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C. The only true way to happiness in this world and the world beyond consists in benevolence, fidelity to calling, a calm and contented enjoyment of life, and unfeigned fear of God from early youth to advanced age
Ecclesiastes 11:1 to Ecclesiastes 12:7
1. Of Benevolence and Fidelity to Calling
1Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days. 2Give a portion to seven, and also to eight, for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth. 3If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth, and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be. 4He that observeth the wind shall not sow, and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. 5As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. 6In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
2. Of a Calm and Contented Enjoyment of Life
7Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun : 8But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity. 9Rejoice, 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. 10Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.
3. Of the Duty of the Fear of God for Young and Old
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; 2While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: 3In 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. 4And 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 music shall be brought low; 5Also 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: 6Or 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. 7Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
[Ch. 11 Ecclesiastes 11:3.—יְהוּא. If it is allowable at all to vary from the text that has come down to us, this may be regarded as equivalent to שָם הוּא (comp. Ecclesiastes 1:5) “there is he,” there it is. It might easily arise in writing from the ear, the shewa sound being hardly perceptible. If we regard it as the future of the substantive verb היה, or הוה, with א for ה, it is not a Syriasm, since the future of the Syriac verb would be יהֶוֱא or rather נֶהְוֶא.—T. L.]
[Ecclesiastes 11:5.—כַּעְַצָים) with ellipsis of דֶּרֶךְ, equivalent to כררן עצמים.—T. L.]
[Ecclesiastes 12:3.—יָזֻעוּ. This is called Aramaic, but it is as much Hebrew as it is Aramaic or Arabic. The intensive form, ועוע, occurs Habakkuk 2:7. It is one of those rarer forms that are to be expected only in impassioned writing, like this of Solomon, or in any vivid description. Its frequency or rarity would be like that of the word quake, in English, as compared with tremble. The rarer word [as is the case in our language] may be the older one, only becoming more frequent in later dialects according as it becomes common by losing its rarer or more impassioned significance.—T. L.]
[on the difference between יַלְרוּת and בְּחוּרוֹת Ecclesiastes 11:9 the words שַׁהְַרוּת Ecclesiastes 11:10, בָּטְלוּ Ecclesiastes 12:3, יָנֵאץ Ecclesiastes 12:5, יֵרָחֵק Ecclesiastes 12:6, and תָּרֶּץ and נָרוֹץ Ecclesiastes 12:5, see the exegetical and marginal notes.—T. L.]
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The close connection of verses 1–7 of the 12th chapter with chap. 11 is correctly recognized by most modern commentators; a few, as Hitzig and Elster, unnecessarily add to it also Ecclesiastes 12:8. A section thus extended beyond the limits of the 11th chapter concentrates within itself, as the closing division of the fourth and last discourse, all the fundamental thoughts of the book, and in such a manner that it almost entirely excludes the negative and skeptical elements of earlier discussions and observations [only that the words כֹּל־הֶבֶל return again in Ecclesiastes 11:8; comp. Ecclesiastes 11:10], and therefore lets its recapitulation very clearly appear as a victory of the positive side of its religious view over the gloomy spectre of doubt, and the struggles of unbelief (comp. Int. §1, Obs. 2). The entire section may be clearly divided into three subdivisions or strophes, the first of which teaches the correct use of life as regards actions and labor, the second concerns enjoyment, and the third the reverence and fear of God, with an admonition to these respective virtues.
2. First Strophe, first half. Ecclesiastes 11:1-3. An admonition to benevolence, with reference to its influence on the happiness of him who practices it. Hitzig, instead of finding here an admonition to beneficence, sees a warning against it, an intimation that we hope too much for the good, and arm ourselves too little against future evil; but every thing is opposed to this, especially the words and sense of Ecclesiastes 11:3, which see.—Cast thy bread upon the waters.—That is, not absolutely cast it away (Hitzig), nor send it away in ships (as merchandise) over the water (Hengstenberg), but “give it away in uncertainty, without hope of profit or immediate return.” The admonition is in the same spirit as that in Luke 16:9; Proverbs 11:24 f. The Greek aphoristic poets have the expression “to sow on the water;” as Theog., Sent. 105. Phocyllides 142 c.
The entire sentence (most probably as derived from this source) is found in Ben Sira (Buxtorf, Florileg. Heb., page 171), and among the Arabians as a proverb: Benefac, projice panem tuum in aquam; aliquando tibi retribuetur (Diez, Souvenirs of Asia, II., 106).—For thou shalt find it after many days.—תִּמְצָאֶנּוּ is here clearly used in the sense of finding again.—בְּרֹב הַיָּמִים literally, “in the fullness of days, within many days.” Comp. Psalms 5:6; Psalms 72:7, etc. The sense is without doubt this: Among the many days of thy life there will certainly come a time when the seeds of thy good deeds scattered broadcast will ripen into a blessed harvest. Comp. Gal 6:9; 2 Corinthians 9:6-9; 1 Timothy 6:18-19; also Proverbs 19:17 : “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord.”
Ecclesiastes 11:2. Give a portion to seven and also to eight.—That is, divide thy bread with many; for “seven and eight” are often used in this sense of undetermined plurality, as in Micah 5:4; comp. also “three and four,” Proverbs 30:15 ff.; Amos 1:3; Amos 2:1 ff.—Hitzig runs entirely counter to the text, and does violence to the usual signification of חֵלֶק saying: “make seven pieces of one piece, divide it so that seven or eight pieces may spring from it,” which admonition would simply be a rule of prudence (like the maxim followed by Jacob, Genesis 32:8) not to load all his treasures on one ship, that he might not be robbed of every thing at one blow. This thought comports neither with the context nor with Ecclesiastes 11:6, where the sense is entirely different.—For thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.—That is, what periods of misfortune may occur when thou wilt pressingly need strength by community with others; comp. Luke 16:9.
Ecclesiastes 11:3. If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth.—Not that evil or misfortune “occurs from stern necessity, or in immutable course” [Hitzig, and also Hengstenberg, who here sees announced the near and irrevocable doom of the Persian monarchy], but exactly the reverse: let the good that thou doest proceed from the strongest impulse of sympathy, so that it occurs, as from a natural necessity, that rich streams of blessings flow forth from thee; comp. John 7:38; also Proverbs 25:14; Sirach 35:24; also the Arabian proverbs in the grammar of Erpenius, ed. Schultens, p. 424. Pluvia nubis co-operiens, dum dona funderet, etc.—And if the tree fall toward the south or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth there it shall be.—This is apparently a parallel in sense to the second clause of Ecclesiastes 11:2, and therefore refers to the irrevocable character of the doom, or the Divine decree that overtakes man [Hitzig, Hengstenberg, etc.; also Hahn, who, however, translates the last clause thus: “One may be at the place where the tree falls,” and consequently be killed by it]. But it seems more in accordance with the text, and with the introduction [not with כִּי but with the simple copula וְ] to find the same sense expressed in this second clause as in the first, and consequently thus: “the utility of the tree remains the same, whether it falls on the ground of a possessor bordering it to the north or the south; if it does not profit the one, it does the other. And it is just so with the gifts of love; their fruit is not lost, although they do not always come to light in the manner intended” (Elster; comp, also Vaihinger and Wohlfarth, etc.). Geier and Rosenmueller are quite peculiar in the thought that the falling tree is the rich man, who is here warned of his death, after which he can do no more good deeds (similar to this are the views of Seb. Schmidt, Starke, Michaelis, etc.). יְהוּאa secondary Aramaic  form of יִחְיֶה and therefore literally equivalent to: “it will be, it will lie there;” for which consult Ewald, § 192 c, as well as Hitzig on this passage. There is no grammatical foundation for the assertion that it is a substantive to be derived from an obsolete verb יהא and explained by the word “break” [שָׁם יְהוּא “there occurs the break or fracture of the tree,” as says Starke].
3. First strophe, second half. Ecclesiastes 11:4-6. An admonition to zealous, careful, and untiring performance in one’s calling [μὴ ἐκκακεῖν, “not to faint,” as before he was warned ποεῖν τὸ καλὸν, to be earnest in well doing, Galatians 6:9]. He that observeth the wind shall not sow.—A warning against timid hesitancy and its laming influence on effective and fruitful exertion. He whom the weather does not suit, and who is ever waiting for a more favorable season, misses finally the proper period for action. The second clause expresses the same admonitory thought regarding excessive considerateness.
Ecclesiastes 11:5. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her who is with child.—[Zöckler renders “way of the wind.” See the excursus appended, p. 150.—T. L.]—That is, as thou canst not comprehend nor see through the mysteries of nature. That the origin and pathway of the winds is in this regard proverbial, is shown by John 3:8 [comp. above, Ecclesiastes 1:6]. For the formation of the bones in the womb of the mother as a process peculiarly mysterious and unexplainable, comp. Psalms 139:13-18.—Even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.—The “works” or action of God are, of course, His future dealing, which is a mystery absolutely unknown and unfathomable by men; wherefore all success of human effort can neither be known nor calculated in advance. “Who maketh all;” for this comp. Amos 3:6; Matthew 10:28-29, Ephesians 3:20, etc.
[The Unknown Way of the Spirit and of Life.—Ecclesiastes 11:5.—“As thou knowest not the way of the Spirit, nor how the bones do grow,” etc. The words דֶּרֶךְ הָרוּחַ are rendered here by Zöckler, Stuart, and Hitzig, “the way of the wind.” There would be good reason for this from the verse preceding; but what follows points to the sense of spirit, although the word was undoubtedly suggested by what was said in Ecclesiastes 11:4 of the wind. The best way, however, is to regard the double idea of wind and spirit as being intended here, as in our Saviour’s language, John 3:8. About the words following there can be no mistake. The process described is set forth as the peculiar work of God, a Divine secret which human knowledge is challenged ever to discover. “Thou knowest not the way of the spirit” [רוּחִי Genesis 6:3, “my spirit,” that I have given to man], “nor how the bones do grow,” that is, how that spirit, or life, reorganizes itself each time, clothes itself anew in the human system, making the bones to grow according to their law, and building up for itself a new earthly house in every generic transmission. This is the grand secret, the knowledge and process of which God challenges to Himself. Science can do much, but it can never discover this. We may say it boldly, even as Koheleth makes his affirmation, science never will discover this; for it lies above the plane of the natural; and in every case, though connected with nature, demands a plus power, or some intervention, however regulated by its own laws, of the supernatural. The Bible thus presents it as God’s challenged work [comp. Genesis 2:7; Genesis 6:3; Job 33:14; Psalms 139:13; Jeremiah 1:5], the same now as in the beginning when the Word of life first went forth, and nature received a new life power, or, rather, a rising in the old. The passage of life from an old organism to a new is as much a mystery as ever. We mean the transition from the last enclosing matter of the former, through the moment of disembodiment, or material unclothing (see note, Gen., p. 170), when it takes that last matter of the previous organization, or of the seed vessel, or seed fluid, and immediately makes it the commencing food, the first material it uses in building up the new house in which it is to dwell. In respect, too, to the mystery of supernatural origin, it is as much a new creation as though that unclothed and immaterial power of life [whether in the vegetable or in the animal sphere] had for the first time begun its manifestation in the universe. It is the same Word, sounding on in nature, or, as the Psalmist says, “running very swiftly,”—πνεῦμα νοερὸν, ἐυκίνητον, ἐυεργετικὸν, παντοδύναμον, πάσης κινήσεως κινητικώτερον, καὶ διὰ πάντων διήκον, διὰ τὴν καθαρότητα; Wis 7:23-24. It is the transmission, not merely of an immaterial power (though even as a power science can only talk about it or find names for its phenomena), but also of a law and an idea (νοερὸν as well as ἐνεργετικὸν, an intelligent working we may say) representing, in this dimensionless monad force the new life exactly as it represented the old in all its variety, whether of form or of dynamical existence,—in other words, transmitting the species, or the specific life, as that which lives on, and lives through, and lives beyond, all the material changes that chemistry has discovered or can ever hope to discover. Science may show how this life is affected in its manifestations by the outward influences with which it comes in contact, the changes that may seem to enter even the generic sphere, and it may thus rightly require us to modify our outward views in respect to the number and variety of strictly fundamental forms; but the transmission itself of the species (however it may have arisen or been modified) into the same form again of specific life, or the carrying a power, a law, and an idea, in a way that neither chemical nor mechanical science can ever trace,—this is the Divine secret towards which the Darwinian philosophy has not made even an approach. Its advocates know no more about it, than did the old philosophers who held a theory precisely the same in substance, though different in its technology. They talked of atoms as men now talk of fluids, forces, and nebular matter; but give them time enough, or rather give them the three infinities of time, space, and numerical quantity of conceivable forms, and they would show us how from infinite incongruities falling at last into congruity and seeming order, worlds and systems would arise, though their form, their order, and the seeming permanence arising from such seeming order, would be only names of the states that were; any other states that might have arisen being, in such case, equally entitled to the same appellations. Like the modern systems, it was all idealess, without any intervention of intelligence either in the beginning or at any stages in the process. It is astonishing how much, in the talk about the Darwinian hypothesis, these two things have been confounded,—the possible outward changes in generic forms, and the inscrutable transmission of the generic life in the present species, or in the present individual. The theory referred to is adapted only to an infinity of individual things, ever changing outwardly, and which, at last, fall into variety of species through an infinite number of trials and selections, or of fortunate hits after infinite failures. It makes no provision, however, for one single case of the transmission of the same specific life, either in the vegetable or the animal world. There it has to confess its ignorance, though it treats it sometimes as a very slight ignorance, soon to be removed. How pigeons, taken as an immense number of individual things, undergo an eternal series of outward changes,—how existing pigeons spread into varieties, by some being more lucky in their selections than others—all this it assumes to tell us. But in the presence of the great every day mystery, the wonderful process that is going on in the individual pigeon’s egg, invisibly, yet most exactly, typing the pigeon life that now is, it stands utterly speechless. One of its advocates seems to regard this as a very small matter, at present, indeed, not fully understood as it will be, but of little consequence in its bearing on the great scheme. It has its laws undoubtedly, but the principle of life, he maintains, is chemical,—that is, it is a certain arrangement of matter. Now this we cannot conceive, much less know. We are equally baffled whether we take into view the grosser (as they appear to the sense) or the more ethereal kinds of matter, whether as arranged in greater magnitudes, or in the most microscopic disposition of atoms, molecules, or elementary gases constituted by them. We may attempt still farther to etherealize by talking of forces, motions [motions of what ?] heat, magnetism, electricity, etc. They are still but quantities, matters of more or less. And so the modern chief of the positive school has boldly said: all is quantity, all is number; life is quantity, thought is quantity (so much motion); what we call virtue is quantity; it can be measured. And so all knowledge is ultimately mathematics, or the science of quantity. There is nothing that cannot, be reduced, in its last stages, to a numerical estimate. There is, moreover, just so much matter, force, and motion in the universe,—ever has been, ever will be. And there is nothing else. But how life, a thing in itself dimensionless, to say nothing of feeling, thought, and consciousness, can come out of such estimates is no more conceivable of one kind of matter, however moving, than it is of another. Still more do we fail to imagine how it can, in any way, be the result of figure, arrangement, position, quantity, or of σχῆμα, τάξις, θέσις as Leucippus and Democritus called their three prime originating causalities [see Aristot., Met. II. 4]. But so it is, they still continue to insist, though chemistry has searched long and could never find it, or even “ the way to its house,” as is said, Job 37:20, of the light. Prof. Haeckel, of Jena, in his Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte maintains “that all organized beings are potentially present in the first matter of the nebular system.” He looks upon “all the phenomena of life as a natural sequence of their chemical combination, as much as if they were conditions of existence, though the ultimate causes are hidden from us.” There may be some truth in what is said about conditions [for conditions are not causes], but it is the other remark that demands attention: “though the ultimate causes may be hidden from us.” Ho seems to regard this as a very slight circumstance, which ought to have little effect on the great argument of what calls itself the exact, and “positive philosophy.” There is yet indeed an unimportant break in the chain; a link or two is to be supplied; that is all, they would say. But what data have we for determining what is lacking before the full circuit of knowledge is completed ? A most important inquiry this: how great is the separation made by the unknown? Is it a few inches, or a space greater than the stellar distances? Is it a thin partition through which the light is already gleaming, or is it a vast chasm, compared with which any difference between the most ancient and the most modern knowledge is as nothing ? Is it something that may be passed over in time, or is it the measureless abyss of infinity which the Eternal and Infinite Mind alone can span? “ They are yet hidden from us,” he says. Is there the least ray of light in the most advanced science that shows us that we are even approaching this mysterious region of causality? Is there any reason to think that we know a particle more about it than Aristotle did, or those ancient positivists who talked of σχῆμα, τάξις, and θέσις, or any of those profound thinkers of old whose better reasoned atheism Cudworth has so fully refuted in his great work? And yet this professor of “exact science” talks of his monera, the prototypes of the protista, and how from these came neutral monera, and from these, again, vegetable and animal monera, just as freely as though he knew all about it from his inch of space and moment of time, or had not just admitted an ignorance which puts him at an inconceivable distance from that which he so confidently claims to explain. For it should be borne in mind that science has not merely failed to discover the principle of life, as “positive knowledge;” she cannot, even conceive it; she cannot form a theory of it which does not run immediately into the old mechanical and chemical language of number and quantity, out of which she cannot think, nor talk, without bringing in the supernatural, and that, too, as something above her province. After what is told us about the monera, etc., the writer proceeds to say: “ this once established, from each of the archetypes, we have a genealogy developed which gives us the history of the protozoan and animal kingdoms,” etc., as though any thing had been established, and he had not admitted his ignorance of a prime truth without which he cannot take a step in the direction in which he so blindly hastes. There is nothing new in this, in substance, though there may be much that is novel in form and technology. It is the old philosophy of darkness. It is as true of this modern school as it was of the old cosmologists of whom Aristotle first said it, ἐκ νῦκτὸς πάντα γεννᾴν, “that they generate all things out of Night.” This bringing every thing out of the nebular chaos through mechanical action and chemical affinities, and these grounded on nothing else than σχῆμα, τάξις, and θέσις, is nothing more than the Hesiodean generations, or the Love and Discord, the attractions and repulsions, of Empedocles. It is the pantogony of these old world builders, but without their splendid poetry.
“All organized beings in the first nebular matter,” and that from eternity! Then, of course, there has been no addition in time, no plus quantity, or plus power, or any plus idea combined with power; for that would be something which previously was not. Newton was in the toadstool; for what is not in cannot come out, or be developed; and so every toad-stool now contains a Newton; every fungus contains an academy of science, or a school of “positive philosophy.” The carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, or still earlier and more formless matter out of which this thinking arises, is there, only in a different τάξις and θέσις, perhaps. There has been no more addition to nature in the physical development of the rationalist commentator than in that of the כִּנִּים (Exodus 8:17; Psalms 105:31) or Egyptian lice, whose immediate production he regards as beneath the dignity of any supposed Divine or supernatural action. And so there can be no real or essential difference in rank. The kinnim were as ‘much in the first matter as the phosphorus that thinks in the brain of the theologian; they had as high and as old a place. The idea, too, of the kinnim was there, and all the machinery of their development; so that there was no saving of means or labor; their immediate genesis would cost no more, or be any more of a belittling work, than their mediate, or developed production. These insignificant creatures were provided for from all eternity. But providing means foreseeing, foreknowing; and language revolts. We cannot consistently talk atheism or materialism in any human dialect; God be thanked for such a provision in the origin and growth of speech. We can, indeed, say in. words, as one of the boldest of this godless school has said, ohne Phosphor kein Gedanke, “ without phosphorus no thought;” but then we must give up the word idea as, in any sense a cause originating; for there could be no idea antecedent to the phosphoric matter, or that order and position of it, out of which idea, or the development of thought, was to arise; that is, any idea of phosphorus before phosphorus. There is, then, nothing eternal, immutable, undeveloped, or having its being in itself, and to which, as an ideal standard, the terms higher and lower can be referred to give them any meaning. For all risings of matter, or form, to higher forms regarded as any thing else than simply unfoldings of previous matter, or previous arrangements of forces, are creations as much as any thing that is supposed first to commence its being as a whole; since more from less involves the maxim de nihilo, as well as something from nothing in its totality. If they were in that previous matter without a new commandment, a new word, and a plus activity accompanying it, then they are not truly a rising. They are no more, in quantity, than what they were; and quantity is all. Quality, according to Comte, is but a seeming; it is not a positive entity, but only σχῆμα, τάξις, and θέσις, an arrangement of matter. The potentiality, then, has all that there is, or can be, in any actuality. Even that inconceivable power which causes any potentiality to be thus potential, is, itself, only a potentiality included in the infinite sum of potentiality, which, as a whole, is also, in some way, caused to be what it is, and as it is. We say, in some way; for to say for some reason, would, at once, be bringing in a new word, and a new idea, utterly foreign to this whole inconceivable scheme. According to the other philosophy, Reason is “in the beginning,” ἐν ̇ ἦν ὸ Λόγος (John 1:0.; Proverbs 8:22). But here reason is junior to matter, something developed, and which could, therefore, neither as intelligens nor as intellectum, be made a ground of that from which itself proceeds. We can never get out of this labyrinth; for the moment we bring in a plus quantity, or a plus activity, or a plus idea, or any thing seeming to be such, we only have a new causative potentiality, and that demanding another, which is potential of it, and so on ad infinitum; the infinity, too, not proceeding from the highest downward, but from the lowest state [or that which is next to nothing], as being the first possible manifestation of being in the universe of conceivable things. Again, it may be asked, why has not this infinite potentiality, in this infinite time, developed all things potential, so that pigeons should long since have become arch-angels, and our poor, earthly, dying race long since risen “to be as gods.” Or how, if we shrink from that, are we to avoid the converse conclusion, that the whole state of things now actual, now developed, is still infinitely low, and that the highest and best in the sphere of soul, and thought, and’ reason, is not only as yet undeveloped, but infinitely far in condition, and eternally far in time, from its true actuality,—if, in such a scheme, highest and best have any real meaning. It makes the lowest and most imperfect first, the best and perfect last, or at such an infinite distance that it may be said they never come. Religion and the Scriptures just reverse this. They put soul first, mind first, the Personal first, the all Holy, the all Wise, the all Righteous, the all Perfect, first, whilst every seeming imperfection contributes to the manifestation of the infinite excellency and infinite glory of the one separate personal God who is first of all and over all.
How poor the science of Koheleth, it may be said, and yet he has propounded here a problem having regard to one of the most common events of life, but which the ages are challenged to solve: “As thou knowest not the way of the spirit, or even how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child, even so thou knowest not the work of God who worketh all,”—אֶת־הַכֹּל the all, the great paradigm which He is bringing out in space and time [ch. Ecclesiastes 3:14], and for those moral and spiritual ends to which the natural, with all its changes, and all its developments, is’ at every moment subservient In one sense, indeed, it has no plus quantities. All is provided for in Him “ who is the A and the Ω, the First and the Last, the ἀρχὴ καὶ τέλος, the Beginning and the End.” “All that God doeth is for the olam, the Great Eternity” [Ecclesiastes 3:14]. “Nothing can be added to it or taken from it;” but this, instead of excluding the supernatural, or shutting all things up in nature, necessitates the idea that there is a world above nature, a power, or rather an Eternal “Word [ἐν ᾦ τὰ πάντα συνέστηκε (Colossians 1:17)] in whom all things consist,” or stand together. This Word still speaks in nature. There, still abides its constant voice, קוֹל דְּמָמָה דַקָּה [1 Kings 19:12], susurrus auræ tenuis, its “thin still voice,” that is heard “after the fire and the wind,” its שֶׁמֶץ דָּבָר “whisper word,” as Job calls it, Job 26:14; and then again there is the “going forth” of its “mighty thunder voice,” רַעַם גְּבוּרֹתָיו which “none but God can understand,” speaking in its great periodic or creative utterances, as it did of old, and as it shall speak again, when it calls for the “new heavens and the new earth,” giving to nature its new movement and its still holier Sabbath. It is this greater utterance that brings into the natural development its plus powers and plus ideas, not from any undeveloped physical necessity, but from a Divine fullness, not arbitrarily, but from its own everlasting higher law.
Throughout all the seeming nature there remains this mysterious, generative, life-giving process in the vegetable, the animal, and especially in the human birth, as a constant symbol of the supernatural presence, or of the old unspent creative force, still having its witness in continually recurring acts, ever testifying to the great Divine secret that baffles science, and to the explanation of which she cannot even make an approach.
There is an allusion to this mystery of generation, Psalms 139:13 : “Thou didst possess my reins [claim them as thine own curious work], thou didst overshadow me in my mother’s womb.” So also in Psalms 139:15 : “My substance was not hid from thee,”—עַצְמִי my bone, the same symbolic word that is here employed by Koheleth. In fact, it was ever so regarded by the earliest mind, as it must be by the latest and most scientific. Koheleth simply expressed the proverbial mystery of his day. It existed in the thinking and language of the most ancient Arabians; as is evident from the use Mohammed makes of it in the Koran. His mode of speaking of it shows that it was a very old query that had long occupied the thoughts of men. Hence his adversaries are represented as proposing it to him as a test of his being a true prophet (see Koran Sur. 17. 78): “They will ask thee about the spirit (عن الروح); say: the spirit is according to the command of my Lord, and ye have been gifted with knowledge but a very little way.” When he says “the spirit is by the command of my Lord,” he has reference to a distinction that was made (and very anciently it would seem) between the creation of spirit, and that of matter, or nature strictly. The latter was through media, steps, or growth, whilst spirit was immediate, by the command of God, according to the language of Psalms 33:9, or the frequent expression in the Koran which so closely resembles it, كُنْ فكان, “be, and it was.” Al. Zamakhshari, in his Commentary, p. 783, 2, tells us that the Jews bid the Koreish ask Mohammed three questions—one about the mystery of “the cave and the sleepers,” one about Dhu l’ Karnein, and the third, this question about the spirit. If he pretended to answer them all, or if he answered neither of them, then he was no true prophet. He answered the first two, but confessed his ignorance of the human soul, as being something “the knowledge of which God had reserved to Himself.” Then he told them that there was the same reserve in their law (the Old Testament) which revealed to them nothing about the way of the spirit, דרך הרוח. If Mohammed knew any thing about the Bible (and there is but little reason in the contrary supposition), then it may bereasonably thought that in what is thus said of him by the Koranic commentator, he had reference to such passages as this of Ecclesiastes (compare also Ecclesiastes 3:21, מי ידע רוח, “ who knoweth the spirit,” etc.), or to the general reserve of the Old Testament respecting the soul, or in a more special manner to Genesis 2:7; Genesis 6:3, where there are ascribed to God the more direct creation of, and a continued property in, the human spirit. This would seem, too, from Psalms 104:29, to be asserted, in some sense, even of the animal creation.—T. L.]
Ecclesiastes 11:6. In the morning sow thy seed.—The sowing of seed is here a figurative designation of every regular vocation or occupation, not specially of benevolence; comp. Job 4:8; Psalms 126:5; 1 Corinthians 9:10-11.—And in the evening withhold not thine hand.—Literal, “towards evening” (לָעֶרֶב), i.e., be diligent in thy business from the early morning till the late evening, be incessantly active.—For thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that.—אֵי זֶה, not “what,” but “whether;” the expression refers, as it seems, to the double labor, that of the morning and that of the evening. “We are to arrange labor with labor, because the chances are equal, and we may therefore hope that if one fails, the other may succeed. God may possibly destroy one work—and who knows which ? (comp. Ecclesiastes 5:6); it is well if thou then hast a support, a second arrow to send” (Hitzig).—Or whether they shall both be alike good—i.e., whether both kinds of labor produce what is really good, substantial and enduring, or whether the fruit of the one does not soon decay, so that only the result of the other remains. כְּאֶחָד “together,” as in Ezr 6:20; 2 Chronicles 5:13; Isaiah 65:25.
