Ecclesiastes 12:4
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint;

New Living Translation
Remember him before the door to life's opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades. Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint.

English Standard Version
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—

New American Standard Bible
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.

King James Bible
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;

Holman Christian Standard Bible
the doors at the street are shut while the sound of the mill fades; when one rises at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song grow faint.

International Standard Version
The doors to the street will be shut when the sound of grinding decreases, when one wakes up at the song of a bird, and all of the singing women are silenced.

NET Bible
and the doors along the street are shut; when the sound of the grinding mill grows low, and one is awakened by the sound of a bird, and all their songs grow faint,

New Heart English Bible
and the doors shall be shut in the street; when the sound of the grinding is low, and one shall rise up at the voice of a bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Remember your Creator when the doors to the street are closed, the sound of the mill is muffled, you are startled at the sound of a bird, [and] those who sing songs become quiet.

JPS Tanakh 1917
And the doors shall be shut in the street, When the sound of the grinding is low; And one shall start up at the voice of a bird, And all the daughters of music shall be brought low;

New American Standard 1977
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.

Jubilee Bible 2000
and the doors outside shall be shut because the voice of the grinder is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird and all the daughters of song shall be humbled;

King James 2000 Bible
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and one shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;

American King James Version
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;

American Standard Version
and the doors shall be shut in the street; when the sound of the grinding is low, and one shall rise up at the voice of a bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;

Douay-Rheims Bible
And they shall shut the doors in the street, when the grinder's voice shall be low, and they shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall grow deaf.

Darby Bible Translation
and the doors are shut toward the street; when the sound of the grinding is subdued, and they rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low;

English Revised Version
and the door shall be shut in the street; when the sound of the grinding is low, and one shall rise up at the voice of a bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;

Webster's Bible Translation
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding shall be low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low.

World English Bible
and the doors shall be shut in the street; when the sound of the grinding is low, and one shall rise up at the voice of a bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;

Young's Literal Translation
And doors have been shut in the street. When the noise of the grinding is low, And one riseth at the voice of the bird, And all daughters of song are bowed down.
Study Bible
Remember Your Creator in Your Youth
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. 5Furthermore, 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.…
Cross References
Revelation 18:22
And the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will never ring out in you again. Nor will any craftsmen of any trade be found in you again, nor the sound of a millstone be heard in you again.

2 Samuel 19:35
"I am now eighty years old. Can I distinguish between good and bad? Or can your servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Or can I hear anymore the voice of singing men and women? Why then should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king?

Isaiah 47:2
"Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, strip off the skirt, Uncover the leg, cross the rivers.

Jeremiah 25:10
'Moreover, I will take from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp.
Treasury of Scripture

And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;

all

2 Samuel 19:35 I am this day fourscore years old: and can I discern between good …

(4) The first two clauses continue the description of the afflicted house; all communication with the outer world broken off: the double doors towards the street shut, the cheerful noise of grinding not heard without (Jeremiah 25:10-11; Revelation 18:22). If a more minute explanation of the double doors is to be given, we may understand the verse as speaking of the closing of the lips on the falling away of the teeth. (See Job 41:14; Psalm 141:3; Micah 5:7.)

He shall rise up.--No satisfactory explanation of this clause has been given. The following are three of the best interpretations that have been proposed: (1) The old man, whose state has been figuratively described before, is said to sleep so badly that the chirping of a bird will awake him. (2) His voice becomes feeble like the chirping of a bird (Isaiah 29:4). (3) The bird of ill omen raises its voice (Psalm 102:6-7; Zephaniah 2:14). Each of these interpretations is open to serious objections, which I do not state at length, having myself nothing better to propose.

Verse 4. - The doors shall be shut in the streets. Hitherto the symbolism has been comparatively easy to interpret. With this verse inextricable difficulties seem to arise. Of course, in one view it is natural that in the bitter weather, or on the appearance of a tempest, the doors towards the street should be closed, and none should leave the house. But what are meant by the doors in the metaphorical house, the body of the aged man? Jewish expositors understood them to be the pores, or excretive apertures of the body, which lose their activity in old age - which seems an unseemly allusion. Plumptre will have them to be the organs which carry on the processes of sensation and nutrition from the beginning to the end; but it seems a forced metaphor to call these "double-doors." More natural is it to see in the word, with its dual form, the mouth closed by the two lips. So a psalmist speaks of the mouth, the door of the lips (Psalm 141:3; comp. Micah 7:5). As it is only the external door of a house that could be employed in this metaphor, the addition, "in [or, 'towards'] the streets," is accounted for. When the sound of the grinding is low. The sound of the grinding or the mill is weak and low when the teeth have ceased to masticate, and, instead of the crunching and grinding of food, nothing is heard but a munching and sucking. The falling in of the mouth over the toothless gums is represented as the closing of doors. To take the words in their literal sense is to make the author repeat himself, reiterating what he is supposed to have said before in speaking of the grinding-women - all labor is lessened or stopped. The sound of grinding betokened cheerfulness and prosperity; its cessation would be an ominous sign (see Jeremiah 25:10; Revelation 18:22). Another interpretation considers this clause to express the imperfect vocal utterance of the old man; but it is hardly likely that the author would call speech "the voice of the grinding," or of the mill, as a metaphor for "mouth." And he shall rise up at the voice of the bird. This is a very difficult sentence, and has been very variously explained. It is usually taken to mean that the old man sleeps lightly and awakes (for "rises up" may mean no more than that) at the chirrup of a bird. The objection to this interpretation is that it destroys the figurative character of the description, introducing suddenly the personal subject. Of course, it has another signification in the picture of the terror-stricken household; and many interpreters who thus explain the allegory translate the clause differently. Thus Ginsburg renders, "The swallow rises to shriek," referring to the habits of that bird in stormy weather. But there are grammatical objections to this translation, as there are against another suggestion, "The bird (of ill omen) raises its voice." We need not do more than refer to the mystical elucidation which detects here a reference to the resurrection, the voice of the bird being the archangel's trumpet which calls the dead from their graves. Retaining the allegory, we must translate the clause, "He [or, 'it,' i.e. the voice] rises to the bird's voice;" the old man's voice becomes a "childish treble," like the piping of a little bird. The relaxation of the muscles of the larynx and other vocal organs occasions a great difference in the pitch or power of tone (compare what Hezekiah says, Isaiah 38:14, "Like a crane or a swallow so did I chatter," though there it is the low murmur of sorrow and complaint that is meant). And all the daughters of music shall be brought low. "The daughters of song" are the organs of speech, which ere now humbled and fail, so that the man cannot sing a note. Some think that the ears are meant, as St. Jerome writes, Et obsurdescent omnes filiae carminis, which may have some such notion. Others arrive at a similar signification from manipulation of the verb, thus eliciting the sense - The sounds of singing-women or song-birds are dulled and lowered, are only heard as a faint, unmeaning murmur. This exposition rather contradicts what had preceded, viz. that the old man is awoke by the chirrup of a sparrow; for his ears must be very sensitive to be thus easily affected; unless, indeed, the "voice of the bird" is merely a note of time, equivalent to early cock-crowing. We must not omit Wright's explanation, though it does not commend itself to our mind. He makes a new stanza begin here: "When one rises at the voice of the bird," and sees here a description of the approach of spring, as if the poet said, "When the young and lusty are enjoying the return of genial weather, and the concert of birds with which no musician can compete, the aged, sick in their chambers, are beset with fears and are sinking fast." We fail altogether to read this meaning in our text, wherein we recognize only a symbolical representation of the old man's vocal powers. It is obvious to cite Juvenal's minute and painful description of old age in 'Sat.,' 10:200, etc., and Shakespeare's lines in 'As You Like It' (act 2. sc. 7), where the reference to the voice is very striking-

