Ecclesiastes 12:13
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
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(13) Whole duty of man.—Rather, the duty of every man. The sacred writer practically anticipates the teaching of Romans 3:29.



Ecclesiastes 12:1 - Ecclesiastes 12:7
, Ecclesiastes 12:13 - Ecclesiastes 12:14.

The Preacher has passed in review ‘all the works that are done under the sun,’ and has now reached the end of his long investigation. It has been a devious path. He has announced many provisional conclusions, which are not intended for ultimate truths, but rather represent the progress of the soul towards the final, sufficient ground and object of belief and aim of all life, even God Himself. ‘Vanity of vanities’ is a cheerless creed and a half-truth. Its completion lies in being driven, by recognising vanity as stamped on all creatures, to clasp the one reality. ‘All is vanity’ apart from God, but He is fullness, and possessed and enjoyed and endured in Him, life is not ‘a striving after wind.’ Leave out this last section, and this book of so-called ‘Wisdom’ is one-sided and therefore error, as is modern pessimism, which only says more feebly what the Preacher had said long ago. Take the rest of the book as the autobiography of a seeker after reality, and this last section as his declaration of where he had found it, and all the previous parts fall into their right places.

Our passage omits the first portion of the closing section, which is needed in order to set the counsel to remember the Creator in its right relation. Observe that, properly rendered, the advice in Ecclesiastes 12:1 is ‘remember also,’ and that takes us back to the end of the preceding chapter. There the young are exhorted to enjoy the bright, brief blossom-time of their youth, withal keeping the consciousness of responsibility for its employment. In earlier parts of the book similar advice had been given, but based on different grounds. Here religion and full enjoyment of youthful buoyancy and delight in fresh, unhackneyed, homely pleasures are proclaimed to be perfectly compatible. The Preacher had no idea that a devout young man or woman was to avoid pleasures natural to their age. Only he wished their joy to be pure, and the stern law that ‘whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap’ to be kept in mind. Subject to that limitation, or rather that guiding principle, it is not only allowable, but commanded, to ‘put away sorrow and evil.’ Young people are often liable to despondent moods, which come over them like morning mists, and these have to be fought against. The duty of joy is the more imperative on the young because youth flies so fast, or, as the Preacher says,’ is vanity.’

Now these advices sound very like the base incitements to sensual and unworthy delight which poets of the meaner sort, and some, alas! of the nobler in their meaner moments, have presented. But this writer is no teacher of ‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,’ and wicked trash of that sort. Therefore he brings side by side with these advices the other of our passage. That ‘also’ saves the former from being misused, just as the thought of judgment did.

That possible combination of hearty, youthful glee and true religion is the all-important lesson of this passage. The word for Creator is in the plural number, according to the Hebrew idiom, which thereby expresses supremacy or excellence. The name of ‘Creator’ carries us back to Genesis, and suggests one great reason for the injunction. It is folly to forget Him on whom we depend for being; it is ingratitude to forget, in the midst of the enjoyments of our bright, early days, Him to whom we owe them all. The advice is specially needed; for youth has so much, that is delightful in its novelty, to think about, and the world, on both its innocent and its sinful side, appeals to it so strongly, that the Creator is only too apt to be crowded out of view by His works. The temptation of the young is to live in the present. Reflection belongs to older heads; spontaneous action is more characteristic of youth. Therefore, they specially need to make efforts to bring clearly to their thoughts both the unseen future and Him who is invisible. The advice is specially suitable for them; for what is begun early is likely to last and be strong.

It is hard for older men, stiffened into habits, and with less power and love of taking to new courses, to turn to God, if they have forgotten Him in early days. Conversion is possible at any age, but it is less likely as life goes on. The most of men who are Christians have become so in the formative period between boyhood and thirty. After that age, the probabilities of radical change diminish rapidly. So, ‘Remember . . . in the days of thy youth,’ or the likelihood is that you will never remember. To say, ‘I mean to have my fling, and I shall turn over a new leaf when I am older,’ is to run dreadful risk. Perhaps you will never be older. Probably, if you are, you will not want to turn the leaf. If you do, what a shame it is to plan to give God only the dregs of life! You need Him, quite as much, if not more, now in the flush of youth as in old age. Why should you rob yourself of years of blessing, and lay up bitter memories of wasted and polluted moments? If ever you turn to God in your older days, nothing will be so painful as the remembrance that you forgot Him so long.

The advice is further important, because it presents the only means of delivering life from the ‘vanity’ which the Preacher found in it all. Therefore he sets it at the close of his meditations. This is the practical outcome of them all. Forget God, and life is a desert. Remember Him, and ‘the desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose.’

The verses from the middle of Ecclesiastes 12:1 - Ecclesiastes 12:7 enforce the exhortation by the consideration of what will certainly follow youth, and advise remembrance of the Creator before that future comes. So much is clear, but the question of the precise meaning of these verses is much too large for discussion here. The older explanation takes them for an allegory representing the decay of bodily and mental powers in old age, whilst others think that in them the advance of death is presented under the image of an approaching storm. Wright, in his valuable commentary, regards the description of the gradual waning away of life in old age, in the first verses, as being set forth under images drawn from the closing days of the Palestinian winter, which are dreaded as peculiarly unhealthy, while Ecclesiastes 12:4 - Ecclesiastes 12:5 present the advent of spring, and contrast the new life in animals and plants with the feebleness of the man dying in his chamber and unable to eat. Still another explanation is that the whole is part of a dirge, to be taken literally, and describing the mourners in house and garden. I venture, though with some hesitation, to prefer, on the whole, the old allegorical theory, for reasons which it would be impossible to condense here. It is by no means free from difficulty, but is, as I think, less difficult than any of its rivals.

Interpreters who adopt it differ somewhat in the explanation of particular details, but, on the whole, one can see in most of the similes sufficient correspondence for a poet, however foreign to modern taste such a long-drawn and minute allegory may be. ‘The keepers of the house’ are naturally the arms; the ‘strong men,’ the legs; the ‘grinding women,’ the teeth; the ‘women who look out at the windows,’ the eyes; ‘the doors shut towards the street,’ either the lips or, more probably, the ears. ‘The sound of the grinding,’ which is ‘low,’ is by some taken to mean the feeble mastication of toothless gums, in which case the ‘doors’ are the lips, and the figure of the mill is continued. ‘Arising at the voice of the bird’ may describe the light sleep or insomnia of old age; but, according to some, with an alteration of rendering {‘The voice riseth into a sparrow’s’}, it is the ‘childish treble’ of Shakespeare. The former is the more probable rendering and reference. The allegory is dropped in Ecclesiastes 12:5, which describes the timid walk of the old, but is resumed in ‘the almond trees shall flourish’; that is, the hair is blanched, as the almond blossom, which is at first delicate pink, but fades into white. The next clause has an appropriate meaning in the common translation, as vividly expressing the loss of strength, but it is doubtful whether the verb here used ever means ‘to be a burden.’ The other explanations of the clause are all strained. The next clause is best taken, as in the Revised Version, as describing the failure of appetite, which the stimulating caper-berry is unable to rouse. All this slow decay is accounted for, ‘because the man is going to his long home,’ and already the poet sees the mourners gathering for the funeral procession.

The connection of the long-drawn-out picture of senile decay with the advice to remember the Creator needs no elucidation. That period of failing powers is no time to begin remembering God. How dreary, too, it will be, if God is not the ‘strength of the heart,’ when ‘heart and flesh fail’! Therefore it is plain common sense, in view of the future, not to put off to old age what will bless youth, and keep the advent of old age from being wretched.