4. Second strophe. Ecclesiastes 11:7-10. Admonition to calmness and content, ever mindful of divine judgment, and consequently to the cheerful enjoyment of the blessings of this life.—Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun. Hitzig correctly gives the connection with the preceding: The tendency of the advice in Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 (mainly in Ecclesiastes 11:6) to secure guaranties in life, is justified in Ecclesiastes 11:7. “Life is beautiful and worthy of receiving care.” Elster is less clear and concise: “Such an energy of mental activity (as that demanded in Ecclesiastes 11:1-6) will only be found where there is no anxious calculation about the result; but where man finds alone in the increased activity of his mental powers, (?) and in the intense striving after an eternal goal, his satisfaction and reward,” etc. The “light” here stands for life, of which it is the symbol. (Comp. Psalms 36:9; Psalms 49:19; Psalms 56:13; Job 3:20). And so the expression: “ to behold the sun,” for which see not only Psalms 36:9; John 11:9, but also passages in classic authors, e. g., Euripides, Iphig. in Aul. Ecc 1218: ἡδυ γὰρ τὸ φῶς βλέπειν; also Hippol. Ecclesiastes 4:0 : φῶς ὁρῶντες ὴλίου; Phoeniss: εἰ λεύσσει φάος.
Ecclesiastes 11:8. But if a man live many years. כִּי here greatly increases the intensity of thought (comp. Job 6:21; Hosea 10:5); it is consequently to have no closer connection with the following אִם; comp. Proverbs 2:3; Isaiah 10:22, etc.—And rejoice in them all; [Zöckler renders: Let him rejoice in them all]; therefore daily and constantly rejoice, in harmony with the apostolic injunction, χαίρετε πάντοτε. See the “ Doctrinal and Ethical” to know how this sentence is to be reconciled, in Koheleth’s sense, with the truth that all is vanity, and at the same time to be defended against the charge of Epicurean levity.—Yet let him remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many. כִּי is here the relative, not the causal ὅτι; comp. the Septuagint: καὶ μνησθήσεται τὰς ἡμέρας το͂υ σκότους, ο͂τι πολλαὶ ἔσονται. “ The days of darkness are those to be passed after this life in Scheol, the dark prison beneath the earth (Ecclesiastes 9:10), the days when we shall no longer see the pleasant light of the sun, or the period of death;” comp. Job 10:21, f.; Job 14:22; Psalms 88:12, etc.—All that Cometh is vanity; that is, that cometh in this world; everything that exists in this life, consequently all men especially; comp. Ecclesiastes 6:4; John 1:9. Nevertheless the translation should not be in the masculine; the Septuagint is correct: πᾶν τὸ ἐρχόμενον, ματαιότης. The sense given by Vaihinger and Elster is too broad : “ All future things are vanity.” But even this is more correct than the Vulgate and Luther, who refer שֶׁבָּא to the past.
Moreover the clause is a confirmation of what precedes, though used without a connective, and therefore making a still greater impression.
Ecclesiastes 11:9. Rejoice, O young man in thy youth.—Here we again have a vividly emphatic omission of the connective. That which the previous verse recommended in general, is now specially addressed to youth as that period of life especially favorable to cheerful enjoyment, and therefore, in accordance with God’s will, especially appointed thereto. But the necessary check is indeed immediately placed upon this rejoicing, by the reminder of the duty to forget not that God will bring to judgment. בְּ in בְּיַלְדוּתֶךָ does not give the cause or object of rejoicing, but, as also in בִּימֵי in the following clause (comp. Isaiah 9:2), the period and circumstances in which it is to occur.—And let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth,  For this expression comp. Ecclesiastes 1:17; Ecclesiastes 3:18; Ecclesiastes 7:25, etc. The heart delights the whole man in proportion as it itself is טוֹב, that is, of good cheer.—And walk in the ways of thine heart, i.e., in the ways in which it will go; follow it. Comp. Isaiah 57:17 and for the thought above Ecclesiastes 2:10.—And in the sight of thine eyes, i. e., so that thy observation of things shall form the rule for thy conduct, (comp. Ecclesiastes 3:2-8). This is in accordance with the K’ri בְּמַרְאֶה, which is attested by all versions and manuscripts; the ketib בְּמַרְאֵי which is preferred by Hengstenberg and others, would designate the multitude of the objects of sight as the rule for walking, which, as Hitzig correctly observes, would be an intolerable zeugma. We moreover decidedly condemn the addition of לֹא before בְּמַרְאֵה: “and not according to the sight of thine eyes,” as is found in the Codex Vaticanus of the Septuagint, and in the Jewish Haggada; for the passage in Numbers 15:39, that probably furnished the inducement to this interpolation, is not, when rightly comprehended, in antagonism with the present admonition; for quite as certain as the allusion is there to amorous looks of lust, is it here, on the contrary, to an entirely innocent use of sight, and one well-pleasing to God.—But know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee to judgment. Comp. Job 11:6. The judgment (מִשְׁפָּט) is very certainly not merely to be considered as one of this world, consisting of the pains of advanced age (Hitzig), described in Ecclesiastes 12:1, ff., or of human destinies as periods of the revelation of divine retributive justice in general (Clericus, Winzer, Knobel, Elster, etc.). The author rather has in view the “judgment” in the absolute sense, the great reckoning after death, the last judgment, as the parallels Psalms 143:2; Job 14:3; Job 19:29, etc., incontestably show (comp. also Hebrews 9:27; Hebrews 10:27); the preludes of the final judgment belonging to this life come into view only as subordinate. Neither Ecclesiastes 11:8 of this chapter, nor Ecclesiastes 9:10 are opposed to this; for Koheleth in these teaches not an eternal, but only a long sojourn in Scheol. Our interpretation receives also the fullest confirmation in Ecclesiastes 3:17 as in Ecclesiastes 12:7; Ecclesiastes 12:14.
Ecclesiastes 11:10. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart. The positive command to rejoice, is here followed by the warning against the opposite of rejoicing כַּעַם “sorrow, dissatisfaction;” the Septuagint, Vulgate, Geier, etc., most unfittingly render it “anger,” just as the following, רָעָה which means “ evil, misfortune,” they render, “ wickedness,” (πονηρία, malitia). The recommendation to cheerfulness instead of sadness and melancholy (comp. Malachi 3:14; Isaiah 58:3) is here clearly continued; comp. Ecclesiastes 9:7, ff. For בָּשָר in the second clause, comp. Ecclesiastes 5:6.—For childhood and youth are vanity. The figure (הַשַּׁחֲרוּת a later expression for שׁחר; comp. the Talmudic שַׁחֵרִית, and the thing compared(הַיַּלְדוּת also a later word) are here, as in Ecclesiastes 5:2; Ecclesiastes 7:1, connected by a simple copula. Koheleth would have written more clearly, but less poetically and effectively if he had said “for as the dawn of the morning so is the period of youth all vanity” (i.e., transitory, fleeting, comp. Ecclesiastes 7:6; Ecclesiastes 9:9).
[Koheleth’s Description of Old Age, chap. 12.—The imagery and diction of this remarkable passage show it to be poetry of the highest order; but it presents a very gloomy picture. Even as a description of the ordinary state of advanced life, it is too dark. It has no relief, none of those cheering features, few though they may be, which Cicero presents in his charming treatise De Seneclute. As a representation of the old age of the godly man, it is altogether unfitting. Compare it with the שֵׂיבָה טוֹבָה, the “good old age” of Abraham and David, Genesis 15:15,1 Chronicles 29:28, the serene old age of Isaac, the honored old age of Jacob, the hale old age of Moses and Joshua. See how Isaiah (Isaiah 40:30-31) describes the aged who wait upon the Lord: “The youths may faint and be weary, even the young men may utterly fail, but they who wait on Jehovah shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. A more direct contrast is furnished by the striking picture of aged saints, Psalms 92:15 : They are like the grandæval cedars of Lebanon; “ planted in the house of the Lord, they shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing” (more correctly, “still resinous and green”) evergreens; or, as Watts has most beautifully paraphrased it,
The plants of grace shall ever live;
Nature decays, but grace must thrive;
Time that doth all things else impair,
Still makes them flourish, strong and fair.
Laden with fruits of age they show,
The Lord is holy, just and true;
None that attend His gates shall find,
A God unfaithful or unkind.
Another very striking contrast to this is that picture which Solomon twice gives us in the Proverbs 16:31; Proverbs 20:29, “the hoary head a crown of glory when found in the way of righteousness.” But one supposition remains; the picture here given is the old age of the sensualist. This appears, too, from the connection. It is the “evil time,” the “day of darkness ” that has come upon the youth who was warned in the language above, made so much more impressive by its tone of forecasting irony. It is the dreary old age of the young man who would “go on in every way of his heart, and after every sight of his eyes,”—who did not “ keep remorse from his soul, nor evils from his flesh ”—and now all these things are come upon him, with no such alleviations al often accompany the decline of life. Such also might be the inference from the words with which the verse begins : “Remember thy Creator while the evil days come not” (עד אשר לא). It expresses this and more. There is a negative prohibitory force in the עד אשר: So remember Him that the evil days come not—“before they come,” implying a warning that such coming will be a consequence of the neglect. Piety in youth will prevent such a realizing of this sad picture; it will not keep off old age, but it will make it cheerful and tolerable, instead of the utter ruin that is here depicted.
Another argument is drawn from the character of the imagery. The general representation is that of the decay of a house, or rather of a household establishment, as a picture of man going to his eternal house, his בית עולם, ἀῑ̔δίον οἴκησιν. This earthly house (ἐπίγειος οἰκία, 2 Corinthians 5:1) is going to ruin, but the style of the habitation is so pictured as to give us some idea of the character of the inhabitant. It is not the cottage of the poor, nor the plain mansion of the virtuous contented. It is the house of the rich man (Luke 16:19) who has “ fared sumptuously (λαμπρῶς, splendidly) every day.” The outward figure is that of a lordly mansion,—a palace or castle with its “ keepers,” its soldiers, or “ men of might,” its purveyors of meal and provisions, its watchers on the turrets. It is a luxurious mansion with its gates once standing wide open to admit the revellers, now closing to the street. The images that denote these different parts of the body, the different senses or gates of entrance to the soul, are all so chosen as to indicate the kind of man represented. It is the eye that looked out for every form of beauty, the mouth (the teeth) that demanded supplies of the most abundant and delicious food. It is the ear that sought for “singing women,” כָּל בְּנוֹת הַשִּׁיר, the loudest and most famed of the “daughters of song.” And so, too, the appurtenances at the close of the description, the hanging lamps, the golden bowl, the costly fountain machinery all falling into ruin, present the game indications of character, and of the person represented.
Another very special mark of this may be traced in the expression וְתָפֵר הָאֲבִיּוֹנָה Ecclesiastes 11:5, rendered, “desire shall fail,” rather, “ shall be frustrated,” still raging but impotent. How characteristic of the old sensualist, and yet how different from the reality in the virtuous old age that has followed a temperate and virtuous youth! See how Cicero speaks of such failure of desire as a release, a relief, instead of a torment: libenter vero istinc, tanquam a domino furioso, profugi; De Senectute, 47. This view is rendered still stronger, if we follow those commentators who would regard אביונה as denoting an herb used for the excitement of failing desire: It shall fail to have its effect. The meaning seems plain, however, as commonly taken, and there is, perhaps, no good reason for departing from the etymological sense. Everything goes to show that Watts has rightly paraphrased the passage—
Behold the aged sinner goes,
Laden with guilt and heavy woes,
Down to the regions of the dead.
The soul returns murmuringly to God, as though with its complaint of the cruel and degrading treatment it had received from “the fleshly nature” “in the earthly house,” or as a wailing ghost “driven away” (see Proverbs 14:32), naked and shivering into the uncongenial spiritual sphere.
It is in view of such a life, and such a death, that we see the force of the closing exclamation—“ O vanity of vanities—all vanity !” As a finale to the life and death of the righteous, even if the writer, like Solon, had had reference only lo this world, it would have seemed inharmonious and out of place. If we regard it, however, as Solomon’s picture of himself repenting in extremis, then may we indulge a more cheerful hope in regard to its close, though still with the wail of vanity as its mournful accompaniment. One thing seems almost certain. Such a description as this, so sad, so full of feeling, must have been written by one who had had some experience of the situation described. There is a pathos about it that indicates personality, and a personal repentance. If so, no one is so readily suggested as the king of Israel, whose fall into sensuality and idolatry is so vividly described, 1 Kings 11:0, where the divine judgments upon him are also fully set forth. His repentance is not there mentioned, but it may be because this book of Koheleth, which he left behind him as his brief spiritual autobiography, contained such ample evidence of the fact.—T. L.].
5. Third strophe. Ecclesiastes 12:1-7. An admonition to fear God during youth, and not to leave his till old age, the period when approaching death announces itself through many terrors—here depicted in a series of poetical figures drawn from the various realms of nature and human life.—Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth. For the plural בּוֹרְאִים see Ecclesiastes 5:8 preceding. The word “remember” (זכר) is, of course, a remembering with becoming reverence, as well as with a feeling of gratitude for the many blessings received. It is therefore substantially the same with the fear expressly recommended in Ecclesiastes 12:13, and in substance, at least, in Ecclesiastes 11:9, second clause.—While the evil days come not. Literally, “until not,” i.e.,“before;” just as in Ecclesiastes 11:2 and in the later recapitulation Ecclesiastes 11:6. The “evil days” and the “years” following are naturally the years of old age, of the period immediately preceding death, in contradistinction to the joyous period of youth.
