Ecclesiastes 11:9
Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.
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(9) The beginning of the last chapter would more conveniently have been placed here than where the division is actually made. It is hard to interpret the judgment spoken of in this verse of anything but future judgment, when we bear in mind how much of the book is taken up with the complaint that retribution does not take place in this life.



Ecclesiastes 11:9
; Ecclesiastes 12:1.

This strange, and in some places perplexing Book of Ecclesiastes, is intended to be the picture of a man fighting his way through perplexities and half-truths to a clear conviction in which he can rest. What he says in his process of coming to that conviction is not always to be taken as true. Much that is spoken in the earlier portion of the Book is spoken in order to be confuted, and its insufficiency, its exaggerations, its onesidedness, and its half-truths, to be manifest in the light of the ultimate conclusion to which he comes. Through all these perplexities he goes on ‘sounding his dim and perilous way,’ with pitfalls on this side of him and bogs on that, till he comes out at last upon the open way, with firm ground under foot and a clear sky overhead. These phrases which I have taken are the opening sentences and the final conclusion on which he rests. How then are they meant to be understood? Is that saying, ‘Rejoice, O young man! in the days of thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart and in the sight of thine eyes,’ to be taken as a bit of fierce irony? Is this a man taking the maxims of the foolish world about him and seeming to approve of them in order that he may face round at the end with a quick turn and a cynical face and hand them back their maxims along with that which will shatter them to pieces-as if he said, ‘Oh, yes! go on, talk your fill about making the best of this world, and rejoicing and doing as you like, dancing on the edge of a precipice, and fiddling, like Nero, whilst a worse fire than that of Rome is burning’? Well, I do not think that is the meaning of it. Though there is irony to be found in the Bible, I do not think that fierce irony like that which might do for the like of Dean Swift, is the intention of the Preacher. So I take these words to be said in good faith, as a frank recognition of the fact that, after all we have been hearing about vanity and vexation of spirit, life is worth living for, and that God means young people to be glad and to make the best of the fleeting years that will never come back with the same buoyancy and elasticity all their lives long. And then I take it that the words added are not meant to destroy or neutralise the concession of the first sentence, but only to purify and ennoble a gladness which, without them, would be apt to be stained by many a corruption, and to make permanent a joy which, without them, would be sure to die down into the miserable, peevish, and feeble old age of which the grim picture follows, and to be quenched at last in death. So there are three words that I take out of this text of mine, and that I want to bring before my young friends as exhortations which it is wise to follow. These are Rejoice, Reflect, Remember. Rejoice-the fitting gladness of youth; reflect-the solemn thought that will guard the gladness from stain; remember-the religion which will make these things ever last.

First of all ‘Rejoice.’ Do as you like, for that is the English translation of the words, ‘Walk in the ways of thine heart and in the sight of thine eyes.’ Buoyantly and cheerfully follow the inclinations and the desires which are stamped upon your nature and belong to your time of life. All young things are joyful, from the lamb in the pastures upwards, and are meant to be so. The mere bounding sense of physical strength which leads so many of you young men astray is a good thing and a blessed thing-a blessing to be thankful for and to cherish. Your smooth cheeks, so unlike those of old age, are only an emblem of the comparative freedom from care which belongs to your happy condition. Your memories are not yet like some-a book written within and without with the records of mourning and disappointment and crosses. There are in all probability long years stretching before you, instead of a narrow strip of barren sand, before you come to the great salt sea that is going to swallow you up, as is the case with some of us. Christianity looks with complacency on your gladness, and does not mean to clip the wing of one white-winged pleasure, or to breathe one glimmer of blackness on your atmosphere. You are meant to be glad, but it is gladness in a far higher sense that I want to secure for you, or rather to make you secure for yourselves. God delights in the prosperity and light-hearted buoyancy of His children, especially of His young children. Ah! but I know there are young lives over which poverty or ill-health or sorrows of one kind or another have cast a gloom as incongruous to your time of life as snow in the garden in the spring, that pinches the crocuses and weighs down young green beech-leaves, would be. And if I am speaking to any young man or young woman at this time who by reason of painful outward circumstances has had but a chilling spring and youth, I would say to them, ‘don’t lose heart’; a cloudy morning often breaks into a perfect day. It is good for a man to have to ‘bear the yoke in his youth,’ and if you miss joy, you may get grace and strength and patience, which will be a blessing to you all your days. For all that, the ordinary course of things is that the young should be glad, and that the young life should be as the rippling brook in the sunshine. I want to leave upon your minds this impression, that it is all right and all in the order of God’s providence, who means every one of you to rejoice in the days of your youth. The text says further, ‘Walk in the ways of thine heart.’ That sounds very like the unwholesome teaching, ‘Follow nature; do as you like; let passions and tastes and inclinations be your guides.’

