Useful Bible Studies > Ecclesiastes Commentary > chapter 12

Advice about books

Ecclesiastes 12:11-12

Before the end of his book, the author offers some advice about books in general.

At the time of the earlier part of the Bible, people did not usually buy books. Instead, they copied an old book, and so they made their own book. That was also their method of study and, of course, it was hard work.

Even then, there were many books and they were not all worthwhile for the student to copy. So, the student should choose books that will teach him to be wise. And of course, God’s commands (the Bible) are the best books (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

The author compares wise books to two sharp objects: goads and ‘nails’.

When a farmer ploughed his land, he carried a goad. The goad was a long stick with a sharp point. A pair of strong animals called oxen pulled the plough. If one of them went the wrong way, the farmer would use the goad to control it. The goad could be painful, but the animal soon learned its lesson.

So, wise words are sometimes unpleasant. But they teach us correct behaviour and attitudes when we are doing something wrong.

The ‘nails’ in Ecclesiastes 12:11 are probably pegs. Pegs are the sharp objects that hold a tent in its proper place in the ground. It is necessary to hammer them deep into the ground so that they are firm.

So, wise words are like something that fixes deep into our lives. They are not like popular stories, which have a shallow effect on our emotions. Wisdom affects every part of our lives.

The shepherd here means God (Psalm 23:1). A shepherd is someone who looks after animals. In the same way as a shepherd, God uses wisdom to guide and to direct our lives.

Next part: Respect God and obey his commands (Ecclesiastes 12:13)


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© 2019, Keith Simons.