Ecclesiastes 11:2. While the sun, or the light, or the moon or the stars be not darkened. The darkening of the sun and the light must here be synonymous with the diminishing and the saddening of the joys of life, as is experienced in advanced age. A more special interpretation of the sun and the light, as well as of the moon and the stars (only added to finish the description), is inadmissible, and leads to platitudes, as is the case with Glassius, Oeting, and F. W. Meyer, who think of the darkening powers of the mind or with Wedel, who would interpret the sun by the heart, the moon by the brain, the stars by the bowels(!), and the clouds and rain, even, by the catarrhal rheums of old age(!). Moreover the darkening of sun, moon and stars is a favorite figure for seasons of misfortune, punishment and judgment; comp. Joshua 3:4; Joshua 2:10; Amos 8:9; Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7; Acts 2:20; Revelation 6:12. The same is also found in classic authors, e.g., Catullus Ecclesiastes 8:3; Fulsere quondam candidi tibi soles; Martial Epigr. Ecclesiastes 5:20, Ecclesiastes 11:0 : Bonosque soles effugere atque abire sentit.—Nor the clouds return after the rain. That is, one calamity follows another, one season of misfortune begins where the other ceases. The rainy season, or winter, is therewith described, in contrast to the mere showers or passing thunder storms of summer. Old age is symbolized as the winter (or autumn of life, as it has previously been termed the approaching night; comp. Job 29:3; where the mature age of man is designated as “ the days of autumn” (יְמֵי חֹרֶף). So we too sometimes speak of the evening, the autumn, and the winter of life.
Ecclesiastes 11:3-5. A more intimate figurative description of old age’s infirmity and proximity to death. This is here represented under the figure of a house whose inhabitants, formerly cheerful and animated, now become weak, inactive and sad. Umbreit and Elster condemn this view as harsh and devoid of taste, and consider the passage rather as a poetic description of the day of death, which is represented under the figure of a fearful tempest, see especially Gurlitt, Studien und kritiken, 1865, II., p. 331, ff. (comp. p. 27, preceding). Comp. also the subsequent remarks under the head of Doctrinal and Ethical.—In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble. The human body is often compared to a house  or a tent, e. g., Isaiah 38:12; Wis 9:15; Job 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:1, ff.; 2 Peter 1:13, f. So also in profane writings, e. g., in the Arabian poet Hariri, (Rueckert’s Ed., p. 293); in Virgil, Eneid VI., 734. The “keepers of the house” are the arms with the hands, that are intended to protect the body, but which become tremulous in aged persons. These are considered as outside of the house, but as closely belonging to it. For the use of the hands as protection and armor for the body, comp. Galen, de usu partium I., (4 Opp. ed. Kuehn T., III., p. 8).—And the strong men shall bow themselves. That is, evidently the legs, which in old age lose their muscular power; whilst in the young, strong man they may be compared to marble columns, (comp. Song of Solomon 5:10), they now shrink and become feeble, and crooked. Comp. the “ crooked knees” of Job 4:4; the “weak knees” of Psalms 109:24; “the feeble knees,” Isaiah 35:3; Hebrews 12:12; also Malachi 4:5; Malachi 4:5. “Men of strength,” is, on the contrary, a designation for valiant warriors: Judges 20:44; 2 Samuel 11:16; 2 Kings 24:16; and to these especially strong legs are very necessary: see Psalms 147:10; 2 Samuel 1:23, etc.—And the grinders cease because they are few. הַטּחֲֹנוֹת “the grinding maids” are to be construed as referring to the teeth, as is also shown by כִּי מִעֵטוּ “for they have become few,” and by the subsequent mention of the “sound of the mill,” i.e., of the human speech proceeding from the wall of the teeth (Ecclesiastes 11:4). The closeness of the comparison between human teeth and a mill is proved by the designation “grinders,” for the molar teeth in many languages, e.g., in the Syriac (טחנות), in the Greek (μύλακροι μολοδοντες) in the Latin (molares). The feminine form is in allusion to the customof all antiquity, according to which female slaves performed the grinding with hand-mills (Exodus 11:5; Job 31:10; Isaiah 47:2; Matthew 24:41), and is also in harmony with the use of שֵׁן (tooth) as feminine, occurring in Proverbs 25:19.—And those that look out of the windows be darkened. These are the eyes, that are here the more fittingly designated as הָרֹאוֹח נָּאֲרֻבּוֹת, becauseעַיִן the “eye” is feminine, and since the eyelids, in other passages compared to the threads of a net (Proverbs 6:25), are here clearly compared to the bars of a grate or to the grating (אֲרֻבּוֹת), and since also it was very natural to present the eyes, the most noble of all our organs, as the mistresses of the house, who look quietly out into the exterior world, but the teeth on the contrary as the servants or slaves. Comp. Cicero Tusc. I., Ecc 20: Oculi quasi fenestræ sunt animi; foramina ilia, quæ patent ad animum a corpore, callidissimo artificio natura fabricata est; also Lactantius, de opif. Dei, c. 8; Clemens, Stromata, VII., p. 685, §. See also the Cabalistic theory of the seven openings or doors of the head, of which the two sockets of the eyes are the most elevated and distinguished (Jezira, c. 4; comp. Talmud tract, Schabb. p. 152, Colossians 1:0; Buxtorf, Florileg. p. 320). Those looking out of the windows are said to be darkened with reference to the feebleness of sight in old persons, e. g., Isaac (Genesis 27:1), Jacob (Genesis 48:10), Eli (1 Samuel 3:2), Ahia (1 Kings 14:4),etc.; comp. also Psalms 119:23; Lamentations 5:17; Deuteronomy 34:7.
Ecclesiastes 11:4. And the doors shall be shut in the streets. Namely, the mouth whose upper and lower lips are compared to the two sides or folds of a door (דְּלָתַיִם); comp. Psalms 141:3; Micah 7:5; Job 41:6.נִּשּׁוּק literally, “on the street,” points to the function of the mouth as a means of communication with the outer world, whether by the reception of food or the sending out of words or other sounds. As the latter reference is not so close, and would anticipate the subsequent clause, we are doubtless to think of the mouth as the organ of eating, and the shutting of the doors as an allusion to the feeble appetite of old men, [in this Ewald id correct, in opposition to Knobel, Vaihinger, etc.]. Herzfeld and Hitzig are entirely too artificial: “ the lips of the toothless mouth cling together;” but Hengstenberg also says: “the shutting of the doors refers to the difficulty of hearing in old men, a common infirmity with them that would not be wanting here” (?!).—When the sound of the grinding is low. Zöckler translates: “the voice of the mill.” The mill is the teeth,† according to Ecclesiastes 11:3; its voiceis not, however, the noise caused by the chewing of food—which would be very harsh and unnatural (contrary to Ewald, et al.), but human speech breathed out, as it were, from the wall of the teeth [ἕρκος ὁδόντων], that voice which in old age usually becomes weaker and lower.—And he shall rise up at the voice of the bird. Zöckler translates: “and it seems like the voice of the sparrow.” Ewald and Hitzig are correct [in regard to the impersonal rendering of יָקוּם] with reference to Isaiah 29:24, where also a weak voice is compared to the low chirping, if not of the sparrow, at least of some other small birds. It is usually rendered (Sept., Vulg., Luther, Knobel, Vaihinger, etc.: “and he rises up at the voice of the birds,” i.e., in the early morning—which might also afford an allusion to the sleeplessness of old men. But it is more than doubtful whether קוּם לְקוֹל הַצִּפוֹר should express this sense of early rising. Instead of יָקוּם we should in that case have expected יֵעוֹר. And early rising is by no means a general custom of old men, and—what seems more weighty than all the rest—the context requires a reference to the low, whispering speech of old men; see the following clause. For קוּם לְ in the sense here given to it, comp. Zephaniah 3:8; 1 Samuel 22:13.—And all the daughters of music shall be brought low, that is, all the songs in which the old man endeavors to join, but which he utters only with a trembling, and scarcely audible voice. The “daughters ” of a thing means in Hebrew style its special or specific announcement or utterance; comp. the Rabbinic בַּת קוֹל as well as the expression “ Son of fruitfulness,” Isaiah 5:1, etc. Hitzig is correct, and Hengstenberg substantially so, who understands by the “daughters of song” the qualities required in singing. But Knobel is arbitrary, who, with Herzfeld, sees in the singers only singing birds (according to which the failing here described would be the deafness of the old man); Vaihinger sees an allusion to the organs of singing; and, finally, Umbreit and Elster understand the passage to be about the low flight of birds, and their uneasy fluttering at an approaching thunder storm.
Ecclesiastes 11:5. The discourse continues to depend on בַיּוֹם שֶׁ at the beginning of the third verse, if not grammatically, at least logically.—Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high; i.e., of ascending an eminence which would be difficult on account of their sunken chests, and short breath; a remark in sympathy with what precedes concerning the feeble voice of old men. Nearly all modern commentators are correct on this point, as is now Ewald, who formerly translated: “ when they shall be afraid of the Lofty One,” that, is of God, the one supremely lofty.—And fears shall be in the way; namely, “threaten” them, “meet” them, who are too lame and weak easily too avoid such frights. For the abstract form of the plural חַתְחַתִּים, see Ewald, § 179, a.—And the almond tree shall flourish. Thus we must, without doubt, translate the words יָנֵאץ הַשָׁקֵד, for יָנֵץ (Hiphil of נצץ). For this compare Ewald, § 15, a.;§ 141, b. The almond tree bears its blossoms in the midst of winter, and on a naked, leafless stem, and these blossoms (reddish or flesh-colored in the beginning) seem at the time of their fall exactly like white snow-flakes; (Bodenstedt, 1001 Days in the Orient, II., p. 237). In this way the almond blossom is a very fitting symbol of old age with its silvery hair, and its wintry, dry, barren and unfruitful condition. Ewald, Heiligstedt, Vaihinger, and Gurlitt, are correct; the first-named makes an appropriate reference to Philo, de vita Mosis iii. 22.—Hengstenberg’s view is too far-fetched in finding in the words (according to Jeremiah 1:11) the wakefulness, or sleepless nights of hoary old age; whilst Schröder, Gesenius, Dietrich, et al., consider יָנֵאץ as intrans. Fut. Hiph. from נאץ, and render: “And the almond is despised” (by the toothless old man who cannot bite it); others undertake emendations, e.g., Gaab, who reads יִנָּאֵץ “is despised,” Hitzig, who points it יִנְאַץ and thus obtains the scarcely intelligible sense: “And the Almond tree refuses,” i.e., does not permit the weak old man to obtain its fruit (which is to be understood according to the analogy of the Song of Solomon 7:9). Still others, finally, force an unusual sense on the word שָׁקֵד as Hahn, who understands and translates it “the waking,” referring it to the human mind; “ the waking one acquires pinions,” which is about equivalent to saying: “The previously half-wakened spirit is, in the moment of death, released unto clear life and full liberty” (against which explanation is the absence elsewhere of any Hiphil denominative הֵנֵץ from נוֹצָה “pinion”—And the Grasshopper shall be a burden (Zöckler renders “burdensome”), on account of its singing and chirping, or also on account of its hopping flight and creeping. חָגָב literally, “ locust,” but here more fittingly translated by grasshopper, because, in rendering, locust, it is most probably the comparative smallness, as in Isaiah 40:22; Numbers 13:31, which is mainly considered (as though we should say: “And the gnat becomes a burden, or the fly”). For יִכְהַּבֵּל(fut. Hithpa of סבל) “to become a burden,” comp. Gesenius in the Thesaurus. Kimchi is correct regarding this, and he is followed by Gurlitt, especially among modern authors, and approximately also by Gesenius and Hengstenberg, of whom, however, the former thinks of the burdensomeness of the locust as an article of food, whilst the latter prefers to have locust understood figuratively in the sense of influences hostile to life. The numerous remaining hypotheses are to be decidedly rejected; they are divided into two groups, according as they interpret the locust as a symbol of the old man himself, that is as to the form of his body, or seek to alter the sense of חָגָב by peculiar explanations. To the former group belong the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, etc., which agree in the signification that “ the locust becomes fat” (swells up), and understand the whole, though in opposition to the true signification of הסתבל as a biblical representation of the corpulency of old men; and 2. those of Luther, Geier, Vaihinger, etc., who explain locust to mean the crooked or bent skeleton and spinal column of man in old age, and therefore translate: “The locust is burdened;” and 3. that of Hitzig: “And the jumper permits himself to be carried,” i.e., the one formerly hopping merrily about can no longer walk: 4. that of Oetinger: “the locust becomes a burden to itself,” i.e., “drags its body about with difficulty; 5. those of Ewald, Heiligstedt, and Hahn, who agree in making locust point to the inner body, or to the mind of man (Ewald): and “ the locust rises,” namely to fly; Heiligstedt: “ et tollit se ad volandum locusta;” Hahn: “And the locust unburdens itself,” which is equivalent to our expression: “And the butterfly bursts its cocoon.” Among the second class we may count such illustrations as the Chaldaic, and that of Aben Ezra: “ when the ankle-bones become thick;” that of Bochart, “ when the bones of the legs become heavy; “and of Knobel: “and the breathing is a burden” (the last two on the basis of a peculiar signification of חגב derived from the Arabic).—And desire shall fail, that is, when neither the appetite nor sexual desire can be excited by so strong a stimulant as the caper-berry. As אֲבִיּוֹנָה has the meaning of “Caper” (κάππαρις) by the testimony of the oldest translators as well as of the Rabbins (comp. Buxtorf, Lex Rabb. et Talm., p. 12, 2098), and as the use of the berries or buds of the caper-bush undoubtedly stimulate the appetite, and, according to the ancient oriental representation a voluptuous desire (comp. also Plutarch, Sympos., 6; Winer, Real Lexicon, Art. Caper), the correctness of this interpretation is not to be doubted, and Luther’s translation: “and all desire fails,” appears at least consonant with the sense. Varying interpretations: 1) Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, Arabic; Rosenmueller, Heiligstedt, Ewald, Vaihinger: “and the caper bursts,” i. e., the spirit presses forth as a kernel from the husk; 2. Vers. Veneta (παύση ἡ ὄρεξις) Abulwalid, Luther, Hengstenberg, etc.: “Since desire fails;” 3. Schmidt, Döderlein, etc.: “since the turtledove, the messenger of spring is despised;” 4. Hahn: “Since the poor one (fem, of אֶבְיוֹן) bursts forth,” i. e., since the imprisoned soul bursts its prison, its mortal coil, etc. Knobel, Hitzig, and Gurlitt are correct among the modern writers.—Because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets. Clearly a parenthesis by which the previous description of the infirmities of age, especially that contained in the last three clauses, is strengthened by pointing to the imminent approach of death for the old man. Man passeth away, (הֹלֵךְ) i. e., he is on the point of going; comp. Genesis 19:13-14, etc. “His long home” is the grave, from which there is no more return to earthly life (comp. Job 7:10; Psalms 49:12; Isaiah 14:18, etc.). The same appellation is also found in Tob 3:6; Targ. Jonath. in Jes. 42:11; among the Egyptians (Diodorus Sic., Ecc 1:51). among the Arabians (Koran, Sur. 41:28) and the Romans (domus æterna; marmorea domus, Tibull. Carm., III., 2, 22).
