Ecclesiastes 12:11

11 The words of the wise prod us to live well. They're like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd.

Ecclesiastes 12:11 Meaning and Commentary

Ecclesiastes 12:11

The words of the wise [are] as goads
As the goad teacheth the ox; so the Targum. Not the words of the wise philosophers of that age, or of ages before, or since; but of the inspired penmen of the Scriptures, as Moses, David, Solomon, and of others since; and of all good men, whose doctrines are agreeably to them; these are like "goads" or "pricks", sharp pointed sticks or staves, with which men push and prick their cattle, when driving them from place to place, or ploughing with them: and of a similar use are the doctrines of the word, when attended with a divine efficacy; these are a means of pricking sinners to the heart; and of laying open their vileness and sinfulness to them; and of repentance and contrition; and of awakening them from a sleep in sin to a sense of their danger; and even of killing them, as to their own sense and apprehension of things, and, with respect to their hopes of life, by their own works; as the Philistines were slain by Shamgar with an ox goad, ( Judges 3:31 ) ; see ( Acts 2:37 ) ( Hosea 6:5 ) ; and these are also of use to the saints, as goads, to stir them up, when slothful, to the discharge of duty; and to awaken them, when drowsy, out of their carnal security; and to correct them for their faults, by sharp reproofs and rebukes; as well as to excite them to go on to perfection, who are apt to sit still and lie down; and to direct them to walk straight on, without turning to the right hand or left; and as nails fastened [by] the masters of assemblies;
like these are the truths and doctrines of the word, when they have a place in the heart, and become the "ingrafted word" there; when they are "planted"


F5 in the soul, as the word signifies; when they are fixed in the mind and memory, and dwell and abide there: and when as nails, driven into anything, fasten what they are drove into; so these are the means of fastening souls; of causing them to cleave to God and Christ; to the church, and his people, and to one another; and to the Gospel, and their profession of it; hence they are not like children, tossed to and fro, wavering and unstable: of all which "the masters of the assemblies" are the instruments; that is, ministers and pastors of churches. As there were assemblies for religious worship under the law, in which the prophets, priests, and Levites, assisted; so there are assemblies or churches under the Gospel dispensation, which are gathered and meet together for the service of God, and over these the ministers of the word preside; these are set over the churches in the Lord, and have the rule of them; though they are not to lord it over God's heritage, or have the dominion over their faith; but are helpers of their joy, and useful in the above things, through their ministry. Some choose to render "masters of collections", or "gatherings" F6; and think it may respect their gathering truths out of the sacred writings, as the bee gathers honey out of the flowers; in allusion to those that gathered together the choice and pithy sentences and sayings of others, like the men of Hezekiah, ( Proverbs 25:1 ) ; or to undershepherds, gathering the sheep into the fold F7, by the order of the principal one; who made use of goads, to drive away thieves or wild beasts; and nails, to preserve the sheepfold whole. And others think that not the words, but the of the assemblies themselves, are compared to "nails", and read them, "and the masters of the assemblies [are] as nails fastened" F8; are well established, firm and sure; see ( Isaiah 22:23 ) ; and others take it to be no other than an epithet of the nails themselves, and render it, "as nails fixed, which are binders"; that is, great binding nails, which, being fixed in boards, bind, compact, and hold them together; to which the words of the wise may be compared, being the means of compacting and holding together the church of God, comparable to a sheepfold; hence mention is made of the shepherd in the next clause: or of fixing the attention of the minds of men unto them, and of retaining them in memory, and to which they speak of as first principles, and never swerve from them F9; but, that not ministers, the instruments, but the principal and efficient cause, may have the glory, is added, [which] are given from one Shepherd;
not Zerubbabel, as Grotius; nor Moses, as the Targum, Jarchi, and Alshech; but Christ, the one Shepherd, set over the flock; and under whom the masters of assemblies, or pastors of churches, are, ( Ezekiel 37:23 ) ( John 10:16 ) ; from whom they have their gifts and qualifications, their mission and commissions; and are given to the churches, as pastors and teachers, to feed them, ( Ephesians 4:10 Ephesians 4:11 ) ( Jeremiah 3:15 ) ; and from whom they have their food, the Gospel and the doctrines of it, to feed the flocks with, assigned to their care, ( John 17:8 ) ( 21:15-17 ) ; though this is to be understood not to the exclusion of God, the Father of Christ, by whom all Scripture is inspired; nor of the Spirit, by whom holy men of God spake as they were moved, ( 2 Timothy 3:16 ) ( 2 Peter 1:21 ) .
F5 (Myewjn) "plantati", Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Rambachius.
F6 (twpoa yleb) "auctores, vel dominos collectionum", Montanus, Vatablus, Mercerus, Gejerus.
F7 Vid. Lightfoot, vol. 2. p. 575.
F8 "Veluti clavi. infixi sunt domini, vel magistri congregationum", Schmidt.
F9 Vid. De Dieu & Cocceium in loc. & Vitringam de Synag. Vet. l. 1. par 2. c. 8. p. 377. & Hyde Not. in Peritzol. Itinera Mundi, p. 94.

Ecclesiastes 12:11 In-Context

9 Besides being wise himself, the Quester also taught others knowledge. He weighed, examined, and arranged many proverbs.
10 The Quester did his best to find the right words and write the plain truth.
11 The words of the wise prod us to live well. They're like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd.
12 But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There's no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you're no good for anything else.
13 The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved.