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1. Whatever has come to be has already been named (Eccl. 6:10).

Cross References: Genesis 2:19–20 (ESV):  19 Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field….

Notes: (1) All that exists has come to be from God’s effort – it all pre-exists Adam. God created, then Adam named. Ironically, it is the second Adam who created the first Adam’s world (Luke 3:23 & 38; John 1:3).

(2) Naming: Adam named everything – we all live in that world. Whatever Adam names the thing “that was its name.”


2. …and it is known what man is (Eccl. 6:10).

Cross-references: then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2:7 (ESV)

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Genesis 3:19 (ESV)

And: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (ESV)

And: And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done” Genesis 8:21 (ESV). This point returns with Jesus: 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. 1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. John 2:24–3:1 (ESV).


Notes: Bitter irony, Adam (male & female, Gen. 5:2) created in the image of God, raised from the dust by the breath of God return to the dust for their rebellion. Adam’s son Seth was born in Adam’s image (Gen. 5:3; there is some dispute concerning the full scope of the meaning here: the very least, we must recognize that Adam could convey nothing beyond what he possessed). The human being is corrupted – and God knows it.


3. And that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he (Eccl. 6:10).

Cross-reference: But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9 (ESV)

Notes: Adam could not dispute with God. Adam’s rebellion brought on Adam’s ruin. The serpent’s promise (Gen. 3:4-5) turned out to be utterly untrue.  Scripture repeats this them: Job 38:1-2; John 19:11).


4. The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? Ecclesiastes 6:11 (ESV)

Cross-reference: Genesis 3:10, “And he [Adam] said ….”

Notes: We have never been able to talk our way out of our problem.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Matthew 6:7 (ESV) Job 38:2. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21 (ESV)


5. For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, Ecclesiastes 6:12 (ESV)


Genesis 2:10, “and God saw that it was good.” Etc.

Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that the man should be alone …..”

  Notes: We do not know what is good, despite our eating from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Gen. 2:9, 27; 3:5 & 8. The irony that having sought to determine good – we can no longer determine good. Rom. 1:28. Why not relativism? How can claim a privileged place to actually understand the world? God knows  what is good – but we no longer do.

Ecclesiastes 7:1 et seq answer these questions. Things have become so topsy-turvy, that now death is better than life! Note that before sin, death was solely the evil promised (Gen. 2:17, 3:19).

6. which he passes like a shadow? Ecclesiastes 6:12

Cross-reference: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (ESV)

Notes: shadow, sel, sounds like image, selem. The words also bear a relationship to one-another:

Sel, comes from the root verb s-l-l, to be shaded or dusky.[1] The words by sound and concept are related to the word for shadow[2] – hence either an image or something insubstantial.[3] Hence a pun on the nature of Adam: He was created the image of God (selem) but became a mere shadow (sel). Man created for eternity becomes insubstantial and false (selem, a mere image, an idol).[4]


7.  For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun? Ecclesiastes 6:10

Cross-reference: Genesis 2:17 (ESV)

17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 3:4 (ESV)

4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.

Genesis 3:19 (ESV)

19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Genesis 5:5 (ESV)

5 Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.

Notes: God knows what will happen – even if we do not.  God told us what would happen with sin – and we sinned nonetheless. God binds the future we death; we can know nothing  beyond what discloses (John 3:12). Our attempts to gain knowledge around God leave us with idols:

Isaiah 41:21–24 (ESV)

21 Set forth your case, says the LORD; bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob. 22 Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, that we may know their outcome; or declare to us the things to come. 23 Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be dismayed and terrified. 24 Behold, you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing; an abomination is he who chooses you.

Concluding notes:

The human being has become bound in and bound with death, with vanity. The human being created to be a selem, an image of God, is now a selem-sel, a mere image or shadow. The ideas are brought together in Psalm 39:6 (Heb. 39:7):

Surely a man goes about as a shadow [selem, “image” in Gen. 1:27] Surely for nothing [Heb., hebel, “vanity” in Ecclesiastes] they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

Indeed, Psalm 39 acts as a sort commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:10-7:14; or conversely, Ecclesiastes functions as a practical meditation on Psalm 39. Both are built around the rise and fall of Adam and our present status in this world. We cannot respond rightly to our circumstance until we take in starkly how painful we find our circumstance. Hence, the counsel which begins in Ecclesiastes7.