[The Eternal House.
Ecclesiastes 11:5. בֵּית עלָמוֹ. Zöckler’s interpretation of this striking expression is scanty and misleading. It cannot, any more than Sheol, mean the grave simply. Without insisting upon the fact that the Hebrews had for that a distinct term (קֶבֶר), when nothing more was intended (see Bibelwerk Gen. 536), it may be said that the context almost immediately following is at war with such an idea. The expression here, had it stood alone, might have been regarded, perhaps, as a figurative one for extinction of all being. The “long home” might have been thought to denote the dark house of bodily dissolution and spiritual nothingness; though still it would be a question whether language, thus implying residence, permanence, and something like continuance of self-hood, could ever, even in figure, have arisen from such a nihility of conception. What is said, however, in Ecclesiastes 11:7, forbids it altogether. The being of man, though one and inseparable in personality, is there regarded as locally divided: “The dust goes down to the earth, the spirit returns unto God who gave it.” Now to predicate this residence of the dissolving dust alone does not satisfy the conception. The passage, Job 7:10, to which Zöckler refers, has no application, whatever; Isaiah 14:18 is only a highly figurative representation of the remains of monarchs, lying in state, or in their splendid mausoleums, and the בֵּית מוֹעֵד of Job 30:23, “the house of meeting,” or of “the assembly,” which he might more properly have cited, has the same meaning as in this place; and every argument against regarding it as the mere place of deposit for the decomposing remains, which are not man in any sense, is as applicable to the one place as to the other. There is equal difficulty in regarding it as any separate mansion of the spirit by itself. Neither can be said to be man, the personality, the self-hood, when separately viewed; and yet it is man himself that has gone to the house of his olam, or rather to his olamic house; since the pronoun in עֹלָמוֹ belongs to the whole compound taken as one epithet. God is spoken of as the מָעוֹן, “the dwelling-place” of His people (see Psalms 90:1), but that cannot be the sense intended here; neither, on the other hand, can the “spirit’s return to God” be regarded as a pantheistic absorption, as Zöckler well shows. No theism was ever more clear of such an idea, or more opposed to Buddhism, whether in its ancient eastern, or its modern transcendental form, than that of the old Hebrews. Although in the Old Testament God is represented as אֱלֹהֵי רוּחוֹת (Numbers 16:22) “God of spirits,” yet it would seem to go even to the extremes in setting forth His distinct and incommunicable personality, His unapproachable holiness, that is, His separation from all things, and all beings, even the highest whom He has created, or to whom He has given being. As it cannot, therefore, apply separately, either to the soul or the body, the term beth-olam must denote something consistent with such a modified being of both. It is clear, then, that it cannot express locality, nor even duration as such, but a state of being, unknown except as obscurely defined in what follows (Ecclesiastes 11:7), though positive as a fact. This state of being is so called in distinction from the present being upon earth. Although the idea of place is thus excluded, yet the word בית is used as suggested by the previous figure of the decaying mansion. The “earthly house,” ἡ ἑπίγειος ἡμῶν οἰκία, is dissolved, and now man goes to the οἰκία αἰώνιος, the olamic house, not under the law of space and time, “the house not made with hands,”—whatever it may mean, whether the same as, or less than, Paul intends by the use of similar language. The term beth-olam, however it may have been suggested here, is in striking accordance with the corresponding classical Greek usage of οῑ̔κος ‘̔Αιδου (Homeric, δῶμ’ ’Αῖδαο, ’́Αϊδος δὸμος) representing the other world, or the other condition of being, as a house, a home, or abode, though unseen and unknown. This was its pure primary sense and usage, denoting state alone, though afterwards the poetry and mythology gave it scenery and locality. עולם here corresponds to Hades in etymological significance, as well as in its manner of usage. It is the hidden, the unmeasured, as that is the unseen. The idea of time, though in general inseparable, from עולם, is not here predominant. It certainly does not denote an absolute, endless eternity. And so another phrase, ἀΐδιος οἴκησις, as used in Greek (Diodorus, Xenophon, and Plato; see Gen. p. 587) is etymologically the unseen, though coming to be used for eternal, or æonian, through the near relation, and frequent blending of the Hadean and the æonian, or olamic conceptions.
The view, then, of this phrase בית עולם which is least liable to objection, or on which we can most safely rely, is that which is content with regarding it as simply the antithesis of this present worldly state of being. There is suggested the same rendering (world) which we have given Ecclesiastes 1:11; Ecclesiastes 3:11; Ecclesiastes 9:7. It is the other world in distinction from this, whether regarded as lying parallel or as succeeding. It is the house in which the dead (who yet have some unknown being) are to abide, while the world lasts (even this world) as we have rendered לעולם Ecclesiastes 9:7, in the Metrical Version.
Whilst the world lasts, no portion more have they,
In all the works performed beneath the sun.
In the same manner also, in our modern language, do we speak of this world, and the other world. We use the latter term in two ways; 1) as the great world, or olam, which, as a whole, is historically to succeed this as a whole that shall have passed away; or 2) as the world into which each individual goes at death,—as though the finishing with this were virtually the entrance into that, although its historical manifestation for all men collectively may yet be far remote. Our mode of speech has not come from the Bible,—certainly not from the English Bible,—for its general mode of translating עולם vaguely by forever and everlasting, and its avoiding the rendering world, are unfavorable to it. It is a thought born in the modern as in the ancient mind, and existing from the earliest ages. It was accompanied by no knowledge, yet none the less tenaciously held. It was the goal of the Patriarch’s pilgrimage idea. They were “going to Sheol”, to the other world, yet all unknowing as Abraham was, when, at the command of God, he went out from Mesopotamia: ἐξῆλθε μὴ ἐπιστάμενος πο͂υ ἔρχεται, Hebrews 9:8. So “went they out” (from this world), confiding in God, hoping “for a better country,” yet “not knowing whither they went,” or having the least conception, perhaps, of the mode of being that was to follow.
We are simply told of the fact: man goes to the olam, the beth-olam, to the other world, and there the Old Testament leaves him; and leaves the interpreter to give it as high or as low a sense as his spiritual-mindedness or lack of spiritual-mindedness may lead him to prefer. It speaks of it as a state, but throws no light upon it as a mode of being. It is not wholly a blank, but in almost everything we deem of highest worldly importance, it is set forth as the opposite of the present life. These images, however, of stillness, unknowingness, (not to say unconsciousness), inactivity, want of interest, in a word, lack of vitality, as we would call it, and which would seem to reduce it almost to an embryo existence (see Ecclesiastes 9:5, and note p. 129), may be because the impossibility of our conceiving it aright, and the consequent veil of reserve which the old Scripture throws over the whole subject, leaves little else to the picturing imagination than a description of negatives. Any premature development in the other direction might have falsely stimulated the fancy, and led the divinely guarded people of God into many of those wild conceptions which so deform the Heathen mythologies of Hades, or the world of the dead.
In respect to other great ideas, however, as connected with such a state, the Old Testament is by no means silent. In some places it would seem to speak of death as though it were the end of man, as indeed it is of life, like the present. But again, it sets forth duties to God and man that cannot be measured by time, a law for the spirit, so searching, so high and holy as to seem incompatible with a mere finite earthly animal being; it speaks of relations to Deity, of awful accountabilities, that have no meaning, or that greatly collapse in their significance, if there be not for man another olam, another and greater state of being, either in itself, or to which it is preparatory. It never turns aside to explain any such seeming inconsistencies. Sublime in its reserve, in its types and shadows, in its mere hints of a post-mundane human destiny, as in its clearest announcements, this most suggestive Old Scripture goes on its majestic way, fearing no charge of contradiction, taking no pains to make any explicit provision against Sadducean cavils, and leaving the matter wholly to that spiritual discernment which the Saviour manifested (Matthew 22:23-33) against those who sought to entangle him with verbal and casuistical difficulties. One great truth of this kind stands prominently out. It is the idea of a judgment, somewhere, and at some time in the great æon of æons, the kingdom of God. This is especially the case in Koheleth, and all that is dark in the book is relieved by this one thought so firmly adhered to, so positively stated, so distinct in itself, or as a fact, yet so undefined in time, locality, and circumstance, as to make it extremely difficult for one who should demand attention to these in defending its consistency.—T. L.]
The mourners going about the streets, is a vivid description of the preparations for a great funeral, which are often made by his heirs for a mortally sick old man even before his decease. With this explanation, (agreeing substantially with Hitzig) it is not necessary, with Hengstenberg, to consider וְסָפְדוּ as relative future, and therefore to translate: “The mourners will soon go about.” For the mourning customs of the ancient Hebrews consult Amos 5:16; Isa. 15:33; Jeremiah 9:16 ff.; Matthew 9:23; Matthew 11:17, etc.
Verses 6 and 7, following the description of hoary age, give that of his final end in death, and in such a way that the dissolution of the spiritual-bodily organism is first described in Ecclesiastes 11:6 in a variety of figures, and then literally or in accordance with its inner nature. In syntactical relation the two verses run parallel with Ecclesiastes 11:2, the construction there begun with עַד אֲשֶׁר לֹא “before,” “being taken up again.”—Or ever the silver cord be loosed—i. e., before the thread of life is ruptured. The thread of life is here designated as a silver cord, and not as a tent-cord (which keeps the tent from falling together, see Job 4:21; Isaiah 38:12), because the author imagines the living one, or rather his living organism, as a golden lamp hanging by a silver cord, as the sequel shows. Both figures, however, point, through the noble metals of which they speak, to human life as a valuable and noble possession; comp. the association of gold and silver in Proverbs 25:11.—Read יִרְחַק discessit longe recessit (“gives way”), not יֵרָתֵק (“is unbound”), as the K’ri has it; nor יֵרָחֵק as it stands in the text, nor יִנָּתֵק [“is torn asunder] (Pfannkuche), nor יֶחֶרַק as Hitzig has it. These emendations are rendered unnecessary by the simplicity and perspicuity of the text.—Or the golden bowl be broken,—גֻלָּה is literally equivalent to גַל “fountain” (comp.Song of Solomon 4:12; Song of Solomon 4:12 with Joshua 15:19 and Judges 1:15); in Zechariah 4:3 it signifies a vessel for oil, or an oil lamp, and is so to be considered here. The human body is therefore considered as a vessel in which is contained, as in a lamp, the oil, the blood, which is the supporter of the soul or of life [comp. Leviticus 17:14]. Like the precious oil of Zechariah 4:3, which is called “golden oil,” so “is the blood the noble, precious fluid in the human organism;” and with reference to it as the condition of life and health, the organism itself is called גֻלַּת הַזָּהָב “the golden bowl.” Hengstenberg and Hitzig both maintain that this expression of the author here seems to be materially affected and modified by this possage in Zechariah 4:2 ff.—And the pitcher broken at the fountain.—The pitcher [כַּד] is not identical with the golden bowl, and therefore a figurative designation of the whole body, but only of a special organ of it; of that one, namely, with which we draw air or breath, that is, nourish the body from the fountain of all life that surrounds it. The previous figure is now abandoned, or rather insensibly changed into one nearly allied to it; the burning flame of the golden lamp becomes the invisible inner flame of the process of respiration, whose physical organ is the lungs. Its destruction in death is figuratively described as the breaking (הִשָׁבֵר) of the pitcher at the fountain, from which it had hitherto daily drawn water,—wherein there clearly appears an amplification of the expression as compared with the preceding form; comp. שבר in Isaiah 42:3.—Or the wheel broken at the cistern.—Not a new figure, but only a more special illustration of the one just presented. The “wheel at the fountain” is the cistern wheel by which the bucket is raised or lowered, and cannot have a specific reference to any definite organ of the body, but symbolizes organic life itself in its continuous circle, just as “the wheel of birth” of James 3:6 (τρόχος τῆς γενέσεως) based probably on this passage. The cistern (הַבּוֹר) is not materially different from the fountain (מַכּוּעַ) and likewise means the air surrounding man and affording the most indispensable of all conditions of life, namely, breath; it does not mean the whole world, as Hengstenberg maintains, or the grave, as some others think.—אֶל־הַבּוֹר is moreover the same as עַל הַבּוֹר “at the fountain,” comp. 1 Samuel 20:25; 2 Samuel 2:9 ff. Observe also the passive נָוֹץ instead of the earlier active, תָּרֻץ; it means that the golden bowl “breaks,” as it were, of its own accord, as soon as the silver cord that holds it is loosed; but the wheel “is broken,” is destroyed at the same time with the whole machinery of life, by an act of violence operating from without.—In oldercommentators there are many arbitrary physiological and anatomical interpretations of the respective points of the description: Melanchthon sees in the silver cord the nerves and sinews, in the golden fountain the heart, and in the pitcher at the fountain, the great vein over the liver; Praun [Physico- Anatomica Analysis, Cap. XII., Ecclesiastes] thinks the silver cord the lacteal vessel of the breast, and Witsius the golden bowl the brain, whilst Wedel makes it the heart, and Hottinger refers it to the gall. Since Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of the blood, many have seen this pictured in the golden bowl as in the fountain (Jablonski, Hansen, Michaelis, Starke, Scheuchzer, etc.), and have mingled many strange things with it, e. g.: the pitcher is the liver (Witsius), or the lymph (Wedel), or the stomach (Hottinger), or the chyle (Praun, Scheuchzer); the wheel signifies the kidneys, urinary passages, and bladder (Wedel), or the peristaltic motions of the bowels (Scheuchzer), or the motion of the lungs (Sibel, Jablonski). Look especially at Starke on this passage, and also at the Exegetical monographs quoted on page 27.—Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was.—Namely, as dust; comp. Genesis 3:19; Psalms 104:29; Job 34:15, to which passages, especially the first named, Koheleth conforms in expression. For the form וְישֹׁב comp. Ewald, § 343 b.—And the spirit shall return unto God who, gave it.—Namely, as the life-giving principle in the human organism, comp. Genesis 2:7; Psalms 104:30; Isaiah 42:5; Jeremiah 38:16. This passage does not expressly affirm a personal immortality of the human soul, but it also does not deny it; for that the author is thinking of a pantheistic floating of the soul in the universal spirit, and that, “separated into individual existence, this particle of the Divine breath poured forth into the world by God will again be drawn to Him, and thus again unite with His breath, the soul of the world” (Hitzig)—all this, only rationalistic extravagance, can find in this passage. Koheleth’s earlier testimonies rather show him to have thought of the return of the spirit to God as an entrance into the presence and eternal communion of God, and not as an absorption by God. And the arrival of the departed ones into the dark Scheol separating them from Divine light and life, so depicted in chap. 9, evidently appears to him only a provisional and intermediate condition which will finally be followed by an eternal existence with God after that “judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9). Compare Vaihinger: “According to this the coming to God seems, in the conception of the Preacher, to be gradual, and the view in Psalms 49:6 to have been in his mind, viz.: that the good will be liberated from Scheol, and, after being acquitted in the judgment, will live blessed in God, Psalms 17:15, whilst the wicked will be cast back into Scheol after the judgment, and there eternally remain, Psalms 49:15; Luke 16:22 ff.” Hengstenberg says: “It is impossible that at the period of death the hitherto so marked difference between the just and the wicked will be suddenly effaced. The sharp earnestness with which the judgment of this world is every where announced, and especially in this book, decides against this. After all this, after the impressive emphasizing of the retributive justice of God, in which the entire book ends in 11:14, the return of the soul to God can only be that spoken of by the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10; Hebrews 9:27. “It is noteworthy also that the Avesta, of all the religious documents of the ancient heathen the one which is most nearly allied to the Old Testament revelation, and most in harmony with it, contains an assertion quite similar to the one before us:“When the body dies here below, it mingles with the earth, but the soul returns to heaven.” (Bundehesch, p. 384.) Something allied to this is found in some of the Greeks, e.g., Phokyllides, Ποίημα νουθετικόν, and in Euripides’ Fragments [but more distinctly in the Drama of the Suppliants, Ecc 535: πνεῦμα μὲν πρὸς Αἰθερα (προς Δὶα) τὸ σῶμα δ’ εἰς γῆν.—T. L.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
(With Homiletical Hints.)
