Ecclesiastes 12

CHAPTER XII

Youth should remember their Creator, 1.

A description of old age and its infirmities, with the causes

of death and dissolution, 2-9.

How the Preacher taught the people knowledge, 9-11.

General directions, and conclusion of the work, 12-14.

NOTES ON CHAP. XII

Verse 1. Remember thy Creator] Boreeycha, thy CREATORS.

The word is most certainly in the plural number in all our common

Hebrew Bibles; but it is in the singular number, Borecha,

in one hundred and seventy-six of Dr. Kennicott's MSS., and

ninety-six of De Rossi's; in many ancient editions; and in all

the ancient versions. There is no dependence on the plural form in

most of the modern editions; though there are some editions of

great worth which exhibit the word in this form, and among them

the Complutensian, Antwerp, Paris, and London polyglots.

The evidence, therefore, that this text is supposed to give to

the doctrine of the ever blessed Trinity, is but precarious, and

on it little stress can be laid; and no man who loves truth would

wish to support it by dubious witnesses. Injudicious men, by

laying stress on texts dubious in themselves, and which may be

interpreted a different way, greatly injure the true faith. Though

such in their hearts may be friends to the orthodox faith, they

are in fact its worst friends, and their assistance is such as

helps their adversaries.

But what does the text say? It addresses the youth of both sexes

throughout the creation; and says in effect:-

I. You are not your own, you have no right to yourselves. God

made you; he is your Creator: he made you that you might be happy;

but you can be happy only in him. And as he created you, so he

preserves you; he feeds, clothes, upholds you. He has made you

capable of knowing, loving, and serving him in this world, and of

enjoying him in his own glory for ever. And when you had undone

yourselves by sin, he sent his Son to redeem you by his blood;

and he sends his Spirit to enlighten, convince, and draw you away

from childishness, from vain and trifling, as well as from sinful,

pursuits.

II. Remember him; consider that he is your Creator, your loving

and affectionate Father. In youth memory is strong and tenacious;

but, through the perversion of the heart by sin, young people can

remember any thing better than GOD. If you get a kindness from a

friend, you can remember that, and feel gratitude for it; and the

person is therefore endeared to you. Have any ever given you

such benefits as your Creator? Your body and soul came from

him; he gave you your eyes, ears, tongue, hands, feet, &c. What

blessings are these! how excellent! how useful! how necessary

and will you forget HIM?

III. Remember him in thy YOUTH, in order that you may have a

long and blessed life, that you may be saved from the corruption

and misery into which young people in general run; and the evils

they entail upon themselves by giving way to the sinful

propensities of their own hearts. As in youth all the powers are

more active and vigorous, so they are capable of superior

enjoyments. Faith, hope, and love, will be in their best tenor,

their greatest vigour, and in their least encumbered state. And it

will be easier for you to believe, hope, pray, love, obey, and

bear your cross, than it can be in old age and decrepitude.

IV. Remember him NOW, in this part of your youth-you have no

certainty of life; now is yours, to-morrow may not be. You are

young; but you may never be old. Now he waits to be gracious;

tomorrow may be too late. God now calls; his Spirit now strives;

his ministers now exhort. You have now health; sin has not now so

much dominion over you as it will have, increasing by every future

moment, if you do not give up your hearts to your Maker.

V. There is another consideration which should weigh with you:

should you live to old age, it is a very disadvantageous time to

begin to serve the Lord in. Infirmities press down both body and

mind, and the oppressed nature has enough to do to bear its own

infirmities; and as there is little time, so there is generally

less inclination, to call upon the Lord. Evil habits are

strengthened by long continuance; and every desire and appetite in

the soul is a strong hold for Satan. There is little time for

repentance, little for faith, none for obedience. The evil days

are come, and the years in which you will feelingly be obliged to

say, Alas! "we have no pleasure in them;" and, what is worse, the

heart is hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Verse 2. While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars,

be not darkened] i.e., in the SPRING, prime, and prosperity of

life.

Nor the clouds return] The infirmities of old age of which

WINTER is a proper emblem, as spring is of youth, in the former

clause of this verse.

