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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Ecclesiastes 12



Verse 1

With Ecclesiastes 12:1 (where, inappropriately, a new chapter begins, instead of beginning with Ecclesiastes 11:9) the call takes a new course, resting its argument on the transitoriness of youth: “And remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, ere the days of evil come, and the years draw nigh, of which thou shalt say: I have no pleasure in them.” The plur. majest . בּוראיך = עשׂים as a designation of the Creator, Job 35:10; Isaiah 54:5; Psalms 149:2; in so recent a book it cannot surprise us, since it is also not altogether foreign to the post-bibl. language. The expression is warranted, and the Midrash ingeniously interprets the combination of its letters.

(Note: It finds these things expressed in it, partly directly and partly indirectly: remember בארך , thy fountain (origin); בורך , thy grave; and בוראיך , thy Creator. Thus, Jer. Sota ii. 3, and Midrash under Ecclesiastes 12:1.)

Regarding the words 'ad asher lo , commonly used in the Mishna ( e.g. , Horajoth iii. 3; Nedarim x. 4), or 'ad shello (Targ. 'ad delo ), antequam . The days of evil (viz., at least, first, of bodily evil, cf. κακία , Matthew 6:34) are those of feeble, helpless old age, perceptibly marking the failure of bodily and mental strength; parallel to these are the years of which ( asher , as at Ecclesiastes 1:10) one has to say: I have no pleasure in them ( bahěm for bahěn , as at Ecclesiastes 2:6, mehěm for mehěn ). These evil days, adverse years, are now described symptomatically, and that in an allegorical manner, for the “ere” of Ecclesiastes 12:1 is brought to a grand unfolding.

Verse 2

“Ere the sun becomes dark, and the light, and the moon, and the stars, and the clouds return after the rain.” Umbreit, Elster, and Ginsburg find here the thought: ere death overtakes thee; the figure under which the approach of death is described being that of a gathering storm. But apart from other objections ( vid ., Gurlitt, “zur Erlk. d. B. Koheleth,” in Sutd. u. Krit . 1865), this idea is opposed by the consideration that the author seeks to describe how man, having become old, goes forth ( חלך , Ecclesiastes 12:5 ) to death, and that not till Ecclesiastes 12:7 does he reach it. Also Taylor's view, that what precedes Ecclesiastes 12:5 is as a dirge expressing the feelings experienced on the day of a person's death, is untenable; it is discredited already by this, that it confuses together the days of evil, Ecclesiastes 12:1 , and the many days of darkness, i.e. , the long night of Hades, Ecclesiastes 11:8; and besides, it leaves unanswered the question, what is the meaning of the clouds returning after the rain. Hahn replies: The rain is death, and the return is the entrance again into the nothingness which went before the entrance into this life. Knobel, as already Luther and also Winzer (who had made the exposition of the Book of Koheleth one of the labours of his life), sees in the darkening of the sun, etc., a figure of the decay of hitherto joyful prosperity; and in the clouds after the rain a figure of the cloudy days of sorrow which always anew visit those who are worn out by old age. Hitz., Ewald, Vaih., Zöckl., and Tyler, proceeding from thence, find the unity of the separate features of the figure in the comparison of advanced old age, as the winter of life to the rainy winter of the (Palestinian) year. That is right. But since in the sequel obviously the marasmus senilis of the separate parts of the body is set forth in allegorical enigmatic figures, it is asked whether this allegorical figurative discourse does not probably commence in Ecclesiastes 12:2. Certainly the sun, moon, and stars occur also in such pictures of the night of judgment, obscuring all the lights of the heavens, as at Isaiah 13:10; but that here, where the author thus ranks together in immediate sequence והךּ ... השּׁ , and as he joins the stars with the moon, so the light with the sun, he has not connected the idea of certain corresponding things in the nature and life of man with these four emblems of light, is yet very improbable. Even though it might be impossible to find out that which is represented, yet this would be no decisive argument against the significance of the figures; the canzones in Dante's Convito , which he there himself interprets, are an example that the allegorical meaning which a poet attaches to his poetry may be present even where it cannot be easily understood or can only be conjectured.

The attempts at interpreting these figures have certainly been wholly or for the most part unfortunate. We satisfy ourselves by registering only the oldest: their glosses are in matter tasteless, but they are at least of linguistic interest. A Barajtha, Shabbath 151-152 a , seeking to interpret this closing picture of the Book of Koheleth, says of the sun and the light: “this is the brow and the nose;” of the moon: “this is the soul;” of the stars: “this the cheeks.” Similarly, but varying a little, the Midrash to Lev. c. 18 and to Koheleth: the sun = the brightness of the countenance; light = the brow; the moon = the nose; the stars = the upper part of the cheeks (which in an old man fall in). Otherwise, but following the Midrash more than the Talmud, the Targum: the sun = the stately brightness of thy countenance; light = the light of thine eyes; the moon = the ornament of thy cheeks; the stars = the apple of thine eye. All the three understand the rain of wine (Talm. בכי ), and the clouds of the veil of the eyes (Targ.: “thy eye-lashes”), but without doing justice to אחר שׁוב ; only one repulsive interpretation in the Midrash takes these words into account. In all these interpretations there is only one grain of truth, this, viz., that the moon in the Talm. is interpreted of the נשׁמה , anima , for which the more correct word would have been נפשׁ ; but it has been shown, Psychol . p. 154, that the Jewish, like the Arab. psychology, reverses terminologically the relation between רוח ( נשׁמה ), spirit, and נפשׁ , soul.

The older Christian interpretations are also on the right track. Glassius (as also v. Meyer and Smith in “The portraiture of old age”) sees in the sun, light, etc., emblems of the interna microcosmi lumina mentis ; and yet better, Chr. Friedr. Bauer (1732) sees in Ecclesiastes 12:2 a representation of the thought: “ere understanding and sense fail thee.” We have elsewhere shown that חיים רוח ( נשׁמת ) and חיּה נפשׁ (from which nowhere חיים נפשׁ ) are related to each other as the principium principians and principium principatum of life ( Psychol . p. 79), and as the root distinctions of the male and female, of the predominantly active and the receptive ( Psychol . p. 103). Thus the figurative language of Ecclesiastes 12:3 is interpreted in the following manner. The sun is the male spirit רוח (which, like שׁמשׁ , is used in both genders) or נשׁמה , after Proverbs 20:27, a light of Jahve which penetrates with its light of self-examination and self-knowledge the innermost being of man, called by the Lord, Matthew 6:23 (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:11), “the light that is in thee.” The light, viz., the clear light of day proceeding from the sun, is the activity of the spirit in its unweakened intensity: sharp apprehension, clear thought, faithful and serviceable memory. The moon is the soul; for, according to the Heb. idea, the moon, whether it is called ירח or לבנה is also in relation to the sun a figure of the female (cf. Genesis 37:9., where the sun in Joseph's dream = Jacob-Israel, the moon = Rachel); and that the soul, viz., the animal soul, by means of which the spirit becomes the principle of the life of the body (Genesis 2:7), is related to the spirit as female σκεῦος ἀστηενέστερον , is evident from passages such as Psalms 42:6, where the spirit supports the soul ( animus animam ) with its consolation. And the stars? We are permitted to suppose in the author of the book of Koheleth a knowledge, as Schrader

(Note: Vid ., “Sterne” in Schenkel's Bibl Lex . and Stud. u. Krit . 1874.)

has shown, of the old Babyl.-Assyr. seven astral gods, which consisted of the sun, moon, and the five planets; and thus it will not be too much to understand the stars, as representing the five planets, of the five senses (Mish. הרגּשׁות ,

(Note: Thus the five senses are called, e.g. , Bamidbar rabba , c. 14.)

later הוּשׁים , cf. the verb, Ecclesiastes 2:25) which mediate the receptive relation of the soul to the outer world ( Psychol . p. 233). But we cannot see our way further to explain Ecclesiastes 12:2 patholo.-anatom., as Geier is disposed to do: Nonnulli haec accommodant ad crassos illos ac pituosos senum vapores ex debili ventriculo in cerebrum adscendentes continuo, ubi itidem imbres ( נשׁם ) h.e. destillationes creberrimae per oculos lippientes, per nares guttatim fluentes, per os subinde excreans cet., quae sane defluxiones, tussis ac catharri in juvenibus non ita sunt frequentia, quippe ubi calor multo adhuc fortior, consumens dissipansque humores . It is enough to understand עבים of cases of sickness and attacks of weakness which disturb the power of thought, obscure the consciousness, darken the mind, and which ahhar haggěshěm , after they have once overtaken him and then have ceased, quickly again return without permitting him long to experience health. A cloudy day is = a day of misfortune, Joel 2:2; Zephaniah 1:15; an overflowing rain is a scourge of God, Ezekiel 13:13; Ezekiel 38:22; and one visited by misfortune after misfortune complains, Psalms 42:7 : “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.”

Verse 3

To the thought: Ere the mind and the senses begin to be darkened, and the winter of life with its clouds and storms approaches, the further details here following stand in a subordinate relation: “That day when the watchers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow themselves, and the grinders rest, because they have become few, and the women looking out of the windows are darkened.” Regarding בּיּום with art.: eo ( illo ) tempore , vid ., under Song of Solomon 8:8. What follows is regarded by Winzer, with Mich., Spohr, and partly Nachtigal, as a further description of the night to which old age, Ecclesiastes 12:2, is compared: Watchers then guard the house; labourers are wearied with the labours and cares of the day; the maids who have to grind at the mill have gone to rest; and almost all have already fallen asleep; the women who look out from the windows are unrecognisable, because it has become dark. But what kind of cowardly watchers are those who “tremble,” and what kind of ( per antiphrasin ) strong men who “bow themselves” at evening like children when they have belly-ache! Ginsburg regards Ecclesiastes 12:2-5 as a continuation of the description of the consequences of the storm under which human life comes to an end: the last consequence is this, that they who experience it lose the taste for almonds and the appetite for locusts. But what is the meaning of this quaint figure? it would certainly be a meaningless and aimless digression. Taylor hears in this verse the mourning for the dead from Ecclesiastes 12:2, where death is described: the watchers of the house tremble; the strong men bow themselves, viz., from sorrow, because of the blank death has made in the house, etc.; but even supposing that this picture had a connection in Ecclesiastes 12:2, how strange would it be! - the lookers out at the windows must be the “ladies,” who are fond of amusing themselves at windows, and who now - are darkened. Is there anything more comical than such little ladies having become darkened (whether externally or internally remains undetermined)? However one may judge of the figurative language of Ecclesiastes 12:2, Ecclesiastes 12:3 begins the allegorical description of hoary old age after its individual bodily symptoms; interpreters also, such as Knobel, Hitz., and Ewald, do not shrink from seeking out the significance of the individual figures after the old Haggadic manner. The Talm. says of s homrē habbayith : these are the loins and ribs; of the anshē hehhayil : these are the bones; of harooth baarǔbboth : these, the eyes. The Midrash understand the watchers of the house, of the knees of the aged man; the men of strength, of his ribs or arms; the women at the mill, of the digestive organs ( המסס ,

(Note: This hamses is properly the second stomach of the ruminants, the cellular caul.)

the stomach, from omasum ); those who have become few, of the teeth; the women looking out at the window, of the eyes; another interpretation, which by harooth thinks of the lungs, is not worth notice.