צֵל m. (f. Isa. 37:8, compare the form צִלָּה), with suff. צִלִּי (from the root צָלַל No. III) a shadow (Arab. ظِلُّ), Jud. 9:36; Ps. 80:11, etc. Metaph. Job 17:7, “all my members (are) like a shadow,” i.e. scarce a shadow of my body remains. Also—(a) used of anything fleeting and transient, Job 8:9; Psal. 102:12; Ecc. 8:13.—(b) of a roof which affords shade and protection (compare Lat. umbra); hence used for protection and defence; preserving sometimes however the image of a shadow, Psalm 17:8; 36:8; Isa. 16:3, “make thy shadow at noon as in the night,” i.e. afford a safe refuge in glowing heat. Isa. 23:4, “thou (O Jehovah) art a shadow in heat;” sometimes not retaining the image, Nu. 14:9; Ecc. 7:12. In plur. is used the form צְלָלִים.


Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 709.


צֵל: probably a primary noun (Bauer-L. Heb. 454b), > III צלל; SamP. ṣål (Babylonian vocalisation צַל); MHeb., DSS (Kuhn Konkordanz 187); JArm. טֻלָּא, טוּלָּא, טְלָלָא; Sam. טל (Ben-H. Lit. Or. 2:578), טלל (see 3/2:240); טל and similarly in the comparable dialects of Aramaic, BArm. parallel with טלל; Ug. ẓl (Gordon Textbook §19:1052; Aistleitner 2371; Fisher Parallels 1: p. 220 entry 270; on ẓlm (Dietrich-L.-S. Texte 1, 161:1) see Dietrich-Loretz UF 12 (1980) 382); Akk. ṣillu shade, covering, protection (AHw. 1101; CAD Ṣ: 189); cf. ṣillûlu cover (AHw. 1102; CAD Ṣ: 194) and ṣulūlu roof, canopy (AHw. 1111; CAD Ṣ: 242); Arb. ẓill; ? OSArb. ẓlt (Conti Chrest. 160b, uncertain) roof, roofing; Eth. ṣĕlālōt (Dillmann Lex. 1257); Tigr. ṣĕlāl (Littmann-H. Wb. 632a) shadow: shadow: sf. צִלִּי, צִלְּךָ, צִלֵּךְ, צִלּוֹ, צִלֲּלוֹ (Jb 4022, Bauer-L. Heb. 570t), צִלָּהּ, צִלָּם; pl. צְלָלִים (Bauer-L. Heb. 570t), cs. צִלְלֵי־; (Bauer-L. Heb. 570t), Is 388 and 2K 2011 (gloss) fem. :: 2K 209.10 masc. (THAT 2:223: 53 times); Bordreuil RHPhR 46 (1966) 372-387.


Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999), 1024-25.


צָלַם an unused root, Æth. ጸልመ፡ TO BE SHADY, Arab. ظَِاَِم to be obscure, ظامةُ darkness. Hence—


צֶלֶם m. with suff. צַלְמוֹ—(1) a shadow, Psalm 39:7; metaph. used of any thing vain, Psal. 73:20. Hence—

(2) an image, likeness (so called from its shadowing forth; compare σκία, σκίασμα, σκιαγραφέω), Genesis 1:27; 5:3; 9:6; an image, idol, 2 Kings 11:18; Am. 5:26. (Syr. and Chald. ܨܠܰܡܐܳ, צַלְמָא id., Arab. صَنَمُ an image, the letters נ and ל being interchanged.)


צֶלֶם, צְלֵם Ch. emphat. state, צַלְמָא m. an image, idol, Dan. 2:31, seqq.; 3:1, seqq.


צַלְמוֹן (“shady”), [Zalmon, Salmon], pr.n.—(1) of a mountain in Samaria, near Shechem, Jud. 9:48; this apparently is the one spoken of as covered with snow, Ps. 68:15.

(2) of one of David’s captains, 2 Sa. 23:28.


צַלְמוֹנָה (“shady”), [Zalmonah], pr.n. of a station of the Israelites in the desert, Nu. 33:41.


צַלְמָוֶת f. pr. shadow of death (comp. of צֵל shadow, and מָוֶת death), poet. for very thick darkness, Job 3:5; 10:21; 28:3; 34:22; 38:17, שַׁעֲרֵיצַלְמָוֶת “the gates of darkness.”


צַלְמֻנָּע (perhaps for צֵלמְמֻנָּע “to whom shadow is denied”), [Zalmunna], pr.n. of a prince of the Midianites, Jud. 8:5; Ps. 83:12.


Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 710-11.


  : I *צלם (Bauer-L. Heb. 458s; THAT 2:556f :: W.H. Schmidt WMANT 172 (1967) 1331: צֵל + מ‍); SamP. ṣā̊låm; MHeb. image, statue, idol; DSS (Kuhn Konkordanz 187; THAT 2:562); JArm. צַלְמָא; Sam.; Ph. (Jean-H. Dictionnaire 245; THAT 2:556); EmpArm. ṣlmʾ, ṣlmh the effigy, his effigy (Donner-R. Inschriften text 225:3, 6; text 226:2; Jean-H. Dictionnaire 245; Hoftijzer-Jongeling Dictionary 968: statue); Ug. ṣlm pny (Gordon Textbook text 1002:59 = Dietrich-L.-S. Texte 2, 31:61; Aistleitner 2319; cf. Gordon Textbook §19:2059); Akk. sbst. ṣalmu statue, figurine, image (AHw. 1078f; CAD Ṣ: 78): in particular: 1. the statue of a god; 2. the statue of a king; 3. a statue in general; 4. a figurine; 5. a relief, bas-relief; 6. metaphorical, a constellation, shape, likeness, representation; BArm. צְלֵם; Syr. ṣalmā, ṣəlemtā; CPArm. ṣlm; Mnd. ṣilma (Drower-M. Dictionary 393b) image, idol, shape, form; Nab., Palm. Hatra ṣlm, ṣlmʾ and ṣlmtʾ statue (Jean-H. Dictionnaire 245; Hoftijzer-Jongeling Dictionary 968, ṣlm I; see also BArm. under צְלֵם); OSArb. ẓlm (Conti Chrest. 161a) and ṣlm (Conti Chrest. 224b) likeness, statue; Arb. ṣanam idol (Arm. loanword, see Fraenkel Fremdwörter 273): cs. צֶלֶם, sf. צַלְמוֹ, צַלְמֵנוּ, צַלְמָם; pl. cs. צַלְמֵי, sf. צְלָמָיו, צַלְמֵיכֶם: THAT 2:556-563.

  —1. statue, inscribed column 2K 1118/2C 2317.

  —2. idol Nu 3352 Ezk 720, Am 526 (text uncertain) צַלְמֵיכֶם probably meaning effigies of the Kēwān, Babylonian astral deities (see AHw. 420b kajjamānû; CAD Ṣ: 38a line 6ff kajamānu adj. b: “steady” as a name of Saturn) and sakkut (Sumerian dSAG.KUD, see E. Reiner Šurpu tablet 2 line 180; Rudolph KAT 13/2:207; Wolff BK 14/2:304; THAT 2:557).

  —3. pl.: —a. images, figures: צַלְמֵיזָכָר effigies of men Ezk 1617, צַלְמֵיכַשְׂדִּים pictures of the Chaldaeans carved into the wall Ezk 2314; —b. replicas, likenesses of the boils and mice 1S 65.11 (see THAT 2:557f).

  —4. a. transitory image Ps 397 (parallel with הֶבֶל), Ps 7320 text uncertain (parallel with חֲלוֹם) cj. for צַלְמָם prp. צַלְמוֹ (BHS) :: Würthwein Wort und Existenz 169: MT “their idol”; —b. the צֶלֶם of Ps 397 7320 belongs to II *צלם rather than to I, and so means silhouette, fleeting shadows, so e.g. Humbert Études sur le récit du paradis et de la chute 156; cf. Kopf VT 9 (1959) 272 and in general W.H. Schmidt WMANT 172 (1967) 1331.

  —5. likeness: —a. of a man as the צֶלֶם of God Gn 126f 96: for bibliography see Westermann BK 1/1:203-214; see further Barr BJRL 51 (1968) 11-26; Stamm “Zur Frage der Imago Dei im Alten Testament” (in Humanität und Glaube. Gedenkschrift für Kurt Guggisberg 243-253); Mettinger ZAW 86 (1974) 403-24; O.H. Steck FRLANT 115 (1975) 140567; O. Loretz Die Gottebenbildlichkeit des Menschen; THAT 2:558-562: man, God’s likeness, God’s image, i.e. he is God’s viceroy, representative or witness among the creatures; —b. the son as the צֶלֶם of his father Gn 53. †

 Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999), 1028-29.