Ecclesiastes 12:6
Parallel Verses
New International Version
Remember him--before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well,

New Living Translation
Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don't wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well.

English Standard Version
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,

New American Standard Bible
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;

King James Bible
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
before the silver cord is snapped, and the gold bowl is broken, and the jar is shattered at the spring, and the wheel is broken into the well;

International Standard Version
When the silver cord is severed, the golden vessel is broken, the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, and the wheel is broken at the cistern,

NET Bible
before the silver cord is removed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the well, or the water wheel is broken at the cistern--

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Remember your Creator before the silver cord is snapped, the golden bowl is broken, the pitcher is smashed near the spring, and the water wheel is broken at the cistern.

Jubilee Bible 2000
before the silver chain is broken, and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel is broken at the cistern;

King James 2000 Bible
Before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

American King James Version
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

American Standard Version
before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern,

Douay-Rheims Bible
Before the silver cord be broken, and the golden fillet shrink back, and the pitcher be crushed at the fountain, and the wheel be broken upon the cistern,

Darby Bible Translation
-- before the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be shattered at the fountain, or the wheel be broken at the cistern;

English Revised Version
or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern;

Webster's Bible Translation
Or ever the silver cord shall be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

World English Bible
before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is broken at the spring, or the wheel broken at the cistern,

Young's Literal Translation
While that the silver cord is not removed, And the golden bowl broken, And the pitcher broken by the fountain, And the wheel broken at the well.
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

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.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 6. - Or ever; i.e. before, ere (ad asher lo). The words recall us to vers. 1 and 2, bidding the youth make the best use of his time ere old age cuts him off. In the present paragraph the final dissolution is described under two figures. The silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken. This is evidently one figure, which would be made plainer by reading "and" instead of "or," the idea being that the lamp is shattered by the snapping of the cord that suspended it from the roof. But there are some difficulties in the closer explanation of the allegory. The "bowl" (gullah) is the reservoir of oil in a lamp (see Zechariah 4:3, 4), which supplies nourishment to the flame; when this is broken or damaged so as to be useless, the light, of course, is extinguished. The Septuagint calls it τὸ ἀνθέμιον τοῦ χρυσίον: the Vulgate, vitta aurea, "the golden fillet," or flower ornament on a column, which quite sinks the notion of a light being quenched. The "cord" is that by which the lamp is hung in a tent or a room. But of what in man are these symbols? Many fanciful interpretations have been given. The "silver cord" is the spine, the nerves generally, the tongue; the "golden bowl" is the head, the membrane of the brain, the stomach. But these anatomical details are not to be adopted; they have little to recommend them, and are incongruous with the rest of the parable. The general break-up of life is here delineated, not the progress of destruction in certain organs or parts of the human frame. The cord is what we should call the thread of life, on which hangs the body lit by the animating soul; when the connection between these is severed, the latter perishes, like a fallen lamp lying crushed on the ground. In this our view the cord is the living power which keeps the corporeal substance from failing to ruin; the bowl is the body itself thus upheld. The mention of gold and silver is introduced to denote the preciousness of man's life and nature. But the analogy must not be pressed in all possible details. It is like the parables, where, if defined and examined too closely, incongruities appear. We should be inclined to make more of the lamp and the light and the oil, which are barely inferred in the passage, and endeavor to explain what these images import. Koheleth is satisfied with the general figure which adumbrates the dissolution of the material fabric by the withdrawal of the principle of life. What is the immediate cause of this dissolution, injury, paralysis, etc., is not handled; only the rupture is noticed and its fatal result. Another image to the same effect, though pointing to a different process, is added Or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or (and) the wheel broken at (in) the cistern. The picture here is a deep well or cistern with an apparatus for drawing water; this apparatus consists of a wheel or windlass with a rope upon it, to which is attached a bucket; the wheel fails, falls into the well, the bucket is dashed to pieces, and no water can be drawn. It is best to regard the two clauses as intended to convey one idea, as the two at the beginning of the verse were found to do. Some commentators, not so suitably, distinguish between the two, making the former clause say that the pitcher is broken on its road to or from the spring, and the latter that the draw-wheel gives way. The imagery, points to one notion which would be weakened by being divided into two. The motion of the bucket, the winding up and down, by which water is drawn from the well, is an emblem of the movements of the heart, the organs of respiration, etc. When these cease to act, life is extinct. The fraction of the cord and the demolition of the bowl denoted the separation of soul and body; the breaking of the pitcher and the destruction of the wheel signify the overthrow of the bodily organs by which vital motion is diffused and maintained, and the man lives. The expressions in the text remind one of the term, "earthen vessel," applied by St. Paul (2 Corinthians 4:7) to the human body; and "the fountain of life," "the water of life." so often mentioned in Holy Scripture as typical of the grace of God and the blessedness of life with him (see Psalm 36:9; Proverbs 13:14; John 4:10, 14; Revelation 21:6).

