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Ecclesiastes, Part 8: Even Vanity is Vanity
It seems to be often overlooked, that the first syllable in the word culture is cult. The first definition of culture listed in the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary is “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time.” Our definition would be a little different, but the point should be made.
Historically, in societies which are free of tyranny, the people shared a common origin, myth, tradition, and religious practice, which was actually a part of their daily lives from early childhood. The values of their society were ingrained into them during their educational process, taught to them by their parents from infancy. What to think about God, life, death, morality and sin, the people around them, other nations and races, all of these things are taught them in their upbringing, and are taught consistently in every phase of life. But tyrannies are generally compelled to codify and enforce their own religious beliefs and practices by either force or law, when they have objectives which conflict with the values of the organic nation over which they rule. For this reason, in chapter 16 of the Book of Acts, we see where certain Roman citizens were confronted with the Christian Gospel and they complained to the magistrates and said “These men agitate our city, being Judaeans, and they declare customs which are not lawful for us to receive nor to do, being Romans!”
When Rome was a Republic, its people naturally agreed to cooperate because they had a common origin and a shared culture and values. When Rome became an empire, its citizens were required to pledge allegiance to the emperor, even making sacrifices in temples dedicated to the emperor, and their daily practices and customs were restricted by law. The eventual acceptance of Christianity is often blamed for fracturing the Roman people and precipitating the downfall of the empire. However it is clear that the empire and its people had already slid into a state of decadence, and it had already begun to crumble long before Christianity was accepted.
The Roman Empire reached its greatest extent in 117 AD, under the emperor Trajan, and ceased to expand territorially after that time. The Goths began invading Roman territory and sacking Roman cities from 238 AD, 73 years before the Edict of Toleration decriminalized the practice of Christianity. The wars with the Goths continued throughout the 3rd and 4th centuries. Even before the Gothic invasions, Caracalla extended citizenship by decree to all freedmen of the empire, whereby inhabitants of any race became equal citizens of Rome. This same emperor also began the practice of buying peace from Rome’s enemies, as he bribed the Alemanni after fighting an indecisive battle with them in 213 AD. During this time the currency was significantly debased, in spite of the great increases in tax revenue through the expansion of citizenship. All of these events are signs of a decaying empire. The Alemanni began taking Roman territory again by 260, as the empire was also continually resisting the Goths. During this century there were many other crises and revolts of provinces throughout the empire, and restoration was only temporary. Christianity did not make Rome fall, as it was already well on its way by the time Christianity was accepted in the middle of the 4th century. Rather, decadence precipitated Rome’s fall, and it is a major element in the eventual destruction of every empire.
Likewise with Egypt, originally only native and true-born Egyptians were even considered to be people. But in the later Middle Kingdom, as Egypt transitioned itself to become a great empire, things began to change. This is evident in Egyptian writings such as The Admonitions of Ipu-Wer, a text believed to date to the period between the Old and Middle Kingdoms, or perhaps from 2300 to 2050 BC. The translation of the text found in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ANET), edited by James Pritchard and published in its 3rd edition at Princeton in 1969, is prefaced with a statement which says in part: “The following text is ‘prophetic’ in a biblical sense. The ‘prophet’ is not foretelling the future but is standing before a pharaoh and condemning the past and present administration of Egypt.” Jeremiah did the same thing in Jerusalem nearly 1600 years later.
So we read from The Admonitions of Ipu-Wer, from page 441 of ANET, in part: “A man regards his son as his enemy…. A man of character goes in mourning because of what has happened in the land. . . . Foreigners have become people everywhere….” The translator, John Wilson, made a footnote at the word for people here which says: “The term ‘men, humans, people,’ was used by the Egyptians to designate themselves, in contrast to their foreign neighbors, who were not conceded to be real people.” So we see that the acceptance of the concept that racial aliens can be people is protested by the writer, an Egyptian prophet, and he described this event as having driven wedges between fathers and sons, a situation upon which he expects men of character to mourn. Our own empire, which we generally call America, entered into this same stage of its own history with the passage of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which by decree had turned Negroes and other savages into “people”.
