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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Children; God; Old Age; Readings, Select; Thompson Chain Reference - Children; Decrepitude; Exhortations; Home; Long Life; Old Age; Parents; Redeeming the Time; Remember; Remembrance; Remembrance-Forgetfulness; Time; The Topic Concordance - Remembrance; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Children; Procrastination;
Youth should remember their Creator, 1.
A description of old age and its infirmities, with the causes
of death and dissolution, 2-9.
How the Preacher taught the people knowledge, 9-11.
General directions, and conclusion of the work, 12-14.
NOTES ON CHAP. XII
Verse Ecclesiastes 12:1. Remember thy Creator — בוראיך Boreeycha, thy CREATORS. The word is most certainly in the plural number in all our common Hebrew Bibles; but it is in the singular number, בוראך Borecha, in one hundred and seventy-six of Dr. Kennicott's MSS., and ninety-six of De Rossi's; in many ancient editions; and in all the ancient versions. There is no dependence on the plural form in most of the modern editions; though there are some editions of great worth which exhibit the word in this form, and among them the Complutensian, Antwerp, Paris, and London polyglots.
The evidence, therefore, that this text is supposed to give to the doctrine of the ever blessed Trinity, is but precarious, and on it little stress can be laid; and no man who loves truth would wish to support it by dubious witnesses. Injudicious men, by laying stress on texts dubious in themselves, and which may be interpreted a different way, greatly injure the true faith. Though such in their hearts may be friends to the orthodox faith, they are in fact its worst friends, and their assistance is such as helps their adversaries.
But what does the text say? It addresses the youth of both sexes throughout the creation; and says in effect: -
I. You are not your own, you have no right to yourselves. God made you; he is your Creator: he made you that you might be happy; but you can be happy only in him. And as he created you, so he preserves you; he feeds, clothes, upholds you. He has made you capable of knowing, loving, and serving him in this world, and of enjoying him in his own glory for ever. And when you had undone yourselves by sin, he sent his Son to redeem you by his blood; and he sends his Spirit to enlighten, convince, and draw you away from childishness, from vain and trifling, as well as from sinful, pursuits.
II. Remember him; consider that he is your Creator, your loving and affectionate Father. In youth memory is strong and tenacious; but, through the perversion of the heart by sin, young people can remember any thing better than GOD. If you get a kindness from a friend, you can remember that, and feel gratitude for it; and the person is therefore endeared to you. Have any ever given you such benefits as your Creator? Your body and soul came from him; he gave you your eyes, ears, tongue, hands, feet, c. What blessings are these! how excellent! how useful! how necessary and will you forget HIM?
III. Remember him in thy YOUTH, in order that you may have a long and blessed life, that you may be saved from the corruption and misery into which young people in general run and the evils they entail upon themselves by giving way to the sinful propensities of their own hearts. As in youth all the powers are more active and vigorous, so they are capable of superior enjoyments. Faith, hope, and love, will be in their best tenor, their greatest vigour, and in their least encumbered state. And it will be easier for you to believe, hope, pray, love, obey, and bear your cross, than it can be in old age and decrepitude.
IV. Remember him NOW, in this part of your youth-you have no certainty of life; now is yours, to-morrow may not be. You are young; but you may never be old. Now he waits to be gracious; tomorrow may be too late. God now calls; his Spirit now strives; his ministers now exhort. You have now health; sin has not now so much dominion over you as it will have, increasing by every future moment, if you do not give up your hearts to your Maker.
V. There is another consideration which should weigh with you: should you live to old age, it is a very disadvantageous time to begin to serve the Lord in. Infirmities press down both body and mind, and the oppressed nature has enough to do to bear its own infirmities; and as there is little time, so there is generally less inclination, to call upon the Lord. Evil habits are strengthened by long continuance; and every desire and appetite in the soul is a strong hold for Satan. There is little time for repentance, little for faith, none for obedience. The evil days are come, and the years in which you will feelingly be obliged to say, Alas! "we have no pleasure in them;" and, what is worse, the heart is hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-12.html. 1832.