Well, that needs to be set round with a good many guards to prevent it becoming a doctrine of devils. But for all that, I wish you to notice that that has a great and a religious side to it. You have come into possession of this mystical life of yours, a possession which requires that you must choose what kind of life you will follow. Every one has this awful prerogative of being able to walk in the way of their heart. You have to answer for the kind of way that is, and the kind of heart out of which it has come. But I want to go to more important things, and so with a clear understanding that the joy of youth is all right and legitimate, that you are intended to be glad, and to feel the physical and intellectual spring and buoyancy of early days, let us go on to the next thing. ‘Rejoice,’ says my text, and it adds, ‘Reflect.’ It is one of the blessings of your time of life, my young friends, that you do not do much of that. It is one of your happy immunities that you are not yet in the habit of looking at life as a whole, and considering actions and consequences. Keep that spontaneity as long as you can; it is a good thing to keep. But for all that, do not forget this awful thing, that it may turn to exaggeration and excess, and that it needs, like all other good things, to be guarded and rightly used. And so, ‘Rejoice,’ and ‘walk in the sight of thine eyes’; but-’know that for all these things God will bring thee to judgment.’ Well, now, is that thought to come in {I was going to say, like a mourning-coach driven through a wedding procession} to kill the joys we have been seeming to receive from the former words? Are we taking back all that we have been giving, and giving out instead something that will make them all cower and be quiet, like the singing birds that stop their singing and hide in the leaves when they see the kite in the sky? No, there is no need for anything of the sort. ‘For all these things God will bring thee to judgment’: that is not the thought that kills, but that purifies and ennobles. Regard being had to the opinions expressed at various points in the earlier portion of this Book, we may be allowed to think of this testimony as having reference to the perpetual judgment that is going on in this world always over every man’s life. A great German thinker has it, in reference to the history of nations, that the history of the world is the judgment of the world, and although that is not true if it is a denial of a physical day of judgment, it is true in a very profound and solemn sense with regard to the daily life of every man, that whether there be a judgment-seat beyond the grave or not, and whether this Preacher knew anything about that or no, there is going on through the whole of a man’s life, and evolving itself, this solemn conviction, that we are to pass away from this present life. All our days are knit together as one whole. Yesterday is the parent of today, and today is the parent of all the tomorrows. The meaning and the deepest consequence of man’s life is that no feeling, no thought that flits across the mirror of his life and heart dies utterly, leaving nothing behind it. But rather the metaphor of the Apostle is the true one, ‘That which thou sowest, that shalt thou also reap.’ All your life a seed-time, all your life a harvest-time too, for the seed which I sow today is the seed which I have reaped from all my former sowings, and so cause and consequence go rolling on in life in extricable entanglement, issuing out in this, that whatever a man does lives on in him, and that each moment inherits the whole consequence of his former life. And now, you young men and women, you boys and girls, mind! this seed-time is the one that will be most powerful in your lives, and there is a judgment you do not need to die to meet. If you are idle at school, you will never learn Latin when you go to business. If you are frivolous in your youth, if you stain your souls and soil your lives by outward coarse sin here in Manchester in your young days, there will be a taint about you all your lives. You cannot get rid of that brave law that ‘Whatever a man sows, that, thirtyfold, sixtyfold, an hundredfold, that shall he also reap’-the same kind, but infinitely multiplied in quantity. Let me therefore name some of the ways in which your joys or pleasures, as lads, as boys and girls, as growing young men and women, will bring you to judgment. Health, that is one; position, that is two; reputation, that is three; character, that is four. Did you ever see them build one of those houses they make in some parts of the country, with concrete instead of stones? Take a spadeful of the mud, and put it into a frame on the wall. When it is dry, take away the frame and the supports, and it hardens into rock. You take your single deeds-the mud sometimes, young men!-pop them on the wall, and think no more about it. Ay, but they stop there and harden there, and lo! a character-a house for your soul to live in-health, position, memory, capacity, and all that. If you have not done certain things which you ought to have done, you will never be able to do them, and there are the materials for a judgment. That is going on every moment, and especially is it going on in the region of your pleasures. If they are unworthy, you are unworthy; if they are gross, and coarse, and low, and animal, they are dragging you down; if they are frivolous and foolish, they are making you a poor butterfly of a creature that is worth nothing and will be of no good to anybody; if they are pure, and chaste, and lofty, and virginal and white, they will make your souls good and gracious and tender with the tenderness and beauty of God.

