Ecclesiastes 12:5
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
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(5) The old man is beset with terrors; terrors from on high, terrors on the way: all in which he had taken delight before, has charms for him no longer; the almond causes loathing (for so may be translated the word rendered “flourished” in our version); the locust, in the East a favourite article of food, is now burdensome; the caper berry (translated “desire” in our version) fails; for man is going to his everlasting house, &c

Ecclesiastes 12:5. When they shall be afraid, &c. — The passion of fear is observed to be most incident to old men, of which divers reasons may be given. Of that which is high — Of high things, lest they should fall upon them; or of high places, as of going up hills or stairs, which is very irksome to them, because of their weakness, weariness, giddiness, and danger, or dread of falling. And fears shall be in the way — Lest, as they are walking, they should stumble, or fall, or be thrust down, or some infirmity or evil should befall them. And the almond-tree shall flourish — Their heads shall be as full of gray hairs as the almond-tree is of white flowers. And the grasshopper shall be a burden — If it accidentally light upon them. They cannot endure the least burden, being indeed a burden to themselves. And desire shall fail — Of meats, and drinks, and music, and other delights, which are vehemently desired by men in their youth. Because man goeth — Is travelling toward it, and every day nearer to it. To his long home

From this place of his pilgrimage into the grave, from whence he must never return into this world, and into the state of the future life, which is unchangeable and everlasting. And mourners go about the streets — Accompany the corpse through the streets to the grave.

12:1-7 We should remember our sins against our Creator, repent, and seek forgiveness. We should remember our duties, and set about them, looking to him for grace and strength. This should be done early, while the body is strong, and the spirits active. When a man has the pain of reviewing a misspent life, his not having given up sin and worldly vanities till he is forced to say, I have no pleasure in them, renders his sincerity very questionable. Then follows a figurative description of old age and its infirmities, which has some difficulties; but the meaning is plain, to show how uncomfortable, generally, the days of old age are. As the four verses, 2-5, are a figurative description of the infirmities that usually accompany old age, ver. 6 notices the circumstances which take place in the hour of death. If sin had not entered into the world, these infirmities would not have been known. Surely then the aged should reflect on the evil of sin.High - The powerful and the proud, such persons as an old man in his timidity might shrink from opposing or meeting: or, high ground which old men would avoid ascending.

Fears ... in the way - Compare Proverbs 26:13.

The almond tree - The type of old age. Many modern critics translate "The almond shall be despised," i. e., pleasant food shall no longer be relished.

The grasshopper - Rather: "the locust." The clause means, heaviness and stiffness shall take the place of that active motion for which the locust is conspicuous.

Desire - literally, the caper-berry; which, eaten as a provocative to appetite, shall fail to take effect on a man whose powers are exhausted.

Long home - literally, "eternal (see Ecclesiastes 1:4 note) house;" man's place in the next world. Without attributing to the author of Ecclesiastes that deep insight into the future life which is shown by the writer of the Epistles to the Corinthians, we may observe that He by whom both writers were inspired sanctions in both books (see 2 Corinthians 5:1-6) the use of the same expression "eternal house." In 2 Corinthians means that spiritual body which shall be hereafter; and it is placed, as it is here (see Ecclesiastes 12:3), in contrast with that earthly dissolving house which clothes the spirit of man in this world.

Mourners - The singing women who attend funerals for hire (see Matthew 9:23).

5. that which is high—The old are afraid of ascending a hill.

fears … in the way—Even on the level highway they are full of fears of falling, &c.

almond … flourish—In the East the hair is mostly dark. The white head of the old among the dark-haired is like an almond tree, with its white blossoms, among the dark trees around [Holden]. The almond tree flowers on a leafless stock in winter (answering to old age, in which all the powers are dormant), while the other trees are flowerless. Gesenius takes the Hebrew for flourishes from a different root, casts off; when the old man loses his gray hairs, as the almond tree casts its white flowers.

grasshoppers—the dry, shrivelled, old man, his backbone sticking out, his knees projecting forwards, his arms backwards, his head down, and the apophyses enlarged, is like that insect. Hence arose the fable, that Tithonus in very old age was changed into a grasshopper [Parkhurst]. "The locust raises itself to fly"; the old man about to leave the body is like a locust when it is assuming its winged form, and is about to fly [Maurer].

a burden—namely, to himself.

desire shall fail—satisfaction shall be abolished. For "desire," Vulgate has "the caper tree," provocative of lust; not so well.

long home—(Job 16:22; 17:13).

mourners—(Jer 9:17-20), hired for the occasion (Mt 9:23).

They shall be afraid; the passion of fear is observed to be most incident to old men, of which divers reasons may be given.

Of that which is high; either,

1. Of high things, lest they should fall upon them. Or rather,

2. Of high places, of going up hills or stairs, which is very irksome to them, because of their weakness, and weariness, ar, d giddiness, and danger, or dread of falling. And this clause, together with the next, may be rendered thus, and that agreeably to the Hebrew text,

Also they shall be afraid and terrified (two words expressing the same thing, which is very frequent in the Hebrew) of that which is high in the way. When they walk abroad, they will dread to go up any high or steep places.

And fears shall be in the way, lest as they are walking, they should stumble, or fall, or be thrust down, or some infirmity or mischief should befall them.