"His big, manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound."
Cox paraphrases, "The song-birds drop silently into their nests," alarmed at the tempest. And the doors shall be shut in the streets,.... The Midrash and Jarchi interpret these of the holes of the body; in which they are followed by our learned and ingenuous countryman, Dr. Smith; who, by them, understands the inlets and outlets of the body; and, by the "streets", the ways and passages through which the food goes, and nourishment is conveyed; and which may be said to be shut, when they cease from their use: but it seems much better, with Aben Ezra and others, to interpret them of the lips; which are sometimes called the doors of the mouth, or lips, Psalm 141:3; which are opened both for speaking and eating; but, in aged persons, are much shut as to either; they do not choose to speak much, because of the disagreeableness of their voice, and difficulty of speech, through the shortness of breath, and the loss of teeth; nor do they open them much to eat, through want of appetite; and while eating, are obliged, for want of teeth, to keep their lips close, to retain their food from falling out; they mumble with their lips both in speaking and eating; and, particularly in public, aged persons care not to speak nor eat, for the reason following: though some understand it, more literally, of their having the doors of their houses shut, and keeping within, and not caring to go abroad in the streets, because of their infirmities so the Targum,

"thy feet shall be bound from going in the streets;''

when the sound of the grinding is low; which the above Jewish writers, and, after them, Dr. Smith, understand of the stomach, grinding, digesting, and concocting food, and of other parts through which it is conveyed, and the offices they perform; but sound or voice does not seem so well to agree with that; rather therefore this is to be understood, as before, of the grinding of the teeth, through the loss of which so much noise is not heard in eating as in young men, and the voice in speaking is lower; the Targum is,

"appetite of food shall depart from thee;''

and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird; that is, the aged person, the least noise awakes him out of sleep; and as he generally goes to bed soon, he rises early at cock crowing, or with the lark, as soon as the voice of that bird or any other, is heard; particularly the cock, which crows very early, and whose voice is heard the most early, and is by some writers (f) emphatically called the bird that calls men to their work;

and all the daughters of music shall be brought low; either those that make music, and are the instruments of it, as the lungs, the throat, the teeth, mouth, and lips, so the Targum and Midrash; or those that receive music, as the ears, and the several parts of them, the cavities of them, particularly the tympanum and auditory nerve; all which, through old age, are impaired, and become very unfit to be employed in making music, or in attending to it: the voice of singing men and singing women could not be heard with pleasure by old Barzillai, 2 Samuel 19:36. These clauses are expressive of the weakness which generally old age brings on men; very few instances are there to the contrary; such as of Caleb, who, at eighty five years of age, was as strong as at forty; and of Moses, whose natural force abated not at an hundred and twenty; nor indeed as of Cyrus, who, when seventy years of age, and near his death, could not perceive that he was weaker then than in his youth (g).

(f) "Inque suum miseros excitat ales opus", Ovid. Amorum, l. 1. Eleg. 6. v. 66. "Cristatus ales", ib. Fast. l. 1. v. 455. (g) Cicero in Catone Majore, sive de Senectute, c. 8. 4. doors—the lips, which are closely shut together as doors, by old men in eating, for, if they did not do so, the food would drop out (Job 41:14; Ps 141:3; Mic 7:5).

in the streets—that is, toward the street, "the outer doors" [Maurer and Weiss].

sound of … grinding—The teeth being almost gone, and the lips "shut" in eating, the sound of mastication is scarcely heard.

the bird—the cock. In the East all mostly rise with the dawn. But the old are glad to rise from their sleepless couch, or painful slumbers still earlier, namely, when the cock crows, before dawn (Job 7:4) [Holden]. The least noise awakens them [Weiss].

daughters of music—the organs that produce and that enjoy music; the voice and ear.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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