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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 12

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

Verses 1-7

Perseverance: Warning to the Youth to Fear God - In Ecclesiastes 11:9 thru Ecclesiastes 12:7 the Preacher tells young people to enjoy their days of youthfulness, but to balance their lives by remembering the coming Day of Judgment. The Preacher began his sermon in Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 by asking the rhetorical question, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?” Throughout this book he explains this statement by answering his own opening question. Remember that the book of Ecclesiastes tells us the vanity of our physical labors and of our earthly possessions. It is structured in a way that teaches us how to take our physical journey through this life, from youth to old age. A young person tends to find life adventurous and exciting. He spends much effort in exploring and achieving new feats. But the Preacher knows how vain these youthful adventures can be because he has pursued them all. Since he was once a youth, he knows how much more difficult a youth has in seeing the vanities of life. It is only with wisdom and age that anyone can see the vanities of man's pursuits. This focus upon youth and old age reflects the theme of Ecclesiastes, which is to serve the Lord with all of our strength. The Preacher could have addresses a number of people in society, but he spoke directly to the youth because once they miss this truth in their early years, their life is too far spent to correct this grave error. If they miss their destiny when they are young, it is much harder to put their lives together when they are old and be used by God to fulfill their destinies.

Ecclesiastes 11:9 Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

Ecclesiastes 11:9 Comments - Youth is a time when the senses are keen, the body is strong and enjoyment is easy to find. The Preacher is telling the youth to cheer himself during these days, but cautions him to remember the ways of the Lord as he cheers himself.

Also embedded within this verse is the message that God has placed within every person certain interests and desires. We are all uniquely made with different interests. These have been planted within us as a seed towards our divine destiny. We are to follow our heart and walk by what we see, because this is how we stay on the path of our destiny. However, we must remember that God will bring us into judgment for having missed our destiny for what we were created for.

Ecclesiastes 11:10 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

Ecclesiastes 12:1 “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” Comments - The Scriptures refer to God as “thy Creator” in Ecclesiastes 12:1. Many names for God could have been chosen in this verse, such as “thy God,” or “the Almighty,” but none fit the need for describing God’s character better within this context than “thy Creator.” The description of God as one’s Creator implies that God directs the affairs of one’s life. He is the One who oversees His own creation, and He divinely intervenes in order to accomplish His purposes and plans. This reflects the theme of the book of Ecclesiastes, which is the fact that God gives mankind a purpose in life when he serves Him.

Statistics reveal that people are less prone to give their lives to Jesus the older they get. The best time to give one’s life to Jesus is while we are young and easily obedient to the ways of God. An older person becomes set in his ways and more stubborn to change.

Ecclesiastes 12:1 “while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” Comments - One characteristic of youth is their zeal to find some enjoyable activity each day. As a parent, I look forward to spending the day at home resting, but our children are trying to get us to take them out somewhere so that they can do something fun. Many old people lose the desire to live. They say that they want to die.

Ecclesiastes 12:2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

Ecclesiastes 12:2 “While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened” - Comments - This refers to the loss of sight that accompanies old age. The loss of keen eyesight is usually the first sign of the onset of old age.

Ecclesiastes 12:2 “nor the clouds return after the rain” - Comments - This is figurative of depression or sadness. A long life can give a person many opportunities to remember the past and become depressed.

Ecclesiastes 12:3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

Ecclesiastes 12:3 “In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble” - Comments - The hands are what a person has used all of one's life to keep the house and do work. In old age, the hands began to tremble.

Ecclesiastes 12:3 “and the strong men shall bow themselves” - Comments - Old age tends to cause one to bend or stoop. The “strong men” may refer to the two legs, or to the back.

Ecclesiastes 12:3 “and the grinders cease because they are few” Comments - This is a reference to the loss of teeth.

Ecclesiastes 12:3 “and those that look out of the windows be darkened” Comments - This is a reference to the two eyes.

Ecclesiastes 12:4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;

Ecclesiastes 12:4 “And the doors shall be shut in the streets” - Comments - Old people seldom go out, but rather keep their doors shut.

