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Advice to the Young: Life is Short and Then You Die

12 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth—
    before the days of trouble come
and the years draw near when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them!”
Before the sun, the light, the moon, and the stars darken
    and the clouds return after the rain.
When the guards of the house tremble,
    and the men of strength are bent;
the grinders cease because they are few,
    and those looking through the windows see dimly.
When the doors on the street are shut,
    when the sound of the grinding mill is low;
one rises up to the sound of the bird,
    and all the daughters of song are brought low.
They are afraid of heights,
    and terrors are on the road.
The almond tree blossoms,
    and the grasshopper draws itself along, and desire fails
because man goes to his eternal home,
    and the mourners go about in the streets.
Before the silver cord is snapped
    and the golden bowl is broken;
and the jar at the foundation is broken,
    and the wheel at the cistern is broken.
And the dust returns to the earth as it was,
    and the breath returns to God who gave it.

Motto Restated

“Vanity of vanity!” says the Teacher.[a]
    “Everything is vanity!”


The Teacher[b] was full of wisdom, and he taught the people with knowledge. He carefully considered many proverbs and carefully arranged them. 10 The Teacher[c] sought to find delightful words,[d] and he wrote[e] what is upright—truthful words.

11 The words of the wise are like cattle goads; the collections of the sages are like pricks inflicted by one shepherd.[f] 12 My son, be careful about anything beyond these things.[g] For the writing of books is endless, and too much study is wearisome.[h]

13 Now that all has been heard, here is the final conclusion:
    Fear God and obey his commandments,
        for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every secret thing, whether good or evil.


  1. Ecclesiastes 12:8 Hebrew “Qohelet”
  2. Ecclesiastes 12:9 Hebrew “Qohelet”
  3. Ecclesiastes 12:10 Hebrew “Qohelet”
  4. Ecclesiastes 12:10 Hebrew “words of delight”
  5. Ecclesiastes 12:10 The MT reads the term passively, “what is written,” but an alternate textual tradition reads, “and he wrote”
  6. Ecclesiastes 12:11 Or “The owner of collections are given by one shepherd”
  7. Ecclesiastes 12:12 Literally “but from more than them”
  8. Ecclesiastes 12:12 Literally “increases weariness of flesh”