Ecclesiastes 11:7–12:14: Fear God and Keep His Commandments
As the Preacher concludes his book of wisdom, he gives his final words to the consideration of youth and old age. Throughout his book, he has reminded us that death approaches faster than any of us imagine. It is fitting, then, to give advice to the young and the old alike, to frame their respective (and brief) seasons of life in the light of eternity. There is a season for everything under heaven (Eccl. 3:1), and the season of youth is brief and, ultimately, passing away like a mist. Whether young or old, the Preacher urges us to live with a consideration of the final judgment, when God will bring every secret to light, and bring every deed into judgment, whether good or evil. In this concluding passage, the Preacher summarizes the whole message of his book: fear God and keep his commandments.
1) Why is light and clear sight associated with youthfulness (11:7)? What does the Preacher mean when he says that “the days of darkness will be many” (11:8)? In what way should young people “walk in the ways of [their] heart and the sight of [their] eyes” (11:9)? In what way should they not walk after their hearts, and according to their sight? On the whole, what is the Preacher’s message to young people? How does this relate to the message our culture has for young people?
2) What does the Preacher say about old age in 12:1–7? Why is old age characterized by darkness and dim sight (12:2–3)? What is the condition of the “house” that the Preacher describes in 12:3–4? How further characterizations of old age does the Preacher give in 12:5–6? What does the Preacher communicate by closing out his book just as he began it: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity” (12:8; cf. 1:2)? What does he intend us to learn from the survey he has offered?
3) What does the Preacher tell us about his careful cultivation of wisdom over the course of his life (12:9–10)? How has the Preacher sought to pass that wisdom on to others? How is wisdom like a goad (12:11a)? How is wisdom like a nail (12:11b)? From whom does all wisdom come (12:11c)? Why does the Preacher warn us of too much study? How can information overload (especially in our day) keep us from discerning and delighting in true wisdom?
4) Is the Preacher’s concluding exhortation, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man,” an accurate summary of Ecclesiastes? Why or why not? How does this book challenge us to live in a vain world with an eye toward eternity? What have been your key takeaways from the book of Ecclesiastes? What is one error that the Preacher has corrected in your thinking? What is one exhortation from this book that has convicted you?