Ecclesiastes 12:4 “when the sound of the grinding is low” - Comments - This refers to slow or poor eating habits, and, because of tooth loss, they tend to eat soft foods. They eat less often because it is no longer a pleasure to them. This may refer to the loss of hearing.

Ecclesiastes 12:4 “and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird” - Comments - Elderly people tend to get up early, sleep less, and are easily awakened.

Ecclesiastes 12:4 “and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low” - Comments - This is a reference to the loss of hearing.

Ecclesiastes 12:5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Ecclesiastes 12:5 “Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way” - Comments - Old people's depth of perception is poor, and therefore, they are subject to falling and injuring themselves. So they avoid climbing due to these cautions and fears.

Ecclesiastes 12:5 “and the almond tree shall flourish” - Comments - The almond tree shall blossom. The almond blossom is white. This refers to white hair.

Ecclesiastes 12:5 “and the grasshopper shall be a burden” - Comments - The little things in life are difficult to perform, and lifting is also a burden.

Ecclesiastes 12:5 “and desire shall fail” - Comments - Elderly people lack a desire for an active life, for sex, for doing things and having interests.

Ecclesiastes 12:5 “because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets” - Comments - This refers to a funeral.

Ecclesiastes 12:6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

Ecclesiastes 12:6 “the silver cord be loosed” - Comments - Billye Brim teaches that many people have visitations into heaven, or near death experiences, and even returning from death. [28] She says as long as the silver cord is not broken, they can get back to earth.

[28] Billye Brim, interviewed by Gloria Copeland, Believer’s Voice of Victory (Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Fort Worth, Texas), on Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California), television program.

Ecclesiastes 12:6 Comments - These are figures of speech for death. J. Vernon McGee suggests that the “silver cord” describes the spinal marrow, the “golden bowl” the basin which holds the brain, the “pitcher” the lungs, and the “wheel” the heart. [29] John Wesley says that the silver cord represents the spinal cord, which has a white color, and that the golden bowl the brain, which can have a yellowish appearance. Wesley goes on to interpret the pitcher and the wheel as the circulatory system, with the fountain figurative of the right ventricle of the heart, which is now acknowledged to be the spring of life. He says the pitcher would represent the veins, which convey the flow of blood to the body, and the cistern would be the left ventricle and the wheel the great artery. [30]

[29] J. Vernon McGee, Ecclesiastes, in Thru the Bible With J. Vernon McGee (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1998), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), comments on Ecclesiastes 12:6.

[30] John Wesley, Notes on the Old Testament: Proverbs-Malachi, in The Wesleyan Heritage Library Commentary [CD-ROM] (Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc., 2002), comments on Ecclesiastes 12:6.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was” Scripture References - Note:

Genesis 2:7, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Ezekiel 37:3-5, “And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live.”

Psalms 104:29, “Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.”

Job 34:14-15, “If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.”

Ecclesiastes 12:7 “and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” Comments - Jesse Duplantis little babies around the throne of God as if they were newly created by the “breath of God.” [31] Thus, our life originated with God, and to God who gave it we will return (Ecclesiastes 3:21; Ecclesiastes 8:8, James 2:26).

[31] Jesse Duplantis, Heaven Close Encounters of the God Kind (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Harrison House, 1996), 119.

Ecclesiastes 3:21, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?”

Ecclesiastes 8:8, “There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.”

James 2:26, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

Verses 8-14

Closing Remarks: Glorification The Preacher makes his closing remarks by restating his theme that all is vanity (Ecclesiastes 12:8). He accepts his divine duty to continue to teach the people on this topic (Ecclesiastes 12:9-12). In the final two verses (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) he summarizes the solution to life’s vanities with the commandment to fear God because He will judge us in the next life. Within the context of the third responsive theme of Ecclesiastes, we fear Him and keep His commandments by resting in Him as He divinely orchestrates our lives and moves us into His divine seasons. These divine seasons are our destiny, so that we fear God and keep His commandments by fulfilling our divine destinies.

