Summary: Eccl 12
THE CHIEF PURPOSE OF MAN (ECCLESIASTES 12)
What is your goal in life? Getting an education? Being a success? Buying a house? Starting a family? Retiring a millionaire or multimillionaire?
A survey of about 1,000 people aged from 16 to 35 in Hong Kong concerning their personal goals over the next 10 years reveals that 57 percent listed "to own property or improve living environment" as their top choice. About 40 percent listed earning their "first pail of gold" while 30 percent pointed to higher education and getting promoted. ("Youth still chasing `pail of gold,'" Diana Lee, December 15, 2010) http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?we_cat=11&art_id=106039&sid=30632996&con_type=1&d_str=20101215&fc=4
What is the chief purpose of man? Is it to enjoy our unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? According to the Ecclesiastes 12, the chief purpose of man is to know our Creator, Shepherd and God.
Remember Your Creator and Recognize His Power
12 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"-- 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; 3 when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; 4 when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; 5 when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets. 6 Remember him -- before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, 7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 8 "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Everything is meaningless!" (Ecc 12:1-7)
A little girl asked her mother, "How did the human race appear?" The mother answered, "God made Adam and Eve and they had children, and so was all mankind made."
Two days later the girl asked her father the same question. The father
answered, "Many years ago there were monkeys from which the human race evolved."
The confused girl returned to her mother and said, "Mom, how is it possible that you told me the human race was created by God, and Dad said they developed from monkeys?" The mother answered, "Well, dear, it is very simple. I told you about my side of the family and your father told you about his."
The last chapter of Ecclesiastes has four imperatives, of which the first is the command to "remember." In the first section from verses 1 to 7, the structural marker that divides and groups the text are the three "before" or "while not" in Hebrew (vv 1, 2, 6) and not the seven "when's" in NIV, because there is only one bona fide "when" (v 1) in Hebrew ("when you will say"): the first "before" regards time, the second creation, including nature, people, birds, plants and insects, and the last things.
Time is an unwelcome guest and a space invader. It's been said, "Time and tide waits for no man." The world is spinning so fast, "coming" and "approaching" (v 1) faster than you can retreat. There is no stopping Father Time from wasting time. In the blink of an eye, the days of your youth" (v 1) turns into "days of trouble/evil" and the "day" when the keepers of the house tremble (v 3 Hebrew "day" missing in NIV). The day won't come fast enough when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them" Another translation for pleasure (v 1) is "desire" or "delight." One's early days, happy days, best days and glory days-- they all pass by in no time. A popular saying in Hong Kong challenges, "How many decades are in a person's life!"
The second "before" downplays and dismisses creation, namely skies, men and insects. The sun and the light and the moon and the stars in the sky "darken" and the clouds "return" (v 2). Even the powerful sun seems to disappear during the day and the sky darkens in a matter of minutes during a solar eclipse at least twice a year.
Next, the keepers of the house, the strong men and the grinders are people who are alert (keepers), tough (strong men), skilled (grinders) and observant (those looking through the window be dimmed and the doors shut, but they are powerless and defenseless to do anything even if they are willing, eager and available. If that is not enough, he (man) rises to the sound/voice of low grinding - not hard grinding, and birds singing their faint songs (v 5). Not only does "danger" occurs for its only time in the Bible, so it is an unknown fear and it is in plural. The chiasm is obvious: men begins with "keepers... tremble" (v 3) and ends with "men...afraid" (v 5).