The almond tree shall flourish; their heads shall be as full of grey hairs as the almond tree is of white flowers. Such metaphors are not unusual in other authors. Hence Sophocles calls a grey or hoary head flowery, and again, covered with white flowers.

The grasshopper shall be a burden, if it doth accidentally hop up and rest upon them. They cannot endure the least burden, being indeed a burden to themselves. But the words may be, and are by others, rendered, the locust (as the ancient interpreters and many others render it; or, as ours and some others, the grasshopper, which comes to the same thing; for these two sorts of insects are much of the same nature and shape) shall be a burden to itself. And by the locust or grasshopper may be understood, either,

1. The old man himself, who bears some resemblance to it; in shape, by reason of the bones sticking out; in the constitution of the body, which is dry and withering; and in the legs and arms, which are slender, the flesh being consumed. Or,

2. The back, which fitly follows after the head, upon which the almond tree flourished, in which the strength of the body lay, and which formerly was able to bear great burdens, but now, through its weakness and crookedness, is a burden too heavy for itself. And some of the Jewish and other interpreters understand this word, which others render locust or grasshopper, to be some part of the body, either the back-bone, or the head of the thigh bone, or the ankle-bone, any of which may well be said to be heavy or burdensome to itself, when it moves slowly and listlessly, and not without difficulty and trouble. Desire, to wit, of meats, and drinks, and music, and other carnal delights, which are vehemently desired by men in the heat of their youth, but are unsavoury to old men; of which see an instance 2 Samuel 19:35. It is true, the former expressions are metaphorical, but the two next following are proper, and to be understood literally; and so may this clause also.

Man goeth, is travelling towards it, and every day nearer to it than other,

to his long home; from this place of his pilgrimage into the grave, from whence he must never return into this world, and into the state and place of the future life, which is unchangeable and everlasting.

The mourners; either such as were hired to that end, of whom See Poole "Jeremiah 9:17"; See Poole "Matthew 9:23", See Poole "Matthew 11:17", or true mourners, near relations, and dear friends, accompany the dead corpse through the streets to the grave.

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high,.... Not of the most high God, before whose tribunal they must shortly appear, as some; but rather of high places, as high hills, mountains, towers, &c. which aged persons are afraid to go up, because of the feebleness and weakness of their limbs, their difficulty of breathing, and the dizziness of their heads;

and fears shall be in the way; they do not care: to go abroad, being afraid of every little stone that lies in the way, lest they should stumble at it, and fall: some understand this of their fears of spirits, good or bad; but the former sense is best;

and the almond tree shall flourish; which most interpret of the hoary head, which looks like an almond tree in blossom; and which, as it comes soon in the spring, whence it has its name of haste in the Hebrew language; see Jeremiah 1:11; and is a sure sign of its near approach; so gray hairs, or the hoary head, sometimes appear very soon and unexpected, and are a sure indication of the approach of old age; which Cicero (h) calls "aetas praecipitata",

"age that comes hastily on;''

though the hoary head, like the almond tree, looks very beautiful, and is venerable, especially if found in the way of righteousness, Leviticus 19:32;

and the grasshopper shall be a burden; meaning either, should a grasshopper, which is very light, leap upon an aged person, it would give him pain, the least burden being uneasy to him; or, should he eat one of these creatures, the locusts being a sort of food in Judea, it would not sit well, on his stomach: or the grasshopper, being a crumpled and lean creature, may describe an old man; his legs and arms emaciated, and his shoulders, back, and lips, crumpled up and bunching out; and the locust of this name has a bunch on its backbone, like a camel (i): Bochart (k) says, that the head of the thigh, or the hip bone, by the Arabians, is called "chagaba", the word here used for a locust or grasshopper; which part of the body is of principal use in walking, and found very troublesome and difficult to move in old men; and Aben Ezra interprets it of the thigh: the almond tree, by the Rabbins, as Jarchi says, is interpreted of the hip bone, which stands out in old age: and the Targum, of this and the preceding clause, is,

"and the top of thy backbone shall bunch out, through leanness, like the almond; and the ankles of thy feet shall be swelled.''

Some, as Ben Melech observes, understand it of the genital member, and of coitus, slighted and rejected, because of the weakness of the body; all desires of that kind being gone, as follows;

and desire shall fail; the appetite, for food, for bodily pleasures, and carnal delights; and particularly for venery, all the parts of the body for such uses being weakened, The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions, render it, "the caper tree shall be dissipated", or "vanish", or "its fruit shall shrink"; so Dr. Smith, who understands it of the decrease of the fluids, as he does the former clause of the solid parts of the body; and the berries of this tree are said to excite both appetite and lust (l): and so Munster (m) interprets the word of the berries of the caper tree;

because man goeth to his long home; the grave, as the Targum, the house appointed for living, where he must lie till the resurrection morn; his eternal house, as Cicero calls it (n); and so it may be rendered here, "the house of the world", common to all the world, where all mankind go: or, "to the house of his world" (o); whether of bliss or woe, according as his state and character be, good or bad: Theognis (p) calls it the dark house of "hades", or the invisible state; and then this must be understood with respect to his separate soul, and the mansion of it; and Alshech says, every righteous man has a mansion to himself; see John 14:2;

and the mourners go about the streets; the relations of the deceased; or those that go to their houses to comfort them; or the mourning men and women, hired for that purpose.