Advice to young people (11:9-12:8)
God’s will is that people enjoy life. In fact, they have a responsibility to do so. The writer urges young people especially to take note of this and not to misuse their mental or physical powers through developing wrong attitudes to life. However, their enjoyment of life must be according to a proper understanding of God and his character. They, like all others, are answerable to him for their behaviour (9-10).
Young people should remember that God is the Creator, the giver of life and all that goes with it. They should accept life from his hand and enjoy it as he intended. The opportunity will have passed by the time old age comes (12:1).
The writer pictures old age as a run-down house in a cold dark winter. The old person, now at the end of his life, is shaky, bent, half blind, half deaf, unable to sleep well, fearful of heights and afraid to walk along the street. He has lost all desire for life’s pleasures (2-5). Finally, death overtakes him. He is (to use another picture) like a broken bowl or a smashed water jar. God who first gave him life now takes it back. Life has run its course and has led, in the end, to nothing (6-8).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12:1". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/ecclesiastes-12.html. 2005.
THE GRAND CONCLUSION FOR ECCLESIASTES
"This is one of the most beautiful chapters in the Bible." Along with Ecclesiastes 11, and a few verses out of Ecclesiastes 10, we have here Solomon's conclusion. He had found his way out of the doubts and perplexities that for a time had confused him; and here (in these passages) he thunders the great doctrinal teachings of God's Word.
So great is the importance of this chapter that we shall study it one verse at a time.
"Remember now also thy Creator in the days of the youth, before the evil days come, and thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them."
"The first word of this in the the Hebrew text of the O.T. is "and," indicating a connection with the previous verse." This is a continuation of Remedy Three (Ecclesiastes 11:10) for the perplexities and vanities of life. The loving and faithful service of God our Creator is that third remedy. "It is a plea for a strong religious faith to be founded in youth as a safeguard against old age."
"Creator here is not merely a synonym for God; it is an emphasis upon the fact that he is the Creator." God created all of us; we are his; we owe him everything; his authority is eternal and unlimited. "You are not your own; you have no right to yourself. God made you, and he made you so that you might be happy; but you can be happy only in Him.
This is a basic doctrine of the Holy Bible. "Some interpreters, of course consider this too pious, and so they change it; but this is not acceptable." For example, here are a couple of the ridiculous changes men have made in God's Word: "In the days of your youth, remember your grave." "Remember also your wife in the days of your youth." "There is no reason to alter the text here." It is only the boundless conceit, irreverence, and unbelief of evil men that prompts ravages of this kind against God's Word.
The focus upon God the Creator in this very first verse is quite appropriate, "It reminds us from earlier passages in Ecclesiastes that only God sees the whole pattern (Ecclesiastes 3:11); his workmanship we have spoiled by our devices (Ecclesiastes 7:29); and his creativity is continuous and unsearchable (Ecclesiastes 11:1). For us to `Remember Him,' therefore, is no perfunctory mental act. It means to drop our pretence of self-sufficiency and commit ourselves to Him, to love Him and to obey Him.
"It is amazing that the word `Creator' in the Hebrew text is plural, like [~'Elohiym] in Genesis 1:1. The Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit all played a part in our creation (John 1:4; Genesis 1:2)."
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/ecclesiastes-12.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
Remember now - Rather, And remember. The connection between this verse and the preceding one is unfortunately interrupted by our division of chapters.
Creator - Gratitude to God as Creator is here inculcated, as just previously Ecclesiastes 11:9 fear of God as Judge. Godliness, acquired as a habit in youth, is recommended as the proper compensation for that natural cessation of youthful happiness which makes the days of old age more or less evil; more evil in proportion since there is less of godliness in the heart, and less evil where there is more godliness.
While the evil days come not - Rather, before the evil days come.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/ecclesiastes-12.html. 1870.
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth ( Ecclesiastes 12:1 ),
It is interesting that most conversions are made during the teenage years. Seven-eighths of every decision for Jesus Christ is made while in your teenage years. That's why it's an important injunction, "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth."
while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when you shall say, I have no pleasure in them ( Ecclesiastes 12:1 );
Don't wait until you get old to serve the Lord, to give your life to Jesus Christ. Commit your life while you're young, before those evil days come and you say, "Oh man, life has no more pleasure." And so we have now an interesting sort of graphic description of the aged person.
