Ecclesiastes 12

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Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
So how do we interpret these verses in light of reading theological books, study Bibles, etc? Are they calling for simplicity for the believer, to focus on God's Word and the Holy Spirit's work in interpreting and applying?

The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:11‭-‬14
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
That is interesting. What does that look like practically, even considering that Matthew Henry wrote a lot of literature? So the great majority of our reading is the Scriptures with devoting a little bit of time to other materials - at least for the layman in the church, as we can all understand that leaders need to be trained in theology to a great degree?
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Notice that Henry is limiting the excess reading to "the way of true happiness." Scripture is sufficient for salvation. That does not mean that other books are useless for other aims.

What Ecclesiastes is getting at is that it is wearying to study lots of extra books. Ecclesiastes is not saying that it is a bad thing to do. It is saying it is arduous. It is also a call to be critical when reading uninspired authors ("Beware of anything beyond these"). That is not saying "Don't read them at all." It is saying that they are on a different level of authority.
 

Cymro

Puritan Board Junior
I value Hengstenberg on Ecclesiastes and this is what he writes, "the sacred writings of Israel are endowed with a deeply penetrating power, in distinction to all worldly literature, which can only produce a superficial impression, and is incapable of stirring the deepest depths of mind and heart. A parallel passage is Rev 1:16, which represents a sharp two edged sword as going out of the mouth of Christ. ----the power of the word to destroy and its power to penetrate the heart with salvation have one root. That root is the energetic life it draws from God, who is the fount of all life and of all strength.---the living energy of the word from which it is impossible to escape. --- A cannon whereby to judge sermons has been justly drawn from this verse. They ought to have the characteristics of the scripture themselves: they are worth nothing if they cannot stand the comparison with goads and nails. Here also have we a rule for the conduct of hearers to sermons --they must not feel vexed if they leave their sting in the soul. The words, they were given by one Shepherd, give the reason why such qualities are ascribed to the words of the wise, they are such because they were given.
Analogous is 2Tim 3:16, where the deeply penetrative influence of the scriptures is traced to their divine inspiration.
Of the making of books there is no end . It is the nature of the wisdom of this world never to arrive at a conclusion concerning the very highest questions, with which we have alone here to do; never to come to certain results, never to get rest. it is ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth. There is consequently no consolation for him who devotes himself to this literature with the expectation of finding in it the solution of the enigma of this earthly life. --and much desire is weariness to the flesh, as result in context, much desire for that multitude of books. One may meditate day and night on the law of God (psalm 1),without experiencing this weariness of the flesh. In conexion with the literature of heathendom there was weariness of the flesh and nothing else. It brought no true gain."
(He shows that the thrust of the book is the use of wisdom from under the sun which is earthy and carnal because it has no reference to God).
 

Cymro

Puritan Board Junior
Again to quote," the saying here in v13 corresponds to the commencement of the epilogue in v8. There, all things earthly are represented as vain: here, our connection with God is set forth as the. great essential "the conclusion of the discourse, the whole, let us hear." -----only a thought of thorough importance is put at the end when expressly described as the end; and we are afterwards distinctly told that the end is also the sum.---it expressly specifies that this closing thought is the main, the fundamental thought. We may also regard the oft- repeated exhortation addressed to murmurers, to enjoy life, as comprehended under the last admonition-"to fear God." For what is it but fear of God, willingly to bear what God has laid upon us, to rise above our trials with the exclamation, "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away," to live in freedom from care and fear to the present moment, and cheerfully enjoy what He offers. All murmuring is godlessness.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
Again to quote," the saying here in v13 corresponds to the commencement of the epilogue in v8. There, all things earthly are represented as vain: here, our connection with God is set forth as the. great essential "the conclusion of the discourse, the whole, let us hear." -----only a thought of thorough importance is put at the end when expressly described as the end; and we are afterwards distinctly told that the end is also the sum.---it expressly specifies that this closing thought is the main, the fundamental thought. We may also regard the oft- repeated exhortation addressed to murmurers, to enjoy life, as comprehended under the last admonition-"to fear God." For what is it but fear of God, willingly to bear what God has laid upon us, to rise above our trials with the exclamation, "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away," to live in freedom from care and fear to the present moment, and cheerfully enjoy what He offers. All murmuring is godlessness.

Thank you for the good insight and for taking time to explain.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
I was hoping to take a closer look at this today, but will have to work from memory. The writer goes out of his way to paint a bleak picture of life lived "under the sun." Even to believers, the most mundane of life activities can be repetitious and seemingly of no value. But we cannot take such a description (hey there's a bunch of books out there) and draw an imperative from it. Our lives and activities can only have meaning when viewed from the hope that something rests beyond the sun. God himself will one day bring the new earth and restore work, life, and worship to its correct place in continual fellowship with Him. Now, all we know for sure is his law is good, and we will face judgment.
 

Brian Withnell

Puritan Board Junior
Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books in scripture (if there can be a favorite). The end of the matter is that we should fear God and keep his commandments.

If you get through that, let me know. I've been working on it for decades ... still don't have that right. :D
 
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