(h) Fam. Epist. l. 11. Ephesians 58. (i) R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 83. 1.((k) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 4. c. 8. col. 494. (l) Avicenna spud Schindler. Lexic. Colossians 10. (m) Dictionar. Chaldaic. p. 13. (n) Tusculan. Quaest. l. 2. prope finem. (o) "ad domum seculi sui", Pagninus. Montanus, Vatablus, Mercerus. (p) v. 1008. vid. v. 244.

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is {k} high, and fears shall be in the {l} way, and the almond tree shall {m} flourish, and the {n} grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

(k) To climb high because of their weakness, or they stoop down as though they were afraid lest anything should hide them.

(l) They will tremble as they go, as though they were afraid.

(m) Their head will be as white as the blossoms of an almond tree.

(n) They will be able to bear nothing.

5. also when they shall be afraid of that which is high] The description becomes more and more enigmatic, possibly, as some have thought, because the special forms of infirmity referred to called for a veil. The first clause, however, is fairly clear if we omit the interpolated “when.” They (the indefinite plural, with the force of the French on) shall be afraid of a height, or hill. The new form of the sentence, the opening words also, indicate that the picture of the storm has been completed, and that symbolism of another kind comes in. We see, as it were, another slide in the magic lantern of the exhibiter. To be “afraid of a hill” expresses not merely or chiefly the failure of strength of limbs to climb mountains, but the temper that, as we say, makes “mountains out of molehills,” which, like the slothful man of Proverbs 22:13, sees “a lion in the path.” There are “fears in the way.” Imaginary terrors haunt the aged. Here again we have a parallel in Latin poetry:

“Multa senem circumveniunt incommoda; vel quòd

Quærit et inventis miser abstinet, ac timet uti,

Vel quòd res omnes timidè gelidèque ministrat.”

“Many the troubles that attend the old;

For either still he sets his mind on gains

And dares not touch, and fears to use his gains,

Or deals with all things as with chill of fear.”

Horace, Ep. ad Pis. 169–71.

So Aristotle among the characteristics of age notes that the old are δειλοὶ καὶ πάντα προφοβητικοὶ (timid and in all things forecasting fears) (Rhet. ii. 23). The interpreters who carry the idea of a storm through the whole passage explain the passage: “They (the people of the city) shall be afraid of that which is coming from on high,” i.e. of the gathering storm-clouds, but for the reasons above given, that interpretation seems untenable.

and the almond tree shall flourish] The true meaning is to be found, it is believed, in the significance of the Hebrew name for almond tree (Sheked = the early waking tree, comp. Jeremiah 1:11), and the enigmatic phrase describes the insomnia which often attends old age. The tree that flourishes there is the tree of Vigilantia or Wakefulness. As might be expected, the discordant interpretations of commentators multiply, and we may record, but only in order to reject them, the more notable of these. (1) The almond blossoms represent the white hairs of age. Those blossoms are, however, pink and not white, and few persons would find a likeness in the two objects thus compared. (2) The verb rendered “shall flourish” has been derived from a root with the meaning “to loathe—scorn—reject,” and the sentence has been explained either (2) he (the old man) loathes the almond, i.e. has no taste for dainties, or (3) turns away from the almond tree, i.e. has no welcome for the messenger of spring, or (4), with the same sense as (2), “the almond causes loathing.” Anatomical expositors strain their fancies to find in the almond that which answers to (5) the thigh bone, or (6) the vertebral column, or some other part of the body which age affects with weakness. Into the discussion what part best answers to the almond we need not follow them.

and the grasshopper shall be a burden] The word translated “grasshopper” is one of the many terms used, as in 2 Chronicles 7:13, for insects of the locust class, as in Leviticus 11:22; Numbers 13:33; Isaiah 40:22, where the A. V. has “grasshopper.” It will be noted that in some of these passages (Numbers 13:33; Isaiah 40:22) it plays the part of the “mustard seed” of the Gospel parable (Matthew 13:31) as the type of that which is the extreme of diminutiveness. And this we can scarcely doubt is its meaning here. “That which is least weighty is a burden to the timidity of age.” Assuming the writer to have come in contact with the forms of Greek life, the words may receive an illustration from its being the common practice of the Athenians to wear a golden grasshopper in their heads as the symbol of their being autochthones, “sprung from the soil.” Such an ornament is to the old man more than he cares to carry, and becomes another symbol of his incapacity to support the least physical or mental burden. As before we note a wide variety of other, but, it is believed, less tenable, explanations. (1) The locust has been looked on as, like the almond, another dainty article of food, which the terror of the storm, or the loss of appetite in age, renders unattractive. Commonly indeed they are said to have been eaten only by the poor, but Aristotle (Hist. Anim. v. 30) names them as a delicacy, and the Arabs are said to consider them as such now (Ginsburg). Entering once more on the region of anatomical exposition we have the grasshopper taken (2) for the bone of the pelvis which becomes sharp and prominent in age, (3) for the stomach which swells with dropsy, (4) for the ankles swelling from the same cause, and so on through various other members.