Here also the Targ. principally follows the Midrash: it translates the watchers of the house by “thy knees;” strong men by “thine arms;” the women at the mill by “the teeth of thy mouth;” the women who look out at the window by “thine eyes.” These interpretations for the most part are correct, only those referable to the internal organs are in bad taste; references to these must be excluded from the interpretation, for weakness of the stomach, emphysema of the lungs, etc., are not appropriate as poetical figures. The most common biblical figures of the relation of the spirit or the soul to the body is, as we have shown, Psychol . p. 227, that of the body as of the house of the inner man. This house, as that of an old man, is on all sides in a ruinous condition. The shomrē habbayith are the arms terminating in the hands, which bring to the house whatever is suitable for it, and keep away from it whatever threatens to do it injury; these protectors of the house have lost their vigour and elasticity (Genesis 49:24), they tremble, are palsied ( יזעוּ , from זוּע , Pilp . זעזע , bibl. and Mishn.: to move violently hither and thither, to tremble, to shake),

(Note: Vid ., Friedr. Delitzsch's Indogerm.-Sem. Stud . p. 65f.)

so that they are able neither to grasp securely, to hold fast and use, nor actively to keep back and forcibly avert evil. Anshē hěhhayil designates the legs, for the shoqē haish are the seat of his strength, Psalms 147:10; the legs of a man in the fulness of youthful strength are like marble pillars, Song of Solomon 5:15; but those of the old man hith'authu ( Hithpa . only here) have bowed themselves, they have lost their tight form, they are shrunken ( כּרעות , Job 4:4, etc.) and loose; 4 Macc. 4:5 calls this τὴν ἐκ τοῦ γήρως νωθρότητα ποδῶν ἐπικύφοον . To maidens who grind (cf. טח בר , Numbers 11:8 and Isaiah 47:2) the corn by means of a hand-mill are compared the teeth, the name of which in the old language is masc., but in the modern (cf. Proverbs 29:19), as also in the Syr. and Arab., is fem.; the reference of the figure to these instruments for grinding is not to be missed; the Arab. ṭḥinat and the Syr. ṭaḥonto signify dens molaris , and we now call 6 of the 32 teeth Mahlzähne (molar teeth, or grinders); the Greeks used for them the word μύλαι (Psalms 57:7, lxx). Regarding בּטלוּ , lxx ἤργησαν (= ἀερτοὶ ἐγενήθησαν )

(Note: We find a similar allegory in Shabbath 152 a . The emperor asked the Rabbi Joshua b. Chananja why he did not visit בי אבידן (a place where learned conversation, particularly on religious subjects, was carried on). He answered: “The mount is snow (= the hair of the head is white), ice surrounds me (= whiskers and beard on the chin white), its (of my body) dogs bark not (the voice fails), and its grinders (the teeth) grind not.” The proper meaning of בי אבידן , Levy has not been able clearly to bring to light in his Neuhebr. u. Chald. W.B. )

The clause מעטוּ כּי (lxx ὃτι ὠλιγώθησαν ) assigns the reason that the grinders rest, i.e. , are not at work, that they have become few: they stand no longer in a row; they are isolated, and (as is to be supposed) are also in themselves defective. Taylor interprets mi'etu transitively: the women grinding rest when they have wrought a little, i.e. , they interrupt their labour, because on account of the occurrence of death, guests are now no longer entertained; but the beautiful appropriate allegory maintains its place against this supposed lamentation for the dead; also מעט does not signify to accomplish a little (Targ.), but to take away, to become few (lxx, Syr., Jerome, Venet. Luther), as such as Pih . as Ecclesiastes 10:10, קהה , to become blunt. And by הראות בּא we are not to think, with Taylor, of women such as Sidera's mother or Michal, who look out of the window, but of the eyes, more exactly the apples of the eyes, to which the orbita (lxx ἐν ταῖς ὀπαῖς ; Symm. διὰ τῶν ὀπῶν ) and the eyelids with the eye-lashes are related as a window is to those who look out; ארבּה (from ארב , R. רב , to entwine firmly and closely) is the window, consisting of a lattice of wood; the eyes are, as Cicero ( Tusc . i. 20) calls them, quasi fenestrae animi ; the soul-eyes, so to speak, without which it could not experience what sight is, look by means of the external eyes; and these soul-bodily eyes have become darkened in the old man, the power of seeing is weakened, and the experiences of sight are indistinct, the light of the eyes is extinguished (although not without exception, Deuteronomy 34:7).

Verse 4

From the eyes the allegory proceeds to the mouth, and the repugnance of the old man to every noise disturbing his rest: “And the doors to the street are closed, when the mill sounds low; and he rises up at the voice of a bird; and all the daughters of song must lower themselves.” By the door toward the street the Talm. and Midrash understand the pores or the emptying members of the body, - a meaning so far from being ignoble, that even in the Jewish morning prayer a Beracha is found in these words: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the world, who hast wisely formed man, and made for him manifold apertures and cavities. It is manifest and well known before the throne of Thy Majesty, that if one of these cavities is opened, or one of these apertures closed, it is impossible for him to exist and to stand before Thee; blessed art Thou, O Lord, the Physician of the body, and who doest wondrous words!” The words which follow הטּ ... בּשׁ are accordingly to be regarded as assigning a reason for this closing: the non-appearance of excretion has its reason in defective digestion in this, that the stomach does not grind (Talm.: וגו בשרקבן

(Note: Cf. Berachoth 61 b : The stomach ( קורקבן ) grinds. As hamses is properly the caul of the ruminant, so this word קוּרקבן is the crop (bibl. מראה ) of the bird.)

בשביל ). But the dual דּלתים suggests a pair of similar and related members, and בּשּׁוּק a pair of members open before the eyes, and not such as modesty requires to be veiled. The Targum therefore understands the shutting of the doors properly; but the mills, after the indication lying in הטּ grinding maids, it understands of the organs of eating and tasting, for it translates: “thy feet will be fettered, so that thou canst not go out into the street; and appetite will fail thee.” But that is an awkward amalgamation of the literal with the allegorical, which condemns itself by this, that it separates the close connection of the two expressions required by בּשׁפל , which also may be said of the reference of dlt' to the ears, into which no sound, even from the noisy market, penetrates (Gurlitt, Grätz). We have for דלתים a key, already found by Aben Ezra, in Job 41:2, where the jaws of the leviathan are called פּניו דּלתי ; and as Herzf. and Hitz. explain, so Samuel Aripol in his Commentary, which appeared in Constantinople, 1855, rightly: “He calls the jaws דלתים , to denote that not two דלתות in two places, but in one place, are meant, after the manner of a door opening out to the street, which is large, and consists of two folds or wings, דלתות , which, like the lips ( השׂפתים , better: the jaws), form a whole in two parts; and the meaning is, that at the time of old age the lips are closed and drawn in, because the teeth have disappeared, or, as the text says, because the noise of the mill is low, just because he has no teeth to grind with.” The connection of סגּרוּ and בּשׁפל is, however, closer still: the jaws of an old man are closed externally, for the sound of the mill is low; i.e. , since, when one masticates his food with the jaws of a toothless mouth, there is heard only a dull sound of this chewing ( Mumpfelns , vid ., Wiegand's Deut. W.B. ), i.e. , laborious masticating. He cannot any more crack or crunch and break his food, one hears only a dull munching and sucking. - The voice of the mouth (Bauer, Hitz., Gurlitt, Zöckl.) cannot be the meaning of קול הט ; the set of teeth (Gurlitt indeed substitutes, Ecclesiastes 12:3 , the cavity of the mouth) is not the organ of voice, although it contributes to the formation of certain sounds of words, and is of importance for the full sound of the voice.

בּשּׁוּק , “to the street,” is here = on the street side; שׁפל is, as at Proverbs 16:19, infin. (Symmachus: ἀχρειωθείσης τῆς φωνῆς ; the Venet.: ἐν τῷ ταπεινῶσθαι τὴν φωνήν ), and is to be understood after Isaiah 29:4; טחנה stands for רחים , as the vulgar Arab. tahûn and matḥana instead of the antiquated raḥâ . Winzer now supposes that the picture of the night is continued in 4 b : et subsistit ( vox molae ) ad cantum galli, et submissius canunt cantatrices (viz., molitrices ). Elster, with Umbreit, supposes the description of a storm continued: the sparrow rises up to cry, and all the singing birds sink down (flutter restlessly on the ground). And Taylor supposes the lament for the dead continued, paraphrasing: But the bird of evil omen [owl, or raven] raises his dirge, and the merry voice of the singing girls is silent.

These three pictures, however, are mere fancies, and are also evidently here forced upon the text; for יקוט קול cannot mean subsistit vox , but, on the contrary (cf. Hosea 10:14), surgit ( tollitur ) vox ; and יקום לקול cannot mean: it (the bird) raises itself to cry, which would have required יקום לתת קולו , or at least לקּול , after למלחמה קום , etc.; besides, it is to be presumed that צפור is genit., like קול עוגב and the like, not nom. of the subj. It is natural, with Hitz., Ewald, Heiligst., Zöck., to refer qol tsippor to the peeping, whispering voice (“Childish treble” of Shakespeare) of the old man (cf. stiphtseph , Isaiah 29:4; Isaiah 38:14; Isaiah 10:14; Isaiah 8:19). But the translation: “And it (the voice) approaches a sparrow's voice,” is inadmissible, since for ל קום the meaning, “to pass from one state to another,” cannot be proved from 1 Samuel 22:13; Micah 2:8; קום signifies there always “to rise up,” and besides, qol tahhanah is not the voice of the mouth supplied with teeth, but the sound of the chewing of a toothless mouth. If leqol is connected with a verb of external movement, or of that of the soul, it always denotes the occasion of this movement, Numbers 16:34; Ezekiel 27:28; Job 21:12; Habakkuk 3:16. Influenced by this inalienable sense of the language, the Talm. explains צף ... ויקום by “even a bird awakes him.” Thus also literally the Midrash, and accordingly the Targ. paraphrasing: “thou shalt awaken out of thy sleep for a bird, as for thieves breaking in at night.” That is correct, only it is unnecessary to limit ויקוּם (or rather ויקום ,

(Note: Vav with Cholem in H. F. Thus rightly, according to the Masora, which places it in the catalogue of those words which occur once with a higher ( יקום ) and once with a lower vowel (y קוּם ), Mas. fin. 2a b, Ochlaweochla , No. 5; cf. also Aben Ezra's Comm . under Psalms 80:19; Zachoth 23 a , Safa berura 21 b (where Lipmann is uncertain as to the meaning).)

which accords with the still continued subordination of Ecclesiastes 12:4 to the eo die quo of Ecclesiastes 12:3 ) to rising up from sleep, as if it were synonymous with ויעור : the old man is weak (nervously weak) and easily frightened, and on account of the deadening of his senses (after the figure of Ecclesiastes 12:2, the darkening of the five stars) is so liable to mistake, that if even a bird chirps, he is frightened by it out of his rest (cf. hēkim , Isaiah 14:9).

Also in the interpretation of the clause ha שׁיר ... וישּׁחוּ , the ancients are in the right track. The Talm. explains: even all music and song appear to him like common chattering ( שׂוּחה or, according to other readings, שׂיחה ); the proper meaning of ychsw is thus Haggad. twisted. Less correctly the Midrash: בנות השיר are his lips, or they are the reins which think, and the heart decides (on this curious psychol. conception, cf. Chullin 11 a , and particularly Berachoth 61 a , together with my Psychol . p. 269). The reference to the internal organs if à priori improbable throughout; the Targ. with the right tact decides in favour of the lips: “And thy lips are untuned, so that they can no more say (sing) songs.” In this translation of the Talm. there are compounded, as frequently, two different interpretations, viz., that interpretation of בן השׁ , which is proved by the כל going before to be incorrect, because impossible; and the interpretation of these “daughters of song” of “songs,” as if these were synonymous designations, as when in Arab. misfortunes are called banatu binasan , and the like ( vid ., Lane's Lex . I p. 263); בּת קול , which in Mish. denotes a separate voice (the voice of heaven), but in Syr. the separate word, may be compared. But ישׁחוּ (fut. Niph . of שׁחח ) will not accord with this interpretation. For that בן השׁ denotes songs (Hitz., Heiligst.), or the sound of singing (Böttch.), or the words (Ewald) of the old man himself, which are now softened down so as to be scarcely audible, is yet too improbable; it is an insipid idea that the old man gives forth these feeble “daughters of song” from his mouth. We explain ישׁחו of a being bowed down, which is external to the old man, and accordingly understand benoth hashshir not of pieces of music (Aq. πάντα τὰ τῆς ᾠδῆς ) which must be lowered to pianissimo , but according to the parallel already rightly acknowledge by Desvoeux, 2 Samuel 19:36, where the aged Barzillai says that he has now no longer an ear for the voice of singing men and singing women, of singing birds (cf. בּר זמירא of a singing bird in the Syrian fables of Sophos, and banoth of the branches of a fruit tree, Genesis 49:22), and, indeed, so that these are a figure of all creatures skilled in singing, and taking pleasure in it: all beings that are fond of singing, and to which it has become as a second nature, must lower themselves, viz., the voice of their song (Isaiah 29:4) (cf. the Kal , Psalms 35:14, and to the modal sense of the fut. Ecclesiastes 10:10, יגּבּר , and Ecclesiastes 10:19, ישׂמּח ), i.e. , must timidly retire, they dare not make themselves heard, because the old man, who is terrified by the twittering of a little bird, cannot bear it.