This section properly contains the net result of the religious speculation of the Preacher; and in it the positive ground thoughts of the entire book arrive at their fullest development, and most striking and definite expression. This is externally seen in the style, hitherto at times, languid, of prosaic latitude, and unharmonious, but now rising to the loftiest strains, and clothed with the richest figurative adornments. Chap. 10 had distinguished itself from the preceding by its greater wealth of figures and ingenious expressions; but now, from the very beginning of chap. 11, figure crowds on figure in a still more remarkable degree, until, in the introductory verses of the 12th chapter, or the third, strophe of this section, the figurative ornament of speech rises to a fullness of the most profound, vivid, and surprising comparisons, which here and there almost give the impression of excessive and tumid accumulation. And yet the single figurative expressions need only correct illustrations and fitting insertion into the combination of the whole, in order to stand justified against every suspicion of absence of taste or presence of excess, and to bring out into clearer light the object of the picture, viz., the many tribulations of age, the premonitions of approaching death, and finally the very process of life’s dissolution itself; all this, too, more vividly than is elsewhere in Holy Writ effected, at least in so restricted a space. It shows an imperfect comprehension of this most interesting and original of all the descriptions in the book, that several commentators, especially Umbreit and Elster, mistake the gradual progress of the described symptoms of dissolution from the commencement of senile feebleness till death, and, by means of an allegorical perversion, force on the details concerning old age as the forerunner of death (Ecclesiastes 11:3-5), a direct reference to death itself. The usual conception of these verses, according to which they describe the body of man, together with its organs, as they grow old under the figure of a household sinking into decay and dissolution, is precisely that which justifies the praise ever given to the author as the representative of a wisdom endowed with unusual penetration in the sphere of theological and anthropological research. That characterizing of Koheleth originating with Origen, and adopted by Hieronymus, giving to it the signification of a compendium of the physics of Solomon, (just as Proverbs contains the quintessence of his ethics, and the Song, the logic or dialectios of the wise king—comp. the General Introduction to the Solomonic writings) appears very especially justified by this passage; but this can only be the case when it is understood on the basis of the above developed, and only just comprehension of it as a description of the sad autumn and winter of the corporeal life of this world, and therewith as a foundation for the conception of human nature as a manifoldly significant image of the universe in general.
Beneficent, prosperous, industrious, and cheerful labors in life, afford the strongest security for lasting happiness, and to this fundamental thought of the section, the description in question holds the double relation that, on the one hand, it is to present and confirm the preceding admonition to a cheerful enjoyment of the pleasures of life’s spring and summer, by reference to the contrast between these and the terrors of the autumn and winter of life, whilst, on the other hand, it is to present the basis for the farther admonition to that continual fear of God, which was necessarily to form the crowning termination and final goal of all the practical precepts of the author.—Comp. Ewald, p. Ecc 324: “The numerous tribulations of old age, and the mournful signs of approaching death, are described in the most striking figures, in order the more pressingly to admonish to a cheerful enjoyment of life at the proper period; but, at the same time, there appears most significantly the other truth by which the former receives its full light and correct limits, namely, that this very joy in life must not be blind and thoughtless, but thoughtful and conscious in remembrance of the eternal judgment over all things;—a truth which is indeed to be understood in every stern view of life, and which, therefore, has been only cursorily touched at an earlier period, (Ecclesiastes 3:12; Ecclesiastes 3:17; Ecclesiastes 8:12 ff.), but which is purposely alluded to here, in order to avoid any possible misunderstanding before the final close.”—In view of the fearful earnestness of this concluding reference to death and eternity, every suspicion of Epicureanism, or of a frivolous, skeptical, and materialistic disposition, as a background for the preceding counsels to enjoy life, must disappear; and this the more so, since that which precedes this admonition to enjoyment of life testifies clearly enough of the deep seriousness and purity of the author’s ethical views. For the admonition at the commencement of the 11th chap. (Ecclesiastes 11:1-3) which reminds us of that in Psalms 112:9, counseling a profuse benevolence, mindful of no loss and of no gain, appears clearly as a true fruit of faith in a holy, just, and paternally loving God, but which could never spring from an Epicurean, skeptical, or fatalistic view of the world. The subsequent admonition to an unwearied fulfilment of our calling, unmindful of the future yet cautious and conscientious (Ecclesiastes 11:4-6), proceeds not from a dull, melancholy resignation, or a loathing despair of life, but simply and alone from a childlike yielding to the will of God, and obedient subjection to His counsels as the only wise. Indeed, even in the reference to the sweetness of light, and the loveliness of life under the sun, with which (in Ecclesiastes 11:7) he paves the way to that injunction to cheerful enjoyment, there is nothing in any way Epicurean, or that shows a one-sided, earthly, irreligious disposition. There is rather nothing expressed therein but the deep religious feeling of a pure joy in the beauty of the works of God, and an inwardly thankful appreciation of the proofs therein offered of His boundless goodness; a feeling that forms a contrast quite as opposite to all fatalism and gloomy atheistical materialism, as to every kind of moral levity, or thoughtless desire for enjoyment. See Elster, p. Ecc 125: “The deep feeling for the beauty and loveliness of life, which Koheleth expresses in this verse, shows us that it was not a bitter discontent based on a dull insensibility of the inward spirit; but his grief lies therein that with this deep feeling for beauty which human existence bears within itself, he painfully encounters, on the one hand, the fact that men are mutually cheating each other out of the real profit of life, whilst, on the other, he perceives that this existence is fleeting and transitory, and that he has foreclosed the hope of a future clearing up of human destiny because the view of a life after death seems to him utterly dark and uncertain (? ?).—The period which man is permitted to seize in the present, must now appear to him only so much the more important; and the only sure thing remaining to man must seem to him to be the holding fast of eternity by the highest activity in this particular period. Therefore to verse 8 there is again joined the admonition to pleasure, whose nature and character are clearly enough depicted in what precedes, as free from everything low and common, and rather as depending on the Most High and Eternal One.”
Add to all this the fact, that the author marks the youthful vivacity and cheerfulness of life, which he recommends, expressly as a disposition to be tempered and purified by the thought of the retributive justice of God (Ecclesiastes 2:9) and that there is ever present as the final aim of every earthly-human development (according to Ecclesiastes 2:7), an eternal sojourn of the immortal soul with a holy and just God—a thought which Elster in the passage just quoted is clearly wrong in denying (see the exegetical illustrations to this passage),—adding this, and there results from it most conclusively that character of his ethical wisdom which is in conformity with revelation, and indeed directly belonging to revelation. We see especially the divinely inspired and incomparable nature of the religious truths of this section, in which the devout meditation of the author has reached its highest point, and after vanquishing doubt and hostility, combines its positive results into a chain of the purest ethical maxims, and the most profound physicotheological observations.
Homily on the Entire Section: The fear of God is the foundation of all true virtue, and all lasting joys.—Or: The fear of the Lord is the beginning and end of all wisdom.—Or: Live so in thy youth that old age brings to thee not terrors, but only the desire of relief from the yoke of this earthly life, and the joyful hope of an eternal existence with God.—Or: Use the morning of thy life profitably, that its evening may be calm and blissful; sow good seed in the spring-time of thy life, that thou mayest have a good harvest in the autumn.
HOMILETICAL HINTS ON SEPARATE PASSAGES
Ecclesiastes 11:1-3. Luther (Ecclesiastes 11:1):—Be liberal whilst you can; use wealth in doing all the good in your power; for if you live long you shall receive a hundredfold.—Cartwright:—The universal instability of all things should excite you to munificence, whatever may happen in respect to you or the riches you may possess. Credit it for gain, whatever you may save from the flames and conflagration, as it were, by bestowing it upon the poor.—Starke (Ecclesiastes 11:2):—In giving alms we are not to look too closely at the worthiness of the individuals. God permits His sun to rise on the just and the unjust!—Von Gerlach:—Collect not thy treasures by gathering in, but rather by giving out, by a denial of self! Psalms 112:9; 2 Corinthians 9:9.
Ecclesiastes 11:4-6. Hieronymus:—In season, out of season, the word of God is to be preached; and so without thought of clouds, or fear of winds, even in the midst of tempests, may we sow (the word). We are not to say this time is convenient, another unsuitable, since we know not what is the way of the Spirit that controls all.
Hansen:—In the distribution of his good deeds a man should not be too timorous; the left hand should not know what the right hand doeth.—Lange (Ecclesiastes 11:5):—One cannot know how much good God may effect for the perfection of the faith, even among the dissolute poor!—Starke (Ecclesiastes 11:6):—Do not delay thy amendment until an advanced age; begin early to fear God; thou wilt never repent of it. It is, however, better to repent even in age than to continue in one’s sins. But he who fears God from youth up, will find his reward so much the more glorious, Revelation 2:10.—Hengstenberg (Ecclesiastes 11:6):—Be incessantly active. In seasons of destitution be so much the more active, because just then many things may miscarry. The more doubtful the result, so much the less should we lay our hands in our lap.
Ecclesiastes 11:7-8. Melanchthon:—Whilst God permits, reverently use His gifts; when He takes away, patiently submit; as Paul says, “Let the peace of God dwell in your hearts.”—Cramer:—Because man has a desire for natural light, and shuns darkness, he should, therefore, practice the works of light, and shun those of darkness. It is a piece of ingratitude that we think more of our past evil days than of the good ones. We must thank God for both: Job 2:10.—Hengstenberg:—However great are the sorrows of this life, however manifold its vanities, and sad its circumstances, it is nevertheless true that life is a good, and it is the office of the word of God to impress this truth when gloomy despondencey has gained the ascendency. Disgust of life is also sinful under the New Testament law. A pious spirit will find out the sunny side in this earthly existence, and rejoice in it with heart-felt gratitude.
Ecclesiastes 11:9-10. Luther:—When the heart is in a right state no joy will harm, provided only it be true joy, and not merely a corrupting mirth. Enjoy it, then, if there is any thing pleasant for the sight or hearing; provided you sin not against God.—Zeyss:—If thou wilt be preserved against the sadness of the world, thou must carefully guard thyself against its causes, i.e., the ruling sins and vices, and accustom thy heart to the genuine fear of God, Sir 1:17.—Wolle:—He who would rejoice in the best bloom of his youth, must become acquainted with the Lord Jesus betimes, the fairest among the children of men, and make his heart a temple of the Holy Spirit, Sir 51:18 ff.—Wohlfarth:—That your youth may gladly enjoy youth, that the tempter may not destroy its roses and cast it into endless woe, have God before your eyes, ye young men and maidens, and remember the serious words: Every one who forgets Him, He will summon to judgment.