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Or ever the silver cord be loosed,.... As the above are the symptoms and infirmities of old age; these in this verse are the immediate symptoms of death, or what attend it, or certainly issue in it. Some by "the silver cord" understand the string of the tongue; and to this purpose is the Targum,

"before thy tongue is dumb from speaking;''

and it is observed (q) in favour of this sense, that the failing of the tongue is no fallacious sign of death, of which there is no mention at all in this account, unless here; and the tongue may not unfitly be called a "cord", both from the notation of the word because it binds, and because it scourges like a cord, Job 5:21; and is compared to silver, Proverbs 10:20, and in this verse rather the head than the back is treated of. But best, the bond of union between soul and body is meant: the Midrash and Jarchi, and the Jewish writers in general, interpret it of the "spina dorsi", or backbone; or rather of the marrow of it, which descends like a cord from the brain through the neck, and down the backbone to the bottom of it; from whence spring the nerves, fibres, tendons, and filaments of the body, on which the life of it much depends: this spinal marrow may be called a "cord" for the length of it, as well as what arise from it; and a silver cord, from the colour of it (r), this being white even after death; and for the excellency of it: and this may be said to be "loosened" when there is a solution of the nerves, or marrow; upon which a paralysis, or palsy, follows, and is often the immediate forerunner of death;

or the golden bowl be broken; the Targum renders it the top of the head; and the Midrash interprets it the skull, and very rightly; or rather the inward membrane of the skull, which contains the brain, called the "pia mater", or "meninx", is intended, said to be a bowl, from the form of it; a "golden" one, because of the preciousness of it, and the excellent liquor of life it contains, as also because of its colour; now when this "runs back", as the word (s) signifies, dries, shrinks up, and breaks, it puts a stop to all animal motion, and hence death;

or the pitcher be broken at the fountain; not the gall at the liver, as the Targum, which the ancients took to be the fountain of blood; but by the "fountain" is meant the heart, the fountain of life, which has two cavities, one on the right side, the other on the left, from whence come the veins and arteries, which carry the blood through the whole body; and here particularly it signifies the right ventricle of the heart, the spring and original of the veins, which are the pitcher that receives the blood and transmits it to the several parts of the body; but when thee are broke to shivers, as the word (t) signifies, or cease from doing their office, the blood stagnates in them, and death follows;

or the wheel broken at the cistern; which is the left ventricle of the heart, which by its "diastole" receives the blood brought to it through the lungs, as a cistern receives water into it; where staying a while in its "systole", it passes it into the great artery annexed to it; which is the wheel or instrument of rotation, which, together with all the instruments of pulsation, cause the circulation of the blood, found out in the last age by our countryman Dr. Harvey; but it seems by this it was well known by Solomon; now, whenever this wheel is broken, the pulse stops, the blood ceases to circulate, and death follows. For this interpretation of the several preceding passages, as I owe much to the Jewish writers, so to Rambachius and Patrick on these passages, and to Witsius's "Miscellanies", and especially to our countryman Dr. Smith, in his "Portrait of Old Age", a book worthy to be read on this subject; and there are various observations in the Talmud (u) agreeable hereunto.

(q) Vid. Castel. Lexic. Hept. col. 3662. (r) Vid. Waser. de Num. Heb. l. 1. c. 13. (s) "recurrat", V. L. "excurrit", Junius & Tremellius. (t) (u) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 151. 2. & 152. 1.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

6. A double image to represent death, as in Ec 12:1-5, old age: (1) A lamp of frail material, but gilded over, often in the East hung from roofs by a cord of silk and silver interwoven; as the lamp is dashed down and broken, when the cord breaks, so man at death; the golden bowl of the lamp answers to the skull, which, from the vital preciousness of its contents, may be called "golden"; "the silver cord" is the spinal marrow, which is white and precious as silver, and is attached to the brain. (2) A fountain, from which water is drawn by a pitcher let down by a rope wound round a wheel; as, when the pitcher and wheel are broken, water can no more be drawn, so life ceases when the vital energies are gone. The "fountain" may mean the right ventricle of the heart; the "cistern," the left; the pitcher, the veins; the wheel, the aorta, or great artery [Smith]. The circulation of the blood, whether known or not to Solomon, seems to be implied in the language put by the Holy Ghost into his mouth. This gloomy picture of old age applies to those who have not "remembered their Creator in youth." They have none of the consolations of God, which they might have obtained in youth; it is now too late to seek them. A good old age is a blessing to the godly (Ge 15:15; Job 5:26; Pr 16:31; 20:29).

Ecclesiastes 12:6 Additional Commentaries
Context
Remember Your Creator in Your Youth
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. 6Remember 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; 7then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.…
Cross References
Zechariah 4:2
He asked me, "What do you see?" I answered, "I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps.

Zechariah 4:3
Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left."
Treasury of Scripture

Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

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