Ecclesiastes 12:1-8—Death, an Impetus for Life -- By: Barry C. Davis

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 148:591 (Jul 1991)
Article: Ecclesiastes 12:1-8—Death, an Impetus for Life
Author: Barry C. Davis


Ecclesiastes 12:1-8—Death, an Impetus for Life

Barry C. Davis

Bible Teacher
Deerfield, Illinois

In the Book of Ecclesiastes the author described his search for the key to the meaning of life. That search, however, became an exercise in futility because the more he sought for the answers to life, the more he discovered that life itself is unfair, that human wisdom is woefully insufficient, and that death continually laughed in his face. Furthermore he realized that of those three barriers—injustice, ignorance, and death—death by far is the most devastating. As Fuerst wrote, “Death is clearly the major problem, which intensifies and exacerbates all others; the spectre of death mocks the brave plans of the living. Man cannot argue with this spectre, and cannot combat it. It will win in the end.”1

Death has a voracious, insatiable appetite. Much like a vicious animal, it silently stalks its prey and then strikes with great fury and often little warning. It tears asunder hopes and dreams, and declares that life itself is “vanity,” “futility,” “meaninglessness,” or “emptiness” (הֶבֶל). Thus death “can make a man hate life, not because he wants to die, but because it renders life so futile.”2

Since death cannot be circumvented, Solomon argued that the

key to life and living is to be found in facing death and dying. Going to a wake will help one become awake to the realities of life (7:2, 4). Perhaps to his surprise, Solomon discovered that the meaning of life can be found only by facing the inevitable reality of death.

Ecclesiastes includes numerous references to death and dying.3 The most thorough treatment on the process and finality of death is in 12:1–8, a passage that graphically depicts the decay of life with its frailty, fear, and ultimately its finality. Before discussing this passage six principles on death and life will be presented.

Principles on the Death-Life Phenomenon

Principle One: All die (2:14–16 ; 3:19–22 ; 9:3 ). There is an inescapable finality to death; “the inclusiveness of the grave [is] universal.”4 Whether human or...

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