Ecclesiastes 12 (Contemporary English Version)
- Keep your Creator in mind while you are young! In years to come, you will be burdened down with troubles and say, "I don't enjoy life anymore."
- Someday the light of the sun and the moon and the stars will all seem dim to you. Rain clouds will remain over your head.
- Your body will grow feeble, your teeth will decay, and your eyesight fail.
- The noisy grinding of grain will be shut out by your deaf ears, but even the song of a bird will keep you awake.
- You will be afraid to climb up a hill or walk down a road. Your hair will turn as white as almond blossoms. You will feel lifeless and drag along like an old grasshopper. We each go to our eternal home, and the streets are filled with those who mourn.
- The silver cord snaps, the golden bowl breaks; the water pitcher is smashed, and the pulley at the well is shattered.
- So our bodies return to the earth, and the life-giving breath returns to God.
- Nothing makes sense. I have seen it all-- nothing makes sense.
- I was a wise teacher with much understanding, and I collected a number of proverbs that I had carefully studied.
- Then I tried to explain these things in the best and most accurate way.
- Words of wisdom are like the stick a farmer uses to make animals move. These sayings come from God, our only shepherd, and they are like nails that fasten things together.
- My child, I warn you to stay away from any teachings except these. There is no end to books, and too much study will wear you out.
- Everything you were taught can be put into a few words: Respect and obey God! This is what life is all about.
- God will judge everything we do, even what is done in secret, whether good or bad.
Solomon does not mention enjoying the fruit of our labor in this chapter, but it has been a central point in much of the book. In fact the message of the book might be stated as this: Remember your Creator and thus live responsibly as you enjoy the fruit of your labor. All other pursuits are futile and lead nowhere, so concentrate on this and enjoy life the best you can.
His descriptions of old age are not especially cheerful. From Solomon's perspective, once the body began to decline it was beginning its march toward death. It was a time when "the keepers of the house tremble" (arms and legs growing weak), when "the grinders cease because they are few" (teeth becoming fewer), "those looking through the windows grow dim" (eyesight failing), and "the grasshopper drags himself along (body is bent and one's walk is slowed), to mention a few of his descriptions. Before these things occur, remember your Creator. Otherwise your days will be filled with futile pursuits.
In the last verses of the chapter, which is also the conclusion to the book, Solomon sites the authority behind his message. As for his personal qualifications as a wisdom teacher, Solomon said he was wise and imparted knowledge to the people. Teachers were one of three kinds of leaders through whom God revealed His will to Israel. The other two were priests and prophets. He was placing himself in this group. In addition he weighed and explored and arranged many proverbs in arriving at his teaching, and he sought to make them aesthetically pleasing without sacrificing truth (verse 10). But above all, "The sayings are given by one Shepherd" which is the Lord. Having sited these sources, Solomon then cautions against looking further for wisdom for two reasons: There is no end to this pursuit and you will wear yourself out doing it, and besides the conclusion of the matter is to "fear God and keep His commandments, which applies to everyone. No need to look further. You can do so, but you will find nothing of meaning beyond this. Don't think this conclusion applies to only a few and there is another truth for you. It applies to everyone, for God is the Creator of everyone. So remember your Creator now and forever.