Ecclesiastes 9-12 The whole duty of man

From Ecclesiastes 9-12

20 21 Solomon Proverbs Ecclesiastes thumbThe Preacher ends with some final comments. While a large amount of what he has said through Ecclesiastes questions the value of life, he gives some helpful instructions at the end.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

12 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, 3 in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, 4 and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— 5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— 6 before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity. (Ec 12.1-7)

The Preacher instructs his listeners to remember the creator in the days of their youth. Perhaps he might mean when they were young. Another suggestion might be, he is referring to the early days of Israel. When she was saved from Egypt. Either way they are to hold on to an early understanding of God as their Creator. He then gives a series of reasons why they should do so. I suggest we can look at them like this;

  • 1) There will be times of evil and suffering (v1)
  • 2) Creation will not seem to speak of the LORD (v2)
  • 3) People will start losing their faith, die and mourn (v3-5)
  • 4) The prosperity of people will wain and again people die (v6-7)

The Preacher then quotes in v8 where he started at Ec 1.2. All is vanity. The book ends with a summary of his teachings and a description of what he thinks is important.

9 Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. 10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Ec 12.9-12)

I like the idea ‘the Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth’. He seeks to build people up with what he says. The listeners are told by another (not the Preacher) to ‘beware anything beyond these’. A small statement towards sola scriptura. Like some of his earlier statements (e.g. Ec 7.16) he warns against excessive study.

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ec 12.13-14)

He ends with an instruction concerning future judgment and a reminder of our duty towards God.

Story of Jesus

These two aspects of the life of God’s people (in addition to faith and love; cf. Gal 5.6) still continue into and beyond Jesus death’ and resurrection. As Paul clearly states.

6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.  11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. (2 Cor 5.6-11)

Paul knows the fear of the Lord, because he knows he will be judged by Christ for what he has done in the body. In another place he says.

17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. (1 Cor 7.17-19)

Circumcised Jews and uncircumcised Gentiles now constitute the people of God. Paul says to them both, ‘what matters is keeping the commands of God’. He’s not building up the Jewish law again. Rather God’s law (1 Cor 9.21; Rom 8.7) which defines right and wrong and all nations will be judged by. Sobering words.

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