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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 12

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-14

Ecclesiastes 12:1 . Remember now thy Creator. Hebrews בוראיךְ Boreicha, thy Creators. The word is plural, as אלהים Elohim, Genesis 1:1, designating the Divinity or Godhead, as Romans 1:20. Certainly, Solomon did not mean to exclude the Messiah, the Word and Wisdom of God. See on Proverbs 8:22; Proverbs 30:4.

Ecclesiastes 12:2 . Nor the clouds return after the rain. In youth, we recover our strength after infirmities; but now, the springs of nature being exhausted, the most indulgent treatment cannot restore us to bloom and vigour.

Ecclesiastes 12:3 . When the keepers of the house shall tremble. When the hands shake, when the legs totter, and the limbs incline to paralysis.

Ecclesiastes 12:4 . All the daughters of music shall be brought low. All the vocal powers, which can so admirably express the passions; which can be tender and musical in all the mother’s addresses of love to her babe; which soften anger, or thunders in the shouts of war.

Ecclesiastes 12:5 . Man goeth to his long home. Hebrews בית עלם baith ôlam, the house of ages.

Ecclesiastes 12:6 . Or ever the silver cord be loosed. The spinal marrow which decays in age. This being the grand seat of the nerves, descending in pairs from the brain, its decay is connected with the decay of the whole system. Or the golden bowl be broken. The Chaldaic reads, the vertex or top of the head; that is, the cranium, called a bowl, because it contains the brain. Or the pitcher be broken at the fountain. The vena cava, which returns the blood from the veins to the right ventricle of the heart. Then the beating of the heart, which contracts after expansion, propels the blood into the arteries with fresh heat and force, and circulates the whole blood through the body six times in an hour, as Dr. Harvey affirms, to whom modern science has attributed the discovery of the circulation of the blood. It should have been said, that he made many observations on the circulation of the blood; for the subject was known to Solomon, and studied by the ancients. Or the wheel broken at the cistern. The aörta, which receives the blood, now revived and warmed from the left ventricle of the heart.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 . Then, when the spirit, as Genesis 2:7, shall return to God. The mover having taken its flight, and left the untenable habitation, the body returns to dust. Here is the close of our pilgrimage.

The weary wheels of life stand still at last.

Ecclesiastes 12:9 . Because the preacher was wise, a student in natural and moral philosophy, he taught the people knowledge. He wrote popular books for schools as well as for sages, which was a proof of his wisdom, and of the benevolence of his heart. The sun loses nothing of his glory by giving light to the earth.

Ecclesiastes 12:11 . As nails fastened by the masters of assemblies. Dr. Lightfoot reads, “As nails fastened by those that gather the flock into the fold.” This reading improves the text, that as the door and the fence secure the flock, so the words of the wise are the guardians of youth.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 . Fear God and keep his commandments. Solomon closes his book as a disciple of Moses, a proof that he died in the faith. Yet St. Paul mentions David, but not Solomon, among the ancient worthies. Hebrews 11:0. Certainly, he did not equal David in piety and holiness.


Here is an old man recommending early piety; and in running the mortal race through life, it is of the greatest importance for youth to take the right road. God in the law required the firstlings of the flock, and the firstfruits of the harvest; and by the same divine right he claims the first affections of the heart, and the early fruits of righteousness in life.

Solomon allows the depravity of human nature, or original sin: chap. 7. Hence, regeneration is a great work, and demands the whole of life. We cannot stop too early in the course of folly, nor begin too soon to serve the Lord. It ought fully to be marked, that this work begins by remembering our Creator, Redeemer, and Lord, and all the duties we owe to his love. So on the other hand, all the misery and ruin of man originate in a shameful forgetfulness of God. Moses, Samuel, David, Josiah, Jeremiah, Paul, Timothy, and others distinguished for natural and divine wisdom, all began to serve the Lord before they were advanced in years. Besides, piety in youth has most advantages. The habits of vice are not confirmed, sin may more easily be subdued, and virtue flourishes as a plant in spring. What a glory to escape the vices of the age, vices which degrade youth, which anticipate death, and break the heart of parents, besides involving the more innocent as accomplices in crimes. What a glory, on the contrary, to be adorned with wisdom and virtue in youth, which are worthy of a hoary age. We then have life before us, we have time for gaining knowledge, and opportunity for every good work. When a youth seeks God he has the promise to find him, and he is ready in the church for whatever good things the Lord may call him to. But when we defer till old age, there is a fear lest we should have no desire. Perhaps we may be hardened in sin; perhaps he that sitteth in the heavens may laugh at our calamity, and mock when our fear cometh.

Read read read the piteous portrait of old age seeking God. The sun or understanding is darkened; we cannot then recollect our sins, nor exercise the mind in seeking peace with God. As clouds follow clouds, so one trouble follows another in the infirmities of age. The keepers tremble, the head shakes, as the watchmen are shaken by the tempests on the turrets of a lofty tower. The grinders among the teeth fall out, and we cannot masticate our food, nor taste its sweetness; how then can we relish the word of life, after living for vanity till we touch eternity! They that look out at the windows are darkened. The old man cannot read his bible, nor see his way to the house of God. The doors are shut, and weary age is obliged to retain its couch, and stay in the house. The daughters of music are brought low. The women whose voice once charmed the crowd, have lost their harmony, and forgotten the chords of melody. The almond-tree, white with bloom in the spring, resembles the falling locks of venerable age. The grasshopper is a burden; for the silver cords, or spine of the back, has lost its strength. The limbs are cold and benumbed, for the bowl or ventricles of the heart do but feebly circulate the blood.

And is this the long promised time; and are these the flattering circumstances in which we are to mortify the flesh, vanquish the world, and regain the image of God? Is this the time when we are to disengage our minds from sin, learn the mysteries of faith, and triumph over the world? Alas, it is the time of darkness, the time of vengeance, the time when God will spurn the ungrateful from his door. Remember then thy Creator, in the days of thy youth. Oh may the words of the wise man be to us as goads to the bullock, and drive us to duty. Oh may the conclusion of the preacher’s sermon be written on our hearts; viz., to fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. The pure and perfect love of God is the source of all holiness, and the spring of all obedience. The soul in this love participates the divine felicity; it has treasures of happiness coëval with its existence, and a hope full of immortality. But vanity is the character of all the earthly hopes of man. Conquests, the pride of heroes, which over-flowed states as a swelling tide, have destroyed the conqueror by a dreadful recoil. Palaces disinherited, fall to the ground; riches change their owners, and fame and elevation are often the harbingers of the greatest fall. Lord, be thou then our dwellingplace from one generation to another. And when our heart and flesh fail, be thou the strength of our heart, and our portion for ever.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/ecclesiastes-12.html. 1835.
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