These changing attitudes towards race in Egypt had eventually changed even the religious beliefs of the people. This is evident in a Hymn to Amon-Re which ostensibly dates to as early as the 13th Dynasty, or the beginning of the 18th century BC, so it was written only a couple of hundred years after the admonitions of Ipu-Wer. In the preface to this hymn the editors write, in part: “Egypt's world position under her Empire produced strong tendencies toward centralization and unification of Egyptian religion, with universalism and with syncretism of the gods.” This is the same thing which happened under the later Roman empire, and it is also just what we can see happening in America today. Today the policy that is repeated to the public by our own governments and institutions is that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same god, and that is certainly not true. So we read in this hymn made to the creator god of the Egyptian religion, in part, from ANET p. 366: “Hail to thee, o Re, lord of truth! Whose shrine is hidden, the lord of the gods, Khepri in the midst of his barque [the barque of the sun god, in which he rode across the daytime sky], Who gave commands, and the gods came into being. Atum [another title for the same god], who made the people, distinguished their nature, made their life, and separated colors, one from another….” At first, foreigners were not even people. But now, after Egypt transitions from a nation into an empire, not only are foreigners people too, but they were all created by the same god, and all colors and cultures became equally esteemed. (So here we have a problem with PC in 1800 BC.)
At one time all of Europe was Christian, and mostly all of Europe was White. Luther considered Christian Europe to the “the whole world”, in On the Jews and Their Lies. In Christian Europe, there may have been various folk beliefs found among each particular tribe of Europeans, which were peculiar to the history of a particular tribe and developed into its own unique mythos, but in general practice all of the people were Christian and adhered to common traditions and moral values. It is necessary for the people of a nation, or of a group of related nations, to enjoy such circumstances if it is going to survive, if its people are going to act together harmoniously in both good times and bad. But it is also necessary for people to share the same basic moral values if they are going to even function together peacefully as a community.
The United States was founded as a union of Christian nations, which were called States. While the founders insisted upon a separation of church and State, that did not mean they demanded a separation of religion and State, as there were Christian institutions throughout the organization of their governments. Neither did they consider aliens as citizens, and did not even count the Negro slaves as people when the Constitution was written. The Constitution was expressly intended for the founders and their posterity, and that excluded the Negroes as well as anyone else of any other race. Somewhere along the line, the federation of nations became an empire under a veiled form of tyranny. So today the tyranny enforces the notion that aliens can be people and equal citizens. That is exactly what happened when Egypt became an empire, and when the Roman emperor Caracalla extended citizenship to all of the freedmen – the former slaves – in Rome. While the tyranny in Egypt managed to hold on for nearly a thousand years, Roman decadence last only a couple of centuries before it collapsed. How long should America last?
As I wrote this, a question came up in Social Media, which has also arisen often in the past. Some of our friends protested the usual call to “support our troops” even in the event of an unjust war. Their protest was met with the usual replies that the unjust war was not the fault of the soldiers who were only obeying orders. The hypocrisy is glaring, as the same people typically look on with apathy when a 90-something former German soldier is tried and imprisoned for supposed war crimes from 75 years ago. They may only have a valid argument if the service in fighting such a war were compulsory. But in an all-volunteer army, those who enlist to perpetuate imperialism do so for their own reward, whether it be civic, social or financial, and not out of any true sense of duty or service to their people. So I asked in reply, “How can men sign up to support a wicked and imperialist government, wittingly or unwittingly, and think that they will escape punishment for it? The US government, forcing us to countenance abortion, fornication and sodomy, is an evil institution. Anyone who signs up to defend it deserves to end up maimed and killed, whatever the instrument of God's vengeance shall be.” So far, as I write this, I have received no response from the hypocrites.
Today’s religious institutions all operate at the convenience of the government, as they are indebted to the government for their tax exemptions. So there are no denominational churches with a following of any great significance which would stand up to correct the government. But if we perceive what was transpiring in ancient Jerusalem, we see the same corruption as we do today, and Yahweh the God of Israel quite often chose His prophets from outside of the inner circle of Levites at the Temple, to stand and admonish the government. Jeremiah was one of the most significant of the prophets who directly admonished the government, and the people wanted to kill him as he stood out before the gates of the city and pronounced curses and damnation upon the kingdom and its inhabitants for their sin. We have also seen this here in the ancient Egyptian Admonitions of Ipu-Wer, where the title character had uttered his own pronunciations against the government of his own time, and we are fortunate to have had them recorded for our benefit and instruction.
We have elucidated all of this, because it is clear to us that in a properly functioning nation or kingdom, there should be absolutely no difference between the political and the religious assembly. If a healthy nation is to survive and maintain its cultural and racial integrity, then separation of religion and state is impossible because it must maintain its core values, its mythos, and its culture unadulterated. The most successful ancient tyrannies understood the connection, and therefore they forced the people to share a common religion which deviated from tradition and which was amenable to their own objectives. This is why the empire controls religion today, and the so-called political correctness enforced by the government has also been accepted and promoted in all of the religious denominations as well as the educational institutions. If a nation or kingdom is to survive and perpetuate itself, its traditional religious beliefs and its civic objectives must be totally harmonious with one another. But if an empire is going to survive, it must force the same values on all of its different peoples, and those values are artificially formulated to consist of whatever is convenient to maintaining the tyranny. In hour own history, we forgot the first part, so now we suffer under the second part. We permitted the removal of religion from government and education, so now we suffer under the imposed religion of the tyranny.
