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Remember Your Creator

Ecclesiastes 11:9 - 12:18

Lesson audio

Solomon now sums up his conclusions in the last section of Ecclesiastes. Interestingly, he still holds to the theme that vanity, vanity, all is vanity -- that's the essence of life.


Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 NASB (9) Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things. (10) So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting.


So what does someone say to the young man? He gives him this advice:

  • First he says be happy. After all, these are the days of your youth where your body gives you strength and you can chase those pleasures in life. We might also say, “to everything there is a season."
  • Next, he encourages the youth to follow the desires of his heart and the wanderings of his eyes. It is to say that the youth should not be cautious. Instead, he should indeed follow his desires that lead to good things.
But remember the judgment

At first glance, this appears as if Solomon is saying each drink and be merry and take no thought for the morrow. He does not. He reminds the youth that there is judgment in this life. Doing the right things will be awarded, doing the wrong things will be punished. Beyond that there is the great judgment to come. It is the character of God that he is righteous. That righteousness demands a final judgment, at which all will be judged. Therefore the young man should watch his ways, so that he does not run afoul of the judgment of God. Indeed, the young man will answer for every one of his actions. And what should you do about that?

What to do?

Solomon answers with these three points:

  • First, remove sorrow from the heart. How do you do this? I believe he is counseling him not to give way to melancholy, nor to assume that life is indeed a succession of dirges. He should view life optimistically, as if he's going to live the rest of his life in harmony with God. That at least should be his objective.
  • He next recommends that you take pain away from the flesh. While this might seem to be an injunction to get drunk -- they had no other pain relievers of any real capability those days -- I suspect it actually means to avoid painful situations for your body. In other words, stay in shape, and don't misuse your body. Christians will note that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
  • Then Solomon explains why. It is very simple: as life goes on, the body ages, and you will find the time is fleeting. Even the greatest quarterbacks retire sometime.


Solomon now gives us some of the most beautiful poetry in the Bible, to describe the rigors of old age.

Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 NASB (1) Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, "I have no delight in them"; (2) before the sun and the light, the moon and the stars are darkened, and clouds return after the rain; (3) in the day that the watchmen of the house tremble, and mighty men stoop, the grinding ones stand idle because they are few, and those who look through windows grow dim; (4) and the doors on the street are shut as the sound of the grinding mill is low, and one will arise at the sound of the bird, and all the daughters of song will sing softly. (5) Furthermore, men are afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags himself along, and the caperberry is ineffective. For man goes to his eternal home while mourners go about in the street. (6) Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed; (7) then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.

Guess what’s coming

It always seems hard for the young man to understand it, but the day is coming when your pleasure in life is not nearly as great as it once was. To be specific:

  • Evil days are coming in which you will take no pleasure. To the young this seems almost incomprehensible, but to those who have been through life it is fairly obvious. There are days when the weight of your medications is greater than the weight of the world.
  • Times will darken. This probably refers to the eyesight, which does deteriorate with age.
  • Most important, the clouds return after the rain. What does that mean? It means that troubles don't just come and go, but the same trouble keeps coming back again and again. This is a normal characteristic of old age.
A picture of old age

Solomon now paints for us an eloquent picture of old age. See if you recognize these symptoms:

  • the keepers of the house tremble. This is thought to mean that the arms grow weak.
  • The strong man bowed down. This is thought to refer to the legs.
  • Those that look through the windows grow dim. This is undoubtedly a reference to the failing eyesight of the aged.
  • The doors are shut in the streets. The ears grow hard of hearing.
  • The sound of the grinding is low. In other words the speech of the aged is very difficult to understand, as they tend to mumble quite a lot.
  • One wakes up at the sound of a bird. This refers to the habit of the elderly of getting up early in the morning. There is a reason the bathroom is right next door to the bedroom.
  • They are afraid of high places, that is to say, the fear of falling. They are also afraid of the terrors in the way. Do you remember the period in your life when you felt you were invincible?
  • The almond tree blossoms. Almond blossoms are white, and this probably refers to the gray hair of age.
  • The grasshopper is a burden. This refers to the general feebleness of old age.
  • Translations of the next little section vary. Many translations say that desire fails, others mention the caperberry. The caperberry is what is now called capers. In Solomon's time these were considered to be the equivalent of today's Viagra. Some things never change.
  • Finally, life and in death. The mourners, in those days professionals, are hired and wail at the funeral. The body returns to dust, and the spirit returns to God who gave it
Remember your Creator

Solomon’s poetry continues. He describes the final decay of the body before death in the use metaphors.

  • The silver cord is loosed. Most scholars believe this refers to the spinal cord.
  • The golden bowl is broken. This corresponds to the skull.
  • The pitcher is shattered at the fountain. This refers to the failing of the heart.
  • The wheel is broken at the well. This may refer to the pelvis or the hips, which are often broken in old age.

What, then, does Solomon say the young man should do about this? The answer is simple: remember your Creator in the days of your youth.


Ecclesiastes 12:8-14 NASB (8) "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "all is vanity!" (9) In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs. (10) The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly. (11) The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. (12) But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. (13) The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. (14) For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.


Solomon has one consistent theme throughout this work: all is vanity. He now ends his work by pointing out the duty of the wise, the value of wisdom, and the simplicity with which it should be received.

Duty of the wise

It would not be fair to lay the burden on the young people alone. Solomon now dictates responsibilities and duties of the wise. They are two:

  • First, to continue to teach others the way of wisdom. If you are wise, Solomon thinks that you should teach those who are younger and less experienced than yourself. It seems only fair, and most of us remember one who taught us what we would otherwise have learned from very bitter experience.
  • Wisdom is not static. Solomon expects that the wise man will continue to learn, continue to seek out wisdom, and grow in his wisdom.
Value of Wisdom

Solomon now describes the words of the wise as being goads. That's the function of a proverb; it is to provoke you to think, and having thought to produce action. There is no sense learning wisdom if you don't do something about it.

Indeed, a collection of wisdom is described as firmly driven nails. Do you not see that wisdom is to anchor your life into the stable things of God? Therefore, do not view wisdom as something to be displayed on the wall, but rather let it be your comfort and guide, knowing what to do, even though you are really not sure because of your lack of experience. Wisdom is to anchor you in God's view of reality.

There now appears what seems to be a prophecy of the Christ to come. Solomon uses the metaphor of a shepherd to describe the source of wisdom. Of course, this can only refer to the Christ. It is a rare example of prophecy in Solomon's work.


The use of wisdom sometimes is thwarted by the fact that we are very zealous to read the latest and greatest hit book sold at a Christian bookstore. Walk into such a store, and you will see displays of the most recent publications in Christian thought. But is it not clear that the Christian should seek wisdom, not the latest and greatest idea? How often have you seen it, that the church chases after the latest book in psychology or in parenting or in finances? Solomon warns us against this.

Instead, Solomon gives us this advice: fear God, and keep his commandments. It really is that simple. The advice is given to us because Solomon knows that there is judgment to come. It will go well with the man who has feared God and kept his commandments. With the one who has been unwise it will not go well at all.

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