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. The words by sound and concept are related to the word for shadow – hence either an image or something insubstantial. 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).
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.
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.