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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Ecclesiastes 12

 

 

Verses 1-14


In Life Remember Death and Judgment

1. The Creator is to be remembered in youth. When the powers of mind and body are failing, it will be too late.

1-7. Commentators have differed much as to the interpretation of this passage. It has been taken by many as a description of the gradual failing of one bodily organ after another till death supervenes. In that case we may explain Ecclesiastes 12:2. thus: The light grows dim to the aged sense, and reason is dulled and ceases to illuminate. The old man weeps in his distress, and the troubles that draw forth those tears ever recur (Ecclesiastes 12:2) The limbs tremble; the arms, once strong, are become bent and feeble; the few teeth that are left no longer do the work of mastication; the eyes grow darkened (Ecclesiastes 12:3). The means by which the processes of nourishment and sensation have been carried on, in other words, the body's means of communication with the outer world, are shut; the voice is low and feeble; the slightest sound breaks in upon rest (or, 'the bird shall rise with a cry,' i.e. the voice assumes the piping treble of age), and music no longer gives pleasure (Ecclesiastes 12:4). Fancied terrors haunt the soul, and bar the path. The sleeplessness, of which the almond tree (the Heb. name for it meaning 'the early waker,' cp. Jeremiah 1:11) is a symbol, becomes the old man's lot; the lightest weight is a burden, and nothing rouses the flagging appetite, because he is setting out on his journey to the tomb, and the hired mourners are already awaiting him; even before the actual dissolution comes (Ecclesiastes 12:5), and the golden bowl of the lamp of life is broken, and the silver cord, by which it is suspended, loosed; and the pitcher, which has gone so oft to draw at the fountain of life, is shattered, and so is the wheel, which works the rope and bucket to raise water from the deep-sunk well (Ecclesiastes 12:6). Some refer these last two clauses respectively to the action of the lungs and of the heart.

Others, however, have explained these vv. as setting forth a description of a storm and the alarm which it produces, under which figure are indicated the signs which accompany death. The following is a sketch of that interpretation of the passage which sees in it a description of the time specially fatal to aged persons in Palestine, that is to say, the last few days of winter, marked by a violent tempest; the picture being continued by a description of the spring time of nature, which, however, brings no returning vigour to those who are in the extreme winter of their days.

There comes on the storm of exceptional severity, which concludes the broken weather of winter (Ecclesiastes 12:2). Servants and masters are alike dismayed. The grinding women cease from their work, and the ladies of the harem, stricken with fear, no longer idly gaze from the lattices on the passers by (Ecclesiastes 12:3). Ordinary work has ceased, and the house is shut up. But soon the last and greatest storm of winter is over, and the advent of spring is welcomed by the bird-note, to imitate the sweetness of which is the despair of the professional daughters of song (Ecclesiastes 12:4). Nature is joyous, but the aged are full of suspicion that danger lurks about and above their path. And yet there is on every side evidence of renewed power. The almond tree blossoms; the locust crawls out from its shelter; but the aged are not in sympathy. They are beyond the influence of appetising stimulants; for they are approaching the grave, and the hired mourners are near (Ecclesiastes 12:5). Then follow the figures of speech, already touched on, indicating bodily dissolution (Ecclesiastes 12:6).

8-13. Eulogy of the Preacher and his method. Summary of his teaching.

This is the Epilogue, and was probably added by a different hand. It answers to a commendatory preface in the case of a modern book.

10. Acceptable words] He feels that proverbs were a form of speech that will find favour.

11. The words of the wise, etc.] Leaders of thought in each age have the gift of fixing their words securely in the memories of their disciples (goads.. nails), a gift which comes to them from Him who is the supreme Guide and Disposer of the affairs of men (one shepherd). Masters of assemblies] RM 'collectors of sentences.'

12. Be admonished] Jewish teaching was largely oral: Gentile philosophers, on the other hand, committed their speculations to writing, sometimes, e.g. Epicurus, to the extent of many volumes. Among such it was easy to be bewildered and wearied.

13-14. The writer's conclusions. There is a moral Governor of the world. Here or hereafter there shall be a recompense, good or evil.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/ecclesiastes-12.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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