*1:2 The word used here five times! (and frequently repeated in the book) does not really mean “meaningless” as is so often translated. Its basic meaning is “vapor” or “breath,” and is associated with all that is transitory and fleeting. “Transient” or “ephemeral” would also reflect the meaning—it's not that there is no value, but that everything passes so quickly. Nothing lasts! It is the brevity of life that “makes no sense” and causes frustrating uncertainty. The shortness and unsubstantial nature of existence is what the Teacher finds hard to understand. It's “elusive.”
†1:3 Here is another word that is used in a special sense in Ecclesiastes. Its primary meaning is “gain” or “profit” in a business sense, but here it is being used more in the sense of “life benefit”—in other words, what advantage is gained in the sense of “the meaning of life” and any future reward?
‡1:3 Literally, “under the sun.”
§1:8 Literally, “man is not able to utter, the eye is not satisfied to see, the ear is not filled with hearing.”
*1:9 “Here”: literally, “under the sun.”
†1:11 “The problem is”: implied.
‡1:14 “Wind.” There is a problem in translation since the same word is used in this book for “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit.” So the proverbial “chasing after the wind” could indeed mean “chasing after breath/spirit,” which could be interpreted as seeking the meaning of life (breath/spirit). This is why the KJV translates the phrase as “vexation of spirit.”
§1:15 These were probably everyday proverbs of the time. They really are saying that things have to be accepted as they are.