Now one may ask, what does all of this have to do with Ecclesiastes? It is said in the 110th Psalm that David’s lord is a “priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” David himself was a type for the Messiah, and in different ways, Solomon was also as his successor. While David and Solomon themselves were not properly Melchizedek priests, for reasons too numerous to explain here, and they did not lay claim to an official priestly title, they nevertheless fulfilled that role in their own rule over the Kingdom of Yahweh. They served as both kings and priests, once we understand that a priest is a spiritual counselor, a guide, and not merely an officiator of rituals. In that sense, as Peter explained to the dispersed children of Israel who had turned to Christ in chapter 2 of his first epistle, among other things Christians are instructed to act as a “royal priesthood”.
We must use our politics to safeguard the values of our religion. Otherwise there is no survival of the nation without that. If you politics do not safeguard the values of your people, and the mythos, the religious beliefs of your people, your nation cannot survive.
So Yahshua Christ, as Melchizedek priest, ultimately is, and will be, the supreme civic ruler as well as the supreme spiritual authority of the nation, the King of Kings as well as the highest Priest. This was the model which David, and then Solomon, strove to emulate. (As a digression, if we examine the Aeneid of Virgil and the history of Rome, we will find that Julius Caesar also asserted himself as both king, or emperor, and high priest, or Pontifex Maximus, over his own people, a practice which later emperors retained. The Romans understood the necessity of the connection between political control and religious belief.)
So in this role as King and Priest, Solomon, the King of Israel and the Preacher of Ecclesiastes, herein gives both religious and moral instruction as well as civic instruction on the qualities which princes and kings should have. Furthermore, he has exhorted his readers as well as future rulers to obedience to God. If they had maintained obedience to God, the nation and kingdom would indeed have been perpetuated forever, as it is stated in the Law of Moses. Earlier in his life, Solomon had written Psalms, Proverbs, and a book of Wisdom. Then after he had become king and when he was advanced in years, as we have already explained and as he admits here in this work, he wandered into licentiousness and sin. We have shown that Ecclesiastes is an apology for his sin, even if he justified himself in it, and here Solomon as the Preacher has reclaimed his role as Spiritual leader of the kingdom. Here he also condemns sin as a man who beyond all others had been able to experience it and to determine its value. So the advice he gives, for reason of his actual experience, is all the more valuable. If so great a sinner had realized the vanity of sin and for that reason encouraged obedience to God, explaining the reasons why obedience is advantageous, that is all the more reason that someone who has not sinned in such a manner should not follow down the path to sin.
In that manner, Solomon as king over Israel was also an anti-type for Christ, the true Melchizedek priest, who alone had overcome sin by living life in the flesh and remaining free of sin. Paul explained this in Hebrews chapter 4 where he wrote “15 For we do not have a high priest having no ability to sympathize with our weakness, but who being tested by all things in like manner, is without sin.”
So in our most recent presentation of this work, in Ecclesiastes chapter 10, we saw that the Preacher had not only encouraged future rulers to obedience, he also warned against many of the injustices that wicked rulers may commit. So he warned in verse 4 of that chapter that: “If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for soundness will restrain many transgressions.” There the Preacher was exhorting wise men to resist, to stand up to such rulers, “leave not thy place”, or do not yield, and proceeded to admonish them according to that wisdom which is from God. Then he went on to warn of such wicked rulers who would elevate fools to their courts, to occupy the high offices of the kingdom, while men who are truly rich in wisdom are abandoned to inhabit low places in society. We can also witness that very phenomenon in every decadent empire, and in our own government today.
Finally, in the closing passage of Ecclesiastes chapter 10, we see an admonition against slothful rulers, where the Preacher exclaimed “16 Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning! 17 Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness! 18 By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.” This warning is against unlearned and immature rulers, under which a kingdom would suffer, and princes, or administrators, who live licentiously. When we choose leaders who are too young and inexperienced and who have not proven themselves in a long commitment to a just cause, we are much more likely to suffer when those whom we thought were leaders turn out to be corrupt and immoral. (As another digression, Matthew Heimbach and many other supposed leaders in the so-called “Alt-Right” are significant contemporary examples of this phenomenon. When our people do not properly understand history, they are doomed to repeat these same mistakes continually.)