and desire shall fail] The word translated “desire” is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament, and this rendering rests on a somewhat doubtful etymology. The LXX. version, which may be admitted as shewing in what sense the word was taken at a very early date, and with which the Rabbinic use of the word agrees, gives κάππαρις, which the Vulgate reproduces in capparis, i.e. the caper or Capparis spinosa of botanists. It is in favour of this rendering that it preserves the enigmatic symbolism of the two previous clauses, while “desire” simply gives an abstract unfigurative term, out of harmony with the context. Possibly indeed the name was given to the plant as indicating its qualities as a restorative and stimulant (Plutarch, Sympos.; Athenæus, Deipnos, ix. p. 405). The pickled capers of modern cookery are the buds of the shrub, but the berries and leaves are reputed to possess the same virtues. Hence one of the Epicures in Athenæus (Deipnos. ix. p. 370) takes Νὴ τὸν κάππαριν (By the caper!) as a favourite oath, just as a modern gourmet might swear by some favourite sauce. So understood the meaning of the passage seems fairly clear. The caper-berry shall fall, i.e. shall no longer rouse the flagging appetite of age. There shall be a longa oblivio of what the man had most delighted in. It would seem indeed from the account of the capparis given by Pliny (Hist. Nat. xx. 59) that its medicinal virtues were of a very varied character. It was a remedy for paralysis and diseases of the kidneys and the liver, for tooth-ache and ear-ache, for scrofula and phagedænic ulcers. The words describe accordingly the infirmity which no drugs, however potent, can cure. It is as when Shakespeare says that “poppy and mandragora” shall fail to minister the “sweet sleep” of yesterday, as when we say of a man in the last stage of decrepitude that “no quinine or phosphorus will help him now.” See the Ideal Biography in the Introduction, ch. iii. So understood the Debater speaks with a scorn like that of Euripides (Suppl. 1060) of the attempts of the old to revive their flagging desires and avert the approach of death.

μισῶ δʼ ὅσοι χρῄζουσιν ἐκτείνειν βίον

λουτροῖσι, καὶ στρωμναῖσι καὶ μαγέυμασιν.

“I hate them, those who seek to lengthen life

With baths, and pillows, and quack-doctor’s drugs.”

Substantially most commentators agree in this meaning. The anatomical school, however, identify it, as before, with this or that bodily organ affected by old age, and one writer (Rosenmüller) thinks that the point of comparison is found in the fact that the caper-berry as it ripens, bends the stalk with its weight, and then splits open and lets the seeds fall out.

because man goeth to his long home] Literally, to the house of his eternity, i.e. to his eternal home. The description of the decay of age is followed by that of death as the close of all, and for a time, perhaps to link together the two symbolical descriptions, the language of figurative imagery is dropped. The “eternal home” is, of course, the grave (the phrase is stated by Ginsburg to be in common use among modern Jews), or more probably, Sheol, or Hades, the dwelling-place of the dead. In Tob 3:6, “the everlasting place” seems used of the felicity of Paradise, and it is, at least, obvious that the thought of immortality, though not prominent, is not excluded here. The term Domus æterna appears often on the tombs of Rome in Christian as well as non-Christian inscriptions, probably as equivalent to the “everlasting habitations” of Luke 16:9, and in these cases it clearly connotes more than an “eternal sleep.” An interesting parallel is found in the Assyrian legend of Ishtar, in which Hades is described as the “House of Eternity,” the “House men enter, but cannot depart from; the Road men go to, but cannot return” (Records of the Past, i. 143).

the mourners go about the streets] Literally, in the singular, the street or market-place. The words bring before us the most prominent feature of Eastern funerals. The burial-place was always outside the city, and the body was borne on an open bier through the streets and open places of the city, and the hired mourners, men and women, followed with their wailing cries, praising the virtues, or lamenting the death, of the deceased (2 Samuel 3:31; Jeremiah 22:10; Jeremiah 22:18; Mark 5:38). Sometimes these were short and simple, like the “Ah brother! Ah, sister! Ah, his glory!” of Jeremiah 22:18. Sometimes they developed into elegiac poems like the lamentations of David over Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:17-27), and Abner (2 Samuel 3:32-34). So we have in the Talmud (quoted by Dukes, Rabbin. Blumenlese, pp. 256, 257) examples such as the following, “The palms wave their heads for the just man who was like a palm”—“If the fire falls upon the cedar what shall the hyssop on the wall do?” It is obvious that such elegies would often take the form of a figurative description of death, and that which follows in the next verse may well have been an echo from some such elegy.

Verse 5. - Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high. There is no "when" in the original, which runs, "Also, or yea, they fear on high." "They" are old men, or, like the French on, "people" indefinitely; and the clause says that they find difficulty in mounting an ascent, as the Vulgate renders, Excelsa quoque timebant. Shortness of breath, asthmatic tendencies, failure of muscular power, make such an exertion arduous and burdensome, just as in the previous verse a similar cause rendered singing impossible. The description is now arriving at the last stage, and allegorizing the closing scene. The steep ascent is the via dolorosa, the painful process of dying, from which the natural man shrinks; for as the gnome says -

Τοῦ ζῇν γὰρ οὐδεὶς ὡς ὁ γηράσκων ἐρᾷ
"None dotes on life more than the aged man." The old man is going on the appointed road, and fears shall be in the way; or, all sorts of fears (plural of intensity) are in the path; as in his infirm condition he can walk nowhere without danger of meeting with some accident, so analogously, as he contemplates his end and the road he has to travel, "fearfulness and trembling come upon him, and horror overwhelms him" (Psalm 55:5). Plumptre sees in these clauses a further adumbration of the inconveniences of old age, how that the decrepit man makes mountains of mole-hills, is full of imaginary terrors, always forecasting sad events, and so on; but this does not carry on the picture to the end which the poet has now in view, and seems tame and commonplace. The supporters of the storm-theory explain the passage as denoting the fears of the people at what is coming from on high - the gathering tempest, these fears extending to those on the highway, - which is feeble. And the almond tree shall flourish; or, is in blossom. The old man is thus figured from the observed aspect of this tree. It blossoms in winter upon a leafless stem, and its flowers, at first of a pale pink color, turn to a snowy whiteness as they fall from the branches. The tree thus becomes a fit type of the arid, torpid-looking old man with his white hair. So Wright quotes Virgil, 'AEneid,' 5:416 -