Verse 3. In the day when the keepers of the house] The BODY of

man is here compared to a HOUSE:-mark the metaphors and their

propriety.

1. The keepers shall tremble-the hands become paralytic, as is

constantly the case, less or more, in old age.

2. The strong men shall bow] The legs become feeble, and unable

to support the weight of the body.

3. The grinders cease because they are few] The teeth decayed

and mostly lost; the few that remain being incapable of properly

masticating hard substances or animal food. And so they cease; for

soft or pulpy substances, which are requisite then, require little

or no mastication; and these aliments become their ordinary food.

4. Those that look out of the windows] The optic nerves, which

receive impressions, through the medium of the different humours

of the eye, from surrounding objects-they are darkened; the

humours becoming thick, flat, and turbid, they are no longer

capable of transmitting those images in that clear, distinct

manner, as formerly. There may be an allusion here to the pupil of

the eye. Look into it, and you will see your own image in extreme

minature looking out upon you; and hence it has its name pupillus,

a little child, from pupus, a baby, a doll; because the

image in the eye resembles such. The optic nerve being seated at

the bottom of the eye, has the images of surrounding objects

painted upon it; it looks out through the different humors. The

different membranes and humours which compose the eye, and serve

for vision, are, the tunica conjunctiva, the tunica sclerotica,

the cornea, the iris, the pupil, the choroides, and the

retina. The iris is perforated to admit the rays of light, and

is called the pupil; the retina is a diffusion of the optic nerve

in the bottom of the eye, on which the images are painted or

impressed that give us the sensation we term sight or vision.

All these membranes, humours, and nerves, are more or less

impaired, thickened, or rendered opaque, by old age, expressed

by the metaphor, "Those that look out of the windows are

darkened."

Verse 4. And the doors shall be shut in the streets]

5. The doors-the lips, which are the doors by which the mouth

is closed.

6. Be shut in the streets] The cavities of the cheeks and

jaws, through which the food may be said to travel before it

is fitted by mastication or chewing to go down the aesophagus into

the stomach. The doors or lips are shut to hinder the food in

chewing from dropping out; as the teeth, which prevented that

before, are now lost.

7. The sound of the grinding is low] Little noise is now made in

eating, because the teeth are either lost, or become so infirm as

not to suffer their being pressed close together; and the mouth

being kept shut to hinder the food from dropping out, the sound in

eating is scarcely heard. The teeth are divided into three

kinds:-1. The dentes incisores, or cutting teeth, in the front of

the jaw. 2. The dentes canini, or dog teeth, those in the sides of

the jaws, for gnawing, or tearing and separating hard or tough

substances. And, 3. Dentes molares, or grinding teeth, the

posterior or double teeth, in both jaws, generally termed the

grinders; because their office is to grind down the substances

that have been cut by the fore teeth, separated into their parts

or fibres by the dog teeth, and thus prepare it for digestion in

the stomach.

8. He shall rise up at the voice of the bird] His sleep is not

sound as it used to be; he slumbers rather than sleeps; and the

crowing of the cock awakes him. And so much difficulty does he

find to respire while in bed, that he is glad of the dawn to rise

up and get some relief. The chirping ot the sparrow is sufficient

to awake him.

9. All the daughters of music shall be brought low] The VOICE,

that wonderful instrument, almost endless in the strength and

variety of its tones, becomes feeble and squeaking, and

merriment and pleasure are no more. The tones emitted are all of

the querulous or mournful kind.

Verse 5. When they shall be afraid of that which is high]

10. Being so feeble, they are afraid to trust themselves to

ascend steps, stairs, &c., without help. And when they look

upwards, their heads turn giddy, and they are ready to fall.

11. Fears shall be in the way] They dare not walk out, lest

they should meet some danger, which they have not strength to

repel, nor agility to escape. A second childishness has taken

place-apprehensions, fears, terrors, and weakness.