Verse 5

Ecclesiastes 12:5

From this his repugnance to singing, and music, and all loud noises, progress in the description is made to the difficulty such aged men have in motion: “Also they are afraid of that which is high; and there are all kinds of fearful things in the way ... .” The description moves forward in a series of independent sentences; that שׁ בּיּום to which it was subordinate in Ecclesiastes 12:3, and still also in Ecclesiastes 12:4, is now lost sight of. In the main it is rightly explained by the Talm., and with it the Midrash: “Even a little hillock appears to him like a high mountain; and if he has to go on a journey, he meets something that terrifies him;” the Targ. has adopted the second part of this explanation. גּבהּ (falsely referred by the Targ. to the time lying far back in the past) is understood neut.; cf. 1 Samuel 16:7. Such decrepid old men are afraid of ( ייראוּ , not videbunt , as the lxx, Symm., Ar., and the Venet. translate, who seem to have had before them the defective יראו ) a height, - it alarms them as something unsurmountable, because their breath and their limbs fail them when they attempt it; and hathhhattim (plur. of the intensifying form of hat, consternatio, Job 41:25), i.e. , all kinds of formidines (not formido , Ewald, §179 a , Böttch. §762, for the plur. is as in salsilloth , 'aph'appim , etc., thought of as such), meet them in the way. As the sluggard says: there is a lion in the way, and under this pretence remains slothfully at home, Proverbs 24:13; Proverbs 22:13, so old men do not venture out; for to them a damp road appears like a very morass; a gravelly path, as full of neck-breaking hillocks; an undulating path, as fearfully steep and precipitous; that which is not shaded, as oppressively hot and exhausting-they want strength and courage to overcome difficulties, and their anxiety pictures out dangers before them where there are none.

Ecclesiastes 12:5

The allegory is now continued in individual independent figures: “And the almond tree is in blossom.” The Talm. explains וין הש of the haunch-bone projecting (from leanness); the Midrash, of the bones of the vertebral column, conceived of as incorruptible and as that round which will take place the future restoration of the human body, - probably the cross bone, os sacrum ,

(Note: The Jewish opinion of the incorruptible continuance of this bone may be connected with the designation os sacrum ; the meaning of this is controverted, vid ., Hyrtl's Anatomie , §124.)

inserted between the two thigh bones of the pelvis as a pointed wedge; cf. Jerome in his Comm .: quidam sacram spinam interpretantur quod decrescentibus natium cornibus spina accrescat et floreat ; לוּז is an Old Heb., Aram., and Arab. name of the almond tree and the almond nut ( vid ., under Genesis 30:37), and this, perhaps, is the reason of this identification of the emblematic שׁקד with לוז (the os sacrum , or vertebra magna ) of the spine. The Targ. follows the Midrash in translating: the רישׁ שׁז (the top of the spine) will protrude from leanness like an almond tree (viz., from which the leaves have been stripped). In these purely arbitrary interpretations nothing is correct but (1) that שׁקד is understood not of the almond fruit, but of the almond tree, as also at Jeremiah 1:11 (the rod of an almond tree); (2) that ינאץ (notwithstanding that these interpreters had it before them unpointed) is interpreted, as also by the lxx, Syr., Jerome, and the Venet., in the sense of blossoming, or the bursting out of blossoms by means of the opening up of the buds. Many interpreters understand שׁקר of almond fruit (Winzer, Ewald, Ginsb., Rödiger, etc.), for they derive ינאץ from נאץ , as Aben Ezra had already done, and explain by: fastidit amygdalam ( nucem ), or fastidium creat amygdala . But (1) ינאץ for ינאץ ( Hiph . of נאץ , to disdain, to treat scornfully) is a change of vowels unexampled; we must, with such an explanation, read either ינּאץ , fastiditur (Gaab), or ינאץ ; (2) almond nuts, indeed, belong to the more noble productions of the land and the delicacies, Genesis 43:11, but dainties, κατ ̓ ἐξ , at the same time they are not, so that it would be appropriate to exemplify the blunted sensation of taste in the old man, by saying that he no more cracks and eats almonds. The explanation of Hitzig, who reads ינאץ , and interprets the almond tree as at Song of Solomon 7:9 the palm, to denote a woman, for he translates: the almond tree refuses (viz., the old man), we set aside as too ingenious; and we leave to those interpreters who derive ינאץ from נאץ , and understand השקד

(Note: Abulwalîd understands שקר and חגב sexually, and glosses the latter by jundub (the locust), which in Arab. is a figure of suffering and patience.)

of the glans penis (Böttch., Fürst, and several older interpreters), to follow their own foul and repulsive criticism. ינאץ is an incorrect reading for ינץ , as at Hosea 10:14, קאם for קם , and, in Prov., ראשׁ for רשׁ (Gesen. §73. 4); and besides, as at Song of Solomon 6:11, הנצוּ , regular Hiph . of נצץ ( נוּץ , Lamentations 4:15), to move tremblingly (vibrate), to glisten, blossom (cf. נוס , to flee, and ניסן , Assyr. nisannu , the flower-month). Thus deriving this verbal form, Ewald, and with him Heiligst., interprets the blossoming almond tree as a figure of the winter of life: “it is as if the almond tree blossomed, which in the midst of winter has already blossoms on its dry, leafless stem.” But the blossoms of the almond tree are rather, after Numbers 17:2-8, a figure of special life-strength, and we must thus, thrown back to ינאץ from נאץ (to flourish), rather explain, with Furrer (in Schenkel's B. L. ), as similarly Herzf.: the almond tree refuses, i.e. , ceases, to blossom; the winter of old age is followed by no spring; or also, as Dale and Taylor: the almond tree repels, i.e. , the old man has no longer a joyful welcome for this messenger of spring. But his general thought has already found expression in Ecclesiastes 12:2; the blossoming almond tree must be here an emblem of a more special relation. Hengst. supposes that “the juniper tree (for this is the proper meaning of שקד ) is in bloom” is = sleeplessness in full blossom stands by the old man; but that would be a meaningless expression. Nothing is more natural than that the blossoming almond tree is intended to denote the same as is indicated by the phrase of the Latin poet: Intempestivi funduntur vertice cani (Luther, Geiger, Grot., Vaih., Luzz., Gurlitt, Tyler, Bullock, etc.).

It has been objected that the almond blossoms are not pure white, but according to the variety, they are pale-red, or also white; so that Thomson, in his beautiful Land and the Book , can with right say: “The almond tree is the type of old age whose hair is white;” and why? “The white blossoms completely cover the whole tree.” Besides, Bauer (1732) has already remarked that the almond blossoms, at first tinged with red, when they are ready to fall off become white as snow; with which may be compared a clause cited by Ewald from Bodenstedt's A Thousand and One Days in the Orient : “The white blossoms fall from the almond trees like snow-flakes.” Accordingly, Dächsel is right when he explains, after the example of Zöckler: “the almond tree with its reddish flower in late winter, which strews the ground with its blossoms, which have gradually become white like snow-flakes, is an emblem of the winter of old age with its falling silvery hair.”

Ecclesiastes 12:5

From the change in the colour of the hair, the allegory now proceeds to the impairing of the elasticity of the highs and of their power of bearing a load, the malum coxae senile (in a wider than the usual pathological sense): “And the grasshopper ( i.e. , locust, חגב , Samar. חרגבה = חרגּל , Leviticus 11:22) becomes a burden.” Many interpreters (Merc., Döderl., Gaab, Winz., Gesen., Winer, Dale) find in these words הח ויס the meaning that locust-food, or that the chirping of grasshoppers, is burdensome to him (the old man); but even supposing that it may at once be assumed that he was a keen aeridophagus (locusts, steeped in butter, are like crabs (shrimps) spread on slices of butter and bread), or that he had formerly a particular delight in the chirping of the τέττιξ , which the ancients number among singing birds (cf. Taylor, l.c. ), and that he has now no longer any joy in the song of the τέττιξ , although it is regarded as soothing and tending to lull to rest, and an Anacreon could in his old days even sing his μακαρίζομέν σε τέττιξ , - yet these two interpretations are impossible, because הס may mean to burden and to move with difficulty, but not “to become burdensome.” For the same reason, nothing is more absurd than the explanation of Kimchi and Gurlitt: Even a grasshopper, this small insect, burdens him; for which Zöckl., more naturally: the hopping and chirping of the grasshopper is burdensome to him; as we say, The fly on the wall annoys him. Also Ewald and Heiligstedt's interpretation: “it is as if the locust raised itself to fly, breaking and stripping off its old husk,” as inadmissible; for הסתבל can mean se portare laboriose , but not ad evolandum eniti ; the comparison (Arab.) tahmmal gains the meaning of hurry onwards, to proceed on an even way, like the Hebr. השכים , to take upon the shoulder; it properly means, to burden oneself, i.e. , to take on one's back in order to get away; but the grasshopper coming out of its case carries away with it nothing but itself. For us, such interpretations - to which particularly, the advocates of the several hypotheses of a storm, night, and mourning, are constrained - are already set aside by this, that according to the allegory וין השׁ , הח ויס must also signify something characteristic of the body of an old man. The lxx, Jerome, and Ar. translate: the locust becomes fat; the Syr.: it grows. It is true, indeed, that great corpulence, or also a morbid dropsical swelling of the belly ( ascites ), is one of the symptoms of advanced old age; but supposing that the (voracious) locust might be en emblem of a corpulent man, yet הסתבל means neither to become fat nor to grow. But because the locust in reality suggests the idea of a corpulent man, the figure cannot at the same time be intended to mean that the old man is like a skeleton, consisting as it were of nothing but skin and bone (Lyra, Luther, Bauer, Dathe); the resemblance of a locust to the back-bone and its joints (Glassius, Köhler, Vaih.) is not in view; only the position of the locusts's feet for leaping admits the comparison of the prominent scapulae (shoulder-blades); but shoulder-blades ( scapulae alatae ), angular and standing out from the chest, are characteristics of a consumptive, not of a senile habit. Also we must cease, with Hitz., Böttch., Luzz., and Gratz, to understand the figure as denoting the φαλλός to be now impotent; for relaxation and shrinking do not agree with hctbl, which suggests something burdensome by being weighty.

The Midrash interprets החגב by “ankles,” and the Targ. translates accordingly: the ankles ( אסתּורי , from the Pers. ustuwâr , firm) of thy feet will swell-unsuitably, for “ankles” affords no point of comparison with locusts, and they have no resemblance to their springing feet. The Talm., glossing החגב by “these are the buttocks” ( nates ) (cf. Arab. 'ajab , the os coccygis , Syn. 'ajuz , as the Talm. עגבות interchanges with עבוז ), is on the right track. There is nothing, indeed, more probably than that הגב is a figure of the coxa , the hinder region of the pelvis, where the lower part of the body balances itself in the hip-joint, and the motion of standing up and going receives its impulse and direction by the muscular strength there concentrated. This part of the body may be called the locust, because it includes in itself the mechanism which the two-membered foot for springing, placed at an acute angle, presents in the locust. Referred to this coxa , the loins, יסתבל has its most appropriate meaning: the marrow disappears from the bones, elasticity from the muscles, the cartilage and oily substance from the joints, and, as a consequence, the middle of the body drags itself along with difficulty; or: it is with difficulty moved along ( Hithpa . as pass., like Ecclesiastes 8:10); it is stiff, particularly in the morning, and the old man is accustomed to swing his arms backwards, and to push himself on as it were from behind. In favour of this interpretation (but not deciding it) is the accord of חגב with עגב = κόκκυξ (by which the os coccygis is designated as the cuckoo's bone). Also the verbal stem (Arab.) jaḥab supplies an analogous name: not jaḥab , which denotes the air passage (but not, as Knobel supposes, the breath itself; for the verb signifies to separate, to form a partition, Mish. מחיצח ), but (Arab.) jaḥabat , already compared by Bochart, which denotes the point (dual), the two points or projections of the two hip-bones ( vid ., Lane's Lex .), which, together with the os sacrum lying between, form the ring of the pelvis.

