Ecclesiastes 12:11
Parallel Verses
English Standard Version
The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd.

King James Bible
The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

American Standard Version
The words of the wise are as goads; and as nails well fastened are the words of the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

Douay-Rheims Bible
The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails deeply fastened in, which by the counsel of masters are given from one shepherd.

English Revised Version
The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails well fastened are the words of the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

Webster's Bible Translation
The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

Ecclesiastes 12:11 Parallel
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament

Ecclesiastes 12:5

From this his repugnance to singing, and music, and all loud noises, progress in the description is made to the difficulty such aged men have in motion: "Also they are afraid of that which is high; and there are all kinds of fearful things in the way ... ." The description moves forward in a series of independent sentences; that שׁ בּיּום to which it was subordinate in Ecclesiastes 12:3, and still also in Ecclesiastes 12:4, is now lost sight of. In the main it is rightly explained by the Talm., and with it the Midrash: "Even a little hillock appears to him like a high mountain; and if he has to go on a journey, he meets something that terrifies him;" the Targ. has adopted the second part of this explanation. גּבהּ (falsely referred by the Targ. to the time lying far back in the past) is understood neut.; cf. 1 Samuel 16:7. Such decrepid old men are afraid of (ייראוּ, not videbunt, as the lxx, Symm., Ar., and the Venet. translate, who seem to have had before them the defective יראו) a height, - it alarms them as something unsurmountable, because their breath and their limbs fail them when they attempt it; and hathhhattim (plur. of the intensifying form of hat, consternatio, Job 41:25), i.e., all kinds of formidines (not formido, Ewald, 179a, Bttch. 762, for the plur. is as in salsilloth, 'aph'appim, etc., thought of as such), meet them in the way. As the sluggard says: there is a lion in the way, and under this pretence remains slothfully at home, Proverbs 24:13; Proverbs 22:13, so old men do not venture out; for to them a damp road appears like a very morass; a gravelly path, as full of neck-breaking hillocks; an undulating path, as fearfully steep and precipitous; that which is not shaded, as oppressively hot and exhausting-they want strength and courage to overcome difficulties, and their anxiety pictures out dangers before them where there are none.

Ecclesiastes 12:5

The allegory is now continued in individual independent figures: "And the almond tree is in blossom." The Talm. explains וין הש of the haunch-bone projecting (from leanness); the Midrash, of the bones of the vertebral column, conceived of as incorruptible and as that round which will take place the future restoration of the human body, - probably the cross bone, os sacrum,

(Note: The Jewish opinion of the incorruptible continuance of this bone may be connected with the designation os sacrum; the meaning of this is controverted, vid., Hyrtl's Anatomie, 124.)

inserted between the two thigh bones of the pelvis as a pointed wedge; cf. Jerome in his Comm.: quidam sacram spinam interpretantur quod decrescentibus natium cornibus spina accrescat et floreat; לוּז is an Old Heb., Aram., and Arab. name of the almond tree and the almond nut (vid., under Genesis 30:37), and this, perhaps, is the reason of this identification of the emblematic שׁקד with לוז (the os sacrum, or vertebra magna) of the spine. The Targ. follows the Midrash in translating: the רישׁ שׁז (the top of the spine) will protrude from leanness like an almond tree (viz., from which the leaves have been stripped). In these purely arbitrary interpretations nothing is correct but (1) that שׁקד is understood not of the almond fruit, but of the almond tree, as also at Jeremiah 1:11 (the rod of an almond tree); (2) that ינאץ (notwithstanding that these interpreters had it before them unpointed) is interpreted, as also by the lxx, Syr., Jerome, and the Venet., in the sense of blossoming, or the bursting out of blossoms by means of the opening up of the buds. Many interpreters understand שׁקר of almond fruit (Winzer, Ewald, Ginsb., Rdiger, etc.), for they derive ינאץ from נאץ, as Aben Ezra had already done, and explain by: fastidit amygdalam (nucem), or fastidium creat amygdala. But (1) ינאץ for ינאץ (Hiph. of נאץ, to disdain, to treat scornfully) is a change of vowels unexampled; we must, with such an explanation, read either ינּאץ, fastiditur (Gaab), or ינאץ; (2) almond nuts, indeed, belong to the more noble productions of the land and the delicacies, Genesis 43:11, but dainties, κατ ̓ ἐξ, at the same time they are not, so that it would be appropriate to exemplify the blunted sensation of taste in the old man, by saying that he no more cracks and eats almonds. The explanation of Hitzig, who reads ינאץ, and interprets the almond tree as at Sol 7:9 the palm, to denote a woman, for he translates: the almond tree refuses (viz., the old man), we set aside as too ingenious; and we leave to those interpreters who derive ינאץ from נאץ, and understand השקד