Ecclesiastes 12:1-5. Luther:—Holy Writ calls consolation and happiness light, and tribulation darkness, or night. For boys, for youth, for manhood, there is joy. After rain comes the beautiful sunshine, i.e., although at times there may be tribulation, yet joy and consolation follow. But age has no joy; the clouds return after the rain; one misfortune follows another.—Cramer (Ecclesiastes 12:1):—Who would be devout must begin betimes; for it is unseemly to offer the dregs of life to God, after having given his blooming youth to the devil.—[Matthew Henry (Ecclesiastes 12:5):—Man goes to “his long home.” At death he goes from this world and all the employments and enjoyments of it. He has gone home; for here he was a stranger and a pilgrim. He has gone to his rest, to the place where he is to fix. He has gone to the house of his world, so some would render it; for this world is not his. He is gone to his house of eternity (Beth olamo). This should make us willing to die, that at death we go home; and why should we not long to go to our Father’s house? Ecclesiastes 12:6. Death will dissolve the frame of nature, and take down the earthly house of this tabernacle. Then shall the silver cord by which the soul and body were wonderfully fastened together be loosed, that sacred knot untied, and those old friends be forced to part. Then shall the golden bowl which held for us the waters of life be broken; then shall the pitcher with which we used to fetch up water, for the constant support of life, and the repair of its decays, be broken, even at the fountain; so that it can fetch up no more; and the wheel, all those organs that serve for the collecting and distributing of nourishment, shall be shattered, and disabled to do their office any more. The body has become like a watch when the spring has broken; the motion of all the wheels is stopped; they all stand still; the machine is taken to pieces; the heart beats no more, nor does the blood circulate.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 :—So death resolves us into our first principles. Man is a ray of heaven united to a clod of earth; at death these are separated, and each goes to the place whence it came.—T. L.]
Ecclesiastes 12:6-7. Luther:—It is not defined where the spirit goes, but only that it returns to God from whom it came. For as we are ignorant of the source whence God made the spirit, so also we know not whither (or to what) it returns. Comp. Hengstenberg: The view that the individual soul returns to God, is supported by the fact that it had its origin immediately from God. According to this passage, creationism must be true, although it is a truth which, for certain significant reasons that favor traducianism, can only be regarded as a partial, or one-sided one. It is important that the two apparently opposing views should be reconciled by something common to both.
Zöckler:—Not a few older theologians have endeavored to interpret this passage (Ecclesiastes 12:7) in the interest of a one-sided creationism; e g., Hieronymus, who says: “They are to be contemned who hold that souls are sown with bodies, and are born, not from God, but from the bodies of the parents. But since the flesh returns to earth, and the spirit to God who gave it, it is clear that God not man, is the parent of souls. To this the traducianist replies: Koheleth treats, in this verse, solely of the creation of the first man (or the first humanity)* and of his relation to God (and so, at least by intimation, Luther on this passage, and Cartwright in Hengstenberg, p. 258); but they are not able thereby to remove the partial creationistic sense of the passage. Compare Hengstenberg and Vaihinger.
Wolle:—Unblessed is the old age and death of those who grow old in the service of sin. On the contrary, a conscience kept pure from youth up, lightens and sweetens both the toils of age and the bitterness of death, Job 27:6.—Berleb. Bible:—Souls come from eternity into the world as to a stage. There they manifest their persons (their masks) their affections, and their passions, whatever is in them of good or bad. When they have, as it were, sufficiently performed their parts, they again disappear, and lay off the persons that they have represented, and stand, naked as they are, before the divine tribunal. Universal as is the decree that all men are to return to God, there is, nevertheless, a great difference in them. The most return to him as to their offended Lord; but some as to the All-merciful, their friend and father. Because then this coming to God is certain and unavoidable, it should be our most necessary care that we are every moment concerned as to how we may come to Him rightly.—Vaihinger:—The divine judgment of the life and conduct of men, as mentioned in Ecclesiastes 11:9, is only rendered possible by the personal return of the spirit to God. Therefore in youth must we think of our Creator, and live in His fear (Ecclesiastes 3:14; Ecclesiastes 5:7); for the spirit does not become dust with the body; it returns not to the universal force of nature, but because it is from God it returns to God, to be judged by Him, e g., either to be blessed or condemned.
*[There is a sense in which creationism may be held in respect to the animal, and even the vegetable life. It is not irrational, it is not unscriptural, to suppose that in every true genesis there is a going on of the old unspent creative power, or word, acting in a plane above the ordinary mechanical and chemical laws which God has given to nature. In a still higher sense may this be held of the human generation,—of the individual as well as of the first generic man (see Psalms 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:4). And yet such a view is consistent with a doctrine of traducianism that connects every man with the first man, not by an arbitrary forensic decree, or appointment from without, but by a vital union, a psychological continuance of the same being, however great the mystery it may involve. There is a school of theologians who say that “in some way,” by God’s appointment, we are so connected with Adam that we sin “in consequence” of his sin, and suffer “in consequence” of his sin, though each succeeding human soul is born separate and pure. There is another school that brands this with heresy, or treats it as evasive, and claims for itself a higher orthodoxy on account of the use of the words “federal headship,” “imputation,” etc., whilst they equally affirm that Adam’s posterity are not morally guilty in respect to the first sin. It is a representative, a forensic guilt, though involving the most tremendous consequences. Any essential difference between these is not easily discerned. Both make it a matter of outward and arbitrary institution, as long as there is denied any such psychological and ontological connection between us and the first man as grounds this “federal headship” and “imputation,” as well as this “certain consequence as a fact,” on a remoter and deeper union. The first class of terms are very precious ones, and sustained by the figures and analogies of Scripture, but their meaning collapses, or becomes arbitrary, when we put nothing beyond them as a fact, however inexplicable that fact may be. Holding to such deeper union, we become, indeed, involved in a metaphysical mystery, but we get free from the moral mystery, which is a much more important thing.—T. L.]
[The heathen sentiment of Phocyllides is as nearly the direct opposite of Solomon’s as language could express, although it contains the same phrase here: μὴ κακὸν εὖ ἔρξης σπείρειν ἐστιν ὠς ἐνὶ πόντῳ. “Do no favor to a bad man; you might as well sow in the sea.”—T.L.]
See the text note.
[This is an unwarranted limitation. It refers evidently to God’s dealing in nature, present and past, as well as future; and especially to the mystery of generation.—T. L.]
 [Ecclesiastes 11:8. בְּכֻלָּם ישְׂמַח. To take this as an exhortation: “Let him rejoice,” etc., would not seem very congruous to what follows: “let him remember the days of darkness,” which is certainly not a joyful thought. Our English translators have inserted the conjunction: “and in them all rejoice,” which gives the spirit of the passage, although there is no ו in the Hebrew. The better way is to regard the particles כִּי and אִם as affecting both the futures, the second as well as the first, whilst the third, introduced by the conjunction, is the one exhortation of the sentence, to which the others are preparatory: “For if a man shall live many years, if he shall rejoice in them all,” or as it is elliptically, yet most literally, expressed in the Metrical Version—
Yet if a man live many years, in all of them rejoice,
The days of darkness let him not forget.
Or it may be the imperative style with the conditional aspect: let him live, let him rejoice, (that is, though he live, though he rejoice) yet let him remember, etc. In such a rendering there is no discord in the thought.—T. L.]
[Ecclesiastes 11:9. בְּחוּרוֹתֶיךָ, a rising upon the word יַלְדוּת childhood, as is seen by the parallelism. It is the period of commencing manhood. Its etymological sense would be the choice period of life, from בחר primary sense, that of exploring, proving (the keen eye), hence choosing, selecting that which is most precious. From this the idea of excellence, superiority. In the noun בָּחוּר, it is taken collectively for the youth, the choice young men, as in Isaiah 40:29, where, in the parallelism it is a rising on נְעָרִים, “the youths shall be weary, even the young men shall utterly fall.” Here it is an abstract noun in the fem, plural, to denote intensity. We have the masculine plural in the same way, Numbers 11:28. It is of the same form, in the masculine, with זְקֻנִים an intensive form to denote extreme feebleness of age. This is the direct opposite.—T. L.]
[How is it “certain,” unless it be that the hard necessities of this exegesis demand such an assertion? The two expressions are precisely alike, both in their letter and their spirit. There is nothing said, Numbers 15:39, about “amorous looks,” since the word זנִֹים applies to any evil desire, any going away after the eye (see Psalms 73:27), and is often used of idolatry. The term מַרְאֶה, which is so much used of female beauty, suggests the idea here, more than any thing in the other passage. Everywhere else this kind of language, “following the heart,” the “desires of the heart,” “going after the eye,” the sense (compare Job 31:7), is used in malam partem, and to give it just the contrary sense here, as something “well pleasing to God,” is to abandon every safe guide in interpretation. See the remarks on the solemn and sorrowful irony of this passage, in connection with Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 : Note on the Alleged Epicureanism of Koheleth; p. 132.—T. L.]
[Still more striking allusions to such a judgment may be found Psalms 1:5; Job 21:30, the יוֹם אֵיד, the יוֹם עֲבָרוֹת, the dies iræ (irarum) “to which the wicked are reserved;” as also to Psalms 49:15, “the morning (לַבֹּקֶר) in which the just shall triumph.”—T. L.]
[Ecclesiastes 11:2. “Whilst the sun or the light.” This is not a tautology; nor does it mean the light as an element. That would be too abstract for such a writing as this. Aben Ezra gives a good interpretation in referring it to the morning light that precedes the sun rising. This is essentially the same with the light of the sun, but is phenomenally and poetically different.—T.L.]
[Ecclesiastes 11:2. “And the clouds return after the rain.” There is no need of regarding this as denoting the winter season. It represents the subjective state of the old man. In youth the sunshine is predominant. The cloudy days are little remembered. The sun is ever coming out, or as it is expressed in the beautiful language of 2 Samuel 23:4, it is ever נגַֹה מִמָּטָר, “clear shining after rain.” In old age, especially the old age of the sensualist, who has no spiritual sun to cheer him, it is just the reverse. The clouds seem ever coming back. It is all dark, or the intervals of sunshine seem brief and evanescent.—T. L.]
[Ecclesiastes 11:3. שֹׁמְרֵי הַבַּיִת, “The keepers of the house.” Hitzig recognizes the comparison, throughout, of the human body to a house, but he trifles when he says, that this is suggested by the mention of the rain in Ecclesiastes 11:2, and that the figure is used because a house is made of loam and white bricks that are dissolved and worn away by the showers. Every thing goes to show that there is had in view, rather, the decay of some lordly mansion, the richly furnished house of some Dives, “who had fared sumptuously every day,” or of a castle with its apparatus of war and luxury, as we have said p. 153.—T. L.]
 [Ecclesiastes 11:4. “When the sound of the grinding is low.” In Ecclesiastes 11:3 the טֹחֲנוֹת, or female servants who grind the meal in the rich mansion, undoubtedly represent the teeth; that is, the term is directly metaphorical. Here, on the other hand, הַטַּחֲנָה, the grinding, or the mill, is not so much metaphorical as illustrative. It is to be taken, therefore, in its primary sense as a fact showing the old man’s dullness of hearing. The most familiar and household sounds, such as that of the grinding mill, are faintly distinguished. The making it represent the mouth masticating, as a mill grinding, has given rise to a great many disagreeable and very unpoetical images, marring, as Stuart admits, the otherwise admirable propriety, or keeping, of the picture. The mill, it is said, is the old man’s collapsed mouth; the low sound of the grinding is the mumbling noise made by his feeble chewing, the “sinking daughters of song” are his feeble piping. Commentators seem to have vied with each other here in the exercise of their ingenuity. Some of these most unpoetical critics have referred the low grinding sound to the rumbling noises in the belly and stomach arising from poor digestion (see their names in Geier, also the commentators cited in Pole’s Synopsis). Stuart say truly: “none of these interpretations (whether referring to the chewing or the piping or the digestion) are very inviting,” and yet he is not prepared to give any other. He says well that “eating seems to be dispatched in the 3d verse, and there is an incongruity in supposing it to be again introduced here.” The incongruity is all the greater from bringing this lowest part of the human economy (even if it had not already had place enough) between the two noblest senses; for what follows (בנזת השיר), undoubtedly refers to the hearing; or else (which would indeed be most strange) there is no notice taken at all of this most important function. We would not hesitate, therefore, to refer this clause also to that sense. There is, too, a wonderful pictorial propriety in it, when we consider the important part which this grinding, and its constant sound, must have borne in an ancient wealthy mansion. From the want of outside mills, this domestic occupation was in continual demand for the daily provisioning; and, in a large house, or castle, it must have employed a great many servants. It was generally done by women, and to this our Saviour refers, Matthew 24:41, Luke 17:35 : “Two women shall be grinding together.” They must have been constantly at work to supply the demand for bread at every meal. Day and night “the sound of the grinding” was heard, like that which proceeded from the tired and drowsy female slaves in the house of Ulysses; as described in the Odyssey XX., Ecc 109:
Αἰ μεν ἄρ’ ἄλλαι εὖδον, ἐπὲι κατὰ πυρὸν ἄλεσσαν,
Η‘ δὲ μί’ ὄυπω παύετ’, ἀφαυροτάτη δ’ ἐτέτυκτο,
Ἡ ῥα μυλην στήσασα, ἔπος φάτο, σῆιια ἄνακτι.
The rest had lain them down to sleep, their weary task was done;
One still kept on the ceaseless toil, the weakest of them all; When suddenly she stopped the mill, and spake aloud the sign.
The account is very touching. It is very late at night, and near the dawn. These poor wearied creatures, who had been grinding all day for the rapacious suitors, finish their long tasks, one after another, and lie down, overcome by fatigue and drowsiness, until one alone is left in her late hour of toil. In answer to the prayer of Ulysses, Zeus had given the signal thunder in the early cloudless sky. Startled at the sound she stops the mill, and hails it as a signal of deliverance, whilst Ulysses recognizes her words as an auspicious omen.
