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Ecclesiastes 1:13 | Word Study

And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. Ecclesiastes 1:13 (KJV)

‘… all things that are done under the heaven’ seems to be a reference to v3; i.e., a reference to human labour. (Bartholomew, 104). The ‘labour’ in reference here can be labelled as the human condition. In other words, Qôheleth claims to investigate what the human condition is about; considering how it is seen as vanity.

The method that Qôheleth employs in investigating the human condition is ‘wisdom.’ (Seow, 120) Or ḥāḵmâ חָכְמָה (H2451).[1] It is the same word we find in Proverbs. But the way the word is used in both books are fundamentally different. In Proverbs, the word has a positive meaning – because it is used with reference to divine wisdom. In Ecclesiastes, it has an autobiographical meaning, i.e., it is used with reference to Qôheleth’s wisdom. The implication – is ironic, the wisdom that one should trust as true – turns out to be very different from the wisdom of the Proverbs. (105) Eventually, Qôheleth labels the human condition closely to the curse of the Original Sin. (Gen 1-3) It is a God given exercise; futile – an evil, that humans are condemned to.


“The futility of life as it is characteristically lived out “under heaven” is captured here in terms of people trying to straighten what is twisted and to count that which is “lacking.” The key to understanding the first line is found in 7:13: “Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?” The emphasis there and in 7:14 is on accepting what comes from the hand of God rather than striving with it and struggling against it.” (Provan, 77) The phrase ‘sore travail that God has given’ does not really mean that God is malicious. It rather states that humans and their aspirations are always misaligned with the reality of existence. In its arrogance, whenever man tries to achieve beyond who and what they are destined for – the condition that they will always find themselves is in this God ordained travail.

Image: Catacomb of Saint Peter and Saint Marcellino, Rome, Italy. (4th century)


Bartholomew, C. (2009). Ecclesiastes, Baker Academic

Provan, I. (2001). Ecclesiastes/Song of Songs: The New Application Commentary, Zondervan

Seow, C.L. (1997). Ecclesiastes, Yale University Press



The answer is that assurance is rooted in our election. Second Peter 1:10 says, “Be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” Divine election is the foundation of God’s commitment to save me, and therefore that he will undertake to work in me by sanctifying grace what his electing grace has begun.

This is the meaning of the new covenant. Everyone who believes in Jesus is a secure beneficiary of the new covenant, because Jesus said in Luke 22:20, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” That is, by my blood I secure the new covenant for all who are mine.

Piper, J. (2023). The Bedrock of Assurance

Ecclesiastes 1:12 | Word Study

I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. Ecclesiastes 1:12 (KJV)

In the preceding verses (v1-11), Qôheleth began with introducing the problem of human existence; i.e., that there is an asymmetry between human labour and the profit we expect from it. And in the following verses (v12-18), he seems to establish that human wisdom is insufficient to address this problem. (Gill)

To make this point, he reasserts the ‘I’ of his personhood. In translation, this has multiple meanings: (1) that this is an autobiographical account (Bartholomew, 103), i.e., a first-hand account – emphasising on its truthfulness and validity, (2) this ‘I’ is King over Jerusalem (Seow, 119) – emphasising on the fact that he had every means and associations available to him; or in other words, he had every resource to meet all his curiosities – to even investigate the problem at hand (v1-11).


In the verses to follow, it seems Qôheleth establishes himself as one of the most industrious men of his time. But his intention isn’t to boast, but to highlight – or as to teach, that despite all his riches, even he couldn’t find any answer to the absurdities of life. “… if true satisfaction could have been found in it, he would have found it. 1. His high station gave him an opportunity of improving himself in all parts of learning, and particularly in politics and the conduct of human affairs.” (Henry)

Image: Jan Brueghel the Elder, Jonah Leaves the Whale’s Belly (1597-98)


Bartholomew, C. (2009). Ecclesiastes, Baker Academic
Gill, J. (1748-63). Exposition of the Old Testament, Eccl. 1:12
Henry, M. (1706). Commentary on the Whole Bible, Complete, Eccl. 1:12-18
Seow, C.L. (1997). Ecclesiastes, Yale University Press