Ecclesiastes 12:6 - Ecclesiastes 12:7 still more stringently enforce the precept by pointing, not to the slow approach, but to the actual arrival of death. If a future of possible weakness and gradual creeping in on us of death is reason for the exhortation, much more is the certainty that the crash of dissolution will come. The allegory is partially resumed in these verses. The ‘golden bowl’ is possibly the head, and, according to some, the ‘silver cord’ is the spinal marrow, while others think rather of the bowl or lamp as meaning the body, and the cord the soul which, as it were, holds it up. The ‘pitcher’ is the heart, and the ‘wheel’ the organs of respiration. Be this as it may, the general thought is that death comes, shivering the precious reservoir of light, and putting an end to drawing of life from the Fountain of bodily life. Surely these are weighty reasons for the Preacher’s advice. Surely it is well for young hearts sometimes to remember the end, and to ask, ‘What will ye do in the end?’ and to do before the end what is so hard to begin doing at the end, and so needful to have done if the end is not to be worse than ‘vanity.’

The collapse of the body is not the end of the man, else the whole force of the argument in the preceding verses would disappear. If death is annihilation, what reason is there for seeking God before it comes? Therefore Ecclesiastes 12:7 is no interpolation to bring a sceptical book into harmony with orthodox Jewish belief, as some commentators affirm. The ‘contradiction’ between it and Ecclesiastes 3:21 is alleged as proof of its having been thus added. But there is no contradiction. The former passage is interrogative, and, like all the earlier part of the book, sets forth, not the Preacher’s ultimate convictions, but a phase through which he passed on his way to these. It is because man is twofold, and at death the spirit returns to its divine Giver, that the exhortation of Ecclesiastes 12:1 is pressed home with such earnestness.

The closing verses are confidently asserted to be, like Ecclesiastes 12:7, additions in the interests of Jewish ‘orthodoxy.’ But Ecclesiastes is made out to be a ‘sceptical book’ by expelling these from the text, and then the character thus established is taken to prove that they are not genuine. It is a remarkably easy but not very logical process.

‘The end of the matter’ when all is heard, is, to ‘fear God and keep His commandments.’ The inward feeling of reverent awe which does not exclude love, and the outward life of conformity to His will, is ‘the whole duty of man,’ or ‘the duty of every man.’ And that plain summary of all that men need to know for practical guidance is enforced by the consideration of future judgment, which, by its universal sweep and all-revealing light, must mean the judgment in another life.

Happy they who, through devious mazes of thought and act, have wandered seeking for the vision of any good, and having found all to be vanity, have been led at last to rest, like the dove in the ark, in the broad simplicity of the truth that all which any man needs for blessedness in the buoyancy of fresh youthful strength and in the feebleness of decaying age, in the stress of life, in the darkness of death, and in the day of judgment, is to ‘fear God and keep His commandments’!Ecclesiastes 12:13-14. Let us hear the conclusion, &c. — The sum of all that hath been said or written by wise men. Fear God — Which is put here for all the inward worship of God, reverence, and love, and trust, and a devotedness of heart to serve and please him; and keep his commandments — This is properly added, as a necessary effect, and certain evidence of the true and genuine fear of God. Make conscience of practising whatever God enjoins, how costly, or troublesome, or dangerous soever it may be. For this is the whole duty of man — Hebrew, The whole of man, or all the man: it is his whole work and business: his whole wisdom, honour, perfection, and happiness: it is the sum of what he need either know, or do, or enjoy. This makes him a man indeed, worthy of the name, and by this, and by this alone, he answers the end of his creation, and of all the divine dispensations toward him. For God shall bring every work into judgment — All men must give an account to God of all their works, and this alone will enable them to do that with joy. With every secret thing — Not only outward and visible actions, but even inward and secret thoughts. Reader, think of this, and prepare to meet thy God! 12:8-14 Solomon repeats his text, VANITY OF VANITIES, ALL IS VANITY. These are the words of one that could speak by dear-bought experience of the vanity of the world, which can do nothing to ease men of the burden of sin. As he considered the worth of souls, he gave good heed to what he spake and wrote; words of truth will always be acceptable words. The truths of God are as goads to such as are dull and draw back, and nails to such as are wandering and draw aside; means to establish the heart, that we may never sit loose to our duty, nor be taken from it. The Shepherd of Israel is the Giver of inspired wisdom. Teachers and guides all receive their communications from him. The title is applied in Scripture to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The prophets sought diligently, what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. To write many books was not suited to the shortness of human life, and would be weariness to the writer, and to the reader; and then was much more so to both than it is now. All things would be vanity and vexation, except they led to this conclusion, That to fear God, and keep his commandments, is the whole of man. The fear of God includes in it all the affections of the soul towards him, which are produced by the Holy Spirit. There may be terror where there is no love, nay, where there is hatred. But this is different from the gracious fear of God, as the feelings of an affectionate child. The fear of God, is often put for the whole of true religion in the heart, and includes its practical results in the life. Let us attend to the one thing needful, and now come to him as a merciful Saviour, who will soon come as an almighty Judge, when he will bring to light the things of darkness, and manifest the counsels of all hearts. Why does God record in his word, that ALL IS VANITY, but to keep us from deceiving ourselves to our ruin? He makes our duty to be our interest. May it be graven in all our hearts. Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is all that concerns man.literally, "The conclusion of the discourse" (or "word," equals words, Ecclesiastes 1:1), "the whole, let us hear."

