An exhortation to remember God in youth, enforced from the calamities
of old age, and the change which death will make, ver. 1 - 7.
The conclusion, All is vanity, ver. 8.
The preacher's end in this book, ver. 9 - 12.
The sum of all, to fear God and keep his commandments, in consideration
of the judgment to come, ver. 13, 14.
1: Now - For now thou art most able to do it; and it will be most
acceptable to God, and most comfortable to thyself, as the best evidence
of thy sincerity, and the best provision for old age and death.
Evil days - The time of old age, which is evil; burdensome in itself, and
far more grievous when it is loaded with the sad remembrance of youthful
follies, and with the dreadful prospect of approaching death and judgment.
No pleasure - My life Is now bitter and burdensome to me: which is
frequently the condition of old age.
2: Which - Heb. While the sun, and the light, and the moon, &c.
That clause, and the light, seems to be added to signify that he speaks
of the darkening of the sun, and moon, and stars; not in themselves, but
only in respect of that light which they afford to men. And therefore
the same clause which is expressed after the sun, is to be understood
after the moon and stars. And those expressions may be understood of the
outward parts of the body, and especially of the face, the beauty of the
countenance, the pleasant complexion of the cheeks, the liveliness of the
eyes, which are compared to the sun, and moon, and stars, and which are
obscured in old age, as the Chaldee paraphrast understands it. Or of
external things, of the change of their joy, which they had in their youth,
into sorrow, and manifold calamities, which are usually the companions of
old age. This interpretation agrees both with the foregoing verse, in
which he describes the miseries of old age, and with the following clause,
which is added to explain those otherwise ambiguous expressions; and with
the scripture use of this phrase; for a state of comfort and happiness is
often described by the light of the sun, and a state of trouble is set
forth, by the darkening of the light of the sun. Nor the clouds - This
phrase denotes a perpetual succession of rain, and clouds bringing rain,
and then rain and clouds again. Whereby he expresses either the rheums
or destructions which incessantly flow in old men; or the continual
vicissitude of infirmities, diseases, and griefs; one deep calling upon
3: The house - Of the body: whose keepers are the hands and arms,
which are man's best instruments to defend his body; and which in a
special manner are subject to his trembling. The strong men - The thighs
and legs, in which the main strength of the body consists. Grinders - The
teeth, those especially which are commonly so called, because they grind
the meat. Cease - To perform their office. And those, &c. - The eyes.
By windows he understands either the eye - lids, which like windows, are
either opened or shut: or, those humours and coats of the eyes, which
are the chief instruments by which we see.
4: In - Or, towards the streets: which lead into the streets.
This may be understood either of the outward senses, which, as doors, let
in outward objects to the soul: or rather the mouth, the two lips, here
expressed by a word of the dual number, which like a door, open or shut
the way that leads into the streets or common passages of the body; which
also are principal instruments both of speaking and eating. And these are
said to be shut, not absolutely, but comparatively, because men in old
age grow dull and listless, having little appetite to eat, and are very
frequently indisposed for discourse. When the sound - When the teeth are
loose and few, whereby both his speech is low, and the noise which he makes
in eating is but small. Shall rise - From his bed, being weary with lying,
and unable to get sleep. The bird - As soon as the birds begin to chirp,
which is early in the morning, whereas young men, can lie and sleep long.
The daughters - All those senses which are employed in music. Brought
low - Shall be cast down from their former excellency, and become
incapable either of making musick, or of delighting in it.
5: Afraid - The passion of fear is observed to be most incident to
old men. High - When they walk abroad they dread to go up high or steep
places. Fears - Lest as they are walking, they should stumble, or fall.
The almond - tree - Their heads shall be as full of grey hairs, as the
almond - tree is of white flowers. The grasshopper - They cannot endure
the least burden, being indeed a burden to themselves. Desire - Of meats,
and drinks, and music, and other delights, which are vehemently desired
by men in their youth. Goeth - is travelling towards it, and every day
nearer to it. Long home - From this place of his pilgrimage into the
grave, from whence he must never return into this world, and into the
state of the future life, which is unchangeable and everlasting.
Mourners - Accompany the corpse thro' the streets to the grave.
6: The silver cord - By the silver cord he seems to understand
the marrow of the back - bone, which comes from the brain, and goes down to
the lowest end of it. And this is aptly compared to a cord, both for its
figure, which is long and round, and for its use, which is to draw and move
the parts of the body; and to silver, both for its excellency and colour,
which is white and bright, in a dead, much more in a living body.
This may properly be said to be loosed, or dissolved, because it is
relaxed, or otherwise disabled for its proper service. And answerably
hereto by the golden bowl we may understand, the membranes of the brain,
and especially that inmost membrane which insinuates itself into all the
parts of it, following it in its various windings, keeping each parcel of
it in its proper place, and dividing one from another, to prevent disorder.
This is not unfitly called a bowl, because It is round, and contains in
it all the substance of the brain; and a golden bowl, partly for its
great preciousness, partly for its ductility, being drawn out into a great
thinness or fineness; and partly for its colour, which is some - what yellow,
and comes nearer to that of gold than any other part of the body does.
And this, upon the approach of death, is commonly shrivelled up, and many
times broken. and as these clauses concern the brain, and the animal powers,
so the two following respect the spring of the vital powers, and of the
blood, the great instrument thereof is the heart. And so Solomon here
describes the chief organs appointed for the production, distribution, and
circulation of the blood. For tho' the circulation of the blood has been
hid for many generations, yet it was well known to Solomon. According
to this notion, the fountain is the right ventricle of the heart, which is
now acknowledged to be the spring of life; and the pitcher is the veins
which convey the blood from it to other parts, and especially that arterious
vein by which it is transmitted to the lungs, and thence to the left
ventricle, where it is better elaborated, and then thrust out into the great
artery, called the Aorta, and by its branches dispersed into all the
parts of the body. And the cistern is the left ventricle of the heart,
and the wheel seems to be the great artery, which is fitly so called,
because it is the great instrument of this circulation. The pitcher may
be said to be broken at the fountain, when the veins do not return the
blood to the heart, but suffer it to stand still and cool, whence comes
that coldness of the outward parts, which is a near fore - runner of death.
And the wheel may be said to be broken at the cistern, when the great
arteries do not perform their office of conveying the blood into the left
ventricle of the heart, and of thrusting it out thence into the lesser
arteries, whence comes that ceasing of the pulse, which is a certain sign
of approaching death.
8: Vanity - This sentence, wherewith he began this book, he here
repeats in the end of it, as that which he had proved in all the foregoing
discourse, and that which naturally followed from both the branches of the
assertion laid down, ver.(7).
9: Taught - As God gave him this wisdom, that he might be a teacher
of others. So he used it to that end. Gave heed - He did not utter
whatever came into his mind, but seriously pondered both his matter
10: Acceptable - Such as would comfort and profit the readers.
11: Nails - Piercing into men's dull minds, which make powerful and
abiding impressions in them. Masters - By the teachers of God's church,
appointed of God for that work. Shepherd - From Christ, the great
Shepherd of the church in all ages.
12: By these - By these wise men, and their writings.
13: The conclusion - The sum of all that hath been said or written
by wise men. Fear God - Which is put here, for all the inward worship of
God, reverence, and love, and trust, and a devotedness of heart to serve
and please him. The whole - It is his whole work and business, his whole
perfection and happiness; it is the sum of what he need either know, or do,
14: For - All men must give an account to God of all their works, and
this alone will enable them to do that with joy. Every secret - Not only
outward and visible actions, but even inward and secret thoughts.