So much one could comment on in these chapters. They are the most poetic in the book.
5 As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed[ in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.
This is a theme throughout Ecclesiastes. We must never try to peer into the mind of God and assume we can know the reasons and wherefores for why things happen. And such speculation is not only unhelpful, it is presumptuous and leads to us judging God by our benighted standards. The limits of our knowledge call for humility, and trust.
8 However many years a man may live,
let him enjoy them all.
But let him remember the days of darkness,
for there will be many.
Everything to come is meaningless.
9 Be happy young man, while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
God will bring you to judgment.
10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart
and cast off the troubles of your body,
for youth and vigor are meaningless.
Youth, the most celebrated thing in modern culture, next to sex that is, is also meaningless. The young and arrogant think they are invincible, but what is to come, i.e. age and death, makes such arrogance laughable. In the first part of chapter 12 Solomon enjoins the young to “remember your Creator,” before it’s all gone in a mist. I love how he conveys through such beautiful poetry how time and decrepitude happen to all:
Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
2 before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain;
3 when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
and those looking through the windows grow dim;
4 when the doors to the street are closed
and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
but all their songs grow faint;
5 when people are afraid of heights
and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
and the grasshopper drags itself along
and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
and mourners go about the streets.
6 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,
7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Just beautiful. Of course he declares it all meaningless. What are we to conclude from all this mess? Fear God and keep his commands because “this is the whole duty of man,” and every deed will be brought into judgment. Nothing else matters because all is vanity because all is fleeting. We are a mist that bustles to and fro, and for what? In the end that comes so quickly, we are laid in a box six feet underground. If it’s not all about God, it’s all about nothing.