(Note: Abulwald understands שקר and חגב sexually, and glosses the latter by jundub (the locust), which in Arab. is a figure of suffering and patience.)

of the glans penis (Bttch., Frst, and several older interpreters), to follow their own foul and repulsive criticism. ינאץ is an incorrect reading for ינץ, as at Hosea 10:14, קאם for קם, and, in Prov., ראשׁ for רשׁ (Gesen. 73. 4); and besides, as at Sol 6:11, הנצוּ, regular Hiph. of נצץ (נוּץ, Lamentations 4:15), to move tremblingly (vibrate), to glisten, blossom (cf. נוס, to flee, and ניסן, Assyr. nisannu, the flower-month). Thus deriving this verbal form, Ewald, and with him Heiligst., interprets the blossoming almond tree as a figure of the winter of life: "it is as if the almond tree blossomed, which in the midst of winter has already blossoms on its dry, leafless stem." But the blossoms of the almond tree are rather, after Numbers 17:2-8, a figure of special life-strength, and we must thus, thrown back to ינאץ from נאץ (to flourish), rather explain, with Furrer (in Schenkel's B. L.), as similarly Herzf.: the almond tree refuses, i.e., ceases, to blossom; the winter of old age is followed by no spring; or also, as Dale and Taylor: the almond tree repels, i.e., the old man has no longer a joyful welcome for this messenger of spring. But his general thought has already found expression in Ecclesiastes 12:2; the blossoming almond tree must be here an emblem of a more special relation. Hengst. supposes that "the juniper tree (for this is the proper meaning of שקד) is in bloom" is equals sleeplessness in full blossom stands by the old man; but that would be a meaningless expression. Nothing is more natural than that the blossoming almond tree is intended to denote the same as is indicated by the phrase of the Latin poet: Intempestivi funduntur vertice cani (Luther, Geiger, Grot., Vaih., Luzz., Gurlitt, Tyler, Bullock, etc.).

It has been objected that the almond blossoms are not pure white, but according to the variety, they are pale-red, or also white; so that Thomson, in his beautiful Land and the Book, can with right say: "The almond tree is the type of old age whose hair is white;" and why? "The white blossoms completely cover the whole tree." Besides, Bauer (1732) has already remarked that the almond blossoms, at first tinged with red, when they are ready to fall off become white as snow; with which may be compared a clause cited by Ewald from Bodenstedt's A Thousand and One Days in the Orient: "The white blossoms fall from the almond trees like snow-flakes." Accordingly, Dchsel is right when he explains, after the example of Zckler: "the almond tree with its reddish flower in late winter, which strews the ground with its blossoms, which have gradually become white like snow-flakes, is an emblem of the winter of old age with its falling silvery hair."

Ecclesiastes 12:5

From the change in the colour of the hair, the allegory now proceeds to the impairing of the elasticity of the highs and of their power of bearing a load, the malum coxae senile (in a wider than the usual pathological sense): "And the grasshopper (i.e., locust, חגב, Samar. חרגבה equals חרגּל, Leviticus 11:22) becomes a burden." Many interpreters (Merc., Dderl., Gaab, Winz., Gesen., Winer, Dale) find in these words הח ויס the meaning that locust-food, or that the chirping of grasshoppers, is burdensome to him (the old man); but even supposing that it may at once be assumed that he was a keen aeridophagus (locusts, steeped in butter, are like crabs (shrimps) spread on slices of butter and bread), or that he had formerly a particular delight in the chirping of the τέττιξ, which the ancients number among singing birds (cf. Taylor, l.c.), and that he has now no longer any joy in the song of the τέττιξ, although it is regarded as soothing and tending to lull to rest, and an Anacreon could in his old days even sing his μακαρίζομέν σε τέττιξ, - yet these two interpretations are impossible, because הס may mean to burden and to move with difficulty, but not "to become burdensome." For the same reason, nothing is more absurd than the explanation of Kimchi and Gurlitt: Even a grasshopper, this small insect, burdens him; for which Zckl., more naturally: the hopping and chirping of the grasshopper is burdensome to him; as we say, The fly on the wall annoys him. Also Ewald and Heiligstedt's interpretation: "it is as if the locust raised itself to fly, breaking and stripping off its old husk," as inadmissible; for הסתבל can mean se portare laboriose, but not ad evolandum eniti; the comparison (Arab.) tahmmal gains the meaning of hurry onwards, to proceed on an even way, like the Hebr. השכים, to take upon the shoulder; it properly means, to burden oneself, i.e., to take on one's back in order to get away; but the grasshopper coming out of its case carries away with it nothing but itself. For us, such interpretations - to which particularly, the advocates of the several hypotheses of a storm, night, and mourning, are constrained - are already set aside by this, that according to the allegory וין השׁ, הח ויס must also signify something characteristic of the body of an old man. The lxx, Jerome, and Ar. translate: the locust becomes fat; the Syr.: it grows. It is true, indeed, that great corpulence, or also a morbid dropsical swelling of the belly (ascites), is one of the symptoms of advanced old age; but supposing that the (voracious) locust might be en emblem of a corpulent man, yet הסתבל means neither to become fat nor to grow. But because the locust in reality suggests the idea of a corpulent man, the figure cannot at the same time be intended to mean that the old man is like a skeleton, consisting as it were of nothing but skin and bone (Lyra, Luther, Bauer, Dathe); the resemblance of a locust to the back-bone and its joints (Glassius, Khler, Vaih.) is not in view; only the position of the locusts's feet for leaping admits the comparison of the prominent scapulae (shoulder-blades); but shoulder-blades (scapulae alatae), angular and standing out from the chest, are characteristics of a consumptive, not of a senile habit. Also we must cease, with Hitz., Bttch., Luzz., and Gratz, to understand the figure as denoting the φαλλός to be now impotent; for relaxation and shrinking do not agree with hctbl, which suggests something burdensome by being weighty.