The whole duty of man - Rather, the whole man. To revere God and to obey Him is the whole man, constitutes man's whole being; that only is conceded to Man; all other things, as this book teaches again and again, are dependent on a Higher Incomprehensible Being.

13. The grand inference of the whole book.

Fear God—The antidote to following creature idols, and "vanities," whether self-righteousness (Ec 7:16, 18), or wicked oppression and other evils (Ec 8:12, 13), or mad mirth (Ec 2:2; 7:2-5), or self-mortifying avarice (Ec 8:13, 17), or youth spent without God (Ec 11:9; 12:1).

this is the whole duty of man—literally, "this is the whole man," the full ideal of man, as originally contemplated, realized wholly by Jesus Christ alone; and, through Him, by saints now in part, hereafter perfectly (1Jo 3:22-24; Re 22:14).

The conclusion of the whole matter; the sum and substance of all that hath been said or written by wise men, so far as it is necessary for us to know.

Fear God; which is synecdoically put here, as it is very frequently in Scripture, for all the inward worship of God, reverence, and love, and trust, and a devotedness of heart to serve and please God, and a loathness to offend him, and an aptness to tremble at his word and judgments.

Keep his commandments: this is fitly added as a necessary effect and certain evidence of the fear, of God. Make conscience of practising whatsoever God requires, how costly, or troublesome, or dangerous soever it be.

The whole duty; in the Hebrew it is only, the whole; it is his whole work and business, his whole perfection and happiness, it is the sum of what he need either know, or do, or enjoy. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter,.... Or "the end" (o) of it. The sum and substance of it, what it all tends to and issues in; even the whole of what is contained in this book, and in all offer divinely inspired writings of Solomon or others; of all that were now written, or before, or since: this the preacher calls upon himself, as well as his hearers, to attend unto. Or it may be rendered, "the end of the whole matter is heard" (p); here ends this book; and you have heard the whole of what deserves regard, and it lies in these few words,

fear God, and keep his commandments: "the fear of God" includes the whole of internal religion, or powerful godliness; all the graces of the Spirit, and the exercise of them; reverence of God, love to him, faith in him, and in his Son Jesus Christ; hope of eternal life from him; humility of soul, patience and submission to his will, with every other grace; so the Heathens call religion "metum Deorum" (q), the fear of God: and "keeping of the commandments", or obedience to the whole will of God, is the fruit, effect, and evidence of the former; and takes in all the commands of God, moral and positive, whether under the former or present dispensation; and an observance of them in faith, from a principle of love, and with a view to the glory of God;

for this is the whole duty of man; or, "this is the whole man" (r); and makes a man a whole man, perfect, entire, and wanting nothing; whereas, without this, he is nothing, let him have ever so much of the wisdom, wealth, honour, and profits of this world. Or, "this is the whole of every man" (s); either, as we supply it, the duty, work, and business of every man, of every son of Adam, be he what he will, high or low, rich or poor, of every age, sex, and condition; or this is the happiness of every man, or that leads to it; this is the whole of it; this is the "summum bonum", or chief happiness of men: Lactantius (t) says, the "summum bonum" of a man lies in religion only; it lies in this, and not in any outward thing, as is abundantly proved in this book: and this should be the concern of everyone, this being the chief end of man, and what, as Jarchi says, he is born unto; or, as the Targum, such should be the life of every man. The Masoretes begin this verse with a larger letter than usual, and repeat it at the end of the book, though not accentuated, to raise the attention of the reader (u); that he may make a particular observation of what is said in it, as being of the greatest moment and importance.

