These are the final words of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. In 12:9 the writing switches to the third person. Solomon concludes his teaching in 12:8 with the same words he began with in 1:2:
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Everything is meaningless!”
12:1-7 is one long sentence in the Hebrew which if read out loud leaves the reader in the same condition as the old man, the subject of the poem, - out of breath!
Solomon begins by reminding the reader to remember and serve God in the prime years of life. Although Solomon encourages us to enjoy life throughout his teaching, he is also consistent in urging us not to forget God. The knowledge of God will bring meaning into an otherwise meaningless existence. The knowledge of God will allow you to enjoy the good things God has given to man in an otherwise cruel and unfair world. Because the knowledge of God brings meaning and allows for enjoyment of life it is imperative that we remember God before the hardest days of life come. Solomon warns his young readers that life and opportunities are going to change. And, they will change for the worse! In fact there are days coming that when compared to younger days you will say,
“I have no pleasure in them!”
In other words, if you do not learn to find meaning and to enjoy life through your understanding of God in your youth, then you will really, really experience meaninglessness in the coming days when the things that accompany old age begin to set in.
In a series of colorful, and even humorous, metaphors, Solomon describes old age in a way the younger person can understanding and gain some insight into what growing old is like.
First, Solomon describes the good days of youth as days with light. The light refers to eyesight.
Sun and light are referring to vision during the day. The moon and stars is referring to vision used at night.
"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”—
before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain."
- Ecclesiastes 12:1-2
The rain could refer to sadness and crying. The disappointments and tears of youth often clear the mind and soon hope returns. This is not the case for the elderly. After a time of disappointment the clouds of despair roll back in:
“the clouds return after the rain.” – Ecclesiastes 12:2
The breakdown of the list of metaphors could be something like this:
- Keepers of the house = hands and arms
- Strong men = shoulders and upper body
- Grinders = teeth
- Windows = eyes and sight
- Sounds in the street and sounds of grinding = ears and hearing
- Rise early with the birds = sleeplessness
- Daughters of music = singing voice
- Fear of heights = loss of balance
- Terrors in the way = legs and tripping over simple things when walking
- Almond tree blossoms = grey/white hair
- Grasshopper = young energetic man has slowed to a crawl and gained weight
- Desire = sexual drive
- Eternal home = death, grave
- Mourners in the Street = Funeral procession
Death is described as a drastic change of something beautiful and useful into something broken and useless in these final four metaphors:
- Severed silver cord = nervous system inactive
- Broken golden bowl = brain activity has stopped
- Shattered pitcher at the well = heart has stopped beating
- Broken wheel at the well = blood circulation has ceased
Remember, everything is meaningless without a perspective of God your creator.