Ecclesiastes 11:10
Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.
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(10) Sorrow.—See Note on Ecclesiastes 7:3.

Youth.—The word occurs not elsewhere in the Old Testament; but nearly the same word is used of black hair in Leviticus 13:37; Song of Solomon 5:11.

Ecclesiastes 11:10. Therefore remove sorrow — Sensual and disorderly lusts, which he elegantly calls sorrow, to intimate, that although such practices at present gratify men’s senses, yet they will shortly bring them to intolerable sorrows. And put away evil from thy flesh — All evil desires, though now they seem good to thee. For childhood and youth are vanity — Most vain. The time of youth is vanishing and transitory, and old age and death will speedily come, against which every wise man will take care to lay in solid provisions and comforts.

11:7-10 Life is sweet to bad men, because they have their portion in this life; it is sweet to good men, because it is the time of preparation for a better; it is sweet to all. Here is a caution to think of death, even when life is most sweet. Solomon makes an effecting address to young persons. They would desire opportunity to pursue every pleasure. Then follow your desires, but be assured that God will call you into judgment. How many give loose to every appetite, and rush into every vicious pleasure! But God registers every one of their sinful thoughts and desires, their idle words and wicked words. If they would avoid remorse and terror, if they would have hope and comfort on a dying bed, if they would escape misery here and hereafter, let them remember the vanity of youthful pleasures. That Solomon means to condemn the pleasures of sin is evident. His object is to draw the young to purer and more lasting joys. This is not the language of one grudging youthful pleasures, because he can no longer partake of them; but of one who has, by a miracle of mercy, been brought back in safety. He would persuade the young from trying a course whence so few return. If the young would live a life of true happiness, if they would secure happiness hereafter, let them remember their Creator in the days of their youth.The sense appears to be, "Let the timely recollection of God's judgment, and of the fleeting character of youth, so influence your conduct that you will refrain from acts which entail future remorse and pain." 10. sorrow—that is, the lusts that end in "sorrow," opposed to "rejoice," and "heart cheer thee" (Ec 11:9), Margin, "anger," that is, all "ways of thine heart"; "remove," &c., is thus opposed to "walk in," &c. (Ec 11:9).

flesh—the bodily organ by which the sensual thoughts of the "heart" are embodied in acts.

childhood—rather, "boyhood"; the same Hebrew word as the first, "youth" in Ec 11:9. A motive for self-restraint; the time is coming when the vigor of youth on which thou reliest, will seem vain, except in so far as it has been given to God (Ec 12:1).

youth—literally, the dawn of thy days.

Sorrow, i.e. sensual and disorderly lusts, which he elegantly and emphatically calls sorrow, with respect to the foregoing words, to intimate, that although such practices do at present gratify and delight men’s senses and vain minds, yet they will shortly and certainly bring a man to intolerable and eternal sorrows, which it is thy wisdom to prevent. Sorrow; or, as it is rendered in the margin, and by divers others, anger; a passion to which men are most prone in the heat of youth; whereby he may understand either anger against him for this sharp admonition; or rather against God, who hath laid such severe restraints upon them, and threatens such punishments to them for following their own natural inclinations. So the sense is, Do not quarrel with thy Judge, but submit and make thy peace with him by declaring war against all thy sins.

Evil; all evil concupiscences or lusts, which though now they seem good to thee, will another day appear to be very evil and bitter things.

From thy flesh; from thy bodily members; which he mentions not exclusively, as if he would allow them their spiritual evils; but emphatically, because young men, to whom be is here speaking, are most given to fleshly or bodily lusts.

Childhood and youth are vanity, i.e. most vain, either,

1. In their temper and dispositions. Young men are frothy, and foolish, and inconsiderate, whereby they run into manifold dangers, and therefore they shall do well to hearken to the counsels of those who by their greater wisdom and experience are more capable judges of these matters. Or,

2. In their condition. The time of youth is vanishing and transitory, and old age and death will speedily come, against which every man in his wits will take care to lay in solid provisions and comforts.

Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart,.... Worldly sorrow, as opposed to lawful mirth and cheerfulness, and especially to spiritual joy: or "anger" (z), as the word may be rendered, and often is; either at the providence of God, or at the correction of friends; all perturbations of the mind; all fierceness of spirit, and fiery passions, to which youthful age is subject: or all those things, as Jarchi observes, that provoke God to anger; sinful lusts and pleasures, the end and issue of which also is sorrow to men; and which agrees with our version;

and put away evil from thy flesh; or body; such as intemperance and uncleanness, to which young men are addicted: the advice is much the same, in both clauses, with that of the apostle's, "flee youthful lusts", 2 Timothy 2:22. Jarchi interprets this of the evil concupiscence;

for childhood and youth are vanity; which quickly pass away; come into manhood, and soon slide into old age, and are gone presently, and all things within that compass: all actions done in that age are for the most part vain and foolish; and all the delights, joys, and pleasures thereof, vanishing and transitory. The last word (a), used to express the juvenile age, either is akin to a word which signifies the "morning"; youth being the morning and dawn of man's age, and increases as that; and as soon as it is peep of day with him, or he enters into life, he possesses vanity: or as having the signification of "blackness"; because, as Jarchi observes, the head of a young man is black: and so the Targum,

"childhood, and the days of blackness of hair, are vanity;''

whereas the hair of an aged man is gray.

(z) "iram", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus; "indignationem", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Gejerus; "God's anger", Broughton. (a) "ortus" Junius & Tremellius; "aurora", Cocceius, Gejerus, so Aben Ezra and Ben Melech; "dies nigredinis pili"; so the Targum, and Abendana.

Therefore remove {i} sorrow from thy heart, and {k} put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

(i) That is, anger and envy.

(k) Meaning, carnal lusts to which youth is given.

10. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart] The two clauses recognise the two conditions of happiness so far as happiness is attainable by man on earth. “Sorrow,” better perhaps, discontent or vexation, is by a deliberate effort to be put away from our “heart,” i.e. from our mind. We are not to look on the dark side of things, but to cultivate cheerfulness, to be “content” (αὐτάρκης) with whatever life brings us (Php 4:11). And the “flesh” too has its claims which may legitimately be recognised. We need not vex it with the self-inflicted tortures of the ascetic, but, in a sense as far as possible different from “the rehabilitation of the flesh” which has been made the plea for an unrivalled sensuality, consider and meet its capacities for pure and innocent enjoyment.

childhood and youth are vanity] The Hebrew word for “youth” is an unusual one and is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament. It has been differently explained: (1) as the dawn or morning of life, the period of its brightness; and (2) as the time when the hair is black as contrasted with the grey hair of age. Of these (1) seems preferable. The prominent idea of “vanity” here is that of transitoriness. The morning will not last. It is wise to use it while we can.

