|<< Ecclesiastes 12 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
Remember now - Rather, And remember. The connection between this verse and the preceding one is unfortunately interrupted by our division of chapters.
Creator - Gratitude to God as Creator is here inculcated, as just previously Ecclesiastes 11:9 fear of God as Judge. Godliness, acquired as a habit in youth, is recommended as the proper compensation for that natural cessation of youthful happiness which makes the days of old age more or less evil; more evil in proportion since there is less of godliness in the heart, and less evil where there is more godliness.
While the evil days come not - Rather, before the evil days come.
2While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
While ... not - Or, Before. The darkening of the lights of heaven denotes a time of affliction and sadness. Compare Ezekiel 32:7-8; Job 3:9; Isaiah 5:30. Contrast this representation of old age with 2 Samuel 23:4-5.
3In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
The body in old age and death is here described under the figure of a decaying house with its inmates and furniture.
This verse is best understood as referring to the change which old age brings to four parts of the body, the arms ("the keepers"), the legs ("the strong men"), the teeth ("the grinders"), and the eyes.
4And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;
And the doors ... is low - The house is viewed from without. The way of entry and exit is stopped: little or no sound issues forth to tell of life stirring within. The old man, as he grows older, has less in common with the rising generation; mutual interest and social contact decline. Some take the doors and the sound of the mill as figures of the lips and ears and of the speech.
He shall rise ... - Here the metaphor of the house passes out of sight. The verb may either be taken impersonally ( "they shall rise," compare the next verse): or as definitely referring to an old man, who as the master of the house rises out of sleep at the first sound in the morning.
All the daughters of musick - i. e., Singing women Ecclesiastes 2:8.
Be brought low - i. e., Sound faintly in the ears of old age.
5Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
High - The powerful and the proud, such persons as an old man in his timidity might shrink from opposing or meeting: or, high ground which old men would avoid ascending.
Fears ... in the way - Compare Proverbs 26:13.
The almond tree - The type of old age. Many modern critics translate "The almond shall be despised," i. e., pleasant food shall no longer be relished.
The grasshopper - Rather: "the locust." The clause means, heaviness and stiffness shall take the place of that active motion for which the locust is conspicuous.
Desire - literally, the caper-berry; which, eaten as a provocative to appetite, shall fail to take effect on a man whose powers are exhausted.
Long home - literally, "eternal (see Ecclesiastes 1:4 note) house;" man's place in the next world. Without attributing to the author of Ecclesiastes that deep insight into the future life which is shown by the writer of the Epistles to the Corinthians, we may observe that He by whom both writers were inspired sanctions in both books (see 2 Corinthians 5:1-6) the use of the same expression "eternal house." In 2 Corinthians means that spiritual body which shall be hereafter; and it is placed, as it is here (see Ecclesiastes 12:3), in contrast with that earthly dissolving house which clothes the spirit of man in this world.
Mourners - The singing women who attend funerals for hire (see Matthew 9:23).
6Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
Be loosed - The termination of life is signified generally by the snapping of the silver cord by which the lamp hangs from the ceiling; by the dashing in pieces of the cup or reservoir of oil; by the shattering of the pitcher used to bring water from the spring; and by the breaking of the wheel by which a bucket is let down into the well. Others discern in the silver cord, the soul which holds the body in life; in the bowl, the body; and in the golden oil (compare Zechariah 4:12) within it, the spirit.
7Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
The spirit - i. e., The spirit separated unto God from the body at death. No more is said here of its future destiny. To return to God, who is the fountain Psalm 36:9 of Life, certainly means to continue to live. The doctrine of life after death is implied here as in Exodus 3:6 (compare Mark 12:26), Psalm 17:15 (see the note), and in many other passages of Scripture earlier than the age of Solomon. The inference that the soul loses its personality and is absorbed into something else has no warrant in this or any other statement in this book, and would be inconsistent with the announcement of a judgment after death Ecclesiastes 12:14.
8Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.
This passage is properly regarded as the Epilogue of the whole book; a kind of apology for the obscurity of many of its sayings. The passage serves therefore to make the book more intelligible and more acceptable.
Here, as in the beginning of the book Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, the Preacher speaks of himself Ecclesiastes 12:8-10 in the third person. He first repeats Ecclesiastes 12:8 the mournful, perplexing theme with which his musings began Ecclesiastes 1:2; and then states the encouraging practical conclusion Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 to which they have led him. It has been pointed out that the Epilogue assumes the identity of the Preacher with the writer of the Book of Proverbs.
9And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.
10The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.
11The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.
literally, Words of wise men are as goads, and as nails driven in (by) masters of assemblies; they are given from one shepherd: "goads," because they rouse the hearer and impel him to right actions; "nails" (perhaps tent-spikes), because they remain fixed in the memory: "masters of assemblies" are simply "teachers" or "preachers" (see Ecclesiastes 1:1 note), instructors of such assemblies as Wisdom addresses Proverbs 1:20.
One shepherd - i. e., God, who is the supreme Giver of wisdom Proverbs 2:6, and the chief Shepherd Jeremiah 23:1-4. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:12-13.
12And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
By these - i. e., "By the words of wise men."
Books - Rather, "Writings." Probably the proverbs current in the Preacher's age, including, though not especially indicating, his own.
The Preacher protests against the folly of protracted, unprofitable, meditation.
13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
literally, "The conclusion of the discourse" (or "word," equals words, Ecclesiastes 1:1), "the whole, let us hear."
The whole duty of man - Rather, the whole man. To revere God and to obey Him is the whole man, constitutes man's whole being; that only is conceded to Man; all other things, as this book teaches again and again, are dependent on a Higher Incomprehensible Being.
14For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Judgment with - Rather, judgment (which shall be held) upon etc.: i. e., an appointed judgment which shall take place in another world, as distinct from that retribution which frequently follows man's actions in the course of this world, and which is too imperfect (compare Ecclesiastes 2:15; Ecclesiastes 4:1; Ecclesiastes 7:15; Ecclesiastes 9:2, ...) to be described by these expressions. He that is fully convinced that there is no solid happiness to be found in this world, and that there is a world to come wherein God will adjudge people to happiness or misery respectively, as they have made their choice and acted here, must necessarily subscribe to the truth of Solomon's conclusion, that true religion is the only way to true happiness.