole generation with a new explanation.” So, if you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. Sorry, Scott, but there is ancient wisdom that denounces your claim. Besides, if you’re going to San Francisco today, in 2023, you better carry a loaded pistol with you because crime has driven many retailers from the city. Many residents have also left the city for safer places. Whether it’s the summer of love, 1967, or the summer of crime, 2023, it doesn’t matter. Nothing is new. Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has already been in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.”

There is often an expressed problem with Solomon’s statement that there is nothing new under the sun. This seems contrary to science as new medicine and new operating procedures are discovered. It’s contrary to technology also. Throughout the past, there have been numerous innovations from fire, the wheel, automobiles, airplanes, computers, and numerous other things. God also says in both Isaiah and Jeremiah that He is going to do “new things” in the world. We even call the last half of the Bible the “New” Testament. Geisler is right, “Solomon is not speaking about these, but as to how a human being can be satisfied ‘under the sun’ (v. 8). All the regular means of wine, wealth, wisdom, and works have already been tried and found wanting.”[1] Solomon will go into detail regarding this in Chapter Two.

It’s truly futile to live our lives solely for the “rat race.” Were like the hamster on his wheel. He just goes faster and faster, but he gets nowhere. But each generation under the sun thinks they have the answer to it all and keep the wheel spinning. Orr correctly observes, “Life is filled with a multitude of voices, duties, opportunities, each clamoring for our time and attention. But life is brief and must come to an end someday. We must give our attention to the things which are most important. What, then, is most important?”[2] This is where Solomon goes with his thesis for the whole book. He only mentions it a couple of times. Without God, there is no meaning to life. We are lost and alone in an alien, empty, heartless world. But God so loved the world that he sent His only son. But Solomon mainly focuses on the futility of a world that is cold and uncaring for us as human individuals. Solomon explains that each generation goes after the things they believe will make life significant and meaningful for them. All the things on earth, under the sun, will never fulfill the emptiness in man’s life for love. Only God can do that! Jesus asked, in Mark 8:36, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” The expected answer to that question is nothing. It’s all empty. As Solomon will say, it’s like trying to catch the wind.

[1] Geisler, Norman L., and Thomas A. Howe. 1992. When Critics Ask : A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[2] Orr, William W. 1948. “The Most Important Thing in Life.” Bibliotheca Sacra 105: 364.