While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain ( Ecclesiastes 12:2 ):
As you get older you start putting stronger light bulbs in the socket. My first awareness of my need for glasses is when the light wasn't bright enough and I had to get a brighter light in order to read. And somehow the lights go dimmer as you get older. The muscles of your eyes don't contract as they should in the adjustment of the pupil and all. And so you need more light in order to read. So remember. You see, I'm in the other end of the stick now when the years draw nigh.
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble ( Ecclesiastes 12:3 ),
That's when you begin to get the palsied shakes of the old age; your knees and your legs begin to shake. You walk sort of shakily. It's hard to have a smooth script as you're writing, you know, you can. "Keepers of the house are trembling."
and the strong men shall bow themselves ( Ecclesiastes 12:3 ),
You begin to hunch over your back. The grinders are your teeth.
and the grinders cease because they are few ( Ecclesiastes 12:3 ),
Of course, in those days they didn't have the spare sets.
and those that look out of the windows be darkened ( Ecclesiastes 12:3 ),
Again, the reference to the eyes, the windows of your body, the eye, and you begin to become blind.
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low ( Ecclesiastes 12:4 );
Your hearing gets bad, and the singing, "Yeah, what?" It's a great life to look forward to, isn't it? You start waking up early in the morning, the first song of the bird. You don't sleep so long anymore. You don't need so much sleep.
And when they shall be afraid of that which is high ( Ecclesiastes 12:5 ),
You start getting these fears.
and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper will be a burden ( Ecclesiastes 12:5 ),
Oh, there's a grasshopper, what shall I do?
I was visiting a while back in one of the retirement homes, one of our members, and as I was going to leave, as I got to the elevator, I was on the seventeenth floor, and when I got to the elevator this little old lady came running up to me. She says, "Help, help, help!" And I said, "What's the matter, Ma'am?" And she said, "There's a man; he came right into my room. I didn't invite him; he came right into my room. And he's still there in my room and I can't get him out." And I said, "Well, I'll get him out for you, Ma'am, you know." She was a little old lady so I figured it must be a little old man, you know. I could have handled that. So I went back to her room with her and we went into her room and here I was ready to assume my authority and order the guy out. What are you doing in this room uninvited? And looked around I said, "Well, Ma'am, I don't see anybody here." She said, "Well, he came flying right in that window there. And he landed right there in the sink. And was just staring at me for a while, you know."
Even a grasshopper can become a burden. Or a fly.
your desire shall fail: because man goes to his long home, and the mourners will be in the streets: Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel be broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; all is vanity ( Ecclesiastes 12:5-8 ).
You've come to the end of the road, man. This is it. The mourners are out in the street. The pitcher's been broken at the fountain. It's all over. And what is life? Vanity, vanity. Your body is gone back to dust. Spirit's gone back to God who gave it. And it was just one vast emptiness.
That's life apart from God. And if you live apart from God, you will experience the same thing. You can't escape it. There is no real meaning in life apart from God, apart from serving God. There is nothing worthwhile. Vanity, vanity, all is emptiness.
And moreover, because the [assembler] Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The [assembler or] Preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even the words of truth. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of the assemblies, which are given from one shepherd. And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making of many books there is no end; and much study is weariness of the flesh ( Ecclesiastes 12:9-12 ).
I used to have that in my room when I was in school.
Now let's hear the conclusion of the whole matter ( Ecclesiastes 12:13 ):
This is it.
Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it is good, or whether it is evil ( Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ).
This is it. The best way to live is just to fear God, keep His commandments. Because one day God is going to bring every work into judgment, even the secret things whether good or evil.
Shall we stand.
I pray that the Lord will give you a closer walk with Him. That you begin to understand life from the divine perspective. That you'll experience much more than the emptiness of life after the flesh under the sun but will begin to experience the rich fulfillment of life in the Son after the Spirit. And so may God lead you by His Spirit into that full, rich life that He wants you to know and to experience in Jesus Christ. And may you begin to experience that which Jesus said was life more abundantly that He had come to bring to you. So may the hand of the Lord be upon your life this week. And may you walk with Him in love. In Jesus' name. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12:1". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/ecclesiastes-12.html. 2014.
