Ecclesiastes 12

The Twilight of Life

1 So remember your Creator in the days of your youth: Before the days of adversity come, and the years approach when you will say, "I have no delight in them";
2 before the sun and the light are darkened, and the moon and the stars, and the clouds return after[a] the rain;
3 on the day when the guardians of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, the women who grind cease because they are few, and the ones who watch through the windows see dimly,
4 and the doors at the street are shut while the sound of the mill fades; when one rises at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song grow faint.
5 Also, they are afraid of heights and dangers on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper loses its spring,[b] and the caper berry has no effect; for man is headed to his eternal home, and mourners will walk around in the street;
6 before the silver cord is snapped,[c] and the golden bowl is broken, and the jar is shattered at the spring, and the wheel is broken into the well;
7 and the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.[d]
8 "Absolute futility," says the Teacher. "Everything is futile."

The Teacher's Objectives and Conclusion

9 In addition to the Teacher being a wise man, he constantly taught the people knowledge; he weighed, explored, and arranged many proverbs.
10 The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth.
11 The sayings of the wise are like goads, and those from masters of collections are like firmly embedded nails. The sayings are given by one Shepherd.[e]
12 But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body.
13 When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God[f] and keep His commands, because this [is for] all humanity.
14 For God will bring every act to judgment,[g] including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.

Images for Ecclesiastes 12

Ecclesiastes 12 Commentary

Chapter 12

A description of the infirmities of age. (1-7) All is vanity: also a warning of the judgment to come. (8-14)

Verses 1-7 We should remember our sins against our Creator, repent, and seek forgiveness. We should remember our duties, and set about them, looking to him for grace and strength. This should be done early, while the body is strong, and the spirits active. When a man has the pain of reviewing a misspent life, his not having given up sin and worldly vanities till he is forced to say, I have no pleasure in them, renders his sincerity very questionable. Then follows a figurative description of old age and its infirmities, which has some difficulties; but the meaning is plain, to show how uncomfortable, generally, the days of old age are. As the four verses, ( 2-5 ) , are a figurative description of the infirmities that usually accompany old age, ver. ( 6 ) notices the circumstances which take place in the hour of death. If sin had not entered into the world, these infirmities would not have been known. Surely then the aged should reflect on the evil of sin.

Verses 8-14 Solomon repeats his text, VANITY OF VANITIES, ALL IS VANITY. These are the words of one that could speak by dear-bought experience of the vanity of the world, which can do nothing to ease men of the burden of sin. As he considered the worth of souls, he gave good heed to what he spake and wrote; words of truth will always be acceptable words. The truths of God are as goads to such as are dull and draw back, and nails to such as are wandering and draw aside; means to establish the heart, that we may never sit loose to our duty, nor be taken from it. The Shepherd of Israel is the Giver of inspired wisdom. Teachers and guides all receive their communications from him. The title is applied in Scripture to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The prophets sought diligently, what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. To write many books was not suited to the shortness of human life, and would be weariness to the writer, and to the reader; and then was much more so to both than it is now. All things would be vanity and vexation, except they led to this conclusion, That to fear God, and keep his commandments, is the whole of man. The fear of God includes in it all the affections of the soul towards him, which are produced by the Holy Spirit. There may be terror where there is no love, nay, where there is hatred. But this is different from the gracious fear of God, as the feelings of an affectionate child. The fear of God, is often put for the whole of true religion in the heart, and includes its practical results in the life. Let us attend to the one thing needful, and now come to him as a merciful Saviour, who will soon come as an almighty Judge, when he will bring to light the things of darkness, and manifest the counsels of all hearts. Why does God record in his word, that ALL IS VANITY, but to keep us from deceiving ourselves to our ruin? He makes our duty to be our interest. May it be graven in all our hearts. Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is all that concerns man.

Footnotes 7

  • [a]. Or with
  • [b]. Or grasshopper is weighed down, or grasshopper drags itself along
  • [c]. Alt Hb tradition reads removed
  • [d]. Ec 3:21; Gn 2:7; 3:19
  • [e]. Or by a shepherd
  • [f]. Ec 3:14; 5:7; 7:18; 8:12-13
  • [g]. Ec 3:17; 11:9

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO ECCLESIASTES 12

This chapter begins with advice to young men, which is continued from the preceding; and particularly to remember their Creator in the days of their youth; enforced from the consideration of the troubles and inconveniences of old age, Ec 12:1; which, in an allegorical way, is beautifully described, Ec 12:2-6; and from the certainty of death, when it would be too late, Ec 12:7. And then the wise man returns to his first proposition, and which he kept in view all along, that all is vanity in youth or old age, Ec 12:8; and recommends the reading of this book, from the diligence, pains and labour, he used in composing it; from the sententious matter in it; from the agreeable, acceptable, and well chosen words, in which he had expressed it; and from the wisdom, uprightness, truth, efficacy, and authority of the doctrines of it, Ec 12:9-11; and from its preference to other books, which were wearisome both to author and reader, Ec 12:12. And it is concluded with the scope and design, the sum and substance of the whole of it, reducible to these two heads; the fear of God, and obedience to him, Ec 12:13; and which are urged from the consideration of a future judgment, into which all things shall be brought, Ec 12:14.

Ecclesiastes 12 Commentaries