12. The almond tree shall flourish] yenaets, not

flourish, but fall off. The hair begins to change, first gray,

then white; it having no longer that supply of nutritive juices

which it once had, this animal vegetable withers and falls off.

The almond tree, having white flowers, is a fit emblem of a hoary

head; or as Hasselquist says, who observed the tree in full flower

in Judea, "like an old man with his white locks."

13. The grasshopper shall be a burden] Even such an

inconsiderable thing as a locust, or a very small insect, shall be

deemed burdensome, their strength is so exceedingly diminished. In

cases of the gout, especially in old men, the shadow of a person

passing by puts them to acute pain! How much less can they bear

the smallest pressure! But probably the words refer to the man

himself, who, bent at the loins, and his arms hanging down,

exhibits some caricature of the animal in question. The poor

grasshopper has become a burden to himself. Another interpretation

has been given of the grasshopper; but I pass it by as impertinent

and contemptible; such commentators appear as if they wished to

render the text ridiculous.

14. Desire shall fail] Both relish and appetite for food, even

the most delicate, that to which they were formerly so much

attached, now fails. The teeth are no longer able to masticate

the food, or have all dropped out; the stomach no longer able to

digest any thing; and, as the body is no longer capable of

receiving nourishment, appetite and relish necessarily fail.

15. Because man goeth to his long home] el beith

olamo, "to the house of his age;" the place destined to receive

him, when the whole race or course of life shall be finished;

for olam takes in the whole course or duration of a

thing; if applied to a dispensation, such as the LAW, it takes

in its whole duration; to the life of man, it takes in the whole

life; to time, it includes its whole compass; to eternity, it

expresses its infinite duration. So old age terminates the olam,

the complete duration of human life; and when life is no longer

desired, and nutrition ceases, the olam of man is terminated. My

old MS. Bible translates it, The hous of his everlastingness.

16. He is just departing into the invisible world; and this is

known by the mourners going about the streets, the long hollow

groans and throat rattlings which proceed from him; the sure

prognostications of the extreme debility and speedy cessation of

those essential animal functions next mentioned.

Verse 6. Or ever the silver cord be loosed] We have already had

all the external evidences of old age, with all its attendant

infirmities; next follow what takes place in the body, in order to

produce what is called death, or the separation of body and soul.

1. The silver cord.-The medulla oblongata or spinal marrow,

from which all the nerves proceed, as itself does from the brain.

This is termed a cord, from its exact similitude to one; and a

silver cord, from its colour, as it strikingly exhibits the

silver gray; and from its preciousness. This is said to be

loosed; as the nervous system became a little before, and at the

article of death, wholly debilitated. The last loosing being the

fall of the under jaw, the invariable and never-failing evidence

of immediate death; a few struggles more, and the soul is

dismissed from its clay tenement.

2. The golden bowl be broken] The brain contained in the

cranium, or skull, and enveloped with the membranes called the

dura and pia mater; here called a bowl, from its resemblance to

such a vessel, the container being put for the contained; and

golden because of its colour, and because of its exceeding

preciousness, as has been noticed in the former case. Broken-be

rendered unfit to perform its functions, neither supplying nor

distributing any nervous energy.

3. Or the pitcher be broken at the fountain] The vena cava,

which brings back the blood to the right ventricle of the heart,

here called the fountain, hammabbua, the spring whence

the water gushes up; properly applied here to the heart, which by

its systole and diastole (contraction and expansion) sends

out, and afterwards receives back, the blood; for all the blood

flows from, and returns back to, the heart.

4. The wheel broken at the cistern] The great aorta, which

receives the blood from the cistern, the left ventricle of the

heart, and distributes it to the different parts of the system.