The Midrash interprets החגב by "ankles," and the Targ. translates accordingly: the ankles (אסתּורי, from the Pers. ustuwâr, firm) of thy feet will swell-unsuitably, for "ankles" affords no point of comparison with locusts, and they have no resemblance to their springing feet. The Talm., glossing החגב by "these are the buttocks" (nates) (cf. Arab. 'ajab, the os coccygis, Syn. 'ajuz, as the Talm. עגבות interchanges with עבוז), is on the right track. There is nothing, indeed, more probably than that הגב is a figure of the coxa, the hinder region of the pelvis, where the lower part of the body balances itself in the hip-joint, and the motion of standing up and going receives its impulse and direction by the muscular strength there concentrated. This part of the body may be called the locust, because it includes in itself the mechanism which the two-membered foot for springing, placed at an acute angle, presents in the locust. Referred to this coxa, the loins, יסתבל has its most appropriate meaning: the marrow disappears from the bones, elasticity from the muscles, the cartilage and oily substance from the joints, and, as a consequence, the middle of the body drags itself along with difficulty; or: it is with difficulty moved along (Hithpa. as pass., like Ecclesiastes 8:10); it is stiff, particularly in the morning, and the old man is accustomed to swing his arms backwards, and to push himself on as it were from behind. In favour of this interpretation (but not deciding it) is the accord of חגב with עגב equals κόκκυξ (by which the os coccygis is designated as the cuckoo's bone). Also the verbal stem (Arab.) jaḥab supplies an analogous name: not jaḥab, which denotes the air passage (but not, as Knobel supposes, the breath itself; for the verb signifies to separate, to form a partition, Mish. מחיצח), but (Arab.) jaḥabat, already compared by Bochart, which denotes the point (dual), the two points or projections of the two hip-bones (vid., Lane's Lex.), which, together with the os sacrum lying between, form the ring of the pelvis.

Ecclesiastes 12:5

From the weakening of the power of motion, the allegory passes on to the decay of sensual desires, and of the organs appertaining thereto: "And the caper-berry fails ... ." The meaning "caper" for האב is evidence by the lxx (ἡ κάππαρις, Arab. alkabar), the Syr., and Jerome (capparis), and this rendering is confirmed by the Mishnic אביונות, which in contradistinction to תמרות, i.e., the tender branches, and קפריסין, i.e., the rind of fruit, signifies the berry-like flower-buds of the caper bush,


Ecclesiastes 12:11 Parallel Commentaries

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

as goads

Jeremiah 23:29 Is not my word like as a fire? said the LORD; and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said to them, O generation of vipers...

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brothers...

2 Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword...


John 3:10 Jesus answered and said to him, Are you a master of Israel, and know not these things?


Genesis 49:24 But his bow stayed in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob...

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalm 80:1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you that lead Joseph like a flock; you that dwell between the cherubim, shine forth.

Isaiah 40:11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom...

Ezekiel 34:23 And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them...

John 10:14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

Hebrews 13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep...

1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away.

Cross References
Acts 2:37
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

Ezra 9:8
But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery.

Proverbs 1:6
to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.

Proverbs 22:17
Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge,

Ecclesiastes 7:5
It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.

Ecclesiastes 10:12
The words of a wise man's mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him.

Isaiah 22:23
And I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father's house.

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