"Temporibus geminis canebat sparsa senectus;ETT*>

though there the idea is rather of mingled black and grey hair than of ahead of snowy whiteness. Canon Tristram ('Nat. Hist. of the Bible,' p. 332), referring to the usual version of this clause, adds, "But the better interpretation seems to be, that as the almond blossom ushers in the spring, so do the signs referred to in the context indicate the hastening (shaked, 'almond,' meaning also 'hasten') of old age and death." Plumptre adopts the notion that the name of the tree is derived from a stem meaning "to watch," and that thus it may be called the early-waking tree (see Jeremiah 1:11), the enigmatic phrase describing the wakefulness that often attends old age. But this seems a refinement by no means justified by the use of the word. Others find in the verb the signification "to disdain, loathe," and explain that the old man has lost his taste for almond nuts, which seems to be an unnecessary observation after the previous allusions to his toothless condition, the cracking and eating of such things requiring the grinders to be in perfect order. The versions are unanimous in translating the clause as the Authorized Version. Thus the Septuagint, ἀνθήσῃ τὸ ἀμύγδαλον: Vulgate, fiorebit amygdalus. (So Verier. and the Syriac.) Wright takes this clause and the next to indicate the opening of spring, when nature reawakens from its winter sleep, and the dying man can no longer respond to the call or enjoy the happy season. The expositors who adhere to the notion of the storm would translate, "the almond shall be rejected," alluding to fear taking away appetite; but the rendering is faulty. And the grasshopper shall he a burden. Chagab, rendered "grasshopper" here and Leviticus 11:22; Numbers 13:33, etc., is rightly translated "locust" in 2 Chronicles 7:15. It is one of the smaller species of the insect, as is implied by its use in Isaiah 40:22, where from the height of heaven the inhabitants of earth are regarded as chagabim. The clause is usually explained to mean that the very lightest burden is troublesome to old age, or that the hopping and chirping of these insects annoy the querulous senior. But who does not see the incongruity of expressing the disinclination for labor and exertion by the figure of finding a grasshopper too heavy to carry? Who would think of carrying a grasshopper? Plumptre, who discovers Greek allusions in the most unlikely places, sees here an intimation of the writer's acquaintance with the Athenians' custom of wearing a golden grasshopper on their heads as a token that they were autochthones, "sprung from the soil." Few will be disposed to concur with this opinion. Ginsburg and others consider that Koheleth is regarding the locust as an article of food, which it was and still is in the East (Leviticus 11:21, 22; Matthew 3:4). In some places it is esteemed a great delicacy, and is cooked and prepared in a variety of ways. So here the writer is supposed to mean that dainties shall tempt in vain; even the much-esteemed locust shall be loathed. But we cannot imagine this article of food, which indeed was neither general nor at all seasons procurable, being singled out as an appetizing esculent. The solution of the enigma must be sought elsewhere. The Septuagint gives, καὶ παχυνθῇ ἡ ἀκρίς: the Vulgate, imping, uabitur locusts, "the locust grows fat. Founded on this rendering is the opinion which considers that under this figure is depicted the corpulence or dropsical swelling that sometimes accompanies advanced life. But this morbid and abnormal condition could not be introduced into a typical description of the usual accompaniments of age, even if the verb could be rightly translated as the Greek and Latin versions give it, which is more than doubtful. Delitzsch, after some Jewish interpreters, considers that under the term "locust" is meant the loins or hips, or caput femoris, which is thus named" because it includes in itself the mechanism which the two-membered foot for springing, placed at an acute angle, presents in the locust." The poet is thought to allude to the loss of elasticity in the hips and the inability to bear any weight. We cannot agree to the propriety of this artificial explanation, which seems to have been invented to account for the expressions in the text, rather than to be founded on fact. But though we reject this elucidation of the figure, we think Delitzsch and some others are right in taking the verb in the sense of "to move heavily, to crawl along." "The locust crawls," i.e. the old man drags his limbs heavily and painfully along, like the locust just hatched in early spring, and as yet not furnished with wings, which makes it8 way clumsily and slowly. The analogy derives another feature from the fact, well attested, that the appearance of the locust was synchronous with the days considered most fatal to old people, namely, the seven at the end of January and the beginning of February. So we now have the figure of the old man with his snow-white hair, panting and gasping, creeping painfully to his grave. One more trait is added. And desire shall fail. The word rendered "desire" (אֲבִיּונָה) is found nowhere else in the Old Testament, and its meaning is disputed. The Authorized Version has adopted the rendering of some of the Jewish commentators (and that of Venet., ἡ ὔρεξις), but, according to Delitzsch, the feminine form of the noun precludes the notion of an abstract quality, and the etymology on which it rests is doubtful. Nor would it be likely that, having employed symbolism hitherto throughout his description, the writer would suddenly drop metaphor and speak in unfigurative language. We are, therefore, driven to rely for its meaning on the old versions, which would convey the traditionary idea. The Septuagint gives, ἡ κάππαρις, and so the Vulgate, capparis, by which is designated the caper tree or berry, probably the same as the hyssop, which is found throughout the East, and was extensively used as a provocative of appetite, a stimulant and restorative. Accordingly, the writer is thought here to be intimating that even stimulants, such as the caper, affect the old man no longer, cannot give zest to or make him enjoy his food. Here, again, the figurative is dropped, and a literal, unvarnished fact is stated, which mars the perfection of the picture. But the verb here used (parar) is capable of another signification, and is often found in the unmetaphorical sense of "breaking" or "bursting;" so the clause will run, "and the caper berry bursts." Septuagint, καὶ διασκεδασθῇ ἡ κάππαρις: Vulgate, dissipabitur capparis. The fruit of this plant, when overripe, bursts open and falls off - a fit image of the dissolution of the aged frame, now ripe for the tomb, and showing evident tokens of decay. By this interpretation the symbolism is maintained, which perhaps is further illustrated by the fact that the fruit hangs down and droops from the end of long stalks, as the man bows his head and stoops his back to meet the coming death. Because (ki) man goeth to his long home. This and the following clause are parenthetical, ver. 6 resuming the allegory. It is as though Koheleth said - Such is the way, such are the symptoms, when decay and death are approaching; all these things happen, all these signs meet the eye, at such & period. "His long home;" εἰς οϊκον αἰῶνος αὐτοῦ (Septuagint), "to the house of his eternity," "his everlasting habitation," i.e. the grave, or Hades. There is a similar expression in Tobit 3:6, εἰς τὸν αἰώνιον τόπον, which in the Hebrew editions of that book is given as, "Gather me to my father, to the house appointed for all living," with which Canon Churton (in lot.) compares Job 10:21; Job 30:23. So Psalm 49:11 (according to many versions), "Their graves are their houses for ever." The σκηναὶ αἰώνιοι of Luke 16:9 are a periphrasis for life in heaven. Diodorus Siculus notes that the Egyptians used the terms ἀίδιοι οϊκοι, and ἡ αἰώνιος οἴκσις of Hades (2. 51; 1. 93). The expression, "domus eterna," appears at Rome on tombs, as Plumptre observes, both in Christian and non-Christian inscriptions; and the Assyrians name the world or state beyond the grave "the house of eternity" ('Records of the Past,' 1:143). From the expression in the text nothing can be deduced concerning Koheleth's eschatological views. He is speaking here merely phenomenally. Men live their little span upon the earth, and then go to what in comparison of this is an eternity. Much of the difficulty about αἰώνιος, etc., would be obviated if critics would remember that the meaning of such words is conditioned by the context, that e.g. "everlasting" applied to a mountain and to God cannot be understood in the same, sense. And the mourners go about the streets. This can hardly mean that the usual funeral rites have begun; for the death is not conceived as having already taken place; this is reserved for ver. 7. Nor can it, therefore, refer to the relations and friends who are sorrowing for the departed. The persons spoken of must be the mourners who are hired to play and sing at funerals (see 2 Samuel 3:31; Jeremiah 9:17; Jeremiah 34:5; Matthew 9:23). These were getting ready to ply their trade, expecting hourly the old man's death. So the Romans had their praeficae, and persons "qui conducti plorant in funere" (Horace, 'Ars Poet.,' 431). Ecclesiastes 12:5Ecclesiastes 12:5