Ecclesiastes 12:5

From the weakening of the power of motion, the allegory passes on to the decay of sensual desires, and of the organs appertaining thereto: “And the caper-berry fails ... .” The meaning “caper” for האב is evidence by the lxx ( ἡ κάππαρις , Arab. alkabar ), the Syr., and Jerome ( capparis ), and this rendering is confirmed by the Mishnic אביונות , which in contradistinction to תמרות , i.e. , the tender branches, and קפריסין , i.e. , the rind of fruit, signifies the berry-like flower-buds of the caper bush,

(Note: The caper-bush is called in the Mish. צלף , and is celebrated, Beza 25 a, cf. Shabbath 30 b (where, according to J. S. Bloch's supposition, the disciple who meets Gamaliel is the Apostle Paul), on account of its unconquerable life-power, its quick development of fruit, and manifold products. The caper-tree is planted, says Berachoth 36a, “with a view to its branches;” the eatable branches or twigs here meant are called שיתי ( שותי ). Another name for the caper-tree is נצפה , Demai i. 1, Berachoth 36 a , 40 b ; and another name for the bud of the caper-blossom is פרחא רבוטיתא , Berachoth 36b (cf. Aruch, under the words aviyonoth and tselaph ).)

according to Buxtorf. This Talm. word, it is true, is pointed אביונות ; but that makes no difference, for אביּונה is related to אביונה merely as making the word emphatic, probably to distinguish the name of the caper from the fem. of the adj. אביון , which signifies avida , egena . But in the main they are both one; for that נביּונה may designate “desire” (Abulwalîd:

(Note: In his Dictionary of Roots ( kitâb el - utṣûl ), edited by Neubauer, Oxford 1873-4.)

aliradat ; Parchon: התאוה ; Venet.: ἡ ὄρεξις ; Luther: alle Lust ), or “neediness,” “poverty” (the Syr. in its second translation of this clause), is impossible, because the form would be unexampled and incomprehensible; only the desiring soul, or the desiring, craving member ( vid ., Kimchi), could be so named. But now the caper is no named, which even to this day is used to give to food a more piquant taste (cf. Plutarch's Sympos . vi. qu . 2). It is also said that the caper is a means of exciting sexual desire ( aphrodisiacum ); and there are examples of its use for this purpose from the Middle Ages, indeed, but none from the records of antiquity; Pliny, Hist. Nat . xx. 14 (59), knew nothing of it, although he speaks at length of the uses and effects of the capparis . The Talm. explains האבי by חמדה , the Midrash by תאוה , the Targ. by משכבא , interpreting the word directly without reference to the caper in this sense. If haaviyonah thus denotes the caper, we have not thence to conclude that it incites to sexual love, and still less are we, with the Jewish interpreters, whom Böttch. follows, to understand the word of the membrum virile itself; the Arab. name for the caper, 'itar , which is compared by Grätz, which has an obscene meaning, designates also other aromatic plants. We shall proceed so much the more securely if we turn away from the idea of sexual impulse and hold by the idea of the impulse of self-preservation, namely, appetite for food, since אביון (from אבה , the root-meaning of which, “to desire,” is undoubted

(Note: Vid ., Fried. Delitzsch's Indogerman.-Sem. Stud . I p. 62f. Also the Arab. âby in the language of the Negd means nothing else.))

denotes a poor man, as one who desires that which is indispensable to the support of life; the caper is accordingly called aviyonah , as being appetitiva , i.e. , exciting to appetite for food, and the meaning will not be that the old man is like a caper-berry which, when fully ripe, bursts its husks and scatters its seed (Rosenm., Winer in his R. W., Ewald, Taylor, etc.), as also the lxx, Symm. ( καὶ διαλυθῇ ἡ ἐπίπονος , i.e. , as Jerome translates it, et dissolvetur spiritus fortitudo , perhaps ἐπίτονος , the strength or elasticity of the spirit), and Jerome understand the figure; but since it is to be presupposed that the name of the caper, in itself significant, will also be significant for the figure: capparis est irrita sive vim suam non exerit ( ותפר as inwardly trans. Hiph . of פרר , to break in pieces, frustrate), i.e. , even such means of excitement as capers, these appetite-berries, are unable to stimulate the dormant and phlegmatic stomach of the old man (thus e.g. , Bullock). Hitzig, indeed, maintains that the cessation of the enjoyment of love in old age is not to be overlooked; but (1) the use of artificial means for stimulating this natural impulse in an old man, who is here described simply as such, without reference to his previous life and its moral state, would make him a sensualist; and (2) moral statistics show that with the decay of the body lust does not always (although this would be in accordance with nature, Genesis 17:17; Romans 4:19) expire; moreover, the author of the Book of Koheleth is no Juvenal or Martial, to take pleasure, like many of his interpreters, in exhibiting the res venereae .

Ecclesiastes 12:5

And in view of the clause following, the ceasing from nourishment as the last symptom of the certain approach of death is more appropriate than the cessation from sexual desire: “For,” thus the author continues after this description of the enfeebled condition of the hoary old man, “man goeth to his everlasting habitation, and the mourners go about the streets.” One has to observe that the antequam of the memento Creatoris tui in diebus junvetutis tuae is continued in Ecclesiastes 12:6 and Ecclesiastes 12:7. The words 'ad asher lo are thrice repeated. The chief group in the description is subordinated to the second 'ad asher lo ; this relation is syntactically indicated also in Ecclesiastes 12:4 by the subjective form ויקום , and continues logically in Ecclesiastes 12:5, although without any grammatical sign, for ינאצו and ותפר are indicative. Accordingly the clause with כּי , Ecclesiastes 12:5 , will not be definitive; considerately the accentuation does not begin a new verse with כּי : the symptoms of marasmus already spoken of are here explained by this, that man is on his way to the grave, and, as we say, has already one foot in it. The part. חלך is also here not so much the expression of the fut. instans ( iturus est ), like Ecclesiastes 9:10, as of the present (Venet.: ἄπεισι ); cf. Genesis 15:2, where also these two possible renderings stand in question. “Everlasting house” is the name for the grave of the dead, according to Diodorus Sic. i. 51, also among the Egyptians, and on old Lat. monuments also the expression domus aeterna is found ( vid ., Knobel); the comfortless designation, which corresponds

(Note: The Syr. renders beth 'olam by domus laboris sui , which is perhaps to be understood after Job 3:17 .)

to the as yet darkened idea of Hades, remained with the Jews in spite of the hope of the resurrection they had meanwhile received; cf. Tob. 3:6; Sanhedrin 19 a , “the churchyard of Huṣal ;” “to be a churchyard” ( beth 'olam ); “at the door of the churchyard” ( beth 'olam ), Vajikra rabba , c. 12. Cf. Assyr. bit 'idii = עד בּית of the under-world (Bab.-Assyr. Epic, “Höllenfahrt der Istar,” i. 4).

The clause following means that mourners already go about the streets (cf. סבב , Song of Solomon 3:3, and Pil . Song of Solomon 3:2; Psalms 59:7) expecting the death of the dying. We would say: the undertaker tarries in the neighbourhood of the house to be at hand, and to offer his services. For hassophdim are here, as Knobel, Winz., and others rightly explain, the mourners, saphdanin ( sophdanin ), hired for the purpose of playing the mourning music (with the horn שיפורא , Moëd katan 27 b , or flute, חלילים , at the least with two, Kethuboth 46 b ; cf. Lat. siticines ) and of singing the lament for the dead, qui conducti plorant in funere (Horace, Poet. 433), along with whom were mourning women, מקוננות (Lat. praeficae ) (cf. Buxtorf's Lex. Talm . col. 1524 s.), - a custom which existed from remote antiquity, according to 2 Samuel 3:31; Jeremiah 34:5. The Talm. contains several such lamentations for the dead, as e.g. , that of a “mourner” ( ההוא ספדנא ) for R. Abina: “The palms wave their heads for the palm-like just man,” etc.; and of the famed “mourner” Bar-Kippuk on the same occasion: “If the fire falls upon the cedar, what shall the hyssop of the walls do?” etc. ( Moëd katan 25 b )

(Note: Given in full in Wiss. Kunst Judenth. p. 230ff. Regarding the lament for the dead among the Haurans, vid ., Wetzstein's treatise on the Syrian Threshing-Table in Bastian's Zeitsch. für Ethnologie , 1873.)

- many of the ספנים were accordingly elegiac poets. This section of Ecclesiastes 12:5 does not refer to the funeral itself, for the procession of the mourners about the bier ought in that case to have been more distinctly expressed; and that they walked about in the streets before the funeral (Isaiah 15:3) was not a custom, so far as we know. They formed a component part of the procession following the bier to the grave in Judea, as Shabbath 153 a remarks with reference to this passage, and in Galilee going before it; to mourn over the death, to reverse it, if possible, was not the business of these mourners, but of the relatives (Hitz.), who were thus not merely called הסופדים . The Targ. translates: “and the angels will go about, who demand an account of thee, like the mourning singers who go about the streets, to record what account of thee is to be given.” It is unnecessary to change כּסופד into כּספר ( intar scribarum ). According to the idea of the Targumist, the sophdim go about to collect materials for the lament for the dead. The dirge was not always very scrupulously formed; wherefore it is said in Berachoth 26 a , “as is the estimate of the dead that is given, so is the estimate of the mourners (singers and orators at the funeral), and of those who respond to their words.” It is most natural to see the object of the mourners going about in their desire to be on the spot when death takes place.

(Note: The Arab. funeral dirge furnishes at once an illustration of “and the mourners go about the streets.” What Wetzstein wrote to me ought not, I believe, to be kept from the reader: “In Damascus the men certainly take part in the dirge; they go about the reservoir in the court of the house along with the mourning women, and behave themselves like women; but this does not take place in the villages. But whether the 'going about the streets' might seem as an evidence that in old times in the towns, as now in the villages, the menaṣṣa (bed of state) was placed with the mourning tent in the open street without, is a question. If this were the case, the sôphdim might appear publicly; only I would then understand by the word not hired mourners, but the relatives of the dead.” But then מטּה , as at Psalms 26:6 מזבח , ought to have been joined to סבב as the object of the going about.)

Verse 6-7

A third 'ad asher lo now follows (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:1-2); the first placed the old man in view, with his désagrément in general; the second described in detail his bodily weaknesses, presenting themselves as forerunners of death; the third brings to view the dissolution of the life of the body, by which the separation of the soul and the body, and the return of both to their original condition is completed. “Ere the silver cord is loosed, and the golden bowl is shattered, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel is shattered in the well, and the dust returns to the earth as that which it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Before entering into the contents of these verses, we shall consider the form in which some of the words are presented. The Chethı̂b ירחק we readily let drop, for in any case it must be said that the silver cord is put out of action; and this word, whether we read it ירחק or ירחק (Venet. μακρυνθῇ ), is too indefinite, and, supposing that by the silver cord a component part of the body is meant, even inappropriate, since the organs which cease to perform their functions are not removed away from the dead body, but remain in it when dead. But the Keri ירתק (“is unbound”) has also its difficulty. The verb רתק signifies to bind together, to chain; the bibl. Heb. uses it of the binding of prisoners, Nahum 3:18, cf. Isaiah 40:19; the post-bibl. Heb. of binding = shutting up (contrast of פתח , Pesikta , ed. Buber, 176 a , whence Mezia 107 b , שורא וריתקא , a wall and enclosure); the Arab. of shutting up and closing a hole, rent, split ( e.g. , murtatiḳ , a plant with its flower-buds as yet shut up; rutûḳ , inaccessibleness). The Targumist

(Note: Similarly the lxx understands ונרץ , καὶ συντροχάσῃ ( i.e. , as Jerome in his Comm . explains: si fuerit in suo funiculo convoluta ), which is impossible.)

accordingly understands ירתק of binding = lameness (palsy); Rashi and Aben Ezra, of shrivelling; this may be possible, however, for נרתּק , used of a “cord,” the meaning that first presents itself, is “to be firmly bound;” but this affords no appropriate sense, and we have therefore to give to the Niph . the contrasted meaning of setting free, discatenare (Parchon, Kimchi); this, however, is not justified by examples, for a privat. Niph . is unexampled, Ewald, §121 e ; נלבּב , Job 11:12, does not mean to be deprived of heart (understanding), but to gain heart (understanding). Since, however, we still need here the idea of setting loose or tearing asunder (lxx ἀνατραπῇ ; Symm. κοπῆναι ; Syr. נתפסק , from פּסק , abscindere ; Jerome, rumpatur ), we have only the choice of interpreting yērathēq either, in spite of the appearance to the contrary, in the meaning of constingitur , of a violent drawing together of the cord stretched out lengthwise; or, with Pfannkuche, Gesen., Ewald, to read ינּתק (“is torn asunder”), which one expects, after Isaiah 33:20; cf. Judges 16:9; Jeremiah 10:20. Hitzig reaches the same, for he explains ירחק = יחרק , from (Arab.) kharaḳ , to tear asunder (of the sound of the tearing);

(Note: Vid ., my treatise, Psyciol. u. Musik, u.s.w ., p. 31.)

and Böttcher, by adopting the reading יחרק ; but without any support in Heb. and Chald. usus loq .