(o) "finis verbi omnis", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus; "finis universi negotii", Tigurine version, so Vatablus. (p) "auditus est", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Tigurine version, Mercerus. (q) Horat. Carmin. l. 1. Ode 35. v. 36. (r) "hoc (est) omnis homo", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Mercerus; "omnium hominum perfectio", Tigurine version; "hoc est totus homo", Cocceius; "this is all the man", Broughton. (s) "Hoc est omnium hominum", Piscator, Gejerus; "hoc est totum hominis", Junius & Tremellius. (t) De Fals. Sap. l. 3, c. 10. (u) Vid. Buxtorf. Tiberius, c. 14. p. 38.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
13. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter] The word for “let us hear” has been taken by some scholars as a participle with a gerundial force, “The sum of the whole matter must be heard,” but it admits of being taken as in the English version, and this gives a more satisfying meaning. The rendering “everything is heard,” i.e. by God, has little to recommend it, and by anticipating the teaching of the next verse introduces an improbable tautology. The words admit of the rendering the sum of the whole discourse, which is, perhaps, preferable.

Fear God, and keep his commandments] This is what the Teacher who, as it were, edits the book, presents to his disciples as its sum and substance, and he was not wrong in doing so. In this the Debater himself had rested after his many wanderings of thought (ch. Ecclesiastes 5:7, and, by implication, Ecclesiastes 11:9). Whatever else might be “vanity and feeding on wind,” there was safety and peace in keeping the commandments of the Eternal, the laws “which are not of to-day or yesterday.”

for this is the whole duty of man] The word “duty” is not in the Hebrew, and we might supply “the whole end,” or “the whole work,” or with another and better construction, This is for every man: i.e. a law of universal obligation. What is meant is that this is the only true answer to that quest of the chief good in which the thinker had been engaged. This was, in Greek phrase, the ἔργον or “work” of man, that to which he was called by the very fact of his existence. All else was but a πάρεργον, or accessory.Verse 13. - The teaching of the whole book is now gathered up in two weighty sentences. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. The Revised Version gives, This is the end of the matter; all hath been heard. The Septuagint has, Τέλος λόγου τὸ πᾶν ἄκουε, "The end of the matter, the sum, hear thou;" Vulgate, Finem loquendi pariter omnes audiamus. Another rendering is suggested, "The conclusion of the matter is this, that [God] taketh knowledge of all things;" literally, "everything is heard." Perhaps the passage is best translated, The end of the matter, when all is heard, is this. The first word of this verse, soph, "end," is printed in the Hebrew text in large characters, in order to draw attention to the importance of what is coming. And its significance is rightly estimated. These two verses guard against very possible misconception, and give the author's real and mature conclusion. When this is received, all that need be said has been uttered. Fear God (ha-Elohim), and keep his commandments. This injunction is the practical result of the whole discussion. Amid the difficulties of the moral government of the world, amid the complications of society, varying and opposing interests and claims, one duty remained plain and unchanging - the duty of piety and obedience. For this is the whole duty of man. The Hebrew is literally, "This is every man," which is explained to mean, "This is every man's duty." Septuagint, Ὅτι τοῦτο πᾶς ὁ ἄνθρωπος: Vulgate, Hoc est enim omnis homo. For this man was made and placed in the world; this is his real object, the chief good which he has to seek, and which alone will secure contentment and happiness. The obligation is put in the most general terms as applicable to the whole human family; for God is not the God of the Jews only, but of Gentiles also (Romans 3:29). A third 'ad asher lo now follows (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:1-2); the first placed the old man in view, with his dsagrment in general; the second described in detail his bodily weaknesses, presenting themselves as forerunners of death; the third brings to view the dissolution of the life of the body, by which the separation of the soul and the body, and the return of both to their original condition is completed. "Ere the silver cord is loosed, and the golden bowl is shattered, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel is shattered in the well, and the dust returns to the earth as that which it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." Before entering into the contents of these verses, we shall consider the form in which some of the words are presented. The Chethı̂b ירחק we readily let drop, for in any case it must be said that the silver cord is put out of action; and this word, whether we read it ירחק or ירחק (Venet. μακρυνθῇ), is too indefinite, and, supposing that by the silver cord a component part of the body is meant, even inappropriate, since the organs which cease to perform their functions are not removed away from the dead body, but remain in it when dead. But the Keri ירתק ("is unbound") has also its difficulty. The verb רתק signifies to bind together, to chain; the bibl. Heb. uses it of the binding of prisoners, Nahum 3:18, cf. Isaiah 40:19; the post-bibl. Heb. of binding equals shutting up (contrast of פתח, Pesikta, ed. Buber, 176a, whence Mezia 107b, שורא וריתקא, a wall and enclosure); the Arab. of shutting up and closing a hole, rent, split (e.g., murtatiḳ, a plant with its flower-buds as yet shut up; rutûḳ, inaccessibleness). The Targumist