But that is not all. I am not going to travel beyond the limits of this present life with any words of mine, but as I read this final conclusion in this Book of Ecclesiastes, I think I can perceive that the doubts and the scepticisms about a future life, and the difference between a man and a beast which are spoken of in the earlier chapters, have all been overcome, and the clear conviction of the writer is expressed in these twofold great sayings: ‘The spirit shall return unto God who gave it, and the words with which He stamps all His message upon our hearts, the final words of His book’; ‘God shall bring every work into judgment with every secret thing.’ And I come to you and say, ‘I suppose you believe in a state of retribution beyond?’ I suppose that most of the young folk I am speaking to now at all events believe that ‘Thou wilt come to be our judge,’ as the Te Deum has it; and that it is this same personal self of mine that is to stand there who is sitting here? God shall bring thee into judgment. Never mind what is to come of the body, the quivering, palpitating, personal centre. The very same self that I know myself to be will be carried there. Now, take that with you and lay it to heart, and let it have a bearing on your pleasure. It will kill nothing that deserves to live, it will take no real joy out of a man’s life. It will only strain out the poison that would kill you. You turn that thought upon your heart, my friends. Is it like a policeman’s bull’s-eye turned upon a lot of bad characters hiding under a railway arch in the corner there? If so, the sooner you get rid of the pleasures and inclinations that slink away when that beam of light strikes their ugly faces, the better for yourselves and for your lives. ‘Rejoice in the way of thine heart and, that thy joy may be pure, know that for all this God will bring thee into judgment.’

And now my last word, ‘Remember God,’ says my text. The former two sayings, if taken by themselves, would make a very imperfect guide to life. Self-indulgence regulated by the thought of retribution is a very low kind of life after all. There is something better in this world, and that is work; something higher, and that is duty; something nobler than self-indulgence, and that is self-sacrifice. And so no religion worthy the name contents itself by saying to a man, ‘Be good and you will be glad’; but, ‘Never mind whether you are glad; be good at any rate, and such gladness as is good for you will come to you, and you can want the rest.’ ‘Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth.’ Recall God to your thoughts, and keep Him in your mind all the day long. That is wonderfully unlike your life, is it not? Remember thy Creator; shift the centre of your life. What I have been saying might be true of a man, the centre of whose life was himself, and such a man is next door to a devil, for, I suppose, the definition of devil is ‘self-engrossed still,’ and whosoever lives for himself is dead. Don’t let the earth be the centre of your system, but the sun. Do not live to yourselves, or your pleasures will all be ignoble and creeping, but live to God. ‘Remember.’ Well, then, you and I know a good deal more about God than the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes did-both about what He is and how to remember Him. I am not going to content myself by taking his point of view, but I must take a far higher and a far better one. If he had been here he would have said ‘Remember God.’ He would have said, ‘Look at God in Jesus Christ, and trust Him and love Him; go to Him as your Saviour, and take all the burden of your past sin and lay it upon His merciful shoulders, and for His dear sake look for forgiveness and cleansing; and then for His dear sake live to serve and bless Him. Never mind about yourself, and do not think much about your gladness. Follow in the footsteps of Him who has shown us that the highest joy is to give oneself utterly away. Love Jesus Christ and trust Him and serve Him, and that will make all your gladness permanent.’ There is one thing I want to teach you. Look at that description, or rather read when you go home the description which follows my text, of that wretched old man who has got no hope in God and no joy, feeble in body, going down to the grave, and dying out at last. That is what rejoicing in the days of thy youth, and walking in the ways of thine own heart, come to when you do not remember God. There is nothing more miserable on the face of this earth than an ill-conditioned old man, who is ill-conditioned because he has lost his early joys and early strength, and has got nothing to make up for them. How many of your joys, my dear young friends, will last when old age comes to you? How many of them will survive when your eye is no longer bright, and your hand no longer strong, and your foot no longer fleet? How many of them, young woman! when the light is out of your eye, and the beauty and freshness out of your face and figure, when you are no longer able for parties, when it is no longer a pastime to read novels, and when the ballroom is not exactly the place for you,-how many of your pleasures will survive? Young man! how many of yours will last when you can no longer go into dissipation, and stomach and system will no longer stand fast living, nor athletics, and the like? Oh! let me beseech thee, go to the ant and consider her ways, who in the summer layeth up for the winter; and do ye likewise in the days of your youth, store up for yourselves that which knows no change and laughs at the decay of flesh and sense. A thousand motives coincide and press on my memory if I had words and time to speak them. Let me beseech you-especially you young men and women of this congregation, of some of whom I may venture to speak as a father to his children, whom I have seen growing up, as it were, from your mothers’ arms, and the rest of you whom I do not know so well-Oh! carry away with you this beseeching entreaty of mine at the end. Love Jesus Christ and trust to Him as your Saviour; serve Him as your Captain and your King in the days of your youth. Do not offer Him the fag end of a life-the last inch of the candle that is burning down into the socket. Do it now, for the moments are flying, and you may never have Him offered to you any more. If there is any softening, any touch of conscience in your heart, yield to the impulse and do not stifle it. Take Christ for your Saviour, take Him now-’Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.’