2. Responsible living 12:1-7
This pericope expands the ideas Solomon introduced in Ecclesiastes 11:9-10, by focusing on advancing old age and death. [Note: See Barry C. Davis, "Ecclesiastes 12:1-8-Death, an Impetus for Life," Bibliotheca Sacra 148:591 (July-September 1991):298-318.] These ideas are the ultimate frustration and the epitome of impermanence that we can experience.
The basic imperative 12:1
Again, Solomon began with a clear statement of his point, and then proceeded to prove and illustrate its truth in the verses that follow. "Remember" means to live your life with what you know about God clearly in view, not just to remember that there is a God (cf. Ecclesiastes 11:9-10; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Deuteronomy 8:18; Psalms 119:55). "Creator" connotes God as the One to whom we are responsible because we are His creatures (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:7; Genesis 2:7; Genesis 3:19). The "evil days" are the days of old age and death (cf. Ecclesiastes 11:10; Ecclesiastes 12:2-5). [Note: For a study of Qoheleth’s view of youth and old age, see James L. Crenshaw, "Youth and Old Age in Qoheleth," Hebrew Annual Review 10 (1986):1-12.]
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12:1". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-12.html. 2012.
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth,.... Or "Creators" b; as "Makers", Job 35:10; for more than one were concerned, as in the creation of all things in general, so of man in particular, Genesis 1:26; and these are neither more nor fewer than three; and are Father, Son, Spirit; the one God that has created men, Malachi 2:10; the Father, who is the God of all flesh, and the Father of spirits; the former both of the bodies and souls of men, Jeremiah 31:27; the Son, by whom all things are created; for he that is the Redeemer and husband of his church, which are characters and relations peculiar to the Son, is the Creator, Isaiah 43:1; and the Holy Spirit not only garnished the heavens, and moved upon the face of the waters, but is the Maker of men, and gives them life, Job 33:4. Now this God, Creator, should be "remembered" by young men; they should remember there is a God, which they are apt to be forgetful of; that this God is a God of great and glorious perfections, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, holy, just, and true; who judgeth in the earth, and will judge the world in righteousness, and them also; and that he is in Christ a God gracious, merciful, and pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin: they should remember him under this character, as a "Creator", who has made them, and not they themselves; that they are made by him out of the dust of the earth, and must return to it; that he has brought them into being, and preserved them in it, and favoured them with the blessings of his providence, which are all from him that has made them: and they should remember the end for which they are made, to glorify him; and in what state man was originally made, upright, pure, and holy; but that he now is a fallen creature, and such are they, impure and unrighteous, impotent and weak, abominable in the sight of God, unworthy to live, and unfit to die; being transgressors of the laws of their Creator, which is deserving of death: they should remember what God their Creators, Father, Son, and Spirit, must have done or must do for them, if ever they are saved; the Father must have chosen them in Christ unto salvation; must have given his Son to redeem, and must send his Spirit into their hearts to create them anew; the Son must have been surety for them, assumed their nature, and died in their room and stead; and the Spirit must regenerate and make them new creatures, enlighten their minds, quicken their souls, and sanctify their hearts: they should remember the right their Creator has over them, the obligations they are under to him, and their duty to him; they should remember, with thankfulness, the favours they have received from him, and, with reverence and humility, the distance between him, as Creator, and them as creatures: they should remember to love him cordially and sincerely; to fear him with a godly fear; to worship him in a spiritual manner; to set him always before them, and never forget him. And all this they should do "in the days [their] youth"; which are their best and choicest day in which to serve him is most desirable by him, acceptable to him; who ordered the first of the ripe fruits and creatures of the first year to be offered to him: and then are men best able to serve him, when their bodies are healthful, strong, and vigorous; their senses quick, and the powers and faculties of their souls capable of being improved and enlarged: and to delay the service of him to old age, as it would be very ungrateful and exceeding improper, so no man can be sure of arriving to it; and if he should, yet what follows is enough to determine against such a delay;
while the evil days come not; meaning the days of old age; said to be evil, not with respect to the evil of fault or sin; so all days are evil, or sin is committed in every age, in infancy, in childhood, in youth, in manhood, as well as in old age: but with respect to the evil of affliction and trouble which attend it, as various diseases; yea, that itself is a disease, and an incurable one; much weakness of body, decay of intellects, and many other things, which render life very troublesome and uncomfortable c, as well as unfit for religious services;
nor the years draw nigh, when thou shall say, I have no pleasure in them; that is, corporeal pleasure; no sensual pleasure; sight, taste, and hearing, being lost, or in a great measure gone; which was Barzillai's case, at eighty years of age: though some ancient persons have their senses quick and vigorous, and scarce perceive any difference between youth and age; but such instances are not common: and there are also some things that ancient persons take pleasure in, as in fields and gardens, and the culture of them, as Cicero d observes; and particularly learned men take as much delight in their studies in old age as in youth, and in instructing others; and, as the same writer e says,
"what is more pleasant than to see an old man, attended and encircled with youth, at their studies under him?''