There was hardly any part of the day or night when this work was not going on with its ceaseless noise. It was, indeed, a, sign, then, that the senses were failing in their office (בָּטְלוּ), when this familiar, yet very peculiar, sound of the grinding had ceased to arrest the attention, or had become low and obscure.
When the hum of the mill is faintly heard,
And the daughters of song are still.
It is from this, too, that the words וְיָקוּם לְקוֹל הַצִּפּוֹר, which have been so much misunderstood, get their clearest exposition. יקום has for its subject, not the old man, but “the sound of the grinding,” the last grammatical antecedent, and it presents a contrast, as Hitzig says, with שפּל preceding, as well as with יִשַּׁחוּ following. “Though it rise to the sparrow’s note“—“attain unto,” as קום, with לְ following, is used Zep 3:8, 1 Samuel 22:13, Micah 2:8,— referring not so much to loudness, or volume of sound, as to that sharp, shrill noise which was ever ringing in the ears of others. Its real sound, shrill as the sparrow’s voice, is put in contrast with the dull droning sound that reaches the old man’s ears. What follows would seem to put this interpretation beyond doubt. The term daughter (בת) is used in Hebrew, not as Zöckler takes it, but to intensify, to give the very best of a thing. בְּנוֹת הַשִּׁיר, “daughters of song,” then, does not necessarily mean singers, though it may have that sense, but may be understood of “the loudest, songs,” or the loudest voices in the song. They are faintly heard; יִשַּׁחוּ they sink down. The sound they make to the old man is exactly represented by the same word, Isaiah 29:4, where we have also שפל used as it is here: “And thou shalt speak low out of the ground (שָׁפַלְתְּ תְּדַבֵּרִי) and thy speech shall sound low (תִּשַּׁח shall sink down) out of the dust, and thy voice shall be as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and shall whisper out of the dust.” See Metrical Version.—T. L.]
[Ecclesiastes 11:3. בָּטְלוּ, “The grinders fail.” It is rendered cease in our E. V. Zöckler, feiern, to rest, keep holiday. Gesenius, the same, feriati sunt. it is one of the words of this book reckoned to the later Hebrew. It is common, however, to all Shemitic tongues, and there is no reason why it should be regarded as either unhebraic, or as late in the Hebrew. Those who argue from its rare, or single, occurrence, should show that there is any other place in the scanty Hebrew writings we have, where it would have been more suited to the idea than the word or words used. The rendering of Zöckler and Gesenius would make it synonymous with שָׁבַת, but this is not its sense in the Arabic and Syriac, and an examination of passages would show how unsuitable it would have been as a substitute for שבת, to cease, rest, keep holiday, in any of the many places where the latter occurs. Its true sense is to fail, or rather, to be worn out, to become useless. It may, therefore, be regarded as an old Hebrew word, but as used in this place only, because it is the only one in which its peculiar sense was required.—T. L.]
 [Ecclesiastes 11:3. “And they who look out of the windows be darkened” (הָרֹאוֹת בָּאֲרֻבּוֹת). All agree that this means the eyes in respect to the body; but what does it stand for in the figure, or parallel representation of the mansion? To this Zöckler does not advert except in what he says about the “mistresses,” which is very inadequate and unpicturesque. His remarks, too, about the eyelids, and “the threads of a net,” with his reference to Proverbs 6:25, are fanciful prettinesses, which seem out of place in so serious yet so animated a description. The question is, what places and persons are meant? There is something here instructive of the character of the house that is pictured. As it had “its strong men,” its אנשי החיל, so these are the castle-watchers who look out from the turrets, or rather, at or by the turrets (בּ instead of מ). If we are to be governed by the gender of רֹאוֹת, we should think of women employed for that purpose, which would suit well enough,—the strong men being otherwise employed —but the gender may have been controlled by the thought of the thing represented, the eyes, which in Hebrew, are feminine. The word, ארבות, does not mean the ordinary windows of a house (חַלּוֹנִים), but some opening high up, in the roof, or in a turret. This is shown from all its uses, as in Genesis 7:11; Gen 8:12, 2 Kings 7:19, Isaiah 24:15, Malachi 3:10, in all of which places it is rendered the windows of heaven (supposed openings in the sky) Hosea 13:3, where it means chimneys, and Isaiah 9:8, where it is used diminutively for the openings in the dove houses. Here, therefore it must mean turret windows or openings, where the watchers are stationed, and this is in harmony with the usual sense of the verb ארב, to lie. in wait, to watch. There is a striking pictorial propriety in this which has led to similar representations by other ancient writers. “Thus” the sight (says Plato in the Timæus, 90 A), “as the noblest of the senses, is placed in the highest part” ἐπ̓ ἄκρῳ τῷ σώματι. So Cicero De Nat. Deorum, II., 140, Sensus autem, interpretes ac nuntii rerum, in capite, tanquam in arce, collocati sunt: “The senses, as interpreters and messengers of things without, are placed in the head as in a watch tower.” “And this,” he says, “is especially true of the eyes as watchers:” nam oculi, tanquam speculatores, altissimum locum obtinent, ex quo plurima conspicientes fungantur suo munere. Compare also Xenophon Memorabilia Lib. I., Ecclesiastes 4:11, where we have the same idea as in the well-known passage from Ovid Met. I., Ecc 85:
Os homini sublime dedit, cœlumque tueri,
Jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.—T. L.]
[Ecclesiastes 11:4. “And the doors shall be shut in the streets;” or rather, “the doors to the street” (the street doors) are shut (becoming shut, closing; see Metrical Version). The reference of this to the mouth, which began with Jerome, has been the occasion of much false interpretation, both here and in what follows. The dual number is just as applicable to the eyes and ears as to the lips. It agrees, therefore, far better with the whole context, to take it as Hengstenberg does, of the ears closing to sounds, or rather, of all the senses, as the avenues to the outer world. To say that this is too remote or abstract a sense for Koheleth, is to overlook the whole scope of this most thoughtful representation, and to fail in appreciating the spirit of its grand poetry. The old sensualist, he who had lived so much abroad, and so little at home, is shut in at last. Again, the language is inconsistent with the other and more limited view. With no propriety could the mouth be called the street door, through which the master of the house goes abroad: especially when regarded, as this interpretation mainly regards the mouth, in its eating or masticating function. It is rather the door to the interior, the cellar door, that leads down to the stored or consumed provision, the stomach, or belly. The word בַּשׁוּק whether we render it in the street, or to the street, would be altogether out of place in such a narrow view, and more especially since שׁוּק has such a wide meaning (platea, wide place, foras, abroad), comp. Ecclesiastes 5:5, Proverbs 7:5, Cantic. Ecclesiastes 3:2. —T. L.]
 [Ecclesiastes 11:5. וְיָנֵאץ הַשָּׁקֵד, Zöckler well defends here the old interpretation. The other mode of exegesis gives a poor and mean image, marring the poetry, and exceedingly farfetched as a supposed trait of old age; whereas the comparison of the hoary head to a flowering tree is very striking, as well as natural. The old man’s mouth, and eating powers had been treated of before (ad nauseam, we might say, if, with some critics, we allow a second reference to it in Ecclesiastes 11:4, as well as in Ecclesiastes 11:3), whilst it would indeed be a wonder if so marked a characteristic as the gray head had been wholly omitted. By changing the punctuation to יַנְאֵץ these critics would render it “the almond disgusts;” it is too hard a nut for the the old man’s teeth to crack; or “the almond disgusts,” because it is “sour grapes” to the old man; it grows so high he cannot get at it. For other incongruous imagery, see Hitzig and Stuart. In regard to the orthography, whilst רְאֵם for רֵם (see Numbers 23:22, Psalms 39:6, Psalms 22:22) presents a parallel to נְאֵץ or נֵאץ for נֵץ, the other view of יָנֵאץ for יַנְאֵץ is wholly unexampled. The objection from the color of the almond blossoms is well answered by Zöckler. These difficulties settled, what can be more striking than the metaphor! A good parallel to it is found in Sophocles’ Electra 42, where it is said of the Tutor,
Οὐ γάρ σε μὴ γήρα τε καὶ μακρῶ χρόνω
Γνῶσ’, οὐδ’ ὑποπτεύσουσιν, ὦδ’ Η’ΝΘΙΣΜΕΝΟΝ:
They’ll know thee not,
Through age and time thus blossomed;
Nor even have suspicion who thou art.
Some would explain this of the flowers and garlands he is supposed to wear as a messenger: but the critical reader must see that this would be altogether out of keeping with the circumstances, as there detailed, and especially with the sad message he was supposed to bear. The other objection, made by Bothe, that it would be a tautology with γήρᾳ (age), is very trifling. It is the very nature of poetry thus to intensify, and often by what would be tautology in prose. Wunder gives an explanation from Fr. Jacobsius, which refutes completely his own criticism, and that of Bothe. He cites examples that put the meaning of Sophocles beyond a doubt; as from Cyril c. Julian VI., p. 157, ὅτε λευκῇ πολιᾷ κατηνθισμένος; and another, where the same figure is applied to the beard, De Chryse senc Christodor. Ecphr. Ecc 90:
βαθὺς δὲ ὁι ἥνθεε πώγων.
Modern poetry has the same metaphor.—T. L.]
[Most of these hypotheses seem absurd, and all of them inconsistent with the simplicity and directness of the whole picture. After all, none of them seem so obvious as that which is given by some Jewish commentators, and suggests itself directly from our common English Version: namely, that it is a hyperbolical expression of feebleness. “He cannot bear the least weight.”—T. L.]
[The K’tib, or text as it stands in Niphal, יֵרָחֵק, is better, since it has something of a passive or rather deponent sense: “is parted”—“parts,” intransitively, or “parts itself,”—elongabitur. It is the idea of giving way from stretching, or attenuation. The other various readings and renderings, as Zöckler says, are useless.—T. L.]
 [Zöckler’s general comment here is judicious and safe. Attempts to be more particular are apt to mislead into fanciful error. And yet there remains the impression from the whole, and especially from the evident particularity in the first four verses, that certain parts or functions of the body are directly intended by the golden bowl, the bucket at the spring, and the wheel at the cistern. The ancients had more knowledge of the human anatomy than we give them credit for. The Egyptians must have learned much from their continual processes of embalming. It would appear also from Homer’s minute and varied descriptions of wounds, and especially in passages from Aristotle and Plato that show even a scientific knowledge of the human system. There is, for example, a passage of some length in the Timæus, extending from 70 B to 76 E, containing quite a full description of the more vital internal parts and their uses, with some things much resembling what we find her. In the assigning, too, of different spiritual powers and affections to different parts of the body, as though it were a kind of civil corporation, the author of the Timæus reminds us of John Bunyan and his town of Mansoul. Solomon s golden bowl, too, is suggested, when we read in the Timæus how the θεῖον σπέρμα the “divine seed” of life was moulded into a round shape, and made the ἐγκέφαλος, or brain: and there are other things about the fluids and their περίοδοι, or circulations, that call up what is here said about the wheel and the fountain. Neither is there to be ridiculed and wholly rejected the idea which some have entertained that Solomon referred to the circulation of the blood. We need not suppose that he had anticipated Harvey’s great discovery; but the general idea that the human system had its period [or, to use Aristotle’s language before quoted, p. 46, that every organism was in the nature of a cycle, something going round and returning into itself] was a very early one. It came not so much from scientific or inductive observation, as from a sort of a priori thinking: so it must be; to constitute a living, or even an organic thing, there must be some such going round and round, to keep it from running out or perishing. It was this mode of thinking that showed itself in language, as in the Rabbinic גלגל תולדות and the τροχὸς γενεσεως, the “wheel of generation” of James 3:6, to which. Zöckler refers.
As a lesson, however, to those who are inclined to be extravagant here, nothing can be more judicious than the remarks of Maimonides in the Preface to his More Nevochim, where he tells those who would demand a minute explanation of every part of a mashal or parable— such, for example, as Proverbs 7:6-23—that “they will either miss the general thought, or get wearied in seeking particular illustrations of things that cannot be explained, and thus utterly fail in their vain attempt to get from the writer what perhaps never came into his mind.”
On the whole, therefore, we cannot expect to get a much better interpretation of this passage than that early one given by Jerome: Funiculus autem argenti candidam hanc vitam, et spiramen quod nobis de cœlo tribuilur, ostendit; Phiala quoque aurea animam significat, quæ illuc recurrit unde descenderat, etc.: “The silver cord denotes the pure life and respiration [inspiration] which was given to us from heaven; the golden bowl also means the soul which returns whence it had descended; the breaking of the bucket at the fountain, and the shattering of the wheel at the cistern, are enigmatical metaphors of death; for as when the bucket which is worn out ceases to draw, and the wheel by which the waters are raised is broken, the flow of the water is in tercepted,—so also when the silver cord (of life) has parted, the stream of vitality returns back to its fountain, and the man dies.”
There must, however, be kept in mind the general parallel with the rich mansion of the voluptuary; and in this aspect the golden bowl is undoubtedly the lamp depending from the ceiling by the silver cord, as is described in the Æneid I. 726.
Dependent lychni laquearibus aureis
Incensi, et noctem flammis funalia vincunt;
and which finally wears out and gives way. So the fountain and the cistern are the costly and curious water-machinery which such a mansion required for domestic drinking, and for irrigation. All is pictured as now in ruin, or going to ruin, like the curious circulating machinery of the human body with which it is compared. In regard to the reading of the text, we cannot do better than to retain the K’tib יֵרָחֵק and, pointed as it is, in the Niphal. From the sense of distance comes easily that of elongation (elongabitur), and thence of giving way, or parting. The words מַבּוּעַ and בּור although they differ etymologically, are probably chosen only for the sake of variety.—T. L.]
[Compare Ecclesiastes 3:21, and the marginal note, page 71, on the expression, “who knows the spirit of man that goeth up,” etc.—T. L.]
[See the remarks on this passage Psalms 49:15—and the בקר, “the morning,” or dies retributionis, in the Introd to Genesis 1:0, Bibelwerk, Genesis, page 142, and marginal note.—T. L.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18