Ecclesiastes 11:9. Rejoice, &c. — This is an ironical concession, like many which occur in the Scriptures, (see 1 Kings 18:27; 1 Kings 22:15; Ezekiel 28:3-4; Matthew 26:45,) and in other authors: O young man, in thy youth — He speaks to young men particularly, because they have both the greatest ability and the strongest inclination to pursue sensual pleasure, and are most impatient, either of restraint or admonition, Let thy heart cheer thee, &c. — Indulge thy humour. and take thy fill of delights. And walk in the way of thy heart, &c. — Whatsoever thine eye or heart lusteth after, deny it not to them. But know thou — But in the midst of thy feasting, jollity, and mirth, consider thy reckoning, and whether thou dost not purchase thy delights at too high a price: that for all these things — For all thy sinful lusts and follies; God will bring thee to judgment — Will force thee to appear before his judgment-seat, to account for all thy forgetfulness of him, and neglect of his service, thy misemployment of thy time and talents, and of all the gifts of his providence and grace, and for all thy carnal mirth, sensual pleasures, and the extravagances and exorbitances of thy youthful days, as well as of thy riper years.

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.Rejoice ... cheer ... walk - The imperative mood is used to encourage one who possesses certain gifts from God to remember that they come from God and are to be used in accordance with His will.

In the ways ... - The words are probably used in an innocent sense Ecclesiastes 2:10; Proverbs 16:9.

Judgment - This includes a judgment beyond the grave; though the writer's view of it was dim and indefinite if compared with Christian's.

9. Rejoice—not advice, but warning. So 1Ki 22:15, is irony; if thou dost rejoice (carnally, Ec 2:2; 7:2, not moderately, as in Ec 5:18), &c., then "know that … God will bring thee into judgment" (Ec 3:17; 12:14).

youth … youth—distinct Hebrew words, adolescence or boyhood (before Ec 11:10), and full-grown youth. It marks the gradual progress in self-indulgence, to which the young especially are prone; they see the roses, but do not discover the thorns, until pierced by them. Religion will cost self-denial, but the want of it infinitely more (Lu 14:28).

This verse is to be understood either,

1. As a serious advice to this purpose, Seeing life is short and transitory, improve it to the best advantage, take comfort in it whilst you may, only do it with moderation, and the fear of God. Or rather,

2. As an ironical concession, such as are usual both in Scripture, as 1 Kings 18:27 22:15 Ezekiel 28:3,4 Mt 26:45, and in other authors; for this agrees much better with the context, and with the expressions here used. And so the sense is, I foresee what evil use some men will make of what I have now said. Things being thus, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die; as they also reasoned, 1 Corinthians 15:32.

O young man; he speaks to young men particularly, because they have both the greatest ability and the strongest inclinations to pursue sensual pleasures, and are most impatient either of restraint or admonition.

Let thy heart cheer thee; indulge thy frolic and jolly humour, and take thy fill of delights.

Walk in the way of thy heart, and in the sight of thine eyes; whatsoever thine eye or heart lusteth after, deny it not to them; as this phrase is taken. Numbers 15:39, nor is it ever used in a good sense. Compare Job 31:7 Psalm 81:12 Jeremiah 18:12 2 Peter 2:14 1Jo 2:16. But know thou; but in the midst of thy feastings and jollity it will become thee, if thou art a reasonable creature, to consider thy reckoning, and whether thou dost not purchase thy gold too dear.