Then in that same chapter the Preacher warned in relation to those same things, that: “19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.” In response to this we said “So rather than working diligently to preserve the house, which is the kingdom, the foolish king and the princes who enjoy luxuries would spend money, and more money – often money which is raised from the poor of their kingdom – in order to maintain themselves in mirth and drunkenness. This is exactly the pattern which the governments of the West follow today, and if it does not describe the American government, I cannot imagine anything that does.”
Finally, the Preacher turned to warn his readers: “20 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.” And it is often evident that tyrannies rely on informants, or snitches. Our current government relies on informants all the time. The Soviet Union and its communist government quite famously employed a system of informants. So we interpreted that as a warning to the people, that they would risk their own well-being if they were found cursing the king or the wealthy even in secret. This is practical advice and it also is the very point to which we are coming once again in modern times. While America is not quite as far advanced down the road to complete tyranny as Britain is, it is nevertheless following in the same general direction, where the slightest resistance to the program of the empire is crushed with a heavy hand.
Recently, a few of our friends in Britain had suddenly disappeared. We could only wonder what may have happened. Now we have been sent an article titled Six to face trial accused of National Action membership. National Action was a White Nationalist political group which had been proscribed in Britain, in 2016. Not only is Britain a tyranny, this circumstance also shows the degree of control even over one’s thoughts which the government seeks to exert over its citizens. You cannot get more religious than demanding the authority to control the thoughts of citizens. This certainly is religion imposed by a tyranny.
How can someone be a "member" of a banned group, if the group is also disbanded? But if former members of this group chose to remain friends and remain in contact with one another, they are harassed, arrested, and brought to trial for some perceived crime, although no member of the group has committed an actual crime. Worst of all, one member of the group “is also accused of possessing information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.” This does indeed reflect an attempt to justify thought control. So now it is a crime merely to possess certain categories of information. If this is a crime, then simply knowing where there is a store which sells box-cutters may cause one to be imprisoned. Yet nobody of political or religious significance in Britain, or in America, will “leave not thy place”, taking a stand so that “soundness will restrain many transgressions.” Instead, they will all continue to retreat further and further for sake of their own security, while the real terrorists, the hordes of invading aliens, rape tens of thousands of British girls and there is no penalty or punishment, and nobody will speak in the defense of the victims for fear of being labeled a “racist” and a “terrorist”.
Here we have endeavored to demonstrate how timeless are the words of the Preacher, that they still admonish us to this very day, and that even after three thousand years we have failed to heed their advice.
Now we shall proceed with our presentation of Ecclesiastes, from the beginning of chapter 11, where we last left off in Part 7 of our series, in a presentation which was given here on March 2nd. Our recent travels have precluded us from finishing our presentation until now, so we apologize for the delay.
Here the Preacher turns from admonishments concerning national leadership towards more general advice concerning the conduct of one’s life. As he proceeds, once again he depicts for us the inevitable cycles of life and death in the trials of vanity which all men must face, but concludes by warning of judgment in death and the consequences of one’s actions in life:
Ecclesiastes 11:1 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. 2 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.
The Preacher is encouraging men to act charitably, even to feed seven or eight others, if one is able to do so. So the admonishment to “cast thy bread upon the waters” is a call to share one’s wealth with the needy, and then where he says “thou shalt find it after many days”, he is expressing an assurance that a charitable man may receive charity in return in the event that he himself also becomes needy. Giving a portion to seven or eight, because “thou knowest not what evil shall be”, if one is merciful and feeds his needy brethren, one will receive mercy from God in the day of evil, when he himself is in need of mercy. The same writer said in Proverbs chapter 14 that “21 He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he. 22 Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good. ”
The apostle James related mercy to charity in chapter 2 of his epistle where he said “13 For judgment is without mercy for him not effecting mercy. Mercy exults over judgment. 14 What is the benefit, my brethren, if one should claim to have faith, but does not have works? Is faith able to save him? 15 If a brother or sister becomes naked and lacking daily food, 16 and one from among you should say to them: ‘Go in peace, be warm and fed’, but you would not give to them the provisions for the body, what is the benefit? 17 Thusly also faith, if it should not have works, is by itself dead.”
As Paul of Tarsus wrote in chapter 9 of his second epistle to the Corinthians, in an exhortation concerning giving to the needy of the oppressed apostles in Jerusalem, “6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” Then in Galatians chapter 6, speaking in reference to teachers of the Scriptures, “7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Speaking to a young man who professed to keep the entire law, Christ had said, as it is recorded in John chapter 18, “Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” Of course, He did not require that of every man, but He made an example of this particular man which all of us should emulate in some degree.
