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An Allegory

Ecclesiastes 12: 1-7


THESE VERSES seem to present a vivid pen picture of old age ‘the evil days’ of physical decline and infirmity, ‘when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them’. The world offers its pleasures to the young, who snatch at the delusions; but age has proved them all empty bubbles. The world has nothing substantial to offer, and therefore, unless the mind has found its satisfaction in God, there is indeed no pleasure in old age.


Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

This admonition sets the tone for the sober realities enumerated in the subsequent verses.

2. While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

Both mental and physical vision grow dull, and clouds of trouble of one kind or another appear after the refreshing rain which offered hope of sunshine or prosperity.

3. In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

The keepers of the house (the arms and hands) tremble; and the strong men (the lower limbs) bow themselves (unable to support the weight of the body), and the grinders (the teeth) cease (to perform their office), because they are few; and those various mental faculties that look out of the windows (the eyes) become dim.

4.  And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;

When the work of life is done there is little in common with the rising generation, and therefore less and less communication. One shall rise up at the voice of the bird (early, being unable to sleep well), and all the daughters of music shall be brought low the failing powers cease to catch the strains of earthly enchantments.

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:

The labour and sorrow of extreme old age with all its infirmities lead to the failure of earthly pleasures and desires. In the ‘long home’ of death we will wait for the morning of the resurrection. ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning’ (Psalm. 30: 5).

6, 7.  Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

The precious cord of life is released, the golden bowl (the body which contained the precious life-blood), broken. The pitcher (the lungs which drew in life from the fountain, the surrounding atmosphere) is broken at the fountain and the wheel of life (the heart), broken at the cistern. When the body can no longer perform its offices, the dust of which it is composed returns to its component parts (inanimate ‘dust’) and the breath of life shall dissipate into the surrounding atmosphere. The soul the individual being ceases to be, save as it is engraven indelibly upon the tablet of God’s memory, to be reproduced again in the resurrection.



Loosely adapted from Zion’s Watch Tower, May 15, 1893. This adaptation only, copyright November 2009

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