Verse 10 - Ecclesiastes 12:7. - Section 18. The third remedy is piety, and this ought to be practiced from one's earliest days; life should be so guided as not to offend the laws of the Creator and Judge, and virtue should not be postponed till the failure of faculties makes pleasure unattainable, and death closes the scene. The last days of the old man are beautifully described under certain images, metaphors, and analogies. Verse 10. - Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart. The writer reiterates his advice concerning cheerfulness, and then proceeds to inculcate early piety. Kaas, rendered "sorrow," has been variously understood. The Septuagint has θυμόν, the Vulgate gram; so the margin of the Authorized Version gives "anger," and that of the Revised Version "vexation," or "provocation." Wordsworth adopts this last meaning (relating to 1 Kings 15:30; 1 Kings 21:22; 2 Kings 23:26, etc., where, however, the signification is modified by the connection in which the word stands), and paraphrases, "Take heed lest you provoke God by the thoughts of your heart." Jerome affirms that in the term "anger" all perturbations of the mind are included - which seems rather forced. The word is better rendered, low spirits, moroseness, discontent. These feelings are to be put away from the mind by a deliberate act. Put away evil from thy flesh. Many commentators consider that the evil here named is physical, not moral, the author enjoining his young disciple to take proper care of his body, not to weaken it on the one hand by asceticism, nor on the other by indulgence in youthful lusts. In this case the two clauses would urge the removal of what respectively affects the mind and body, the inner and outer man. But the ancient versions are unanimous in regarding the "evil" spoken of as moral. Thus the Septuagint gives πονηρίαν, "wickedness;" the Vulgate, malitiam. Similarly the Syriac and Targum. And according to our interpretation of the passage, such is the meaning here. It is a call to early piety and virtue, like that of St. Paul (2 Corinthians 7:1), "Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." Do not, says Koheleth, defile thy body by carnal sins (1 Corinthians 6:18), which bring decay and sickness, and arouse the wrath of God against thee. For childhood and youth are vanity. This time of youth soon passes away; the capacity for enjoyment is soon circumscribed; therefore use thy opportunities aright, remembering the end. The word for "youth" (shacharuth) occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament, and is probably connected with shachon, "black," used of hair in Leviticus 13:31. Hence it means the time of black hair, in contradistinction to the time when the hair has become grey. The explanation which refers it to the time of dawn (Psalm 110:8) seems to be erroneous, as it would then be identical with" childhood." The Septuagint renders it ἄνοια, "folly;" the Vulgate, voluptas, "pleasure;" the Syriac, "and not knowledge, but the word cannot be rightly thus translated. The two terms are childhood and manhood, the period during which the capacity for pleasure is fresh and strong. Its vanity is soon brought home; it is evanescent; it brings punishment. Thus Bailey, 'Festus' -

"I cast mine eyes around, and feel
There is a blessing wanting;
Too soon our hearts the truth reveal,
That joy is disenchanting."
And again -

"When amid the world's delights,
How warm soe'er we feel a moment among them -
We find ourselves, when the hot blast hath blown,
Prostrate, and weak, and wretched."

Ecclesiastes 11:10"And remove sorrow from thy heart, and banish evil from thy flesh: for youth and age, not yet grown to grey hairs, are vain." Jerome translates: aufer iram a corde tuo, and remarks in his Comm.: in ira omnes perturbationes animi comprehendit; but כּעס (R. כס, contundere, confringere) does not signify anger, but includes both anger and sorrow, and thus corresponds to the specific ideas, "sadness, moroseness, fretfulness." The clause following, Jerome translates: et amove malitiam a carne tua, with the remark: in carnis malitia universas significat corporis voluptates; but רעה is not taken in an ethical, but in a physical sense: כעס is that which brings sorrow to the heart; and רעה, that which brings evil to the flesh (בשׂר, opp. לב, Ecclesiastes 2:3; Proverbs 14:30). More correctly than the Vulgate, Luther renders: "banish sorrow from thy heart, and put evil from thy body." He ought to free himself from that which is injurious to the inner and the outer man, and hurtfully affects it; for youth, destined for and disposed to joy, is hevel, i.e., transitory, and only too soon passes away. Almost all modern interpreters (excepting the Jewish), in view of Psalm 110:3, gives to שׁחרוּת the meaning of "the dawn of the morning;" but the connection with ילדוּת would then be tautological; the Mishn.-Midrash usus loq., in conformity with which the Targ. translates, "days of black hair," proves that the word does not go back to שׁחר, morning dawn, morning-red, but immediately to שׁחור, black, and as the contrast of שׂיבה (non-bibl. שׂיבוּת, סיב, סב), canities, denotes the time of black hair, and thus, in the compass of its conception, goes beyond ילדות, since it comprehends both the period of youth and of manhood, and thus the whole period during which the strength of life remains unbroken.

(Note: The Mishna, Nedarim iii. 8, jurist. determines that שׁחורי הראשׁ denotes men, with the exclusion of women (whose hair is covered) and children. It is disputed (vid., Baer's Abodath Jisrael, p. 279) whether תּשׁחרת, Aboth iii. 16, Derech erez c. II., Midrash under Lamentations 2:11, is equals שׁחרוּת, but without right; ben-tishhorěth is used for a grown-up son in full manly strength.)

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