These may be said, as in the case of the brain above, to be

broken, i.e., rendered useless; when, through the loosening of

the silver cord, the total relaxation of the nervous system, the

heart becomes incapable of dilatation and contraction, so that

the blood, on its return to the right ventricle of the heart, is

not received, nor that already contained in the ventricles

propelled into the great aorta. The wheel is used in allusion to

the Asiatic wheels, by which they raise water from their wells and

tanks, and deep cisterns, for domestic purposes, or to irrigate

the grounds. Thus, then, the blood becomes stagnate; the lungs

cease to respire; the blood is no longer oxidized; all motion,

voluntary and involuntary, ceases; the body, the house of the

immortal spirit, is no longer tenantable, and the soul takes its

flight into the eternal world. The man D-I-E-S! This is expressed

in the following verse:-

Verse 7. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and

the spirit shall return unto God]

5. Putrefaction and solution take place; the whole mass becomes

decomposed, and in process of time is reduced to dust, from which

it was originally made; while the spirit, haruach, that

spirit, which God at first breathed into the nostrils of man, when

he in consequence became a LIVING SOUL, an intelligent, rational,

discoursing animal, returns to God who gave it. Here the wise man

makes a most evident distinction between the body and the soul:

they are not the same; they are not both matter. The body, which

is matter, returns to dust, its original; but the spirit, which is

immaterial, returns to God. It is impossible that two natures can

be more distinct, or more emphatically distinguished. The author

of this book was not a materialist.

Thus ends this affecting, yet elegant and finished, picture of

OLD AGE and DEATH. See a description of old age similar, but much

inferior, to this, in the Agamemnon of AEschylus, v. 76-82.

It has been often remarked that the circulation of the blood,

which has been deemed a modern discovery by our countryman Dr.

Harvey, in 1616, was known to Solomon, or whoever was the author

of this book: the fountains, cisterns, pitcher, and wheel, giving

sufficient countenance to the conclusion.

Verse 8. This affecting and minute description of old age and

death is concluded by the author with the same exclamation by

which he began this book: O vanity of vanities, saith Koheleth,

all is vanity. Now that man, the masterpiece of God's creation,

the delegated sovereign of this lower world, is turned to dust,

what is there stable or worthy of contemplation besides? ALL-ALL

is VANITY!

Verse 9. Because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the

people knowledge] And in order to do this he took good

heed-considered what would be most useful. He set in

order-collected and arranged, many parables, probably alluding

to the book over which we have already passed.

Verse 10. He sought to find out acceptable words]

dibrey chephets, words of desire, words of will; the best, the

most suitable words; those which the people could best understand.

But these words were not such as might merely please the people;

they were words of truth; such as came from God, and might lead

them to him.

Verse 11. The words of the wise] Doctrines of faith, illustrated

by suitable language, are as nails fastened by the masters of

assemblies, baaley asuphoth, the masters of

collections, those who had made the best collections of this kind,

the matter of which was of the most excellent nature; every saying

sinking as deeply into the mind, by the force of the truth

contained in it, as a nail well pointed does into a board, when

impelled by the hammer's force. These masters of collections

have been supposed to be public persons appointed by the prince

himself, the sole shepherd, to see that nothing was put into the

people's hands but what would be profitable for them to read; and

that, when any wise man gave public instructions, a good scribe

sat by to take down the words; and then the master examined what

he had written, to see that it was upright, and that the words

were doctrines of truth. These were something like our licensers

of the press; but the existence of such is little more than

conjecture.

After all, masters of assemblies may mean public teachers; that

which was written, the oracles of God, out of which they

instructed the people; the one Shepherd, GOD ALMIGHTY, from whom

they received their authority and unction to preach the truth; and

by the energy of whose Spirit the heavenly teaching was fastened

in their hearts, as a well-driven nail in a sound piece of wood.

Verse 12. And farther, by these, my son, be admonished] Hear

such teachers, and receive their admonitions; and do not receive

the grace of God in vain.

Of making many books there is no end] Two thousand years have

elapsed since this was written; and since that time some millions

of treatises have been added, on all kinds of subjects, to those

which have gone before. The press is still groaning under and

teeming with books, books innumerable; and no one subject is yet

exhausted, notwithstanding all that has been written on it. And

we who live in these latter times are no nearer an end, in the

investigation of NATURE and its properties; of GOD, his

attributes, his providence, his justice, and his mercy; of MAN,

his animal life, his mode of nutrition and existence, and his soul

and its powers; of JESUS, and the redemption by him; of ETERNITY,

and what it implies as exhibiting to us the pains of the cursed,

and the glories of the blessed. Of several of these we know no

more than they who have lived five thousand years before us; nor

do we know any thing certainly by the endless books that have been

published, except what bears the seal of the God of heaven, as

published in that word which was declared by his Spirit.

