Ecclesiastes 12:3
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim;

New Living Translation
Remember him before your legs--the guards of your house--start to tremble; and before your shoulders--the strong men--stoop. Remember him before your teeth--your few remaining servants--stop grinding; and before your eyes--the women looking through the windows--see dimly.

English Standard Version
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,

New American Standard Bible
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;

King James Bible
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

Holman Christian Standard Bible
on the day when the guardians of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, the women who grind cease because they are few, and the ones who watch through the windows see dimly,

International Standard Version
when that day comes, the palace guards will tremble, strong men will stoop down, women grinders will cease because they are few, and the sight of those who peer through the lattice will grow dim.

NET Bible
when those who keep watch over the house begin to tremble, and the virile men begin to stoop over, and the grinders begin to cease because they grow few, and those who look through the windows grow dim,

New Heart English Bible
in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look out of the windows are darkened,

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Remember your Creator when those who guard the house tremble, strong men are stooped over, the women at the mill stop grinding because there are so few of them, [and] those who look out of the windows see a dim light.

JPS Tanakh 1917
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, And the strong men shall bow themselves, And the grinders cease because they are few, And those that look out shall be darkened in the windows,

New American Standard 1977
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;

Jubilee Bible 2000
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble and the strong men shall bow themselves and the grinders cease because they are few and those that look out of the windows are darkened;

King James 2000 Bible
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows grow dim,

American King James Version
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

American Standard Version
in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows shall be darkened,

Douay-Rheims Bible
When the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall stagger, and the grinders shall be idle in a small number, and they that look through the holes shall be darkened:

Darby Bible Translation
in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows are darkened,

English Revised Version
in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

Webster's Bible Translation
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows shall be darkened,

World English Bible
in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look out of the windows are darkened,

Young's Literal Translation
In the day that keepers of the house tremble, And men of strength have bowed themselves, And grinders have ceased, because they have become few. And those looking out at the windows have become dim,
Study Bible
Remember Your Creator in Your Youth
2before the sun and the light, the moon and the stars are darkened, and clouds return after the rain; 3in 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; 4and 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.…
Cross References
Genesis 27:1
Now it came about, when Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, that he called his older son Esau and said to him, "My son." And he said to him, "Here I am."

Genesis 48:10
Now the eyes of Israel were so dim from age that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed them and embraced them.

1 Samuel 3:2
It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well),

Psalm 35:14
I went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother.

Psalm 38:6
I am bent over and greatly bowed down; I go mourning all day long.
Treasury of Scripture

In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

strong

2 Samuel 21:15-17 Moreover the Philistines had yet war again with Israel; and David …

Psalm 90:9,10 For all our days are passed away in your wrath: we spend our years …

Psalm 102:23 He weakened my strength in the way; he shortened my days.

Zechariah 8:4 Thus said the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women …

and those

Ecclesiastes 12:2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, …

(3) In this verse we have a description of an afflicted and affrighted house: the servants below (keepers of the house; comp. 2Samuel 20:3) in consternation [the word for "tremble" occurs twice more in Biblical Hebrew (Esther 5:9; Habakkuk 2:7), but is common in Araman]; the masters (men of might, translated "able men "Exodus 18:21; Exodus 18:25; comp. "mighty in power," Job 21:7) in equal distress; so also the grinding maids below, discontinuing their work (Exodus 11:5; Isaiah 47:1-2); the ladies, who look out at the lattices (Judges 5:8; 2Samuel 5:16; Proverbs 7:6; 2Kings 9:30), forced to withdraw. (For the four classes, comp. Isaiah 24:2; Psalm 132:2.)

Expositors have generally understood the house here described as denoting the decaying body of the old man. To the English reader the "grinders" of our version suggest "teeth" in a way that the "grinding maidens" of the Hebrew does not; and the ladies looking out of the lattices can easily be understood of "the eyes." But when it is attempted to carry out the figure, and to find anatomical explanations of all the other images employed, the interpretation becomes so forced that some have preferred to understand Ecclesiastes 12:3 as only a general description of the consternation produced by such a tempest as is spoken of in Ecclesiastes 12:2. I cannot but think that the "house" does denote the bodily frame; but I regard as unsuccessful the attempts which have been made to carry out this idea into its details.