For all these things, for all thy follies and sinful lusts, which thou slightest as tricks of youth,

God will bring thee into judgment; will force thee to appear before his judgment-seat, to give a serious account of all thy youthful and exorbitant courses, and to receive that sentence which thy own conscience will then say thou dost justly deserve. And if thou likest thy sensuality upon these terms, much good may it do thee; I do not envy thee, nor desire to partake of thy delicates.

Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth,.... This advice may be considered as serious; and either as relating to natural, corporeal, and temporal delight and pleasure, under due limitations; that as mirth and cheerfulness, or a free use of the creatures of God, with moderation and temperance, is allowable to all men in common, and is spoken of throughout this book as commendable, and is healthful and profitable to men; so it is particularly suitable to the youthful age, whose natural desires may be enjoyed, and their outward senses may be gratified, in a lawful way, so far as is consistent with the fear of God, and the expectation of a future judgment: or it may be considered with respect to religious and spiritual exercises; as young men should remember their Creator in the days of their youth, as it follows; so they should rejoice in God their Maker, Psalm 149:2; they should rejoice not to do evil, to which human nature is inclined, especially in youth, but to do good; should rejoice, not in the ways of sin, but in the ways of wisdom; not in any outward attainment of beauty, wit, strength, or riches, but in the grace of God; not in themselves, or their boastings, but in Christ, his person, righteousness, and salvation; not in the things of time and sense, but in hope of the glory of God;

and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth; here is a different word for youth than the former, which Alshech distinguishes thus; the first designs the time to the age of thirteen, and this from thence to twenty. Or, "let thine heart do thee good", so the Septuagint. The Targum is,

"and let thine heart be good in thee.''

Symmachus renders it, "and let thine heart be in good"; the thoughts of thine heart be employed about that which is good, spiritual, heavenly, and divine; the affections of thine heart set thereon; and the will and desires of thine heart be drawn out after such things: let thine heart prompt and put thee on doing that which is good, with delight and pleasure; but, in order, to all this, the heart must be made good by the spirit and grace of God;

and walk in the ways of thy heart; being created a clean one, sprinkled, purged, and purified by the blood of Christ; in which the fear of God is put; the laws of God are written; where Christ is formed, and his word dwells richly, and he himself by faith, where the Spirit of God and his graces are: and then to walk in the ways of such a heart is to walk in the fear of God, according to his word, as Christ is an example; and to walk after the spirit, and not after the flesh. The Septuagint and Arabic versions are, "and walk in the ways of thine heart unblamable": the Targum,

"and walk in humility in the ways of thine heart:''

which all agree with the sense given: so Alshech interprets the ways of the heart; of the ways of the good imagination of good men;

and in the sight of thine eyes; as enlightened by the Spirit of God, directing and guiding in the way in which a man should walk; looking unto Jesus, all the while he is walking or running his Christian race; and walking in him, as he has received him; pressing towards him, the mark, for the prize of the high calling. The Targum is,

"and be cautious of the sight of thine eyes, and look not upon evil.''

The Septuagint and Arabic versions insert the negative; "and not in the sight of thine eyes". Most interpreters understand all this its an ironic concession to young men, to indulge themselves in carnal mirth, to take their swing of sinful pleasures, to do all their corrupt hearts incline them to; and to gratify their outward senses and carnal lusts to the uttermost; even the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life, which young men are most addicted to: do all this, as if it was said, and see what will be the issue of it; or, do all this if you can, with this one thing bore in mind, a future judgment; like those expressions in 1 Kings 22:15; and to this sense the following clause is thought most to incline: and the rather, as the above phrases are generally used in a bad sense;

but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment; not temporal, but eternal; not in this present life, but in the world to come; the judgment that will be after death, the last and awful judgment; and which is certain, may be known; of which a man may be assured from the light of nature, and from divine revelation; See Gill on Ecclesiastes 3:17; into which all men will be brought, even whether they will or not; and every work shall be brought into it, good or bad, open or secret, Ecclesiastes 12:14. Wherefore "these things" may respect either; and the consideration of a future judgment should influence the lives of men, and engage them both to perform acts of piety and religion in youth, and throughout the whole of life, and to shun and avoid everything that is evil. Herodotus (y) speaks of a custom among the Egyptians, at their feasts; that, just at the close of them, one carries about in a coffin the image of a dead man, exactly like one, made of wood, the length of a cubit or two, showing it to all the guests; saying, look upon it, drink, and take pleasure, for such shalt thou be when dead.

(y) Euterpe, sive l. 2. c. 78.

{h} Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thy heart, and in the sight of thy eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

(h) He derides them who set their desire in worldly pleasures as though God would not call count.

9. Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth] Strictly speaking, as the beginning of the end, the opening of the finale of the book, these should be read in close connexion with chap. 12. The Debater turns with his closing counsel to the young. That counsel, like the rest of the book, has been very variously interpreted. (1) Men have seen in it the stern irony of the ascetic, killing the power of rejoicing in the very act of bidding men rejoice, holding before the young man the terrors of the Lord, the fires of Gehenna. Coarsely paraphrased, the counsel so given is practically this, “Follow your desires, take your fling, sow your wild oats, go forth on the voyage of life, ‘youth at the prow and pleasure at the helm,’ but know that all this, the ‘primrose path of dalliance,’ ends in Hell and its eternal fires.” It is not without significance, from this point of view, that the counsel given is almost in direct contradiction to the words of the Law, brought, we may believe, into notice by the growing stress laid on the use of phylacteries, on which those words were written, which warned men that they should not “seek after their own heart and their own eyes” (Numbers 15:39). (2) Men have also seen in it the unchastened counsel of the lowest form of Epicureanism, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. Leave no desire ungratified, seek the maximum of intense enjoyment, crowd the sensations of a life-time into a few short years.” (3) Even the closing words have, by a strange ingenuity, been turned into a protest against asceticism. “God will judge you, if you slight His gifts. Self-denial is for Him no acceptable service. He rejoices in your joy, will punish the gloomy Pharisee or Essene who mortifies the flesh, by leaving him to his self-inflicted tortures.” Once again men have looked at the shield on its gold or its silver side: and the Truth is found in seeing it on both. Once again we may recognise the method of one who spoke φωνήεντα συνέτοισιν (“full of meaning to those who have eyes to see”), and uttered his precepts with a double sense as a test of the character of those who heard or read them. The true purport of the words seems to be as follows. After the manner of chs. Ecclesiastes 2:24, Ecclesiastes 3:12; Ecclesiastes 3:22, Ecclesiastes 5:18, Ecclesiastes 9:7, the Debater falls back on the fact that life is after all worth living, that it is wise to cultivate the faculty of enjoyment in the season when that faculty is, in most cases, as by a law of nature, strong and capable of being fashioned into a habit. So moralists in our own time, preachers of “sweetness and light,” have contrasted the gloomy plodding Philistinism or Puritanism of the English as a people, “qui s’amusent moult (= bien) tristement” (Froissart), with the brightness and gaiety of the French, and have urged us to learn wisdom from the comparison. In good faith he tells the young man to “rejoice in his youth,” to study the bent of his character, what we should call his æsthetic tastes, but all this is not to be the reckless indulgence of each sensuous impulse, but to be subject to the thought “God will bring thee into judgment.” What the judgment may be the Debater does not define. It may come in the physical suffering, the disease, or the poverty, or the shame, that are the portion of the drunkard and the sensualist. It may come in the pangs of self-reproach, and the memory of the “mala mentis gaudia.” “The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices make whips to scourge us.” It is singularly significant to find an echo of the precept so given in the teaching of the great Poet of the more atheistic type of Epicureanism, obliged, as in spite of himself, to recognise the fact of a moral order in the world:

“Inde metus maculat pœnarum præmia vitæ.

Circumretit enim vis atque injuria quemque,

Atque, unde exorta est, ad eum plerumque revertit;

Nec facile est placidam ac pacatam degere vitam,

Qui violat facteis communia fœdera pacis.

Etsi fallit enim divom genus humanumque,

Perpetuo tamen id fore clam diffidere debet.”

“Hence fear of vengeance life’s best prizes mars;

For violence and wrong take him who works them,

As in a net, and to their source return.

Nor is it easy found for him who breaks

By deeds the common covenants of peace

To lead a placid and a peaceful life.

For grant he cheat the gods and all mankind,

He cannot hope the evil done will be

For ever secret.”

Lucr. De Rer. Nat. v. 1151.

Did the judgment of which the thinker speaks go beyond this? That question also has been variously answered. The Debater, it is obvious, does not draw the pictures of the Tartarus and Elysian Fields of the Greek, or of the Gehenna and the Paradise of which his countrymen were learning to speak, it may be, all too lightly. He will not map out a country he has not seen. But the facts on which he dwells, the life of ignoble pleasure, or tyranny, or fraud carried on successfully to the last, the unequal distribution of the pleasures and the pains of life, the obvious retort on the part of the evil-doer that if this life were all, men could take their fill of pleasure and evade the judgment of man, or the misery of self-made reproach and failure, by suicide, all this leads to the conclusion that the “judgment” which the young man is to remember is “exceeding broad,” stretching far into the unseen future of the eternal years. Faith at last comes in where Reason fails, and the man is bidden to remember, in all the flush of life and joy, that “judgment” comes at last, if not in man’s present stage of being, yet in the great hereafter.