and especially a good man, in old age, has pleasure in reflecting on a life spent in the ways, work, and worship of God; and in having had, through the grace of God, his conversation in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity; as also in present communion with God, and in the hopes and views of the glories of another world: but if not religious persons, they are strangers to spiritual pleasure, which only is to be had in wisdom's ways; such can neither look back with pleasure on a life spent in sin; nor forward with pleasure, at death and eternity, and into another world; see 2 Samuel 19:35.
b בוראיך "Creatorum tuorum", Drusius, Gejerus, Rambachius; so Broughton. c Plautus in Aulular. Act. 1. Sc. 1. v. 4. Menaechm. Act. 5. Sc. 2. v. 6. calls old age, "mala aetas"; and the winter of old age, Trinummus, Act. 2. Sc. 3. v. 7. And Pindar, γηρας ουλομενον, Pyth. Ode 10. so Theognis, v. 272, 776, 1006. And Homer, γηρας
λυτρος, Iliad. 10. v. 79. &. 23. v. 644. "Tristis senectus", Virgil. Aenid. 6. d De Seuectute, c. 14, 15. e Ibid. c. 8.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12:1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-12.html. 1999.
|The Infirmities of Old Age; The Effects of Death.|| |
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; 2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: 3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, 4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low; 5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: 6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. 7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Here is, I. A call to young people to think of God, and mind their duty to him, when they are young: Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth. This is, 1. The royal preacher's application of his sermon concerning the vanity of the world and every thing in it. "You that are young flatter yourselves with expectations of great things from it, but believe those that have tried it; it yields no solid satisfaction to a soul; therefore, that you may not be deceived by this vanity, nor too much disturbed by it, remember your Creator, and so guard yourselves against the mischiefs that arise from the vanity of the creature." 2. It is the royal physician's antidote against the particular diseases of youth, the love of mirth, and the indulgence of sensual pleasures, the vanity which childhood and youth are subject to; to prevent and cure this, remember thy Creator. Here is, (1.) A great duty pressed upon us, to remember God as our creator, not only to remember that God is our Creator, that he made us and not we ourselves, and is therefore our rightful Lord and owner, but we must engage ourselves to him with the considerations which his being our Creator lay us under, and pay him the honour and duty which we owe him as our Creator. Remember thy Creators; the word is plural, as it is Job 35:10, Where is God my Makers? For God said, Let us make man, us, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. (2.) The proper season for this duty--in the days of thy youth, the days of thy choice (so some), thy choice days, thy choosing days. "Begin in the beginning of thy days to remember him from whom thou hadst thy being, and go on according to that good beginning. Call him to mind when thou art young, and keep him in mind throughout all the days of thy youth, and never forget him. Guard thus against the temptations of youth, and thus improve the advantages of it."
II. A reason to enforce this command: While the evil days come not, and the years of which thou shalt say I have no pleasure in them.
