But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities…
As Christ drew a lesson from the lily, so may we from the leaf. Yet the words of the prophet, "We all do fade as a leaf,' may lead our thoughts in a different way from his. These words were originally spoken in lamentation over the wrecked glory of the temple and city of David, as devastated by Nebuchadnezzar with fire and sword. No fitter similitude of the sad change could the mourning prophet find than the faded leaf. Those dilapidated walls, those fire-scarred ruins of Jerusalem and Zion, brought to his mind the magnificent creations of the shepherd king and his illustrious son, only as the crushed and blackened leaf recalls the image of the glorious crown of spring. But to us the lessons of the fading leaf become spiritually instructive, as we bring to bear the light which science has afforded us respecting the nature and the uses of its short life, the meaning of its fading, and the real significance of its death. We learn that the reality is different from the seeming, both as regards the life of the leaf and its death. We find a-nobler meaning in the life of the leaf, and that imparts a nobler meaning to its death. And the lesson thus derived brings us consolation and strengthening as we apply it to some of the sadder experiences of mortal life.
(J. M. Whiton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.