Verse 9. - Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth. Koheleth continues to inculcate the duty of rational enjoyment. "In youth" is during youth; not in the exercise of, or by reason of, thy fresh, unimpaired powers. The author urges his hearers to begin betimes to enjoy the blessing with which God surrounds them. Youth is the season of innocent, unalloyed pleasure; then, if ever, casting aside all tormenting anxiety concerning an unknown future, one may, as it is called, enjoy life. Let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth. Let the lightness of thy heart show itself in thy bearing and manner, even as it is said in Proverbs (Proverbs 15:13), "A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance." Walk in the ways of thine heart (comp. Isaiah 57:17). Where the impulses and thoughts of thy heart lead thee. The wording looks as if the personal identity, the "I," and the thought were distinct. We have a similar severance in Ecclesiastes 7:25, only there the personality directs the thought, not the thought the "I," And in the sight of thine eyes. Follow after that on which thy eyes fix their regard (Ecclesiastes 2:10); for, as Job says (Job 31:7), "The heart walketh after the eyes." The Septuagint, in deference to the supposed requirements of strict morality, has (at least according to the text of some manuscripts) modified the received reading, translating the passage thus: Καὶ περιπάτει ἐν ὁδοῖς καρδίας σου ἄμωμος καὶ μὴ ἐν ὁράσει ὀφθαλμῶν, "And walk in the ways of thine heart blameless, and not in the sight of thine eyes." But μὴ is omitted by A, C, S. Others besides the Seventy have felt doubts about the bearing of the passage, as though it recommended either unbridled license in youth, or at any rate an unhallowed Epicureanism. To counteract the supposed evil teaching, some have credited Koheleth with stern irony. He is not recommending pleasure, say they, but warning against it. "Go on your way," he cries, "do as you list, sow your wild oats, live dissolutely, but remember that retribution will some day overtake you." But the counsel is seriously intended, and is quite consistent with many other passages which teach the duty of enjoying life as man's lot and part (see Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13, 22; Ecclesiastes 5:18; Ecclesiastes 8:15, etc.). The seeming opposition between the recommendation here and in Numbers 15:39 is easily reconciled. The injunction in the Pentateuch, which was connected with a ceremonial observance, ran thus: "Remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye go not about after your own heart, and your own eyes, after which ye used to go a-whoring." Here unlawful pleasures, contrary to the commandments, are forbidden; Ecclesiastes urges the pursuit of innocent pleasures, such as will stand scrutiny. Hoelemann, quoted by Wright, observes that this verse is the origin of a famous student-song of Germany, a stanza or two of which we may cite -

"Gaudeamus igitur, juvenes dum sumus;
Post exactam juventutem, post melestam senectutem,
Nos habebit humus ....

