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Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 2before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return with the rain; 3in the day when the guards of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the women who grind cease working because they are few, and those who look through the windows see dimly; 4when the doors on the street are shut, and the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low; 5when one is afraid of heights, and terrors are in the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along and desire fails; because all must go to their eternal home, and the mourners will go about the streets; 6before the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern, 7and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it. 8Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher; all is vanity.


9 Besides being wise, the Teacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs. 10The Teacher sought to find pleasing words, and he wrote words of truth plainly.

11 The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings that are given by one shepherd. 12Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. 14For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.

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Ec 12:1-14.

1. As Ec 11:9, 10 showed what youths are to shun, so this verse shows what they are to follow.

Creator—"Remember" that thou art not thine own, but God's property; for He has created thee (Ps 100:3). Therefore serve Him with thy "all" (Mr 12:30), and with thy best days, not with the dregs of them (Pr 8:17; 22:6; Jer 3:4; La 3:27). The Hebrew is "Creators," plural, implying the plurality of persons, as in Ge 1:26; so Hebrew, "Makers" (Isa 54:5).

while … not—that is, before that (Pr 8:26) the evil days come; namely, calamity and old age, when one can no longer serve God, as in youth (Ec 11:2, 8).

no pleasure—of a sensual kind (2Sa 19:35; Ps 90:10). Pleasure in God continues to the godly old (Isa 46:4).

2. Illustrating "the evil days" (Jer 13:16). "Light," "sun," &c., express prosperity; "darkness," pain and calamity (Isa 13:10; 30:26).

clouds … after … rain—After rain sunshine (comfort) might be looked for, but only a brief glimpse of it is given, and the gloomy clouds (pains) return.

3. keepers of the house—namely, the hands and arms which protected the body, as guards do a palace (Ge 49:24; Job 4:19; 2Co 5:1), are now palsied.

strong men … bow—(Jud 16:25, 30). Like supporting pillars, the feet and knees (So 5:15); the strongest members (Ps 147:10).

grinders—the molar teeth.

cease—are idle.

those that look out of the windows—the eyes; the powers of vision, looking out from beneath the eyelids, which open and shut like the casement of a window.

4. doorsthe lips, which are closely shut together as doors, by old men in eating, for, if they did not do so, the food would drop out (Job 41:14; Ps 141:3; Mic 7:5).

in the streets—that is, toward the street, "the outer doors" [Maurer and Weiss].

sound of … grinding—The teeth being almost gone, and the lips "shut" in eating, the sound of mastication is scarcely heard.

the bird—the cock. In the East all mostly rise with the dawn. But the old are glad to rise from their sleepless couch, or painful slumbers still earlier, namely, when the cock crows, before dawn (Job 7:4) [Holden]. The least noise awakens them [Weiss].

daughters of music—the organs that produce and that enjoy music; the voice and ear.

5. that which is high—The old are afraid of ascending a hill.

fears … in the way—Even on the level highway they are full of fears of falling, &c.

almond … flourish—In the East the hair is mostly dark. The white head of the old among the dark-haired is like an almond tree, with its white blossoms, among the dark trees around [Holden]. The almond tree flowers on a leafless stock in winter (answering to old age, in which all the powers are dormant), while the other trees are flowerless. Gesenius takes the Hebrew for flourishes from a different root, casts off; when the old man loses his gray hairs, as the almond tree casts its white flowers.

grasshoppers—the dry, shrivelled, old man, his backbone sticking out, his knees projecting forwards, his arms backwards, his head down, and the apophyses enlarged, is like that insect. Hence arose the fable, that Tithonus in very old age was changed into a grasshopper [Parkhurst]. "The locust raises itself to fly"; the old man about to leave the body is like a locust when it is assuming its winged form, and is about to fly [Maurer].

a burden—namely, to himself.

desire shall fail—satisfaction shall be abolished. For "desire," Vulgate has "the caper tree," provocative of lust; not so well.

long home—(Job 16:22; 17:13).

mourners—(Jer 9:17-20), hired for the occasion (Mt 9:23).

6. A double image to represent death, as in Ec 12:1-5, old age: (1) A lamp of frail material, but gilded over, often in the East hung from roofs by a cord of silk and silver interwoven; as the lamp is dashed down and broken, when the cord breaks, so man at death; the golden bowl of the lamp answers to the skull, which, from the vital preciousness of its contents, may be called "golden"; "the silver cord" is the spinal marrow, which is white and precious as silver, and is attached to the brain. (2) A fountain, from which water is drawn by a pitcher let down by a rope wound round a wheel; as, when the pitcher and wheel are broken, water can no more be drawn, so life ceases when the vital energies are gone. The "fountain" may mean the right ventricle of the heart; the "cistern," the left; the pitcher, the veins; the wheel, the aorta, or great artery [Smith]. The circulation of the blood, whether known or not to Solomon, seems to be implied in the language put by the Holy Ghost into his mouth. This gloomy picture of old age applies to those who have not "remembered their Creator in youth." They have none of the consolations of God, which they might have obtained in youth; it is now too late to seek them. A good old age is a blessing to the godly (Ge 15:15; Job 5:26; Pr 16:31; 20:29).

7. dust—the dust-formed body.

spirit—surviving the body; implying its immortality (Ec 3:11).

8-12. A summary of the first part.

Vanity, &c.—Resumption of the sentiment with which the book began (Ec 1:2; 1Jo 2:17).

9. gave good heed—literally, "he weighed." The "teaching the people" seems to have been oral; the "proverbs," in writing. There must then have been auditories assembled to hear the inspired wisdom of the Preacher. See the explanation of Koheleth in the Introduction, and chapter 1 (1Ki 4:34).

that which is written, &c.—rather, (he sought) "to write down uprightly (or, 'aright') words of truth" [Holden and Weiss]. "Acceptable" means an agreeable style; "uprightly … truth," correct sentiment.

11. goads—piercing deeply into the mind (Ac 2:37; 9:5; Heb 4:12); evidently inspired words, as the end of the verse proves.

fastened—rather, on account of the Hebrew genders, (The words) "are fastened (in the memory) like nails" [Holden].

masters of assemblies—rather, "the masters of collections (that is, collectors of inspired sayings, Pr 25:1), are given ('have published them as proceeding' [Holden]) from one Shepherd," namely, the Spirit of Jesus Christ [Weiss], (Eze 37:24). However, the mention of "goads" favors the English Version, "masters of assemblies," namely, under-shepherds, inspired by the Chief Shepherd (1Pe 5:2-4). Schmidt translates, "The masters of assemblies are fastened (made sure) as nails," so Isa 22:23.

12. (See on Ec 1:18).

many books—of mere human composition, opposed to "by these"; these inspired writings are the only sure source of "admonition."

(over much) study—in mere human books, wearies the body, without solidly profiting the soul.

13. The grand inference of the whole book.

Fear God—The antidote to following creature idols, and "vanities," whether self-righteousness (Ec 7:16, 18), or wicked oppression and other evils (Ec 8:12, 13), or mad mirth (Ec 2:2; 7:2-5), or self-mortifying avarice (Ec 8:13, 17), or youth spent without God (Ec 11:9; 12:1).

this is the whole duty of man—literally, "this is the whole man," the full ideal of man, as originally contemplated, realized wholly by Jesus Christ alone; and, through Him, by saints now in part, hereafter perfectly (1Jo 3:22-24; Re 22:14).

14. For God shall bring every work into judgment—The future judgment is the test of what is "vanity," what solid, as regards the chief good, the grand subject of the book.