The Preacher continues:
3 If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.
Here the Preacher seems to make an observation regarding the inevitable vanity of those caught up in the natural cycles of life and death. But both statements also relate to what was previously illustrated concerning charity and mercy. Clouds, when they are full, are rich with moisture, yet they are destined to shed that moisture upon the earth so that others can benefit. Likewise trees, full and beautiful and seemingly very strong, are also destined to fall and die, and they will be seen without fruit in that same place where they fell by all who pass by. Allegorically speaking, the tree must share its fruits while it lives, or they will rot when it dies.
Continuing, the Preacher makes another warning against sloth:
4 He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.
In Ecclesiastes chapter 4 we saw a similar warning to the slothful, where the Preacher had said that “5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.” We interpreted this as a reference to the lazy or slothful man, who destroys himself by his own inactivity.
A man who is afraid to sow because the wind might carry some of the seed away may end up not sowing at all. A man who neglects to reap because he fears that it may rain will never accomplish the harvest. So we must sow and reap at the appointed times regardless of the possibility of what might happen. Of course, this is applicable to all of the activities of life, and not only to the sowing and reaping of fields, which are used here as an allegory.
Now the Preacher explains why we must conduct the business of our lives regardless of our own fear that something detrimental to our cause may occur:
5 As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.
Thou knowest not the way of the Spirit, as Christ had also said in John chapter 3: “8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear its sound, but you do not know from where it comes and where it goes. Thusly are all who are born from of the Spirit.” Paul spoke on the same subject as the Preacher does here, from a different perspective, in Romans chapter 8 where he said “26 And in like manner the Spirit assists us with our weakness; for that which we should pray for, regarding what there is need of, we do not know, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible utterances.” Because man does not understand exactly how everything operates, and man does not know everything that is going to happen, he should go about his business in due season, which means at the appropriate time, and being faithful, the Spirit of God will guide his way and determine his prosperity for him. Christ Himself had also told His apostles, in the parable of the ten servants found in Luke Chapter 19: “Engage yourselves in business while I go.”
So the Preacher continues with an encouragement, saying:
6 In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
This is the answer to the warning against sloth which we just saw in verse 4. Where the King James Version has here “withhold not thine hand”, the Hebrew verb means to give rest, so the New American Standard Bible appropriately translates the phrase to read “let not thine hand be idle”, and Brenton’s Septuagint similarly has “let not thine hand be slack”. Man should always be diligent to labor, regardless of the prospects of success in his labors. That is why Paul had said, in 1 Corinthians chapter 3, that “6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.”
Now the Preacher seems to change the subject once again:
7 Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: 8 But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.
Where he says “the light is sweet”, he speaks of the light of day, as he himself informs us where he speaks of beholding the sun. Living is better than death, as the Preacher had said in chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes, “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” So the reference to “the days of darkness” is a reference to death, and he estimates that the days of death are numerous. Then where the Preacher exclaims that “all that cometh is vanity”, he returns to the central theme of Ecclesiastes. However as he continues, we must come to realize that once again the Preacher is employing practical skepticism in a rhetorical prevarication. Now, in response to the idea that once a man dies, he is dead for a long time, he continues with what, on the surface, seems to be an encouragement to licentiousness:
9 Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.
The Preacher had used a similar analogy in chapter 6 of Ecclesiastes, where he spoke of the man who kept the sight of his eyes, rather than follow after his lusts. There he said “ 9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire.”
But this is irony. First the Preacher says “sure, go ahead and party.” But then he warns that “for all these things”, for whatever fleshly desires of the heart that a young man may pursue, Yahweh “will bring thee into judgment”, so it actually stands a a warning against sin, and now as he continues he warns that such sin will lead to sorrow:
10 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.
Childhood and youth pass relatively quickly, and the old man faces the prospect of death. For that reason the Preacher admonishes against sin, because while all appears to be vanity, all is not really vanity, as he is about to announce in chapter 12 of this work:
Ecclesiastes 12:1 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;
In a wise man’s later years he realizes that there is no true reward a youth spent in licentiousness and the pursuit of pleasure. So the Preacher admonishes men to consider their Creator while they are still young, and have an opportunity to do better things than pursue their own lusts.
