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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 12


Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come And the years approach of which you will say, I have no pleasure in them;


1 Before the sun is darkened. and the light, and the moon, and the stars, while the clouds return after the rain;


2 When the guardians of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, And the grinders are idle because they are few, and they who look through the windows grow blind;


3 When the doors to the street are shut, and the sound of the mill is low; When one waits for the chirp of a bird, but all the daughters of song are suppressed;


4 And one fears heights, and perils in the street; When the almond tree blooms, and the locust grows sluggish and the caper berry is without effect, Because man goes to his lasting home, and mourners go about the streets;


5 Before the silver cord is snapped and the golden bowl is broken, And the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the broken pulley falls into the well,


And the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it.


Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, all things are vanity!


Besides being wise, Qoheleth taught the people knowledge, and weighed, scrutinized and arranged many proverbs.


Qoheleth sought to find pleasing sayings, and to write down true sayings with precision.


6 The sayings of the wise are like goads; like fixed spikes are the topics given by one collector.


As to more than these, my son, beware. Of the making of many books there is no end, and in much study there is weariness for the flesh.


7 The last word, when all is heard: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man's all;


because God will bring to judgment every work, with all its hidden qualities, whether good or bad.

1 [2] The sun . . . return: the cloudy and rainy Palestinian winter, a natural symbol of old age.

2 [3] Guardians: the arms; strong men: the legs; grinders: the teeth; they who . . . windows: the eyes.

3 [4] Doors: the tightly compressed lips; sound of the mill: perhaps the sound of mastication; daughters of song: the voice.

4 [5] The almond tree blooms: resembling the white hair of age. The locust . . . sluggish: an image of the stiffness in movement of the aged. The caper berry: a stimulant for appetite.

5 [6] The golden bowl suspended by the silver cord was a symbol of life; the snapping of the cord and the breaking of the bowl, a symbol of death. The pitcher . . . the broken pulley: another pair of metaphors for life and its ending.

6 [11] Goads . . . one collector: the sayings were stimulants to thought and also spikes or centers around which to group correlated pronouncements of the wise.

7 [13] Man's all: St. Jerome explains: "Unto this is every man born that, knowing his Maker, he may revere him in fear, honor, and the observance of his commandments."

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