Verse 3. - The gradual decay which creeps over the body, the habitation of the spirit, is depicted under the figure of a house and its parts (comp. Job 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Peter 1:13, 14). In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble; i.e. this is the case when, etc. The hands and arms are appropriately called the keepers of the house, for with them (as Volek quotes from Galen) man ὁπλίζει καὶ φρουρεῖ τὸ σῶμα παντοίως ("arms and guards his body in various ways"). The shaking and palsy of old men's limbs are thus graphically described. This would be one of the first symptoms discerned by an observer. Taking the alternative interpretation, we should see in these "keepers" the menservants who keep watch before the house. These menials are appalled by the approach of the tempest, and quake. And the strong men shall bow themselves. The "men of power" are the legs, or the bones generally, which in the young are "as pillars of marble" (Song of Solomon 5:15), but in the old become feeble, slack, and bent. Delitzsch quotes 3Macc. 4:5, where we read of a multitude of old men being driven mercilessly, "stooping from age, and dragging their feet heavily along." In this clause it is this stooping and bending of the body that is noticed, when men are no longer upright in stature, "swifter than eagles," "stronger than lions" (2 Samuel 1:23; 1 Chronicles 12:8), fit for war and active employment. It is therefore less appropriate to see in the "keepers" the legs, and in the "strong men" the arms. Otherwise, the latter are the masters, the wealthy and noble, in contradistinction to the menials before mentioned: both lords and servants are equally terrified at the approach of the tempest, or, as Wright would say, at the touch of the sickly season (see on ver. 2). And the grinders cease because they are few. The word for "grinders" is feminine (αἱ ἀλήθουσαι, "the grinding-women," Septuagint), doubtless because grinding was especially women's business (Matthew 24:41). By them are meant the teeth, as we speak of molars, though, of course, the term here applies to all the teeth; so the Greeks used the term μύλαι for the denies molares. These, becoming few in number and no longer continuous, cannot perform their office. Otherwise, the grinding-women leave their work or pause in their labors at the approach of the storm, though one does not quite see why they should be fewer than usual, unless the sickly season has prostrated most of their companions, or that many are too frightened to ply their task. Having, therefore, harder work than usual, they stop at times to recruit themselves. But the analogy rather breaks down here; one would be inclined to suppose that their decreased numbers would make them apply themselves more assiduously to their necessary occupation. As the "keepers" in the former part of the verse were slaves, so these grinders are slaves, such occupation being the lowest form of service (see Exodus 11:5; Judges 16:21; Job 31:10). Those that look out of the windows be darkened. These are the eyes that look forth from the cavities in which they are sunk; they are regarded as the windows of the bodily structure, the eyelashes or eyelids possibly being deemed the lattice of the same. Plumptre cites Cicero, ' De Nat. Deer.,' 2:140: "Sensus interpretes ac nuntii return, in capite, tamquam in arce, mirifice ad usus necessaries et facti et collocati sunt. Nam oculi, tamquam speculatores, altissimum locum obtinent; ex quo plurima conspicientes, fungantur sue munere." The dimness in the eye and the failing in the powers of sight are well expressed by the terms of the text. It is noted of Moses, as something altogether abnormal, that at a hundred and twenty years of age "his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated" (Deuteronomy 34:7). Taking the alternative interpretation, we must regard those that look out of the windows as the ladies of the house, who have no menial work to do, and employ their time in gazing idly from the lattices (comp. Judges 5:28; 2 Samuel 6:16; Proverbs 7:6). These "are darkened," they are terror-stricken, their faces gather blackness (Joel 2:6), or they retire into corners in terror of the storm. These women are parallel to "the strong men" mentioned above; so that the weather affects all of every class - men-servants and maidservants, lords and ladies. In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble,.... By the "house" is meant the human body; which is a house of clay, the earthly house of our tabernacle, in which the soul dwells, Job 4:19, 2 Corinthians 5:1. The Targum interprets the keepers of the house, of the knees and the trembling of them; but the Midrash and Jarchi, much better, of the ribs; man being fenced with bones and sinews, as Job says, Job 10:11; though trembling cannot be well ascribed to them, they being so fixed to the backbone: rather therefore, as Aben Ezra, the hands and arms are meant; which work for the maintenance of the body, and feed it with food, got and prepared by them; and which protect and defend it from injuries; for all which they are fitted, and made strong by the God of nature. The Arabic version renders it, "both keepers"; and, doubtless, respects both hands and arms; and which, in old age, are not only wrinkled, contracted, and stiff, but attended with numbness, pains, and tremor. Some, not amiss, take in the head; which is placed as a watchtower over the body, the seat of the senses; which overlooks, guards, and keeps it, and which often through paralytic disorders, and even the weakness of old age, is attended with a shaking;