So from the vanity of his own experience he urges men to repent while they have opportunity:
2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
And now, from the authority of his role as prophet as well as king and priest, he further urges his readers to repentance before the wrath of God comes upon them in a time of national judgment, where he continues and says:
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, 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; 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:
Where we see the phrase “when the almond tree flourishes”, the word for almond was used to mean watchfulness, or as a verb, to watch, to wake or to be alert. Strong’s gives the original meaning of the verb as to be almond-shaped, and evidently it came to refer to the state of open eyes. As a verb it appears as an exhortation to watch in Ezra 8:29, in Job 21:32 where the King James Version mistranslated the word as remain where it should be watch, in Psalm 102, 127, Isaiah 29:20, Jeremiah 1:12, 5:6, 31:28 and 44:27, and in Daniel 9:14. The word does, however, refer to almonds, or to the almond tree, in Genesis 43:11, Numbers 17:23 and Jeremiah 1:11. While there are two separate Strong’s entries and a slightly different spelling in Strong’s English transliteration, for the verb shaqad at 8245 and for the noun shaqed at 8247, the words have the exact same spelling and are the same word in ancient Hebrew, so the differences in Strong’s only distinguish the parts of speech.
In Numbers chapter 17, we learn that the staff of Aaron was from an almond tree. Perhaps its placement in the Ark of the Covenant along with the tablets of the law indicates a need to be vigilant, or watchful, concerning the law. But the connection of the almond tree to a need for watchfulness is most readily apparent in Jeremiah chapter 1, verses 11 and 12 where we see the word used twice, and where the King James Version has “11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. 12 Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.” In that passage, where it says “what seest thou” and “thou hast seen well”, the word for see is ra’ah (Strong’s 7200), but the word for almond tree in verse 11 is our word here, shaqed (Strong’s 8247), and the word for hasten is also shaqad (Strong’s 8245). So in Jeremiah there is a play on words that the translations miss, by necessity, and the same word for almond tree is used as a verb meaning hasten, or watch, signifying the diligence required to keep a promise.
So Jeremiah chapter 1 is a warning of national judgment, and here in Ecclesiastes 12:5 we see a similar use of symbol of the almond tree. The flourishing of the almond tree signifies that there has come a time to watch for judgment, and the burden of the grasshopper signifies a time when parasites will feed themselves on the kingdom, devouring the food in the fields. Because there is little grain, the sound of grinding is low, and because men are living in fear, the doors are shut in the streets. So the Preacher is certainly describing a period of national judgment on account of sin, a time when death is knocking at the door. So he is also continuing an analogy warning that repentance is necessary before death, where he said that “desire shall fail”, referring to man’s personal desires, “because man goeth to his long home”, meaning the state of death, and so he continues:
6 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.
Many commentators see at least most of these four metaphors as describing parts of the body: the spine, the brain, the stomach, the heart. Certain others interpret them metaphysically as the connection between the body and the spirit. We would advise against New Age claims that the silver cord here describes a certain metaphysical phenomenon which is at the center of some satanic philosophies. However we would rather interpret these metaphors spiritually.
This is the only place that the phrase silver cord appears in Scripture, but we can imagine it represents a connection between body and spirit that endures for as long a a man lives. Therefore death causes the cord to be loosed. When the tabernacle in the wilderness was built, fillets, which are cords or ribbons, made of silver were used to bind the curtains of the tabernacle to the pillars. So we may interpret the silver cord here to be an allegory representing the binding of the skin of the temple which contains the Spirit, and when it is broken the Spirit departs from the temple. The golden bowl is a part of the candlestick, as we see in Zechariah chapter 4, and the bowl held the oil which enabled the candlestick to produce light. So it seems that the golden bowl is the head of a man where the mind resides. Likewise, the pitcher and the wheel can be reckoned as metaphors for the belly and the heart.
We must also not lose sight of the fact that these descriptions of the possible means of death which man may suffer remain connected to the admonition to “Remember now thy Creator”, that men are better off to remember their Creator before they die. For this Paul of Tarsus says in 1 Timothy chapter 5 that “24 Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.” We interpret both of these statements as a sign of repentance, that a man is better off repenting of his sins before he dies, rather than remaining stubborn until he dies.
In any event, when the events which these things represent finally do befall man in death, the Preacher informs us:
7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
The physical body is only dust, as Abraham proclaimed in an expression of humility before Yahweh: “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes”. However here the Preacher admits that the Spirit of man returns to God, something which he expressed skepticism of earlier in this work. We shall discuss that phenomenon at length shortly. For now, the Preacher proclaims once more:
8 Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.