נּלּה , which is applied to the second figure, is certainly

(Note: The lxx, unsuitably, τὸ ἀνθέμιον , which, per synecdochen partis pro toto , signifies the capital (of a pillar). Thus, perhaps, also are meant Symm. τὸ περιφερές , Jerome vitta , Venet. τὸ στέφος , and the Syr. “apple.” Among the Arabs, this ornament on the capital is called tabaryz (“prominence”).)

a vessel of a round form (from גּלל , to roll, revolve round), like the נּלּה which received the oil and conducted it to the seven lamps of the candlestick in Zechariah 4:1-14; but to understand ותרץ of the running out of the oil not expressly named (Luther: “and the golden fountain runs out”) would be contrary to the usus loq .; it is the metapl. form for ותרץ , et confringitur , as ירוּץ , Isaiah 42:4, for ירץ , from רצץ , cogn. רעע , Psalms 2:9, whence נרץ , Ecclesiastes 12:6 , the regularly formed Niph . (the fut. of which, תּרוץ , Ezekiel 29:7). We said that oil is not expressly named. But perhaps it is meant by הזּהב . The gullah above the candlestick which Zechariah saw was, according to Zechariah 4:12, provided with two golden pipes, in which were two olive trees standing on either side, which sunk therein the tuft-like end of their branches, of which it is said that they emptied out of themselves hazzahav into the oil vessels. Here it is manifest that hazzahav means, in the one instance, the precious metal of which the pipes are formed; and in the other, the fluid gold of the oil contained in the olive branches. Accordingly, Hitzig understands gullath hazzahav here also; for he takes gullah as a figure of the body, the golden oil as a figure of the soul, and the silver cord as a figure of vital energy.

Thus, with Hitz., understanding gullath hazzahav after the passage in Zechariah, I have correctly represented the meaning of the figures in my Psychol . p. 228, as follows: - “The silver cord = the soul directing and bearing the body as living; the lamp hanging by this silver cord = the body animated by the soul, and dependent on it; the golden oil = the spirit, of which it is said, Proverbs 20:27, that it is a lamp of God.” I think that this interpretation of the golden oil commends itself in preference to Zöckler's interpretation, which is adopted by Dächsel, of the precious fluidum of the blood; for if hazzahav is a metaphorical designation of oil, we have to think of it as the material for burning and light; but the principle of bright life in man is the spirit ( ruahh hhayim or nishmath hhayim ); and in the passage in Zechariah also, oil, which makes the candlestick give light, is a figure of the spirit (Ecclesiastes 12:6, ki im - beruhhi ). But, as one may also suppose, it is not probable that here, with the same genit. connection, הכסף is to be understood of the material and the quality; and hazzqahav , on the contrary, of the contents. A golden vessel is, according to its most natural meaning, a vessel which is made of gold, thus a vessel of a precious kind. A golden vessel cannot certainly be broken in pieces, but we need not therefore understand an earthenware vessel only gilded, as by a silver cord is to be understood only that which has a silver line running through it (Gesen. in the Thes .); רצוּץ may also denote that which is violently crushed or broken, Isaiah 42:3; cf. Judges 9:53. If gullath hazzahav , however, designates a golden vessel, the reference of the figure to the body, and at the same time of the silver cord to the vital energy or the soul, is then excluded, - for that which animates stands yet above that which is animated, - the two metallic figures in this their distribution cannot be comprehended in this reference. We have thus to ask, since gullath hazzahav is not the body itself: What in the human body is compared to a silver cord and to a golden vessel? What, moreover, to a pitcher at the fountain, and to a wheel or a windlass? Winzer settles this question by finding in the two double figures only in general the thoughts represented: antequam vita ex tenui quasi filo suspensa pereat , and (which is essentially the same) antequam machina corporis destruatur .

Gurlitt also protests against the allegorical explanation of the details, but he cannot refrain from interpreting more specially than Winzer. Two momenta , he says, there are which, when a man dies, in the most impressive way present themselves to view: the extinction of consciousness, and the perfect cessation, complete ruin, of the bodily organism. The extinction of consciousness is figuratively represented by the golden lamp, which is hung up by a silver cord in the midst of a house or tent, and now, since the cord which holds it is broken, it falls down and is shattered to pieces, so that there is at once deep darkness; the destruction of the bodily organism, by a fountain, at which the essential parts of its machinery, the pitcher and windlass, are broken and rendered for ever useless. This interpretation of Gurlitt's affords sufficient support to the expectation of the allegorical meaning with which we approached Ecclesiastes 12:6; and we would be satisfied therewith, if one of the figures did not oppose us, without seeking long for a more special allegorical meaning: the pitcher at the fountain or well ( כּד , not הכּד , because determined by 'al - hammabu'a ) is without doubt the heart which beats to the last breath of the dying man, which is likened to a pitcher which, without intermission, receives and again sends forth the blood. That the blood flows through the body like living water is a fact cognizable and perceptible without the knowledge of its course; fountain ( מקור ) and blood appear also elsewhere as associated ideas, Leviticus 12:7; and nishbar , as here vetishshaběr , into a state of death, or near to death, Jeremiah 23:9; Psalms 69:21. From this gullath hazzahav must also have a special allegorical sense; and if, as Gurlitt supposes, the golden vessel that is about to be destroyed is a figure of the perishing self-consciousness (whereby it is always doubtful that, with this interpretation, the characteristic feature of light in the figure is wanting), then it is natural to go further, and to understand the golden vessel directly of the head of a man, and to compare the breaking of the skull, Judges 9:53, expressed by vataritz eth - gulgolto , with the words here before us, vatharutz gullath hazzahav ; perhaps by gullath the author thought of the cogn. - both as to root and meaning - גלגלת ; but, besides, the comparison of the head, the bones of which form an oval bowl, with gullath is of itself also natural. It is true that, according to the ancient view, not the head, but the heart, is the seat of the life of the spirit; “in the heart, Ephrem said ( Opp. Syr . ii. 316), the thinking spirit ( shuschobo ) acts as in its palace;” and the understanding, the Arabians

(Note: Vid ., Noldeke's Poesien d. alten Araber , p. 190.)

also say, sits in the heart, and thus between the ribs. Everything by which בשׂר and נפשׁ is affected - thus, briefly formulated, the older bibl. idea - comes in the לב into the light of consciousness. But the Book of Koheleth belongs to a time in which spiritual-psychical actions began to be placed in mediate causal relation with the head; the Book of Daniel represents this newer mode of conception, Daniel 2:28; Daniel 4:2; Daniel 7:10, Daniel 7:15. The image of the monarchies seen in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Daniel 2:32, Daniel 2:28, had a golden head; the head is described as golden, as it is the membrum praecipuum of the human body; it is compared to gold as to that which is most precious, as, on the other hand, ראשׁ is used as a metaphorical designation of that which is most precious. The breaking to pieces of the head, the death-blow which it receives, shows itself in this, that he who is sick unto death is unable to hold his head erect, that it sinks down against his will according to the law of gravity; as also in this, that the countenance assumes the aspect which we designate the facies hippocratica , and that feeling is gradually destroyed; but, above all, that is thought of which Ovid says of one who was dying: et resupinus humum moribundo vertice pulsat .

If we now further inquire regarding the meaning of the silver cord, nothing can obviously be meant by it which is locally above the golden bowl which would be hanging under it; also הכסף גלת itself certainly admits no such literal antitype, - the concavity of the גלגלת is below, and that of a גלה , on the other hand, is above. The silver cord will be found if a component part of the structure of the body is pointed to, which stands in a mutually related connection with the head and the brain, the rending asunder of which brings death with it. Now, as is well known, dying finally always depends on the brain and the upper spinal marrow; and the ancients already interpreted the silver cord of the spinal marrow, which is called by a figure terminologically related to the silver cord, חוּט השּׂדרה (the spinal cord), and as a cord-like lengthening of the brain into the spinal channel could not be more appropriately named; the centre is grey, but the external coating is white. We do not, however, maintain that hakkěsěph points to the white colour; but the spinal marrow is related, in the matter of its value for the life of man, to the brain as silver is to gold. Since not a violent but a natural death is the subject, the fatal stroke that falls on the spinal marrow is not some kind of mechanical injury, but, according as ירתק is unbound is explained or is changed into ינּתק is torn asunder, is to be thought of either as constriction = shrinking together, consuming away, exhaustion; or as unchanging = paralysis or disabling; or as tearing asunder = destruction of the connection of the individual parts. The emendation ינתק most commends itself; it remains, however, possible that ינתק is meant in the sense of morbid contraction ( vid ., Rashi); at any rate, the fate of the גלה is the consequence of the fate of the חבל , which carries and holds the gullah, and does not break without at the same time bringing destruction on it; as also the brain and the spinal marrow stand in a relation of solidarity to each other, and the head receives

(Note: Many interpreters (lately Ewald, Hengst., Zöckl., Taylor, and others) understand the silver cord of the thread of life; the spinal marrow is, without any figure, this thread of life itself.)

from the spinal marrow (as distinguished from the so-called prolonged marrow) the death-stroke. As the silver cord and the bowl, so the pitcher and the well and the wheel stand in interchangeable relation to each other.

We do not say: the wheel at the fountain, as is translated by Hitz., Ewald, and others; for (1) the fountain is called בּאר , not בּור ( באר ), which, according to the usage ( vid ., Hitz. under Jeremiah 7:9), signifies a pit;, and particularly a hole, for holding water, a cistern, reservoir; but for this there was no need for a wheel, and it is also excluded by that which had to be represented; (2) the expression galgal ěl - habor is purposely not used, but hagalgal ěl - habor , that we may not take ěl - habor as virtual adj. to galgal (the wheel being at the בור ), but as the designation of the place into which the wheel falls when it is shattered. Rightly, the lxx renders 'al - hammabu'a by ἐπὶ τῇ πηγῇ , and el - habor by ἐπὶ τὸν λάκκον . The figure of a well ( mabbu'a ) formed by means of digging, and thus deep, is artistically conceived; out of this the water is drawn by means of a pitcher ( כּד , Genesis 24:14, a word as curiously according with the Greek κάδος as those mentioned in pp. 505 and 552, whence Arab. kadd , to exhaust, to pitcher-out, as it were; syn. דּלי , a vessel for drawing out water; Assyr. di - lu , the zodiacal sign of the water-carrier), and to facilitate this there is a wheel or windlass placed above (Syr. gilgla devira ), by which a rope is wound up and down ( vid ., Smith's Bibl. Dict . under “well”).

(Note: Wetzstein remarks, that it is translated by “cylinder” better than by “wheel,” since the galgal is here not at a river, but over a draw-well.)