and the strong men shall bow themselves; it is strange the Targum and Midrash should interpret this of the arms, designed in the former clause; Jarchi and Aben Ezra, more rightly, of the thighs; it takes in thighs, legs, and feet, which are the basis and support of the human body; and are strengthened for this purpose, having stronger muscles and tendons than any other parts of the body; but these, as old age comes on, are weakened and distorted, and bend under the weight of the body, not being able, without assistance, to sustain it;

and the grinders cease because they are few; the Targum is,

"the teeth of the mouth:''

all agree the teeth are meant; only the Midrash takes in the stomach also, which, like a mill, grinds the food. There are three sorts of teeth; the fore teeth, which bite the food, and are called "incisores": the eye teeth, called "canini", which bruise and break the food; and the double teeth, the hindermost, which are called "dentes molares", the grinding teeth; and which being placed in the upper and nether jaw, are like to millstones, broad and rough, and rub against each other and grind the food, and prepare it for the stomach: these, in old age, rot and drop out, and become few and straggling, one here and another there; and, not being over against each other, are of no use, but rather troublesome;

and those that look out of the windows be darkened; the eyes, as the Targum and Ben Melech; and all agree that those that look out are the eyes, or the visive rays: the "windows" they look through are not spectacles; for it is questionable whether they were in use in Solomon's time, and, however, they are not parts of the house; but either the holes in which the eyes are, and so the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions render it, to which the Targum agrees, paraphrasing it, the strong bounds of the head; and which are no other than what oculists call the orbits of the eye: or else the eyelids, which open and shut like the casement of a window, and through which, being opened, the eyes look; or the humours of the eye, the watery, crystalline, and glassy, which are transparent, and through which the visive rays pass; or the tunics, or coats of the eye, particularly the "tunica aranea" and "cornea"; as also the optic nerves, and especially the "pupilla", or apple of the eye, which is perforated or bored for this purpose: now these, in old age, become weak, or dim, or thick, or contracted, or obstructed by some means or another by which the sight is greatly hindered, and is a very uncomfortable circumstance; this was Isaac's case, Genesis 27:1; but Moses is an exception to the common case of old men, Deuteronomy 34:7. 3. keepers of the house—namely, the hands and arms which protected the body, as guards do a palace (Ge 49:24; Job 4:19; 2Co 5:1), are now palsied.

strong men … bow—(Jud 16:25, 30). Like supporting pillars, the feet and knees (So 5:15); the strongest members (Ps 147:10).

grinders—the molar teeth.

cease—are idle.

those that look out of the windows—the eyes; the powers of vision, looking out from beneath the eyelids, which open and shut like the casement of a window.12:1-7 We should remember our sins against our Creator, repent, and seek forgiveness. We should remember our duties, and set about them, looking to him for grace and strength. This should be done early, while the body is strong, and the spirits active. When a man has the pain of reviewing a misspent life, his not having given up sin and worldly vanities till he is forced to say, I have no pleasure in them, renders his sincerity very questionable. Then follows a figurative description of old age and its infirmities, which has some difficulties; but the meaning is plain, to show how uncomfortable, generally, the days of old age are. As the four verses, 2-5, are a figurative description of the infirmities that usually accompany old age, ver. 6 notices the circumstances which take place in the hour of death. If sin had not entered into the world, these infirmities would not have been known. Surely then the aged should reflect on the evil of sin.
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OT Poetry: Ecclesiastes 12:3 In the day when the keepers (Ecclesiast. Ec Ecc Eccles.) Christian Bible Study Resources, Dictionary, Concordance and Search Tools
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