1. Do it quickly, (1.) "Before sickness and death come. Do it while thou livest, for it will be too late to do it when death has removed thee from this state of trial and probation to that of recompence and retribution." The days of sickness and death are the days of evil, terrible to nature, evil days indeed to those that have forgotten their Creator. These evil days will come sooner or later; as yet they come not, for God is long-suffering to us-ward, and gives us space to repent; the continuing of life is but the deferring of death, and, while life is continued and death deferred, it concerns us to prepare, and get the property of death altered, that we may die comfortably. (2.) Before old age comes, which, if death prevent not, will come, and they will be years of which we shall say, We have no pleasure in them,--when we shall not relish the delights of sense, as Barzillai (2 Samuel 19:35), --when we shall be loaded with bodily infirmities, old and blind, or old and lame,--when we shall be taken off from our usefulness, and our strength shall be labour and sorrow,--when we shall either have parted with our relations, and all our old friends, or be afflicted in them and see them weary of us,--when we shall feel ourselves die by inches. These years draw nigh, when all that comes will be vanity, the remaining months all months of vanity, and there will be no pleasure but in the reflection of a good life on earth and the expectation of a better life in heaven.
2. These two arguments he enlarges upon in the following verses, only inverting the order, and shows,
(1.) How many are the calamities of old age, and that if we should live to be old, our days will be such as we shall have no pleasure in, which is a good reason why we should return to God, and make our peace with him, in the days of our youth, and not put it off till we come to be old; for it will be no thanks to us to leave the pleasures of sin when they have left us, nor to return to God when need forces us. It is the greatest absurdity and ingratitude imaginable to give the cream and flower of our days to the devil, and reserve the bran, and refuse, and dregs of them for God; this is offering the torn, and the lame, and the sick for sacrifice; and, besides, old age being thus clogged with infirmities, it is the greatest folly imaginable to put off that needful work till then, which requires the best of our strength, when our faculties are in their prime, and especially to make the work more difficult by a longer continuance in sin, and, laying up treasures of guilt in the conscience, to add to the burdens of age and make them much heavier. If the calamities of age will be such as are here represented, we shall have need of something to support and comfort us then, and nothing will be more effectual to do that than the testimony of our consciences for us that we begin betimes to remember our Creator and have not since laid aside the remembrance of him. How can we expect God should help us when we are old, if we will not serve him when we are young? See Psalms 71:17; Psalms 71:18.
[1.] The decays and infirmities of old age are here elegantly described in figurative expressions, which have some difficulty in them to us now, who are not acquainted with the common phrases and metaphors used in Solomon's age and language; but the general scope is plain--to show how uncomfortable, generally, the days of old age are. First, Then the sun and the light of it, the moon and the stars, and the light which they borrow from it, will be darkened. They look dim to old people, in consequence of the decay of their sight; their countenance is clouded, and the beauty and lustre of it are eclipsed; their intellectual powers and faculties, which are as lights in the soul, are weakened; their understanding and memory fail them, and their apprehension is not so quick nor their fancy so lively as it has been; the days of their mirth are over (light is often put for joy and prosperity) and they have not the pleasure either of the converse of the day or the repose of the night, for both the sun and the moon are darkened to them. Secondly, Then the clouds return after the rain; as, when the weather is disposed to wet, no sooner has one cloud blown over than another succeeds it, so it is with old people, when they have got free from one pain or ailment, they are seized with another, so that their distempers are like a continual dropping in a very rainy day. The end of one trouble is, in this world, but the beginning of another, and deep calls unto deep. Old people are often afflicted with defluxions of rheum, like soaking rain, after which still more clouds return, feeding the humour, so that it is continually grievous, and therein the body, as it were, melts away. Thirdly, Then the keepers of the house tremble. The head, which is as the watch-tower, shakes, and the arms and hands, which are ready for the preservation of the body, shake too, and grow feeble, upon every sudden approach and attack of danger. That vigour of the animal spirits which used to be exerted for self-defence fails and cannot do its office; old