The Midrash refers to the deep draw-well of the hill town of Sepporis, which was supplied with such rollers serving as a pulley (polyspast). Wheel and pitcher stand in as close mutual relation as air and blood, which come into contact in the lungs. The wheel is the figure of the breathing organ, which expands and contracts (winds and unwinds) itself like a draw-rope by its inhaling and exhaling breath. The throat, as the organ of respiration and speech, is called גּרון (Psalms 115:7) and גּרגּות ( vid ., under Proverbs 1:9), from גּרה or גּרר to draw, σπᾶν ( τὸν ἀέρα , Wisd. 7:3). When this wheel makes its last laborious revolution, there is heard the death-rattle. There is a peculiar rattling sound, which they who once hear it never forget, when the wheel swings to an end-the so-called choking rheum, which consists in this, that the secretion which the dying cannot cough up moves up and down in the air-passage, and finally chokes him. When thus the breathings become always weaker, and sometimes are interrupted for a minute, and at last cease altogether, there takes place what is here designated as the breaking to pieces of the wheel in the pit within - the life is extinguished, he who has breathed his last will be laid as a corpse in the grave ( בּור , Psalms 28:1, and frequently), the σῶμα has become a πτῶμα (Mark 6:29; cf. Numbers 14:32). The dust, i.e. , the dust of which the body was formed, goes back to the earth again like as it was (originally dust), and the spirit returns to God who gave it. וישׁב subordinates itself to the 'ad asher lo , also in the form as subjunct.; the interchange of the full and the abbreviated forms occurs, however, elsewhere is the indic. sense, e.g. , Job 13:27; Ewald, §343 b . Shuv 'al occurs also at 2 Chronicles 30:9; and אל and על interchange without distinction in the more modern language; but here, as also at Ecclesiastes 12:6 , not without intention, the way downwards is to be distinguished from the way upwards (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:21). כּשׁהיה is = כּאשׁר היה , instar ejus quod fuit . The body returns to the dust from which it was taken, Genesis 3:19, to the dust of its original material, Psalms 104:29; and the spirit goes back to the God of its origin, to whom it belongs.

We have purposely not interrupted our interpretation of the enigmatical figures of Ecclesiastes 12:6 by the citation and criticism of diverging views, and content ourselves here with a specification of the oldest expositions. The interpretation of Shabbath 152 a does not extend to Ecclesiastes 12:6. The Midrash says of the silver cord: זו חוט השדרה (as later, Rashi, Aben Ezra, and many others), of the golden vessel: גלגלת זו (as we), and it now adds only more in jest: “the throat which swallows up the gold and lets the silver run through.” The pitcher becoming leaky must be כרס , the belly, which three days after death is wont to burst. And as for hagalgal , reference is made to the draw-wells of Sepporis; so for el havor , after Job 21:33, to the clods of Tiberias: he lies deep below, “like those clods of the deep-lying Tiberias.” The Targ takes its own way, without following the Midrash, and translates: “before thy tongue [this of חבל ] is bound and thou art unable to speak any more, and the brain of thy head [this the גלה ] is shattered, and thy gall [= כד ] is broken with thy liver [= המבוע ], and thy body [= הגלגל ] hastens away [ נרץ of רוץ ] into the grave.” These interpretations have at least historical and linguistic value; they also contain separate correct renderings. A quodlibet of other interpretations

(Note: Geiger in the Deut. Morg. Zeitsch . xxvii. 800, translates Ecclesiastes 12:6 arbitrarily: and the stone-lid ( גלגל in the sense of the Mish.-Targ. גולל ) presses on the grave.)

is found in my Psychol . p. 229, and in Zöckler, ad loc . A principal error in these consists in this, that they read Koheleth as if he had been a disciple of Boerhaave, and Harvey, and other masters. Wunderbar in his Bibl.-Talm. medicin (1850) takes all in earnest, that the author knew already of the nervous system and the circulation of the blood; for, as he himself says, there is nothing new under the sun. As far as concerns my opinion, says Oetinger in his exposition ( Sämmt. Schrift. herausg. von Ehmann , IV p. 254), I dare not affirm that Solomon had a knowledge systematis nervolymphatici , as also circuli sanguinis , such as learned physicians now possess; yet I believe that the Holy Spirit spake thus through Solomon, that what in subsequent times was discovered as to these matters might be found under these words. This judgment also goes too far; the figure of death which Koheleth presents contains no anticipation of modern discoveries; yet it is not without its value for the historical development of anthropology, for science and poetry combine in it; it is as true to fact as it is poetically beautiful.

The author has now reached the close. His Koheleth-Solomon has made all earthly things small, and at last remains seated on this dust-heap of vanitas vanitatum. The motto-like saying, Ecclesiastes 1:2, is here repeated as a quod erat demonstrandum , like a summary conclusion. The book, artistically constructed in whole and in its parts, comes to a close, rounding itself off as in a circle in the epiphonema:

Verse 8

“O vanity of vanities, saith Koheleth, all is vain.” If we here look back to Ecclesiastes 12:7, that which is there said of the spirit can be no consolation. With right, Hofmann in his Schriftbeweis , I 490, says: “That it is the personal spirit of a man which returns to God; and that it returns to God without losing its consciousness, is an idea foreign to this proverb.” Also, Psychol . p. 410, it is willingly conceded that the author wished here to express, first, only the fact, in itself comfortless, that the component parts of the human body return whence they came. But the comfortless averse of the proverb is yet not without a consoling reverse. For what the author, Ecclesiastes 3:21, represents as an unsettled possibility, that the spirit of a dying man does not downwards like that of a beast, but upwards, he here affirms as an actual truth.

(Note: In the Rig-Veda that which is immortal in man is called manas ; the later language calls it âtman ; vid ., Muir in the Asiatic Journal , 1865, p. 305.)

From this, that he thus finally decides the question as an advantage to a man above a beast, it follows of necessity that the return of the spirit to God cannot be thought of as a resumption of the spirit into the essence of God (resorption or emanation), as the cessation of his independent existence, although, as also at Job 34:14; Psalms 104:29, the nearest object of the expression is directed to the ruin of the soul-corporeal life of man which directly follows the return of the spirit to God. The same conclusion arises from this, that the idea of the return of the spirit to God, in which the author at last finds rest, cannot yet stand in a subordinate place with reference to the idea of Hades, above which it raises itself; with the latter the spirit remains indestructible, although it has sunk into a silent, inactive life. And in the third place, that conclusion flows from the fact that the author is forced by the present contradiction between human experience and the righteousness of God to the postulate of a judgment finally settling these contradictions, Ecclesiastes 3:17; Ecclesiastes 11:9, cf. Ecclesiastes 12:14, whence it immediately follows that the continued existence of the spirit is thought of as a well-known truth ( Psychol . p. 127). The Targ. translates, not against the spirit of the book: “the spirit will return to stand in judgment before God, who gave it to thee.” In this connection of thoughts Koheleth says more than what Lucretius says (ii. 998 ss.):

Cedit item retro, de terra quod fuit ante,

In terras, et quod missum est ex aetheris oris

Id rursum caeli rellatum templa receptant .

A comforting thought lies in the words נתנהּ אשׁר . The gifts of God are on His side ἀμεταμέλητα (Romans 11:29). When He receives back that which was given, He receives it back to restore it again in another manner. Such thoughts connect themselves with the reference to God the Giv. Meanwhile the author next aims at showing the vanity of man, viz., of man as living here. Body and spirit are separated, and depart each in its own direction. Not only the world and the labours by which man is encompassed are “vain,” and not only is that which man has and does and experiences “vain,” but also man himself as such is vain, and thus - this is the facit - all is הבל , “vain.”

Verse 9

In connection with Ecclesiastes 12:8, where Koheleth has spoken his last word, the author, who has introduced him as speaking thereto, continues: “And, moreover, because Koheleth was wise he taught the people knowledge; he applied and searched out and formed may proverbs.” The postscript begins with “and” because it is connected with the concluding words of the book - only externally, however; nothing is more unwarrantable than to make Ecclesiastes 12:8 the beginning of the postscript on account of the vav . The lxx translate καὶ περισσὸν (Venet. περιττὸν ) ὃτι ; as Hitz.: “it remains (to be said) that Koheleth was a wise man,” etc.; and Dale may be right, that ויתר is in this sense as subj., pointed with Zakeph gadhol (cf. Genesis 16:16; Genesis 20:4, and the obj. thus pointed, Exodus 23:3). But that Koheleth was “a wise man” is nothing remaining to be said, for as such he certainly speaks in the whole book from beginning to end; the עוד , unconnected, following, shows that this his property is presupposed as needing no further testimony. But untenable also is the translation: So much the greater Koheleth was as a wise man so much the more, etc. (Heinem., Südfeld); עוד does not signify eo magis ; the Heb. language has a different way of expressing such an intensification: כל הגדול מחברו יצרו גדול ממנו , i.e. , the higher the position is which one assumes, so much the greater are the temptations to which he is exposed. Rightly, Luther: “This same preacher was not only wise, but,” etc. ויתר signifies, Ecclesiastes 7:11, “and an advance (benefit, gain);” here שׁ ויתר , “and something going beyond this, that,” etc. - thought of as accus.-adv.: “going beyond this, that = moreover, because” (Gesen., Knobel, Vaih., Ginsb., Grätz); vid . Thus 'od is in order, which introduces that which goes beyond the property and position of a “wise man” as such. That which goes beyond does not consist in this, that he taught the people knowledge, for that is just the meaning of the name Koheleth ; the statement which 'od introduces is contained in the concluding member of the compound sentence; the after-word begins with this, that it designates the Koheleth who appears in the more esoteric book before us as חכם , as the very same person who also composed the comprehensive people's book, the Mishle . He has taught the people knowledge; for he has placed, i.e. , formed “ stellen ,” to place, as “ Schriftsteller ” = author; modern Heb. מחבּר ; Arab. muṣannif ),

(Note: Cogn. in the meaning “ verfassen ” = to compose, is יסד ; vid ., Zunz' Aufs.: “To compose and to translate,” expressed in Heb. in Deut. Morg. Zeitsch . xxv. p. 435ff.)

many proverbs, as the fruit of nature reflection and diligent research. The obj. meshalim harbēh belongs only to tiqqēn , which ἀσυνδέτως (according to the style of the epilogue and of the book, as is shown above) follows the two preparative mental efforts, whose resultat it was. Rightly, as to the syntax, Zöckler, and, as to the matter, Hitzig: “Apparently the author has here not 1 Kings 5:12, but the canonical Book of Proverbs in his eye.” The language is peculiar. Not only is תּקּן exclusively peculiar to the Book of Koheleth, but also אזן , perpendere (cf. Assyr. uzunu , reflection), to consider, and the Pih . חקּר . Regarding the position of harbeh ,

(Note: Harbeh běchěh , Ezra 10:1, which signifies “making much weeping,” makes not exception in favour of the scribe. Cf. hatsne'a lecheth , Micah 6:8; haphlē vaphělě , Isaiah 29:14.)

Verse 10

It is further said of Koheleth, that he put forth efforts not only to find words of a pleasant form, but, above all, of exact truth: “Koheleth strove to find words of pleasantness, and, written in sincerity, words of truth.” The unconnected beginning biqqesh Koheleth is like dibbarti ani , Ecclesiastes 1:16, etc., in the book itself. Three objects follow limtso. But Hitz. reads the inf . absol . וכתוב instead of וכתוּב , and translates: to find pleasing words, and correctly to write words of truth. Such a continuance of the inf . const . by the inf . absol . is possible; 1 Samuel 25:26, 1 Samuel 25:31. But why should וכתוב not be the continuance of the finite (Aq., Syr.), as e.g. , at Ecclesiastes 8:9, and that in the nearest adverbial sense: et scribendo quidem sincere verba veritatis , i.e. , he strove, according to his best knowledge and conscience, to write true words, at the same time also to find out pleasing words; thus sought to connect truth as to the matter with beauty as to the manner? Vechathuv needs no modification in its form. But it is not to be translated: and that which was right was written by him; for the ellipsis is inadmissible, and כתוב מן is not correct Heb. Rightly the lxx, καὶ γεγραμμένον εὐθύτητος . כּתוּב signifies “written,” and may also, as the name of the Hagiographa כּתוּבים shows, signify “a writing;” kakathuvah , 2 Chronicles 30:5, is = “in accordance with the writing;” and belo kǎkathuv , 2 Chronicles 30:18, “contrary to the writing;” in the post-bibl. the phrase אמר הכּתוּב = ἡ γραφὴ λέγει , is used. The objection made by Ginsburg, that kathuv never means, as kethav does, “a writing,” is thus nugatory. However, we do not at all here need this subst. meaning, וכתוב is neut. particip., and ישׁר certainly not the genit., as the lxx renders (reading וּכתוּב ), but also not the nom. of the subj. (Hoelem.), but, since ישׁר is the designation of a mode of thought and of a relation, the accus. of manner, like veyashar , Psalms 119:18; emeth , Psalms 132:11; emunah , Psalms 119:75. Regarding the common use of such an accus. of the nearer definition in the passive part., vid ., Ewald, §284 c . The asyndeton vechathuv yosher divre emeth is like that at Ecclesiastes 10:1, mehhochmah michvod . That which follows limtso we interpret as its threefold object. Thus it is said that Koheleth directed his effort towards an attractive form (cf. avne - hephets , Isaiah 54:12); but, before all, towards the truth, both subjectively ( ישׁר ) and objectively ( אמת ), of that which was formulated and expressed in writing.