(Note: Similarly the lxx understands ונרץ, καὶ συντροχάσῃ (i.e., as Jerome in his Comm. explains: si fuerit in suo funiculo convoluta), which is impossible.)

accordingly understands ירתק of binding equals lameness (palsy); Rashi and Aben Ezra, of shrivelling; this may be possible, however, for נרתּק, used of a "cord," the meaning that first presents itself, is "to be firmly bound;" but this affords no appropriate sense, and we have therefore to give to the Niph. the contrasted meaning of setting free, discatenare (Parchon, Kimchi); this, however, is not justified by examples, for a privat. Niph. is unexampled, Ewald, 121e; נלבּב, Job 11:12, does not mean to be deprived of heart (understanding), but to gain heart (understanding). Since, however, we still need here the idea of setting loose or tearing asunder (lxx ἀνατραπῇ; Symm. κοπῆναι; Syr. נתפסק, from פּסק, abscindere; Jerome, rumpatur), we have only the choice of interpreting yērathēq either, in spite of the appearance to the contrary, in the meaning of constingitur, of a violent drawing together of the cord stretched out lengthwise; or, with Pfannkuche, Gesen., Ewald, to read ינּתק ("is torn asunder"), which one expects, after Isaiah 33:20; cf. Judges 16:9; Jeremiah 10:20. Hitzig reaches the same, for he explains ירחק equals יחרק, from (Arab.) kharaḳ, to tear asunder (of the sound of the tearing);

(Note: Vid., my treatise, Psyciol. u. Musik, u.s.w., p. 31.)

and Bttcher, by adopting the reading יחרק; but without any support in Heb. and Chald. usus loq.

נּלּה, which is applied to the second figure, is certainly

(Note: The lxx, unsuitably, τὸ ἀνθέμιον, which, per synecdochen partis pro toto, signifies the capital (of a pillar). Thus, perhaps, also are meant Symm. τὸ περιφερές, Jerome vitta, Venet. τὸ στέφος, and the Syr. "apple." Among the Arabs, this ornament on the capital is called tabaryz ("prominence").)