people are easily dispirited and discouraged. Fourthly, Then the strong men shall bow themselves; the legs and thighs, which used to support the body, and bear its weight, bend, and cannot serve for travelling as they have done, but are soon tired. Old men that have been in their time strong men become weak and stoop for age,Zechariah 8:4. God takes no pleasure in the legs of a man (Psalms 147:10), for their strength will soon fail; but in the Lord Jehovah there is everlasting strength; he has everlasting arms. Fifthly, Then the grinders cease because they are few; the teeth, with which we grind our meat and prepare it for concoction, cease to do their part, because they are few. They are rotted and broken, and perhaps have been drawn because they ached. Some old people have lost all their teeth, and others have but few left; and this infirmity is the more considerable because the meat, not being well chewed, for want of teeth, is not well digested, which has as much influence as any thing upon the other decays of age. Sixthly, Those that look out of the windows are darkened; the eyes wax dim, as Isaac's (Genesis 27:1), and Ahijah's, 1 Kings 14:4. Moses was a rare instance of one who, when 120 years old, had good eye-sight, but ordinarily the sight decays in old people as soon as any thing, and it is a mercy to them that art helps nature with spectacles. We have need to improve our sight well while we have it, because the light of the eyes may be gone before the light of life. Seventhly, The doors are shut in the streets. Old people keep within doors, and care not for going abroad to entertainments. The lips, the doors of the mouth, are shut in eating, because the teeth are gone and the sound of the grinding with them is low, so that they have not that command of their meat in their mouths which they used to have; they cannot digest their meat, and therefore little grist is brought to the mill. Eightly, Old people rise up at the voice of the bird. They have no sound sleep as young people have, but a little thing disturbs them, even the chirping of a bird; they cannot rest for coughing, and therefore rise up at cock-crowing, as soon as any body is stirring; or they are apt to be jealous, and timorous, and full of care, which breaks their sleep and makes them rise early; or they are apt to be superstitious, and rise up as in a fright, at those voices of birds, as of ravens, or screech-owls, which soothsayers call ominous. Ninthly, With them all the daughters of music are brought low. They have neither voice nor ear, can neither sing themselves nor take any pleasure, as Solomon had done in the days of his youth, in singing men, and singing women, and musical instruments,Ecclesiastes 2:8; Ecclesiastes 2:8. Old people grow hard of hearing, and unapt to distinguish sounds and voices. Tenthly, They are afraid of that which is high, afraid to go to the top of any high place, either because, for want of breath, they cannot reach it, or, their heads being giddy or their legs failing them, they dare not venture to it, or they frighten themselves with fancying that that which is high will fall upon them. Fear is in the way; they can neither ride nor walk with their former boldness, but are afraid of every thing that lies in their way, lest it throw them down. Eleventhly, The almond-tree flourishes. The old man's hair has grown white, so that his head looks like an almond-tree in the blossom. The almond-tree blossoms before any other tree, and therefore fitly shows what haste old age makes in seizing upon men; it prevents their expectations and comes faster upon them than they thought of. Gray hairs are here and there upon them, and they perceive it not. Twelfthly, The grasshopper is a burden and desire fails. Old men can bear nothing; the lightest thing sits heavily upon them, both on their bodies and on their minds, a little thing sinks and breaks them. Perhaps the grasshopper was some food that was looked upon to be very light of digestion (John Baptist's meat was locusts), but even that lies heavily upon an old man's stomach, and therefore desire fails, he has no appetite to his meat, neither shall he regard the desire of woman, as that king, Daniel 11:37. Old men become mindless and listless, and the pleasures of sense are to them tasteless and sapless.
[2.] It is probable that Solomon wrote this when he was himself old, and could speak feelingly of the infirmities of age, which perhaps grew the faster upon him for the indulgence he had given himself in sensual pleasures. Some old people bear up better than others under the decays of age, but, more or less, the days of old age are and will be evil days and of little pleasure. Great care therefore should be taken to pay respect and honour to old people, that they may have something to balance these grievances and nothing may be done to add to them. And all this, put together, makes up a good reason why we should remember our Creator in the days of our youth, that he may remember us with favour when these evil days come, and his comforts may delight our souls when the delights of sense are in a manner worn off.
