Saturday 25 September 2010

Bible Book:

"Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them' ... Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher; all is vanity." (v.1, 8)

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 Saturday 25 September 2010


Most commentators treat today's passage as the end of themessage written by the author of the rest of Ecclesiastes. From thefirst verse of the book, the author uses as narrator the characterof "the Teacher" (Qohelet in Hebrew). By the style of the originalHebrew Ecclesiastes shows evidence of having been written around250 BC. However the author places his narrator Qohelet in the timeof King David, several hundred years earlier.

Today's passage serves as a final call to remember God amidst theincreasing and inexorable futility of life. Its imagery isextraordinarily earthy and layered with references not only tohuman experience, but also to the degradation of the natural world.Qohelet speaks of the continual passing away of life not only asthe "strong men are bent", but also as "the grasshopper dragsitself along and desire fails".

Though written over 2,000 years ago, this passage resonates withsome of the more graphic predictions about what is alreadyhappening in some parts of the world with climate change as aresult of global warming. It speaks of the failure of watersupplies and the time when "dust returns to the earth as itwas".

There is no comfort offered in this passage, beyond the recognitionthat all breath (spirit) will return to the creator; nothing willbe lost to God. Indeed, Qohelet finishes by repeating thedeclaration of Ecclesiastes 1:2 - "Vanity of vanities ... all isvanity". The word rendered as vanity here carries the meaning notsimply of illegitimate pride, but of meaninglessness or futility.

Despite the lack of comfort offered, many find a reassuring echo oftheir own weakening strength in this passage. We all age and, as weread this passage, we know we are not alone. In a secular worldthat takes its lessons about fullness of life from youth andstrength, here the other end of life is our teacher.

To Ponder

To what extent is this a hopeful passage?

What image of God do you take from thispassage?

Who would you like to read this text?

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