a vessel of a round form (from גּלל, to roll, revolve round), like the נּלּה which received the oil and conducted it to the seven lamps of the candlestick in Zechariah 4:1-14; but to understand ותרץ of the running out of the oil not expressly named (Luther: "and the golden fountain runs out") would be contrary to the usus loq.; it is the metapl. form for ותרץ, et confringitur, as ירוּץ, Isaiah 42:4, for ירץ, from רצץ, cogn. רעע, Psalm 2:9, whence נרץ, Ecclesiastes 12:6, the regularly formed Niph. (the fut. of which, תּרוץ, Ezekiel 29:7). We said that oil is not expressly named. But perhaps it is meant by הזּהב. The gullah above the candlestick which Zechariah saw was, according to Zechariah 4:12, provided with two golden pipes, in which were two olive trees standing on either side, which sunk therein the tuft-like end of their branches, of which it is said that they emptied out of themselves hazzahav into the oil vessels. Here it is manifest that hazzahav means, in the one instance, the precious metal of which the pipes are formed; and in the other, the fluid gold of the oil contained in the olive branches. Accordingly, Hitzig understands gullath hazzahav here also; for he takes gullah as a figure of the body, the golden oil as a figure of the soul, and the silver cord as a figure of vital energy.

Thus, with Hitz., understanding gullath hazzahav after the passage in Zechariah, I have correctly represented the meaning of the figures in my Psychol. p. 228, as follows: - "The silver cord equals the soul directing and bearing the body as living; the lamp hanging by this silver cord equals the body animated by the soul, and dependent on it; the golden oil equals the spirit, of which it is said, Proverbs 20:27, that it is a lamp of God." I think that this interpretation of the golden oil commends itself in preference to Zckler's interpretation, which is adopted by Dchsel, of the precious fluidum of the blood; for if hazzahav is a metaphorical designation of oil, we have to think of it as the material for burning and light; but the principle of bright life in man is the spirit (ruahh hhayim or nishmath hhayim); and in the passage in Zechariah also, oil, which makes the candlestick give light, is a figure of the spirit (Ecclesiastes 12:6, ki im-beruhhi). But, as one may also suppose, it is not probable that here, with the same genit. connection, הכסף is to be understood of the material and the quality; and hazzqahav, on the contrary, of the contents. A golden vessel is, according to its most natural meaning, a vessel which is made of gold, thus a vessel of a precious kind. A golden vessel cannot certainly be broken in pieces, but we need not therefore understand an earthenware vessel only gilded, as by a silver cord is to be understood only that which has a silver line running through it (Gesen. in the Thes.); רצוּץ may also denote that which is violently crushed or broken, Isaiah 42:3; cf. Judges 9:53. If gullath hazzahav, however, designates a golden vessel, the reference of the figure to the body, and at the same time of the silver cord to the vital energy or the soul, is then excluded, - for that which animates stands yet above that which is animated, - the two metallic figures in this their distribution cannot be comprehended in this reference. We have thus to ask, since gullath hazzahav is not the body itself: What in the human body is compared to a silver cord and to a golden vessel? What, moreover, to a pitcher at the fountain, and to a wheel or a windlass? Winzer settles this question by finding in the two double figures only in general the thoughts represented: antequam vita ex tenui quasi filo suspensa pereat, and (which is essentially the same) antequam machina corporis destruatur.

Gurlitt also protests against the allegorical explanation of the details, but he cannot refrain from interpreting more specially than Winzer. Two momenta, he says, there are which, when a man dies, in the most impressive way present themselves to view: the extinction of consciousness, and the perfect cessation, complete ruin, of the bodily organism. The extinction of consciousness is figuratively represented by the golden lamp, which is hung up by a silver cord in the midst of a house or tent, and now, since the cord which holds it is broken, it falls down and is shattered to pieces, so that there is at once deep darkness; the destruction of the bodily organism, by a fountain, at which the essential parts of its machinery, the pitcher and windlass, are broken and rendered for ever useless. This interpretation of Gurlitt's affords sufficient support to the expectation of the allegorical meaning with which we approached Ecclesiastes 12:6; and we would be satisfied therewith, if one of the figures did not oppose us, without seeking long for a more special allegorical meaning: the pitcher at the fountain or well (כּד, not הכּד, because determined by 'al-hammabu'a) is without doubt the heart which beats to the last breath of the dying man, which is likened to a pitcher which, without intermission, receives and again sends forth the blood. That the blood flows through the body like living water is a fact cognizable and perceptible without the knowledge of its course; fountain (מקור) and blood appear also elsewhere as associated ideas, Leviticus 12:7; and nishbar, as here vetishshaběr, into a state of death, or near to death, Jeremiah 23:9; Psalm 69:21. From this gullath hazzahav must also have a special allegorical sense; and if, as Gurlitt supposes, the golden vessel that is about to be destroyed is a figure of the perishing self-consciousness (whereby it is always doubtful that, with this interpretation, the characteristic feature of light in the figure is wanting), then it is natural to go further, and to understand the golden vessel directly of the head of a man, and to compare the breaking of the skull, Judges 9:53, expressed by vataritz eth-gulgolto, with the words here before us, vatharutz gullath hazzahav; perhaps by gullath the author thought of the cogn. - both as to root and meaning - גלגלת; but, besides, the comparison of the head, the bones of which form an oval bowl, with gullath is of itself also natural. It is true that, according to the ancient view, not the head, but the heart, is the seat of the life of the spirit; "in the heart, Ephrem said (Opp. Syr. ii. 316), the thinking spirit (shuschobo) acts as in its palace;" and the understanding, the Arabians