"Vita nostra brevis est, brevi finietur,
Venit mors velociter, rapit nes atrociter,
Nemini parcotur."
It is not Epicureanism, even in a modified form, that is here encouraged. For moderate and lawful pleasure Koheleth has always uttered his sanction, but the pleasure is to be such as God allows. This is to be accepted with all gratitude in the present, as the future is wholly beyond our ken and our control; it is all that is placed in our power, and it is enough to make life more than endurable. And then to temper unmixed joy, to prove that he is not recommending mere sensuality, to correct any wrong impression which the previous utterances may have conveyed, the writer adds another thought, a somber reflection which shows the religious conclusion to which he is working up. But know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment (mishpat). It has been doubted what is meant by "judgment," whether present or future, men's or God's. It has been taken to mean - God will make thy excesses prove scourges, by bringing on thee sickness, poverty, a miserable old age; or these distresses come as the natural consequences of youthful sins; or obloquy shall follow thee, and thou shall meet with deserved censure from thy fellow-men. But every one must feel that the solemn ending of this paragraph points to something more grave and important than any such results as those mentioned above, something that is concerned with that indefinable future which is ever looming in the dim horizon. Nothing satisfies the expected conclusion but a reference to the eternal judgment in the world beyond the grave. Shadowy and incomplete as was Koheleth's view of this great assize, his sense of God's justice in the face of the anomalies of human life was so strong that he can unhesitatingly appeal to the conviction of a coming inquisition, as a motive for the guidance of action and conduct. That in other passages he constantly apprehends earthly retribution, as the Pentateuch taught, and as his countrymen had learned to expect (see Ecclesiastes 2:26; Ecclesiastes 3:17; Ecclesiastes 7:17, 18), is no argument that he is not here rising to a higher view. Rather, the fact that the doctrine of temporal reward and punishment is found by experience to fail in many cases (comp. Ecclesiastes 8:14) has forced him to state his conclusion that this life is not the end of-everything, and that there is another existence in which actions shall be tried, justice done, retribution awarded. The statement is brief, for he knew nothing more than the fact, and could add nothing to it. His conception of the soul's condition in Sheol (see Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10) seems to point to some other state or period for this final judgment; but whether a resurrection is to precede this awful trial is left in uncertainty here, as elsewhere in the Old Testament. Cheyne and some other critics consider this last clause to be an interpolation, because it appears to militate against previous utterances; but this argument is unreasonable, as the paragraph comes in quite naturally as the needed conclusion, and without it the section would halt and be incomplete. A similar allusion is contained in the epilogue (Ecclesiastes 12:14). A correcter, who desired to remove all seeming contradictions and discrepancies from the work, would not have been satisfied with inserting this gloss, but would have displayed his remedial measures in other places. Of this proceeding, however, no traces are discernible by an unprejudiced eye. Ecclesiastes 11:9"Rejoice, young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know, that for all this God will bring thee to judgment." The parallel בּימי shows that the beth in בּילד (with ד aspirated) does not introduce the reason of the joy, but the time suitable for it. Instead of veyithav libbecha, "let thy heart be of good cheer," as the expression might also be, the words are vithivecha libbecha, "make thy heart of good cheer to thee," - so, viz., that from this centre brightness may irradiate thy countenance (Proverbs 15:13) and thy whole personality, vid., Psychologie, p. 249. Vehhuroth, the period of youth, is here and at Ecclesiastes 12:1 equals Numbers 11:28, vehhurim, as the only once occurring ne'uroth, Jeremiah 32:30, is equals the elsewhere generally used ne'urim; the form in ôth is the more modern (cf. keluloth, Jeremiah 2:2). "Ways of the heart" are thus ways into which the impulse of the heart leads, and which satisfy the heart. מר עין, at Ecclesiastes 6:9, designates the pleasure felt in the presence of the object before one; here, a sight which draws and fastens the eyes upon it. The Chethı̂b has the plur. מראי, which is known to the language (Daniel 1:15; Sol 2:14), and which would here designate the multitude of the objects which delight the eyes, which is not unsuitable; the Pih. הלּך denotes also elsewhere, frequently, e.g., Psalm 131:1, walking, in an ethical sense; Hitz., Zckl., and others interpret the first ב as specifying the sphere, and the second as specifying the norm ("according to the sight of thine eyes"); but they both introduce that wherein he ought to act freely and joyfully: in the ways of thy heart, into which it draws thee; and in the sight of thine eyes, towards which they direct themselves with interest. The lxx B. renders, "and not after the sight of thine eyes." This "not" (μή), which is wanting in A.C., is an interpolation, in view of the warning, Numbers 15:39, against following the impulse of the heart and of the eyes; the Targ. also therefore has: "be prudent with reference to the sight of thine eyes." But this moralizing of the text is superfluous, since the call to the youthful enjoyment of life is accompanied with the nota bene: but know that God will bring thee to an account for all this; and thus it excludes sinful sensual desire. In the midst of an address, where a yet closer definition follows, בּמש is thus punctuated, Ecclesiastes 12:14; Job 14:3; Psalm 143:3; here, in the conclusion of the sentence, it is במש. Hitzig supposes that there is denoted by it, that the sins of youth are punished by chronic disease and abandonment in old age; Knobel and others understand by the judgment, the self-punishment of sins by all manner of evil consequences, which the O.T. looks upon as divinely inflicted penalties. But in view of the facts of experience, that God's righteous requital is in this life too frequently escaped, Ecclesiastes 8:14, the author, here and at Ecclesiastes 3:17; Ecclesiastes 12:14, postulates a final judgment, which removes the contradiction of this present time, and which must thus be in the future; he has no clear idea of the time and manner of this final judgment, but his faith in God places the certainty of it beyond all doubt. The call to rejoice is now completed by the call to avoid all that occasions inward and outward sorrow.
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