Ecclesiastes 12:1-2 Solomon here is continuing the advice he began in Ecclesiastes 11:7 advising the importance of setting your life trajectory in youth. It is so important to live in fear of God, knowing that He sees everything and that we will experience consequences for our behavior. Solomon in this verse is not calling his readers to get right with God in terms of obedience in their worship but in their enjoyment of everyday life. He is aging and facing his eternal destiny so in light of the aging process he is calling them to enjoy life’s joys now.
Remember that God has given you his gifts for your joy. Make the most of them while you have the energy and the vitality, is his admonition. Death is like the coming of winter so remember now your creator… before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain. Late Spring and all of summer and a good part of fall in Israel you could count on the sun shining everyday. Those are the days between the fall harvest of fruit and grapes and the blossoms of spring. The darkening of the “light,”brings to mind God’s first act of creation, and of the “lights of the firmament,” “sun,” “moon,” “stars” (Genesis 1:3-4, 1:14-16) suggests that, for Solomon, death removes us from all the good things of God’s creation.
Ecclesiastes 12:3-8 These verses give us one of the most imaginative descriptions of old age and death found anywhere. There are many different interpretations, but most of them see a picture of a house that is falling apart and turning to dust. Our bodies are described as a house or tabernacle in Scripture (Job 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:1-2; 2 Peter 1:13, and taking down a house or tent is a picture of death. The keepers of the house may refer to our arms and hands as they tremble with aging. Looking through the windows beginning to dim referring to loss of eyesight.
The grinders speak of losing ones teeth, sound growing faint pointing to loss of hearing. Vs. 6 describes a golden bowl, a lamp hanging from the ceiling on a silver chain. The chain breaks and the bowl breaks. The “cord of life” is broken and the light of life goes out.
Wealthy people have such costly lamps, so Solomon may be hinting that death is no respecter of persons. The verse also pictures a pitcher filled with water. One day the water wheel breaks, the pitcher is shattered, and the end comes. The fountain of water is a Biblical image for life (Psalm 36:8-9; Revelation 21:6). When the wheels of life stops working, the water of life stops flowing. The heart stops pumping, the blood stops circulating, and death comes.
The spirit leaves the body (James 2:26; Luke 23:46; Acts 7:59), the body begins to decay, and it turns to dust. For the last time in Solomon says “Vanity of vanities … all is vanity.” The book closes where it began (Ecclesiastes 1:2), emphasizing the emptiness of life without God. When you look at life “under the sun,” everything is vain; but when you know Jesus as your Savior, “your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Ecclesiastes 12:9-10 As Solomon begins his conclusion in his quest for meaning and purpose in life he makes a final statement confirming his own position. Ecclesiastes may present itself to some who read it initially as a depressing observation of life. But it is a reminder that life with out God is depressing and hopeless. Solomon ends by focusing on the one source of truth for anyone sincerely searching for the meaning of life. Solomon understood the difference between wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge is information, but wisdom interprets and applies it. Moses was given God’s Word so that he could give them to God’s people (Deuteronomy 6:1f).
Ezra prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel (Ezra 7:10). Jehoshaphat sent the Levites to teach the people the Law of the Lord (2 Chronicles 17:7-9). God teaches us primarily from His Word; but He also teaches us through creation, history, and the various experiences of life. Solomon used all of it to teach the reader God’s truth. His teaching was wise (vs. 9) for God had made him wise (1 Kings 3:3-28). Solomon studied and explored many subjects, and some of his conclusions are recorded here and in proverbs. He wrote in a way that would be readable choosing the just the right words to impart truth.
Ecclesiastes 12:11-12 Solomon claimed that his words were inspired, given by God, the One Shepherd (Ecclesiastes 12:11). Inspiration is the ministry of the Holy Spirit that enabled men of God to write the Word of God as God wanted it written, complete and without error (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). saw his words to “goads” and “nails” (vs. 11), which are necessary to learn God’s truth.
Goads prod us to pay attention so that we will pursue truth, while nails give us something on which to hang what we’ve learned. Good teaching requires both, we need motivation to study and teachers who will help us understand or “nail things down” so that the lessons make sense. Ecclesiastes 12:12 is a warning that we don’t go beyond what God has written in His Word (Proverbs 30:7-8).
It was true them and today that there are many books but we should not let knowledge be a substitute for wisdom as Ecclesiastes 12:12 warns us. Life is a school if we humble ourselves we can learn much. Our textbook is the Bible, and the Holy Spirit is our Teacher (John 14:26;15:26;16:12-15). The Spirit can use gifted teachers to instruct us, but He most desires to teach us personally from His Word (Psalm 119:97-104). There are always new lessons to learn and new tests to apply what we are to learn as we walk through this life.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – As we conclude Solomon’s overview of life we come to the conclusion. We don’t own our lives, because life is the gift of God (Acts 17:24-28). We are stewards of the lives entrusted to us and one day we must give an account to God of what we have done with what He has given us. To best understand what we are to do with this trust we need to follow the owners manual. Which tells us to fear God and the walk according to his Word, ‘And keep his commandments’. In the end, nothing else matters. Godly fear is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10;Proverbs 1:7). Throughout the book, Solomon has observed the problem of life. He concludes that man’s wisdom is no match for God’s.
It is in the keeping of God’s commandments that man can discover true wisdom, and in this way we can understand the meaning and purpose of life. ‘To fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways and to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul’ (Deuteronomy 10:12). Ecclesiastes ends where the Book of Proverbs begins (Proverbs 1:7), with an admonition for us to fear the Lord.