From this his repugnance to singing, and music, and all loud noises, progress in the description is made to the difficulty such aged men have in motion: "Also they are afraid of that which is high; and there are all kinds of fearful things in the way ... ." The description moves forward in a series of independent sentences; that שׁ בּיּום to which it was subordinate in Ecclesiastes 12:3, and still also in Ecclesiastes 12:4, is now lost sight of. In the main it is rightly explained by the Talm., and with it the Midrash: "Even a little hillock appears to him like a high mountain; and if he has to go on a journey, he meets something that terrifies him;" the Targ. has adopted the second part of this explanation. גּבהּ (falsely referred by the Targ. to the time lying far back in the past) is understood neut.; cf. 1 Samuel 16:7. Such decrepid old men are afraid of (ייראוּ, not videbunt, as the lxx, Symm., Ar., and the Venet. translate, who seem to have had before them the defective יראו) a height, - it alarms them as something unsurmountable, because their breath and their limbs fail them when they attempt it; and hathhhattim (plur. of the intensifying form of hat, consternatio, Job 41:25), i.e., all kinds of formidines (not formido, Ewald, 179a, Bttch. 762, for the plur. is as in salsilloth, 'aph'appim, etc., thought of as such), meet them in the way. As the sluggard says: there is a lion in the way, and under this pretence remains slothfully at home, Proverbs 24:13; Proverbs 22:13, so old men do not venture out; for to them a damp road appears like a very morass; a gravelly path, as full of neck-breaking hillocks; an undulating path, as fearfully steep and precipitous; that which is not shaded, as oppressively hot and exhausting-they want strength and courage to overcome difficulties, and their anxiety pictures out dangers before them where there are none.