Verse 11

From the words of Koheleth the author comes to the words of the wise man in general; so that what he says of the latter finds its application to himself and his book: “Words of the wise are as like goads, and like fastened nails which are put together in collections - they are given by one shepherd.” The lxx, Aq., and Theod. translate darvonoth by βούκεντρα , the Venet. by βουπλῆγες ; and that is also correct. The word is one of three found in the Jerus. Gemara, Sanhedrin x. 1, to designate a rod for driving (oxen) - דרבן (from דרב , to sharpen, to point), מלמד (from למד , to adjust, teach, exercise), and מרדּע (from רדע , to hold back, repellere ); we read ka - dārevonoth ; Gesen., Ewald, Hitz., and others are in error in reading dorvonoth ; for the so-called light Metheg , which under certain circumstances can be changed into an accent, and the Kametz chatuph exclude one another.

(Note: The Kametz is the Kametz gadhol (opp. Kametz chatuph ), and may for this reason have the accent Munach instead of Metheg . Vid ., Michlol 153 b , 182 b . The case is the same as at Genesis 39:3, where mimmachoraath is to be read. Cf. Baer's Metheg -Setz. §27 and §18.)

If דרבן is the goad, the point of comparison is that which is to be excited intellectually and morally. Incorrectly, Gesen., Hitz., and others: like goads, because easily and deeply impressing themselves on the heart as well as on the memory. For goads, aculei , the Hebrews use the word קוצים ; darevonoth also are goads, but designed for driving on, thus stimuli (Jerome); and is there a more natural commendation for the proverbs of the wise men than that they incite to self-reflection, and urge to all kinds of noble effort? Divre and darevonoth have the same three commencing consonants, and, both for the ear and the eye, form a paronomasia. In the following comparison, it is a question whether ba'ale asuppoth (plur. of ba'al asuppoth , or of the double plur. ba'al asuppah , like e.g. , sare missim , Exodus 1:11, of sar mas ) is meant of persons, like ba'al hallashon , Ecclesiastes 10:11, cf. ba'al kenaphayim , Ecclesiastes 10:20, or of things, as ba'al piphiyoth , Isaiah 41:15; and thus, whether it is a designation parallel to חכמים or to דברי . The Talm. Jer. Sanhedrin x. 1, wavers, for there it is referred first to the members of the assemblies (viz., of the Sanedrium ), and then is explained by “words which are spoken in the assembly.” If we understand it of persons, as it was actually used in the Talm., then by asuppoth we must understand the societies of wise men, and by ba'ale asuppoth , of the academicians (Venet.: δεσπόται ξυναγμάτων ; Luther: “masters of assemblies”) belonging to such academies. But an appropriate meaning of this second comparison is not to be reached in this way. For if we translate: and as nails driven in are the members of the society, it is not easy to see what this wonderful comparison means; and what is then further said: they are given from one shepherd, reminds us indeed of Ephesians 4:11, but, as said of this perfectly unknown great one, is for us incomprehensible. Or if we translate, after Isaiah 28:1 : and (the words of the wise are) like the fastened nails of the members of the society, it is as tautological as if I should say: words of wise men are like fastened nails of wise men bound together in a society (as a confederacy, union). Quite impossible are the translations: like nails driven in by the masters of assemblies (thus e.g. , Lightfoot, and recently Bullock), for the accus. with the pass. particip. may express some nearer definition, but not (as of the genit.) the effective cause; and: like a nail driven in are the (words) of the masters of assemblies (Tyler: “those of editors of collections”), for ellipt. genit., dependent on a governing word carrying forward its influence, are indeed possible, e.g. , Isaiah 61:7, but that a governing word itself, as ba'ale , may be the governed genit. of one omitted, as here divre , is without example.

(Note: Regarding this omission of the muḍâf the governing noun, where this is naturally supplied before a genitive from the preceding, cf. Samachschari's Mufaṣṣal , p. 43, l. 8-13.)

It is also inconsistent to understand ba'ale asuppoth after the analogy of ba'ale masoreth (the Masoretes) and the like. It will not be meant of the persons of the wise, but of the proverbs of the wise. So far we agree with Lang and Hoelem. Lang (1874) thinks to come to a right understanding of the “much abused” expression by translating, “lords of troops,” - a designation of proverbs which, being by many acknowledged and kept in remembrance, possess a kind of lordship over men's minds; but that is already inadmissible, because asuppoth designates not any multitude of men, but associations with a definite end and aim. Hoelem. is content with this idea; for he connects together “planted as leaders of assemblies,” and finds therein the thought, that the words of the wise serve as seeds and as guiding lights for the expositions in the congregation; but ba'ale denotes masters, not in the sense of leaders, but of possessors; and as ba'ale berith , Genesis 14:13, signifies “the confederated,” ba'ale shevu'ah , Nehemiah 6:18, “the sworn,” and the frequently occurring ba'ale ha'ir , “the citizens;” so ba'ale asuppoth means, the possessors of assemblies and of the assembled themselves, or the possessors of collections and of the things collected. Thus ba'ale asuppoth will be a designation of the “words of the wise” (as in shalishim , choice men = choice proverbs, Proverbs 22:20, in a certain measure personified), also of those which form or constitute collections, and which stand together in order and rank (Hitz., Ewald, Elst., Zöckl., and others). Of such it may properly be said, that they are like nails driven in, for they are secured against separations, - they are, so to speak, made nail-feast, they stand on one common ground; and their being fixed in such connection not only is a help to the memory, but also to the understanding of them. The Book of Koheleth itself is such an asuppah ; for it contains a multitude of separate proverbs, which are thoughtfully ranged together, and are introduced into the severe, critical sermon on the nothingness of all earthly things as oases affording rest and refreshment; as similarly, in the later Talmudic literature, Haggadic parts follow long stretches of hair-splitting dialectics, and afford to the reader an agreeable repose.

And when he says of the “proverbs of the wise,” individually and as formed into collections: אחד נתּנוּ מרעה , i.e. , they are the gift of one shepherd, he gives it to be understood that his “words of Koheleth,” if not immediately written by Solomon himself, have yet one fountain with the Solomonic Book of Proverbs, - God, the one God, who guides and cares as a shepherd for all who fear Him, and suffers them to want nothing which is necessary to their spiritual support and advancement (Psalms 23:1; Psalms 28:9). “ Mēro'eh ehad ,” says Grätz, “is yet obscure, since it seldom, and that only poetically, designates the Shepherd of Israel. It cannot certainly refer to Moses.” Not to Moses, it is true (Targ.), nor to Solomon, as the father, the pattern, and, as it were, the patron of “the wise,” but to God, who is here named the ἀρχιποίμην as spiritual preserver (provider), not without reference to the figure of a shepherd from the goad, and the figure of household economy from the nails; for רעה , in the language of the Chokma (Proverbs 5:21), is in meaning cogn. to the N.T. conception of edification.

(Note: Vid ., my Heb. Römerbrief , p. 97.)

Regarding masmeroth (iron nails), the word is not used of tent spikes (Spohn, Ginsb.), - it is masc., the sing. is משׂמר ( מסמר ), Arab. mismâr . נטוּעים is = תּקוּעים (cf. Daniel 11:45 with Genesis 31:25), post-bibl. ( vid ., Jer. Sanhedrin ) קבוּעים (Jerome, in altum defixi ). Min with the pass., as at Job 21:1; Job 28:4; Psalms 37:23 (Ewald, §295 b ), is not synonymous with the Greek ὑπό . The lxx well: “given by those of the counsel from one shepherd.” Hitzig reads מרעה , and accordingly translates: “which are given united as a pasture,” but in mēro'eh ehad there lies a significant apologetic hint in favour of the collection of proverbs by the younger Solomon (Koheleth) in relation to that of the old. This is the point of the verse, and it is broken off by Hitzig's conjecture.

(Note: J. F. Reimmann, in the preface to his Introduction to the Historia Litterarum antediluviana , translates, Ecclesiastes 12:11 : “The words of the wise are like hewn-out marble, and the beautiful collectanea like set diamonds, which are presented by a good friend.” A Disputatio philologica by Abr. Wolf, Königsberg 1723, contends against this παρερμεενεία .)

Verse 12

With veyother mehemmah the postscript takes a new departure, warning against too much reading, and finally pointing once more to the one thing needful: “And besides, my son, be warned: for there is no end of much book-making; and much study is a weariness of the body.” With “my son,” the teacher of wisdom here, as in the Book of Proverbs, addresses the disciple who places himself under his instruction. Hitzig translates, construing mehemmah with hizzaher : “And for the rest: by these (the 'words of Koheleth,' Ecclesiastes 12:10) be informed.” But (1) נזהר , according to usage, does not signify in general to be taught, but to be made wiser, warned; particularly the imper. הזּהר is cogn. with השּׁמר (cf. Targ. Jer. Exodus 10:28, אזדּהר לך = השּׁמר לך ), and in fact an object of the warning follows; (2) min after yothēr is naturally to be regarded as connected with it, and not with hizzaher (cf. Esther 6:6, Sota vii. 7; cf. Psalms 19:12). The punctuation of veyother and mehemmah is thus not to be interfered with. Either hēmmah points back to divre (Ecclesiastes 12:11): And as to what goes beyond these (in relation thereto) be warned (Schelling: quidquid ultra haec est, ab iis cave tibi , and thus e.g. , Oehler in Herzog's R. E. vii. 248); or, which is more probable, since the divre are without a fixed beginning, and the difference between true and false “wise men” is not here expressed, hemmah refers back to all that has hitherto been said, and veyother mehemmah signifies not the result thereof (Ewald, §285e), but that which remains thereafter: and what is more than that (which has hitherto been said), i.e. , what remains to be said after that hitherto said; Lat. et quod superest, quod reliquum est .

In Ecclesiastes 12:12, Hitzig also proposes a different interpunction from that which lies before us; but at the same time, in the place of the significant double sentence, he proposes a simple sentence: “to make many books, without end, and much exertion of mind (in making these), is a weariness of the body.” The author thus gives the reason for his writing no more. But with Ecclesiastes 12:8 he has certainly brought his theme to a close, and he writes no further; because he does not write for hire and without an aim, but for a high end, according to a fixed plan; and whether he will leave off with this his book or not is a matter of perfect indifference to the readers of this one book; and that the writing of many books without end will exhaust a man's mind and bring down his body, is not that a flat truism? We rather prefer Herzfeld's translation, which harmonizes with Rashbam's: “But more than these (the wise men) can teach thee, my son, teach thyself: to make many books there would be no end; and much preaching is fatiguing to the body.” But נזהר cannot mean to “teach oneself,” and ēn qētz does not mean non esset finis , but non est finis ; and for lahach the meaning “to preach” (which Luther also gives to it) is not at all shown from the Arab. lahjat , which signifies the tongue as that which is eager (to learn, etc.), and then also occurs as a choice name for tongues in general. Thus the idea of a double sentence, which is the most natural, is maintained, as the lxx has already rendered it. The n. actionis עשׂות with its object is the subject of the sentence, of which it is said een qeets, it is without end; Hitzig's opinion, that ēn qēts is a virtual adj., as ēn 'avel , Deuteronomy 33:4, and the like, and as such the pred. of the substantival sentence. Regarding להג , avidum discendi legendique studium . C. A. Bode (1777) renders well: polygraphiae nullus est finis et polymathia corpus delessat . Against this endless making of books and much study the postscript warns, for it says that this exhausts the bodily strength without (for this is the reverse side of the judgment) truly furthering the mind, which rather becomes decentralized by this polupragmosu'nee. The meaning of the warning accords with the phrase coined by Pliny ( Ep . vii. 9), multum non multa . One ought to hold by the “words of the wise,” to which also the “words of Koheleth,” comprehended in the asuppah of the book before us, belong; for all that one can learn by hearing or by reading amounts at last, if we deduct all that is unessential and unenduring, to a unum necessarium :

