Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 28th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 12

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

Remember now - Rather, And remember. The connection between this verse and the preceding one is unfortunately interrupted by our division of chapters.

Creator - Gratitude to God as Creator is here inculcated, as just previously Ecclesiastes 11:9 fear of God as Judge. Godliness, acquired as a habit in youth, is recommended as the proper compensation for that natural cessation of youthful happiness which makes the days of old age more or less evil; more evil in proportion since there is less of godliness in the heart, and less evil where there is more godliness.

While the evil days come not - Rather, before the evil days come.

Verse 2

While ... not - Or, Before. The darkening of the lights of heaven denotes a time of affliction and sadness. Compare Ezekiel 32:7-8; Job 3:9; Isaiah 5:30. Contrast this representation of old age with 2 Samuel 23:4-5.

Verse 3

The body in old age and death is here described under the figure of a decaying house with its inmates and furniture.

This verse is best understood as referring to the change which old age brings to four parts of the body, the arms (“the keepers”), the legs (“the strong men”), the teeth (“the grinders”), and the eyes.

Verse 4

And the doors ... is low - The house is viewed from without. The way of entry and exit is stopped: little or no sound issues forth to tell of life stirring within. The old man, as he grows older, has less in common with the rising generation; mutual interest and social contact decline. Some take the doors and the sound of the mill as figures of the lips and ears and of the speech.

He shall rise ... - Here the metaphor of the house passes out of sight. The verb may either be taken impersonally ( “they shall rise,” compare the next verse): or as definitely referring to an old man, who as the master of the house rises out of sleep at the first sound in the morning.

All the daughters of musick - i. e., Singing women Ecclesiastes 2:8.

Be brought low - i. e., Sound faintly in the ears of old age.

Verse 5

High - The powerful and the proud, such persons as an old man in his timidity might shrink from opposing or meeting: or, high ground which old men would avoid ascending.

Fears ... in the way - Compare Proverbs 26:13.

The almond tree - The type of old age. Many modern critics translate “The almond shall be despised,” i. e., pleasant food shall no longer be relished.

The grasshopper - Rather: “the locust.” The clause means, heaviness and stiffness shall take the place of that active motion for which the locust is conspicuous.

Desire - literally, the caper-berry; which, eaten as a provocative to appetite, shall fail to take effect on a man whose powers are exhausted.

Long home - literally, “eternal (see Ecclesiastes 1:4 note) house;” man’s place in the next world. Without attributing to the author of Ecclesiastes that deep insight into the future life which is shown by the writer of the Epistles to the Corinthians, we may observe that He by whom both writers were inspired sanctions in both books (see 2 Corinthians 5:1-6) the use of the same expression “eternal house.” In 2 Corinthians it means that spiritual body which shall be hereafter; and it is placed, as it is here (see Ecclesiastes 12:3), in contrast with that earthly dissolving house which clothes the spirit of man in this world.

Mourners - The singing women who attend funerals for hire (see Matthew 9:23).

Verse 6

Be loosed - The termination of life is signified generally by the snapping of the silver cord by which the lamp hangs from the ceiling; by the dashing in pieces of the cup or reservoir of oil; by the shattering of the pitcher used to bring water from the spring; and by the breaking of the wheel by which a bucket is let down into the well. Others discern in the silver cord, the soul which holds the body in life; in the bowl, the body; and in the golden oil (compare Zechariah 4:12) within it, the spirit.

Verse 7

The spirit - i. e., The spirit separated unto God from the body at death. No more is said here of its future destiny. To return to God, who is the fountain Psalms 36:9 of Life, certainly means to continue to live. The doctrine of life after death is implied here as in Exodus 3:6 (compare Mark 12:26), Psalms 17:15 (see the note), and in many other passages of Scripture earlier than the age of Solomon. The inference that the soul loses its personality and is absorbed into something else has no warrant in this or any other statement in this book, and would be inconsistent with the announcement of a judgment after death Ecclesiastes 12:14.

Verses 8-14

Judgment with - Rather, judgment (which shall be held) upon etc.: i. e., an appointed judgment which shall take place in another world, as distinct from that retribution which frequently follows man’s actions in the course of this world, and which is too imperfect (compare Ecclesiastes 2:15; Ecclesiastes 4:1; Ecclesiastes 7:15; Ecclesiastes 9:2, ...) to be described by these expressions. He that is fully convinced that there is no solid happiness to be found in this world, and that there is a world to come wherein God will adjudge people to happiness or misery respectively, as they have made their choice and acted here, must necessarily subscribe to the truth of Solomon’s conclusion, that true religion is the only way to true happiness.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/ecclesiastes-12.html. 1870.
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