The Preacher opened this book with the same proclamation, and here his teaching has ended, short of one more explanation of his final conclusion. When we arrive at the conclusion of Ecclesiastes, we must ultimately recognize the fact that even vanity is vanity. That even the transientness, or vanity of man, is only temporary. As Paul had said, in 1 Corinthians chapter 15: “19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” So vanity must indeed be vanity. The Preacher continues, and speaks of himself, as he also professed to possess wisdom earlier in this book, and especially in chapter 2 where he said “3 I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.” So even now he proclaims:
9 And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. 10 The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.
It seems as if the original work may have ended with verse 8, and what we read in these final verses is an appendix by the Preacher wherein he refers to himself. But as we have already elucidated from Scripture, Solomon had written thousands of proverbs and songs before he turned to sin in his later years, and Ecclesiastes, written from the perspective of his looking back upon those sinful years, must have been written late in his life. However the Proverbs which we have preserved in our Bibles, and the other writings which can be attributed to him, are difficult to date. Perhaps one day we may be able to determine a better chronology of all of his writings, if indeed he continued to write proverbs at this late period of his life.
11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.
Where the Preacher mentions wisdom, or the wise, he refers to the Wisdom of God and those who seek it, as we have established in the language which he employed earlier in this work and in the Book of Proverbs. The one shepherd must be Yahweh God, and therefore the Preacher refers to those with the wisdom of God, who merely share what God has given them.
12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Here the Preacher affectionately refers to his reader as his son, as a wise old king may do. The writer of Proverbs, which was also Solomon, also rather frequently referred to his intended read as his son.
Much study is a weariness of the flesh, just as it says in chapter 1 of Ecclesiastes “18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.”
Writing this, it was easy for me to look out into the hallway from my office to see the hundreds of Bible Commentaries and Bible Dictionaries which had been collected by Clifton Emahiser, and which now sit here on my bookshelves. Of the making of many books there certainly is no end, as even Clifton’s collection represents a very small part of all of the interpretations of Scripture which have been written.
Now the Preacher offers his final conclusion:
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
If there were no God, if there were no judgment, and if there were no life after death, if all was indeed vanity, what would even be the point of keeping the commandments? And if man did not remember what he did in this life after he died, what would be the point of living, what would be the point of man’s having been subjected to vanity, and what would be the point of judgment?
From Part 9 of our Romans commentary, subtitled The Two Natures of Adamic Man, we said the following, where we will repeat verses 9 through 13 of Romans chapter 7, Paul of Tarsus speaking of his own experiences:
9 Now I was alive apart from the law once; but the commandment having come, the guilt was revived, and I died. 10 And it was found to me that the commandment, which is for life, it is for death: 11 for sin having taken a starting point by the commandment, had seduced and killed me through it.
We do not realize the gravity of our sin until we read the law, and find that the punishment for our sin is death. Once we realize that obedience to the commandment keeps us on the path to life, and see the consequences of our sin, we should understand that our sin leads us to death.
12 So indeed the law is sacred, and the commandment sacred, and just, and good. 13 Then that which is good, to me has it become death? Certainly not! But sin, that it may bring sin to light, through the good in me accomplishes death; so that the sin becomes excessively wicked by the commandment.
The good in Paul can read the law and recognize that his behaviour which was contrary to the law was sinful, and also acknowledge the punishment which he merited for that behaviour. The good in Paul can recognize that sinful behaviour merited death, and therefore Paul is describing a learning process. The result is that the Adamic man understands how important it is to keep the law of Yahweh in his heart, and to do his best to abide by it. It is important that the sin becomes evident by the commandment, so that the Adamic man can experience sin and by that experience he can learn not to do evil.
The Preacher, Solomon, confessed several times in Ecclesiastes that he gave himself over to sin, and admitted that he found no value in it. So his conclusion was that man must keep the commandments of God. But writing from an entirely different perspective, Paul of Tarsus admitted how difficult it was for a fleshly man to keep the law, where he said in that same chapter of Romans, using himself as an example, that “15 For that which I perpetrate, I do not recognize; I do not practice that which I wish, rather I do that which I hate. 16 But if I do that which I do not wish, I concede to the law that it is virtuous.” So in the end, Paul’s conclusion was also that man must keep the commandments of God.
Paul taught that man would inevitably sin, and still learn not to do evil, and Solomon gave himself over to sin, and by it he ultimately came to the conclusion that man must not do evil. Here Solomon challenged young men to follow after their own hearts, and then he warned them that they would be judged by God for their actions. So both men concluded in different ways that it is necessary for man to keep the laws of Yahweh, even though the intentions of the flesh are contrary to that law.