And much study is a weariness of the flesh.] O how true is this!

Let the trembling knees, the palsied hands, the darkened eyes, the

aching heart, and the puzzled mind of every real student declare!

And should none more worthy of the name of student be within reach

to consult, the writer of this work is a proof in point.

Verse 13. After all, the sum of the great business of human life

is comprised in this short sentence, on which some millions of

books have been already written!

FEAR GOD, AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS

1. Know that HE IS, and that he is a rewarder of them that

diligently seek him. 2. Reverence him; pay him adoration. 3. Love

him, that you may be happy.

Keep his commandments] They are contained in two words: 1. "Thou

shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart;" 2. "And thy

neighbour as thyself." Blessed be God, much reading and much study

are not necessary to accomplish this, which is called col

haadam, the whole of Adam; the whole that God required of the

first man and of all his posterity. But the Gospel of Jesus

Christ must be understood to comprehend the full force of this

short saying.

The word duty, added here by our translators, spoils, if not

PERVERTS, the sense.

The whole passage is rendered with great simplicity by

Coverdale:-

"The same preacher was not wyse alone: but taught the people

knowledge also. He gave good hede, sought out the grounde, and set

forth many parables. His diligence was to fynde out acceptable

wordes, right scripture, and the wordes of trueth. For the wordes

of the wyse are like prickes and nales that go thorow, wherewith

men are kepte together: for they are geven of one Shepherd onely.

Therefore be warre (my sonne) that above these thou make thee not

many and innumerable bookes, nor take dyverse doctrynes in hande,

to weery thy body withall.

"Let us heare the conclusion of all thinges; Feare God, and kepe

his comaundementes, for that toucheth all men; for God shall judge

all workes and secrete thinges, whether they be good or evell."

I shall give the same from my old MS. Bible:-

And wan Ecclesiastes was most wiis he taght the peple, and told

out what he had don, and enserchinge maade many parablis. He soght

profitable wordis, and wrote most right sermons, and ful of

trewth, The wordis of wismen as prickis and as nailis into herte

pigt: that bi the counseyle of maisteris ben geven of oon

scheperd. More thann thes sone myn, ne seche thou; of making many

bokes is noon eend, and oft bethinking is tormenting of the

flesche. Eend of spekinge alle togydir heere mee. Drede God, and

his hestis kepe; that is eche man. Alle thingis that ben maad

schal bringen into dome, for eche erid thinge, whithir good or

evyl it be.

Verse 14. For God shall bring every work into judgment] This is

the reason why we should "fear God and keep his commandments." 1.

Because there will be a day of judgment. 2. Every soul of man

shall stand at that bar. 3. God, the infinitely wise, the

heart-searching God, will be judge. 4. He will bring to light

every secret thing-all that has been done since the creation, by

all men; whether forgotten or registered; whether done in secret

or in public. 5. All the works of the godly, as well as all the

works of the wicked, shall be judged in that day; the good which

the godly strove to conceal, as well as the evil which the

wicked endeavoured to hide. This, then, will be the conclusion

of the whole mortal story. And although in this world all is

vanity; yet there, "vanities will be vain no more." Every thing,

whether good or evil, will have its own proper stable, eternal

result. O God! prepare the reader to give up his accounts with

joy in that day! Amen.

MASORETIC NOTES

Number of verses, 222.

Middle verse, Ec 6:10.

Sections, 4.

The ARABIC subjoins this colophon:-"Praise be to God for ever and

ever!"

"By the assistance of the Most High God this book of

Ecclesiastes, which is vanity of vanities, written by Solomon the

son of David who reigned over the children of Israel, is

completed."

The SYRIAC has, "The end of the book of Koheleth."

There are others, but they are of no importance.

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