Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it has been already of old time, which was before us.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Of old time.—The Hebrew word here is peculiar to Ecclesiastes, where it occurs eight times (Ecclesiastes 2:12; Ecclesiastes 2:16; Ecclesiastes 3:15; Ecclesiastes 4:2; Ecclesiastes 6:10; Ecclesiastes 9:6-7), but is common in later Hebrew.
which was—The Hebrew plural cannot be joined to the verb singular. Therefore translate: "It hath been in the ages before; certainly it hath been before us" [Holden]. Or, as Maurer: "That which has been (done) before us (in our presence, 1Ch 16:33), has been (done) already in the old times."
it hath been already of old time which was before us; what things are reckoned new are not so; they were known and in use in ages past, long before we had a being. R. Alshech takes the words to be an assertion, and not an interrogation, and interprets it of a spiritual temple in time to come, which yet was created before the world was.Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)10. Is there any thing] A man may challenge, the writer seems to say, the sweeping assertion just uttered. He may point to some new phenomenon, some new empire, some invention of art, or discovery of science. It is all to no purpose. It has been before in the vast æons (the Hebrew word for “of old time” is the plural of that commonly translated “age” or “eternity”) of the recorded or unrecorded past. It is but an oblivion of what has been that makes us look to that which is to be as introducing a new element in the world’s history. The thought was a favourite one with the Stoics. For a full account of their doctrine on this point see Zeller’s Stoics and Epicureans, ch. 7. Aurelius does but sum up the teaching of the school, where he says, almost in the very words of Ecclesiastes, that “they that come after us will see nothing new, and that they who went before us saw nothing more than we have seen” (Meditt. xi. 1). “There is nothing new” (Ibid. vii. 1). “All things that come to pass now have come to pass before and will come to pass hereafter” (Ibid. vii. 26). So Seneca (Ep. xxiv.), “Omnia transeunt ut revertantur; Nil novi video, nil novi facio.” (“All things pass away that they may return again; I see nothing new, I do nothing new.”)Verse 10. - Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? The writer conceives that objection may be taken to his statement at the end of the preceding verse, so he proceeds to reiterate it in stronger terms. "Thing" is dabar (see on ver. 8). Septuagint, "He who shall speak and say, Behold, this is new," seil. Where is he? Vulgate, "Nothing is new under the sun, nor is any one able to say, Lo! this is fresh." The apparent exceptions to the rule are mistaken inferences. It hath been already of old time, which was before us. In the vast aeons of the past, recorded or unrecorded, the seeming novelty has already been known. The discoveries of earlier time are forgotten, and seem quite new when revived; but closer investigation proves their previous existence. Psalm 119:90. The author rather intends to say that in this sphere nothing remains permanent as the fixed point around which all circles; generations pass away, others appear, and the earth is only the firm territory, the standing scene, of this ceaseless change. In reality, both things may be said of the earth: that it stands for ever without losing its place in the universe, and that it does not stand for ever, for it will be changed and become something else. But the latter thought, which appertains to the history of redemption, Psalm 102:26., is remote from the Preacher; the stability of the earth appears to him only as the foil of the growth and decay everlastingly repeating themselves. Elster, in this fact, that the generations of men pass away, and that, on the contrary, the insensate earth under their feet remains, rightly sees something tragic, as Jerome had already done: Quid hac vanius vanitate, quam terram manere, quae hominum causa facta est, et hominem ipsum, terrae dominum, tam repente in pulverem dissolvi? The sun supplies the author with another figure. This, which he thinks of in contrast with the earth, is to him a second example of ceaseless change with perpetual sameness. As the generations of men come and go, so also does the sun.
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