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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

Ecclesiastes 12

 

 

Verses 1-14

CHAPTER 12

1. Youth and old age (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8)

2. The concluding epilogue (Ecclesiastes 12:9-14)

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8. Childhood and youth are vanity! That is the concluding sentence of the previous chapter. The vanities of life, the doom and darkness of the grave are uppermost in his mind, and the final word he speaks, ere he closeth with his epilogue, is the same with which he began his search, the search which brought out so many things, yet nothing in reality--as in the beginning of the book, so now he cries out, “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, all is vanity” (verse 8). He has come back in all his reasoning to the place from which he started.

Once more he speaks of youth and exhorts, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” This advice is given in connection with the thought expressed in Ecclesiastes 11:9, “God will bring thee into judgment.” Yet the natural man cannot obey this command. He then points to that which is inevitable. The balmy days of youth and energy will be followed by years in which man says, “I have no pleasure in them, the days of old age. Then death stalks in and the dust returns to the earth as it was and the spirit to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The description of the approach of old age is extremely beautiful. Clouds begin to cast a shadow over the spirit; sorrows multiply, one comes after the other as “clouds return after rain.” The keepers of the house (the hands) tremble with weakness, and the strong men (the knees) become feeble. But a few of the grinders (the teeth) are left and those that look out of the windows (the eyes) are darkened. Then the doors are shut in the streets, the ears become dull and can no longer hear the familiar sound of the grinding at the mill; he is troubled with sleeplessness and no longer enjoys pleasure. He is troubled with fears. His hair becomes snow-white like the almond tree in bloom and the least thing becomes a heavy burden; the appetite is gone. Age has come and man is ready to go to his “age-long home.” The silver cord is snapped (the spinal column), the gold bowl is broken (the brain), the pitcher is broken at the fountain (the heart), and the wheel broken at the cistern (the blood and its circulation). But if he speaks of an age-long home, what is that home? And he speaks now of the spirit returning to God, but what does it mean? There is no answer, no light on these questions, for the natural man, even at his best, and in highest wisdom, cannot find the truth for himself about that “home” nor what it means--the spirit return to God. And thus he ends, “All is vanity.”

But if we turn to the gospel, the gospel of God, the gospel of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the gospel which is from above the sun, which reaches down to lost man under the sun, that blessed gospel lifts man higher and higher, till redeemed, saved by grace, washed in the blood of the Lamb, he reaches the place above the sun, the Father’s house with its many mansions, the eternal home of the saints of God.

Ecclesiastes 12:9-14. The final great conclusion remains. He reaches the high-water mark of his reasoning wisdom. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work unto judgment with every hidden thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.” This is great wisdom, but does it help man? Does it bring comfort to his soul? Does it carry with it that which satisfies his heart? God is in heaven and man on the earth, he said before. There is an immeasurable distance between. And this masterly conclusion of the royal searcher still leaves God and man apart, with not even the faintest glimmer of light. Man is a sinner; how can his sins be forgiven? How can man, with a sinful heart, “obey commandments”? What about that judgment of every hidden thing? Alas! no answer; and man, struggling man, lost, sinful man, face to face with that which the highest natural wisdom can produce, must quake and tremble.

Hence Ecclesiastes is the way-preparer for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like every other Old Testament book it points and leads to Christ, in whom all problems are solved, all questions answered, in whom the old creation ends and the new begins.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/ecclesiastes-12.html. 1913-1922.

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