(2.) He shows how great a change death will make with us, which will be either the prevention or the period of the miseries of old age. Nothing else will keep them off, nor any thing else cure them. "Therefore remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, because death is certainly before thee, perhaps it is very near thee, and it is a serious thing to die, and thou shouldst feel concerned with the utmost care and diligence to prepare for it." [1.] Death will fix us in an unchangeable state: Man shall then go to his long home, and all these infirmities and decays of age are harbingers of and advances towards that awful remove. At death man goes from this world and all the employments and enjoyments of it. He has gone for good and all, as to his present state. He has gone home, for here he was a stranger and pilgrim; both soul and body go to the place whence they came, Ecclesiastes 12:7; Ecclesiastes 12:7. He has gone to his rest, to the place where he is to fix. He has gone to his home, to the house of his world (so some), for this world is not his. He has gone to his long home, for the days of his lying in the grave will be many. He has gone to his house of eternity, not only to his house whence he shall never return to this world, but to the house where he must be for ever. This should make us willing to die, that, at death, we must go home; and why should we not long to go to our Father's house? And this should quicken us to get ready to die, that we must then go to our long home, to an everlasting habitation. [2.] Death will be an occasion of sorrow to our friends that love us. When man goes to his long home the mourners go about the streets--the real mourners, and those, as now with us, distinguished by their habits as they go along the streets,--the mourners for ceremony, that were hired to weep for the dead, both to express and to excite the real mourning. When we die we not only remove to a melancholy house before us, but we leave a melancholy house behind us. Tears are a tribute due to the dead, and this, among other circumstances, makes it a serious thing to die. But in vain do we go to the house of mourning, and see the mourners go about the streets, if it do not help to make us serious and pious mourners in the closet. [3.] Death will dissolve the frame of nature and take down the earthly house of this tabernacle, which is elegantly described, Ecclesiastes 12:6; Ecclesiastes 12:6. Then shall the silver cord, by which 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 the waters of life for us, 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 broken, and disabled to do their office any more. The body shall become like a watch when the spring is broken, the motion of all the wheels is stopped and they all stand still; the machine is taken to pieces; the heart beats no more, nor does the blood circulate. Some apply this to the ornaments and utensils of life; rich people must, at death, leave behind them their clothing and furniture of silver and gold, and poor people their earthen pitchers, and the drawers of water will have their wheel broken. [4.] Death will resolve us into our first principles, Ecclesiastes 12:7; Ecclesiastes 12:7. Man is a strange sort of creature, a ray of heaven united to a clod of earth; at death these are separated, and each goes to the place whence it came. First, The body, that clod of clay, returns to its own earth. It is made of the earth; Adam's body was so, and we are of the same mould; it is a house of clay. At death it is laid in the earth, and in a little time will be resolved into earth, not to be distinguished from common earth, according to the sentence (Genesis 3:19), Dust thou art and therefore to dust thou shalt return. Let us not therefore indulge the appetites of the body, nor pamper it (it will be worms' meat shortly), nor let sin reign in our mortal bodies, for they are mortal, Romans 6:12. Secondly, The soul, that beam of light, returns to that God who, when he made man of the dust of the ground, breathed into him the breath of life, to make him a living soul (Genesis 2:7), and forms the spirit of every man within him. When the fire consumes the wood the flame ascends, and the ashes return to the earth out of which the wood grew. The soul does not die with the body; it is redeemed from the power of the grave (Psalms 49:15); it can subsist without it and will in a state of separation from it, as the candle burns, and burns brighter, when it is taken out of the dark lantern. It removes to the world of spirits, to which it is allied. It goes to God as a Judge, to give account of itself, and to be lodged either with the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19) or with the spirits in paradise (Luke 23:43), according to what was done in the body. This makes death terrible to the wicked, whose souls go to God as an avenger, and comfortable to the godly, whose souls go to God as a Father, into whose hands they cheerfully commit them, through a Mediator, out of whom sinners may justly dread to think of going to God.
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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12:1". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/ecclesiastes-12.html. 1706.
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25