Verse 13

“The final result, after all is learned, (is this): Fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the end of every man.” Many expositors, as Jerome, the Venet., and Luther, render נשׁמע as fut.: The conclusion of the discourse we would all hear (Salomon); or: The conclusion of the whole discourse or matter let us hear (Panzer, 1773, de Wette-Augusti); Hitzig also takes together s oph davar hakol = soph davar kol - haddavar : The end of the whole discourse let us hear. But הכּל for כּלּנוּ is contrary to the style of the book; and as a general rule, the author uses הכל for the most part of things, seldom of persons. And also soph davar hakol , which it would be better to explain (“the final word of the whole”), with Ewald, §291 a , after yemē - olam mosheh , Isaiah 63:11, than it is explained by Hitzig, although, in spite of Philippi's ( Sta. const . p. 17) doubt, possible in point of style, and also exemplified in the later period of the language (1 Chronicles 9:13), is yet a stylistic crudeness which the author could have avoided either by writing soph devar hakol , or better, soph kol - haddavar . נשׁמע , Ewald, §168 b , renders as a particip. by audiendum ; but that also does not commend itself, for נשמע signifies nothing else than auditum , and acquires the meaning of audiendum when from the empirical matter of fact that which is inwardly necessary is concluded; the translation: The final word of the whole is to be heard, audiendum est , would only be admissible of also the translation auditum est were possible, which is not the case. Is נשׁמע thus possibly the pausal form of the finite נשׁמע ? We might explain: The end of the matter ( summa summarum ), all is heard, when, viz., that which follows is heard, which comprehends all that is to be known. Or as Hoelem.: Enough, all is heard, since, viz., that which is given in the book to be learned contains the essence of all true knowledge, viz., the following two fundamental doctrines. This retrospective reference of hakol nishm'a is more natural than the prospective reference; but, on the other hand, it is also more probable that soph davar denotes the final resultat than that it denotes the conclusion of the discourse. The right explanation will be that which combines the retrospective reference of nakol nishm'a and the resultative reference of soph davar . Accordingly, Mendelss. appears to us to be correct when he explains: After thou hast heard all the words of the wise ... this is the final result, etc. Finis ( summa ) reî omnia audita is = omnibus auditis , for the sentence denoting the conditions remains externally undesignated, in the same way as at Ecclesiastes 10:14; Deuteronomy 21:1; Ezra 10:6 (Ewald, §341 b ). After the clause, soph ... nishm'a , Athnach stands where we put a colon: the mediating hocce est is omitted just as at Ecclesiastes 7:12 (where translate: yet the preference of knowledge is this, that, etc.).

The sentence, eth - naeolohim yera (“fear God”), repeating itself from Ecclesiastes 5:6, is the kernel and the star of the whole book, the highest moral demand which mitigates its pessimism and hallows its eudaemonism. The admonition proceeding therefrom, “and keep His commandments,” is included in lishmo'a , Ecclesiastes 5:1, which places the hearing of the divine word, viz., a hearing for the purpose of observing, as the very soul of the worship of God above all the opus operatum of ceremonial services.

The connection of the clause, ki - zeh kol - haadam , Hitzig mediates in an unnecessary, roundabout way: “but not thou alone, but this ought every man.” But why this negative here introduced to stamp כי as an immo establishing it? It is also certainly suitable as the immediate confirmation of the rectitude of the double admonition finally expressing all. The clause has the form of a simple judgment, it is a substantival clause, the briefest expression for the thought which is intended. What is that thought? The lxx renders: ὃτι τοῦτο πᾶς ὁ ἄνθρωπος ; also Symm. and the Venet. render kol haadam by πᾶς ὁ ἄνθρ ., and an unnamed translator has ὃλος ὁ ἄνθρ ., according to which also the translation of Jerome is to be understood, hoc est enim omnis homo . Thus among the moderns, Herzf., Ewald, Elst., and Heiligst.: for that is the whole man, viz., as to his destiny, the end of his existence (cf. as to the subject-matter, Job 28:28); and v. Hofmann ( Schriftbew . II 2, p. 456): this is the whole of man, viz., as Grotius explains: totum hominis bonum ; or as Dale and Bullock: “the whole duty of man;” or as Tyler: “the universal law ( כל , like the Mishnic כּלל ) of man;” or as Hoelem.: that which gives to man for the first time his true and full worth. Knobel also suggests for consideration this rendering: this is the all of man, i.e. , on this all with man rests. But against this there is the one fact, that kol - haadam never signifies the whole man, and as little anywhere the whole (the all) of a man. It signifies either “all men” ( πάντες οἱ ἄνθρωποι , οἱ πά ἄνθρ οἱ ἄνθρ πά ), as at Ecclesiastes 7:2, hu soph kol - haadam , or, of the same meaning as kol - haadam , “every man” ( πᾶς ἄντηρωπος ), as at Ecclesiastes 3:13; Ecclesiastes 5:18 (lxx, also Ecclesiastes 7:2 : τοῦτο τέλος παντὸς ἀντηρώπου ); and it is yet more than improbable that the common expression, instead of which haadam kullo was available, should here have been used in a sense elsewhere unexampled. Continuing in the track of the usus loq ., and particularly of the style of the author, we shall thus have to translate: “for this is every man.” If we use for it: “for this is every man's,” the clause becomes at once distinct; Zirkel renders kol - haadam as genit., and reckons the expression among the Graecisms of the book: παντὸς ἀντηρώπου, Ϛιζ., πρᾶγμα . Or if, with Knobel, Hitz., Böttch., and Ginsburg, we might borrow a verb to supplement the preceding imperat.: “for this ought every man to do,” we should also in this way gain the meaning to be expected; but the clause lying before us is certainly a substantival clause, like meh haadam , Ecclesiastes 2:12, not an elliptical verbal clause, like Isaiah 23:5; Isaiah 26:9, where the verb to be supplied easily unfolds itself from the ל of the end of the movement.

We have here a case which is frequent in the Semitic languages, in which subj. and pred. are connected in the form of a simple judgment, and it is left for the hearer to find out the relation sustained by the pred. to the subj. - e.g. , Psalms 110:3; Psalms 109:4, “I am prayer;” and in the Book of Koheleth, Ecclesiastes 3:19, “the children of men are a chance.”

(Note: Vid ., Fleischer's Abh. ü. einige Arten der Nominalapposition , 1862, and Philippi's St. const . p. 90ff.)

In the same way we have here to explain: for that is every man, viz., according to his destiny and duty; excellently, Luther: for that belongs to all men. With right, Hahn, like Bauer (1732), regards the pronoun as pred. (not subj. as at Ecclesiastes 7:2): “this, i.e. , this constituted, that they must do this, are all men,” or rather: this = under obligation thereto, is every man.

(Note: Hitz. thus renders היא , Jeremiah 45:4, predicat.: “And it is such, all the world.”)

It is a great thought that is thereby expressed, viz., the reduction of the Israelitish law to its common human essence. This has not escaped the old Jewish teachers. What can this mean: zeh kol - haadam ? it is asked, Berachoth 6 b ; and R. Elazar answers: “The whole world is comprehended therein;” and R. Abba bar-Cahana: “This fundamental law is of the same importance to the universe;” and R. Simeon b. Azzai: “The universe has been created only for the purpose of being commanded this.”

(Note: Cf. Jer. Nedarim ix. 3: “Thou oughtest to love thy neighbour as thyself,” says R. Akiba, is a principal sentence in the Law. Ben-Azzai says: “The words zěh ... adam (Genesis 5:1) are it in a yet higher degree,” because therein the oneness of the origin and the destiny of all men is contained. Aben Ezra alludes to the same thing, when at the close of his Comm . he remarks: “The secret of the non-use of the divine name יהוה in Gen 1:1-2:3 is the secret of the Book of Koheleth.”)

Verse 14

As we render zeh kol - haadam as expressive of the same obligation lying on all men without exception, this verse appropriately follows: “For God shall bring every work into the judgment upon all that is concealed, whether it be good or bad.” To bring into judgment is, as at Ecclesiastes 11:9 = to bring to an account. There the punctuation is בּמּשׁ , here בּמשׁ , as, according to rule, the art. is omitted where the idea is determined by a relative clause or an added description; for bemishpat 'al kol - ne'llam are taken together: in the judgment upon all that is concealed (cf. Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 4:5, τὰ κρυπτά ). Hitzig, however, punctuates here בּמשׁ , and explains על as of the same meaning as the distributive ל , e.g. , Genesis 9:5, Genesis 9:10; but in this sense על never interchanges with ל . And wherefore this subtlety? The judgment upon all that is concealed is a judgment from the cognition of which nothing, not even the most secret, can escape; and that על משׁפט is not a Germanism, is shown from Ecclesiastes 11:9; to execute judgment on (Germ. an ) any one is expressed by ב , Psalms 119:84, Wisd. 6:6; judgment upon ( über ) any one may be expressed by the genit. of him whom it concerns, Jeremiah 51:9; but judgment upon anything (Symm. περὶ παντὸς παροραθέντος ) cannot otherwise be expressed than by על . Rather על may be rendered as a connecting particle: “together with all that is concealed” (Vaih., Hahn); but כל־מעשׂה certainly comprehends all, and with כל־נעלם this comprehensive idea is only deepened. The accent dividing the verse stands rightly under נעלּם ;

(Note: Thus rightly pointed in F. with Dagesh in lamed , to make distinct the ע as quiescent (cf. 1 Kings 10:3; and, on the other hand, Nehemiah 3:11; Psalms 26:4). Cf. תּחשּׁ with Dagesh in shin , on account of the preceding quiescent guttural, like יח , Ecclesiastes 9:8; התּ , Leviticus 11:16; נח , Numbers 1:7, etc.; cf. Luth. Zeitsch . 1863, p. 413.)

for sive bonum sive malum (as at Ecclesiastes 5:11) is not related to ne'llam as disjoining, but to kol̇ma'aseh .

This certainty of a final judgment of personal character is the Ariadne-thread by which Koheleth at last brings himself safely out of the labyrinth of his scepticism. The prospect of a general judgment upon the nations prevailing in the O.T., cannot sufficiently set at rest the faith ( vid ., e.g. , Ps 73; Jeremiah 12:1-3) which is tried by the unequal distributions of present destiny. Certainly the natural, and particularly the national connection in which men stand to one another, is not without an influence on their moral condition; but this influence does not remove accountability, - the individuum is at the same time a person; the object of the final judgment will not be societies as such, but only persons, although not without regard to their circle of life. This personal view of the final judgment does not yet in the O.T. receive a preponderance over the national view; such figures of an universal and individualizing personal judgment as Matthew 7:21-23; Revelation 20:12, are nowhere found in it; the object of the final judgment are nations, kingdoms, cities, and conditions of men. But here, with Koheleth, a beginning is made in the direction of regarding the final judgment as the final judgment of men, and as lying in the future, beyond the present time. What Job 19:25-27 postulates in the absence of a present judgment of his cause, and the Apocalyptic Daniel 12:2 saw as a dualistic issue of the history of his people, comes out here for the first time in the form of doctrine into that universally-human expression which is continued in the announcements of Jesus and the apostles. Kleinert sees here the morning-dawn of a new revelation breaking forth; and Himpel says, in view of this conclusion, that Koheleth is a precious link in the chain of the preparation for the gospel; and rightly. In the Book of Koheleth the O.T. religion sings its funeral song, but not without finally breaking the ban of nationality and of bondage to this present life, which made it unable to solve the mysteries of life, and thus not without prophesying its resurrection in an expanded glorified form as the religion of humanity.

The synagogal lesson repeats the 13th verse after the 14th, to gain thereby a conclusion of a pleasing sound. The Masoretic Siman ( vox memorialis ) of those four books, in which, after the last verse, on account of its severe contents, the verse going before is repeated in reading, is קק '' ית . The י refers to ישׁעיה (Isaiah), ת to תריסר (the Book of the Twelve Prophets), the first ק to קהלת , the second ק to קינות (Lamentations). The Lamentations and Koheleth always stand together. But there are two different arrangements of the five Megilloth , viz., that of the calendar of festivals which has passed into our printed editions: the Song, Ruth, Lamentations, Koheleth, and Esther; and the Masoretic arrangement, according to the history of their origin: Ruth, the Song, Koheleth, Lamentations, and Esther.


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The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12:4". 1854-1889.

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