Ecclesiastes 12:5

The allegory is now continued in individual independent figures: "And the almond tree is in blossom." The Talm. explains וין הש of the haunch-bone projecting (from leanness); the Midrash, of the bones of the vertebral column, conceived of as incorruptible and as that round which will take place the future restoration of the human body, - probably the cross bone, os sacrum,

(Note: The Jewish opinion of the incorruptible continuance of this bone may be connected with the designation os sacrum; the meaning of this is controverted, vid., Hyrtl's Anatomie, 124.)

inserted between the two thigh bones of the pelvis as a pointed wedge; cf. Jerome in his Comm.: quidam sacram spinam interpretantur quod decrescentibus natium cornibus spina accrescat et floreat; לוּז is an Old Heb., Aram., and Arab. name of the almond tree and the almond nut (vid., under Genesis 30:37), and this, perhaps, is the reason of this identification of the emblematic שׁקד with לוז (the os sacrum, or vertebra magna) of the spine. The Targ. follows the Midrash in translating: the רישׁ שׁז (the top of the spine) will protrude from leanness like an almond tree (viz., from which the leaves have been stripped). In these purely arbitrary interpretations nothing is correct but (1) that שׁקד is understood not of the almond fruit, but of the almond tree, as also at Jeremiah 1:11 (the rod of an almond tree); (2) that ינאץ (notwithstanding that these interpreters had it before them unpointed) is interpreted, as also by the lxx, Syr., Jerome, and the Venet., in the sense of blossoming, or the bursting out of blossoms by means of the opening up of the buds. Many interpreters understand שׁקר of almond fruit (Winzer, Ewald, Ginsb., Rdiger, etc.), for they derive ינאץ from נאץ, as Aben Ezra had already done, and explain by: fastidit amygdalam (nucem), or fastidium creat amygdala. But (1) ינאץ for ינאץ (Hiph. of נאץ, to disdain, to treat scornfully) is a change of vowels unexampled; we must, with such an explanation, read either ינּאץ, fastiditur (Gaab), or ינאץ; (2) almond nuts, indeed, belong to the more noble productions of the land and the delicacies, Genesis 43:11, but dainties, κατ ̓ ἐξ, at the same time they are not, so that it would be appropriate to exemplify the blunted sensation of taste in the old man, by saying that he no more cracks and eats almonds. The explanation of Hitzig, who reads ינאץ, and interprets the almond tree as at Sol 7:9 the palm, to denote a woman, for he translates: the almond tree refuses (viz., the old man), we set aside as too ingenious; and we leave to those interpreters who derive ינאץ from נאץ, and understand השקד

(Note: Abulwald understands שקר and חגב sexually, and glosses the latter by jundub (the locust), which in Arab. is a figure of suffering and patience.)

of the glans penis (Bttch., Frst, and several older interpreters), to follow their own foul and repulsive criticism. ינאץ is an incorrect reading for ינץ, as at Hosea 10:14, קאם for קם, and, in Prov., ראשׁ for רשׁ (Gesen. 73. 4); and besides, as at Sol 6:11, הנצוּ, regular Hiph. of נצץ (נוּץ, Lamentations 4:15), to move tremblingly (vibrate), to glisten, blossom (cf. נוס, to flee, and ניסן, Assyr. nisannu, the flower-month). Thus deriving this verbal form, Ewald, and with him Heiligst., interprets the blossoming almond tree as a figure of the winter of life: "it is as if the almond tree blossomed, which in the midst of winter has already blossoms on its dry, leafless stem." But the blossoms of the almond tree are rather, after Numbers 17:2-8, a figure of special life-strength, and we must thus, thrown back to ינאץ from נאץ (to flourish), rather explain, with Furrer (in Schenkel's B. L.), as similarly Herzf.: the almond tree refuses, i.e., ceases, to blossom; the winter of old age is followed by no spring; or also, as Dale and Taylor: the almond tree repels, i.e., the old man has no longer a joyful welcome for this messenger of spring. But his general thought has already found expression in Ecclesiastes 12:2; the blossoming almond tree must be here an emblem of a more special relation. Hengst. supposes that "the juniper tree (for this is the proper meaning of שקד) is in bloom" is equals sleeplessness in full blossom stands by the old man; but that would be a meaningless expression. Nothing is more natural than that the blossoming almond tree is intended to denote the same as is indicated by the phrase of the Latin poet: Intempestivi funduntur vertice cani (Luther, Geiger, Grot., Vaih., Luzz., Gurlitt, Tyler, Bullock, etc.).

It has been objected that the almond blossoms are not pure white, but according to the variety, they are pale-red, or also white; so that Thomson, in his beautiful Land and the Book, can with right say: "The almond tree is the type of old age whose hair is white;" and why? "The white blossoms completely cover the whole tree." Besides, Bauer (1732) has already remarked that the almond blossoms, at first tinged with red, when they are ready to fall off become white as snow; with which may be compared a clause cited by Ewald from Bodenstedt's A Thousand and One Days in the Orient: "The white blossoms fall from the almond trees like snow-flakes." Accordingly, Dchsel is right when he explains, after the example of Zckler: "the almond tree with its reddish flower in late winter, which strews the ground with its blossoms, which have gradually become white like snow-flakes, is an emblem of the winter of old age with its falling silvery hair."