(Note: Vid., Noldeke's Poesien d. alten Araber, p. 190.)

also say, sits in the heart, and thus between the ribs. Everything by which בשׂר and נפשׁ is affected - thus, briefly formulated, the older bibl. idea - comes in the לב into the light of consciousness. But the Book of Koheleth belongs to a time in which spiritual-psychical actions began to be placed in mediate causal relation with the head; the Book of Daniel represents this newer mode of conception, Daniel 2:28; Daniel 4:2; Daniel 7:10, Daniel 7:15. The image of the monarchies seen in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Daniel 2:32, Daniel 2:28, had a golden head; the head is described as golden, as it is the membrum praecipuum of the human body; it is compared to gold as to that which is most precious, as, on the other hand, ראשׁ is used as a metaphorical designation of that which is most precious. The breaking to pieces of the head, the death-blow which it receives, shows itself in this, that he who is sick unto death is unable to hold his head erect, that it sinks down against his will according to the law of gravity; as also in this, that the countenance assumes the aspect which we designate the facies hippocratica, and that feeling is gradually destroyed; but, above all, that is thought of which Ovid says of one who was dying: et resupinus humum moribundo vertice pulsat.

If we now further inquire regarding the meaning of the silver cord, nothing can obviously be meant by it which is locally above the golden bowl which would be hanging under it; also הכסף גלת itself certainly admits no such literal antitype, - the concavity of the גלגלת is below, and that of a גלה, on the other hand, is above. The silver cord will be found if a component part of the structure of the body is pointed to, which stands in a mutually related connection with the head and the brain, the rending asunder of which brings death with it. Now, as is well known, dying finally always depends on the brain and the upper spinal marrow; and the ancients already interpreted the silver cord of the spinal marrow, which is called by a figure terminologically related to the silver cord, חוּט השּׂדרה (the spinal cord), and as a cord-like lengthening of the brain into the spinal channel could not be more appropriately named; the centre is grey, but the external coating is white. We do not, however, maintain that hakkěsěph points to the white colour; but the spinal marrow is related, in the matter of its value for the life of man, to the brain as silver is to gold. Since not a violent but a natural death is the subject, the fatal stroke that falls on the spinal marrow is not some kind of mechanical injury, but, according as ירתק is unbound is explained or is changed into ינּתק is torn asunder, is to be thought of either as constriction equals shrinking together, consuming away, exhaustion; or as unchanging equals paralysis or disabling; or as tearing asunder equals destruction of the connection of the individual parts. The emendation ינתק most commends itself; it remains, however, possible that ינתק is meant in the sense of morbid contraction (vid., Rashi); at any rate, the fate of the גלה is the consequence of the fate of the חבל, which carries and holds the gullah, and does not break without at the same time bringing destruction on it; as also the brain and the spinal marrow stand in a relation of solidarity to each other, and the head receives

(Note: Many interpreters (lately Ewald, Hengst., Zckl., Taylor, and others) understand the silver cord of the thread of life; the spinal marrow is, without any figure, this thread of life itself.)


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