I once heard vanity described this way: a man is born, goes to school, gets a job, finds a wife, raises a family, retires, then he dies. His children do the same. A man works hard all of his life to reach each new phase of life, but for what purpose? Life is vain without a divine purpose. The answer to this dilemma of life’s vanities is found in the closing verses of this book, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Repetition of Opening Statement Ecclesiastes 12:8-12

2. Final Conclusion Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Ecclesiastes 12:8-12 Repetition of Opening Statement In Ecclesiastes 12:8 the Preacher repeats his opening statement recorded in Ecclesiastes 1:2-4. This time he adds the comment that his words will teach and guide the people through this life of vanity (Ecclesiastes 12:9-12).

Ecclesiastes 12:8 Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 12:8 Comments - The Preacher opened his book with the statement, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” After taking the entire book to support this statement, he ends his case by making the same statement in Ecclesiastes 12:8, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”

Ecclesiastes 12:9 And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.

Ecclesiastes 12:10 The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.

Ecclesiastes 12:9-10 Comments - Evidence that Solomon Sought Wisdom Outside of Israel - Scholars consider Proverbs 22:16 thru Proverbs 24:34 to be collections of sayings that Solomon collected from other sources, and are called “the sayings of the wise.” In fact, some of the proverbs in this passage are similar to an Egyptian writing entitled “The Instruction of Amenemope,” written about 1200 to 1300 B.C. [32] It is possible that an additional author can be given to this passage. The fact that King Solomon sought out other sources of wisdom literature is confirmed in Ecclesiastes 12:9-10, “And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.”

[32] Miriam Lichtheim, The Instruction of Amenemope, in Ancient Egyptian literature: Volume II: The New Kingdom (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973-[80]), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004).

The phrase, “the words of the wise,” is also used herein the context of King Solomon's quest for wisdom. Note Ecclesiastes 12:11, “The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.”

Ecclesiastes 12:11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

Ecclesiastes 12:12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 Conclusion - We see the primary and secondary themes reflected in the concluding verses of Ecclesiastes. Its primary theme is how to serve the Lord with all of our strength. We do this by keeping Hs commandments. The secondary theme is to fear the Lord; for this is the necessary ingredient of the heart that motivates us to serve Him instead of ourselves.

For the king, as well as the labourer, life does not consist in the abundance of one's possessions or accomplishments. In the end, each man's life will be measured on Judgment Day by amount of fear and obedience that he showed towards God. All of the pursuits that the Preacher described in the early chapters of this sermon are vanity compared to a man's eternal destiny. The Preacher knows that every man will give an account of his life to God (Ecclesiastes 3:15; Ecclesiastes 3:17).

Ecclesiastes 3:15, “That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.”

Ecclesiastes 3:17, “I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter” Comments - Or, in light of the journey found in the book of Ecclesiastes to find rest, we may paraphrase Ecclesiastes 12:13 to read, “Let us understand the secret to finding rest for our souls.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13 “and keep His commandments” Comments - Note how Jesus explained that all of the commandments could be summed up into two commandments (Matthew 22:36-40).

Matthew 22:36-40, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets .”

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Comments - We may say that the Preacher’s conclusion to fear God and keep His commandments sounds too simplistic and vague for such a pursuit of the meaning of life. But the secret to rest is found in our daily walk with the Lord, not in our grand accomplishments. God designed our journey to be one of daily dependence upon Him for direction and guidance rather than Him giving us a clearly laid out plan to follow from the beginning of our lives. He designed our lives this way to that we would learn to have fellowship with Him on a regular basis. Thus, we must seek Him daily to find a fresh word from Him for each day in order to fulfill our earthly duties.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 Comments - If we do not follow God’s leadership in our lives, and rather, opt to pursue some great earthly achievement, we will find our works being judged one day before His throne. Paul explains this verse well in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, how every man’s works shall be judged.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/ecclesiastes-12.html. 2013.
 
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