Skepticism, irony, rhetorical prevarications, these are the tools which the Preacher chose by which to illustrate his final conclusion: which is the need to keep the commandments of Yahweh God. But skeptics so often turn to Ecclesiastes, where they find single verses to justify their skepticism, and citing them they create doctrines of skepticism as a result. Yet they never stop to ponder the totality of what the Preacher has said here, or perhaps they would discover that the skepticism, and the irony, are purposeful prevarications because while from a worldly perspective all is vanity, we have a God who has a greater purpose, and for that reason He has only exercised us in vanity. So even vanity is vanity!
For instance, in chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes we read: “21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? ” Skeptics have used this verse in refutation of the words of Paul of Tarsus where he says that to be absent from the body is to be present with Yahweh, in 2 Corinthians chapter 5. However here in this chapter of Ecclesiastes, in verse 7, the skeptics are indicted, since the Preacher clearly states that after death “7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” So the skepticism expressed in the earlier passage must be understood as a rhetorical device, as the Preacher is certainly not in contradiction with himself.
It is hypocritical to interpret any writer of Scripture in a manner which forces that writer to contradict himself. It is hypocritical, and it is wrong. If there is another possible way to interpret any passage in a manner in which the writer does not contradict himself, that is the way that the passage must be interpreted. The writings of Paul of Tarsus is often interpreted by the denominational commentators in a way that has Paul contradicting himself, but Paul actually never contradicted himself, and the commentators are wrong. So it is often with Solomon, especially in Ecclesiastes.
In Ecclesiastes chapter 1 Solomon described the vanity of man as "this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith." So we must recognize what the Preacher certainly knew, that even vanity is vanity. This is evident because, as the Preacher proclaimed, vanity is something which man is only being exercised in, and if man is going to be judged after he dies, as the Preacher also proclaims, then the exercise must be for a greater purpose, and the vanity must be temporary. So the same writer states in chapter 2 of the Wisdom of Solomon, a book which certainly should have been included in our Scriptures, “23 For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity.”
If that is insufficient proof of Solomon’s real attitude towards death, then the Christian profession found only two verses later, in chapter 3 of that same book, should explain his intentions further, where he wrote: “1 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. 2 In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, 3 And their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace. 4 For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality.”
But as Paul wrote of the faith of the Old Testament patriarchs, they had not yet seen that hope, and he says further on in Hebrews chapter 11 that “39… these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise.” That does not mean that they did not have the promise, but only that they had not yet received it when they died, in spite of their faith. Christians have seen this promise fulfilled in Christ, and therefore have a greater assurance of the truth of the promise. So Solomon, writing from that same perspective which is before the coming of the Christ, reckons here in this chapter that the “days of darkness… shall be many”, that once a man dies, he will be dead for a long time.
However after the cross of Christ, man has redemption and reconciliation with God. Paul described that through Christ we have an entrance to God (Hebrews 10:19). Therefore Paul wrote rather confidently in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 that “6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. 9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.”
So even though without God all is vanity, the Preacher certainly understood that even vanity is vanity, because there is a God. And in Romans chapter 8 Paul of Tarsus explained further, speaking of the Adamic creation, that "18 Therefore I consider that the happenstances of the present time are not of value, looking to the future honor to be revealed to us. 19 Indeed in earnest anticipation the creation awaits the revelation of the sons of Yahweh. 20 To vanity the creation was subjected not willingly, but on account of He who subjected it in expectation 21 that also the creation itself shall be liberated from the bondage of decay into the freedom of the honor of the children of Yahweh." That is the Christian promise, and only in that is there any need to keep the commandments of God. Otherwise, all is indeed vanity. To the enemies of our race, all is vanity regardless of what they may do. But to us, to White Christians who certainly are the Adamic race and the children of Israel, there is a forever, and that is the promise of Christ.
If enough of our race ever understood that this is indeed the substance and promise of Scripture, we would not be divided against one another on account of the other races, as we have seen that even the ancient Egyptians were divided, and for the poisoning of Egyptian blood, noble men had mourned. The purpose of man’s subjection to vanity is to learn what sin is, and what are the results of sin. Man was subjected to vanity as a result of his own sin, as it is depicted in Genesis chapter 3. On a national scale, the Egyptians ultimately accepted the same sin, which was race-mixing, and accordingly even their religion was changed to a religion of universalism, as we have seen from the inscriptions. The Romans followed down that same path, and now America and the modern White world follow that same path once again. We cannot accept such sin, and to reject it, we must be able to properly identify it. The Preacher also did that, as the sin of his own life resulted from the acceptance of foreign women, foreign gods, and the fornication that accompanies that acceptance. But in the end, he came to his senses and once again sought righteousness, confessing his errors and professing the need to keep the commandments of Yahweh his God.
This concludes our presentation of Solomon’s Ecclesiastes.