Ecclesiastes 12:5

From the change in the colour of the hair, the allegory now proceeds to the impairing of the elasticity of the highs and of their power of bearing a load, the malum coxae senile (in a wider than the usual pathological sense): "And the grasshopper (i.e., locust, חגב, Samar. חרגבה equals חרגּל, Leviticus 11:22) becomes a burden." Many interpreters (Merc., Dderl., Gaab, Winz., Gesen., Winer, Dale) find in these words הח ויס the meaning that locust-food, or that the chirping of grasshoppers, is burdensome to him (the old man); but even supposing that it may at once be assumed that he was a keen aeridophagus (locusts, steeped in butter, are like crabs (shrimps) spread on slices of butter and bread), or that he had formerly a particular delight in the chirping of the τέττιξ, which the ancients number among singing birds (cf. Taylor, l.c.), and that he has now no longer any joy in the song of the τέττιξ, although it is regarded as soothing and tending to lull to rest, and an Anacreon could in his old days even sing his μακαρίζομέν σε τέττιξ, - yet these two interpretations are impossible, because הס may mean to burden and to move with difficulty, but not "to become burdensome." For the same reason, nothing is more absurd than the explanation of Kimchi and Gurlitt: Even a grasshopper, this small insect, burdens him; for which Zckl., more naturally: the hopping and chirping of the grasshopper is burdensome to him; as we say, The fly on the wall annoys him. Also Ewald and Heiligstedt's interpretation: "it is as if the locust raised itself to fly, breaking and stripping off its old husk," as inadmissible; for הסתבל can mean se portare laboriose, but not ad evolandum eniti; the comparison (Arab.) tahmmal gains the meaning of hurry onwards, to proceed on an even way, like the Hebr. השכים, to take upon the shoulder; it properly means, to burden oneself, i.e., to take on one's back in order to get away; but the grasshopper coming out of its case carries away with it nothing but itself. For us, such interpretations - to which particularly, the advocates of the several hypotheses of a storm, night, and mourning, are constrained - are already set aside by this, that according to the allegory וין השׁ, הח ויס must also signify something characteristic of the body of an old man. The lxx, Jerome, and Ar. translate: the locust becomes fat; the Syr.: it grows. It is true, indeed, that great corpulence, or also a morbid dropsical swelling of the belly (ascites), is one of the symptoms of advanced old age; but supposing that the (voracious) locust might be en emblem of a corpulent man, yet הסתבל means neither to become fat nor to grow. But because the locust in reality suggests the idea of a corpulent man, the figure cannot at the same time be intended to mean that the old man is like a skeleton, consisting as it were of nothing but skin and bone (Lyra, Luther, Bauer, Dathe); the resemblance of a locust to the back-bone and its joints (Glassius, Khler, Vaih.) is not in view; only the position of the locusts's feet for leaping admits the comparison of the prominent scapulae (shoulder-blades); but shoulder-blades (scapulae alatae), angular and standing out from the chest, are characteristics of a consumptive, not of a senile habit. Also we must cease, with Hitz., Bttch., Luzz., and Gratz, to understand the figure as denoting the φαλλός to be now impotent; for relaxation and shrinking do not agree with hctbl, which suggests something burdensome by being weighty.

The Midrash interprets החגב by "ankles," and the Targ. translates accordingly: the ankles (אסתּורי, from the Pers. ustuwâr, firm) of thy feet will swell-unsuitably, for "ankles" affords no point of comparison with locusts, and they have no resemblance to their springing feet. The Talm., glossing החגב by "these are the buttocks" (nates) (cf. Arab. 'ajab, the os coccygis, Syn. 'ajuz, as the Talm. עגבות interchanges with עבוז), is on the right track. There is nothing, indeed, more probably than that הגב is a figure of the coxa, the hinder region of the pelvis, where the lower part of the body balances itself in the hip-joint, and the motion of standing up and going receives its impulse and direction by the muscular strength there concentrated. This part of the body may be called the locust, because it includes in itself the mechanism which the two-membered foot for springing, placed at an acute angle, presents in the locust. Referred to this coxa, the loins, יסתבל has its most appropriate meaning: the marrow disappears from the bones, elasticity from the muscles, the cartilage and oily substance from the joints, and, as a consequence, the middle of the body drags itself along with difficulty; or: it is with difficulty moved along (Hithpa. as pass., like Ecclesiastes 8:10); it is stiff, particularly in the morning, and the old man is accustomed to swing his arms backwards, and to push himself on as it were from behind. In favour of this interpretation (but not deciding it) is the accord of חגב with עגב equals κόκκυξ (by which the os coccygis is designated as the cuckoo's bone). Also the verbal stem (Arab.) jaḥab supplies an analogous name: not jaḥab, which denotes the air passage (but not, as Knobel supposes, the breath itself; for the verb signifies to separate, to form a partition, Mish. מחיצח), but (Arab.) jaḥabat, already compared by Bochart, which denotes the point (dual), the two points or projections of the two hip-bones (vid., Lane's Lex.), which, together with the os sacrum lying between, form the ring of the pelvis.

Ecclesiastes 12:5

From the weakening of the power of motion, the allegory passes on to the decay of sensual desires, and of the organs appertaining thereto: "And the caper-berry fails ... ." The meaning "caper" for האב is evidence by the lxx (ἡ κάππαρις, Arab. alkabar), the Syr., and Jerome (capparis), and this rendering is confirmed by the Mishnic אביונות, which in contradistinction to תמרות, i.e., the tender branches, and קפריסין, i.e., the rind of fruit, signifies the berry-like flower-buds of the caper bush,


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