Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library

This is one of the explanations of several that have appeared from time to time indicating the interest this important subject has aroused.

The Book of Ecclesiastes has in all ages been ascribed to Solomon. The tradition of the Jews states that he composed this book in his old age, after he had repented of his former vicious practices and had become by sad experience, convinced of the vanity of everything terrestrial, except piety and wisdom.

The acknowledgment of the numerous follies and delusions implies that it was composed after the author had discovered God, and had subsequently repented for his past misconduct. The frequent assertion of the emptiness of earthly greatness, the declaration that human enjoyments are unsatisfactory, the enumeration of gardens, edifices, and possessions, requiring a long life for their completion, the deep condemnation of former pursuits. The expression of satiety and disgust at past pleasures and the tone of cool and philosophical reflection, which pervades the whole, are strikingly characteristic of an advanced period of life.

King David's choice in naming King Solomon as his successor emanated from Divine dictation. Soon after Solomon accession he went to Gibeon and "a thousand burnt offerings did he offer upon that Altar. In Gibeon the Lord appeared to him in a dream by night, saying "Ask what I shall give thee." He replied "Give thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people that I may discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this, thy so great a people?” And God said unto him "Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked riches for thyself, nor asked the life of thy enemies. But hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; behold I have done according to thy word; Lo, I have given thee a wise and understanding heart; so there was none like thee before thee neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. “ And in the process of time we are told in the Sacred Volume "God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.

And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the East country and all the wisdom of Egypt.” From this it appears that among the Hebrews as well as among the Greeks, the Egyptians were justly famous for their wisdom- that is their knowledge of art and in science. Egypt was deemed the fountain of arts and sciences and philosophers were wont to thither to fertilize their minds with the dew of Egyptian wisdom. Among these are Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Herodotus, Plato and others.

Solomon enjoyed a profound peace throughout his dominions. "Judah and Israel dwelt safely every man under his vine and under his fig tree" and his neighbours either paid him tribute or were his allies. He ruled over all the countries from the Euphrates to the Nile. He exceeded the Orientals and the Egyptians in wisdom and prudence; and his reputation as the wisest of mankind spread through all nations.” He extended the commerce of his country and imported largely of foreign commerce.

He fitted out a fleet at Ezion-geber and at Elath on the Red Sea, and in conjunction' with Hiram of Tyre, who furnished him with mariners, traded to Ophir for ivory, ebony, precious woods, peacocks etc. All this peace and prosperity was the result of Solomon's judicious government.

That he was the wisest man of all times must; be allowed. We have the warrant for this, in God's promise made to him in his dream at Gibeon; and we must remember that his wisdom was a supernatural gift from Jehovah whereas all other men have been obliged to acquire knowledge by the slow and difficult processes of study and experience. While Solomon was at the height of his prosperity he received a visit from the Queen of Sheba or Saba, in Ethiopia. Who had heard of his wisdom and came to prove it with difficult questions; to which Solomon gave such answers that she confessed that half of his wisdom had not been told her.

But alas! Prosperity was at length too much for even Solomon: among his magnificent establishments he had a large harem, composed in direct opposition to the Divine command of women from the idolatrous nations of Canaan, who seduced him into idolatry. Hence pleasure became the great object of his pursuit; but as the cup of which he drank was not prepared for him by Divine hand, the result was disappointment, pain and misery. God threatened to divide his kingdom after his death and during his lifetime there were signs of the coming calamity in the rebellions of Hadad, Rezon, and Jeroboam. This threat of the Most High had the effect of recovering from his idolatry, and he has recorded his confession of the vanity of worldly wisdom, riches and honours,

Beside the records in the Sacred historical books, we have the testimony in the same Holy Volume of the wisdom of this great monarch, as displayed in the books that bear his name, PROVERBS and ECCLESIASTES.

The general opinion of the design and scope of the Book of Ecclesiastes regards it as an inquiry into the chief good. The inquiry after the chief good, THE SUMMUM BONUM was much practised by the old pagan philosophers; but it is ever to be remembered that they only sought to know in what lay the prime happiness of the present life. Whereas the sovereign good, as understood by the preacher- is that which is ultimately good; that which; in all its bearings and relations is conducive to the best interests of man. This is the object of the preacher’s inquiry; and after discussing various erroneous opinions, he finally determines that it consists in TRUE WISDOM. The scope of the whole argument therefore is, the praise and recommendation of wisdom, as the supreme good to creatures responsible for their actions. But in this wisdom there is nothing worldly or carnal; it is the wisdom from above- holy – spiritual, and undefiled - and which, in the writings of Solomon, is but another name for religion.

 

 

 

 

THE CROWNING PORTION OF THE B00K OF ECCLESIASTES IS THE TWELFTH CHAPTER, WHICH AFTER ADMONISHING HIS READER "REMEMBER NOW THY CREATOR IN THE DAYS OF THY Y0UTH''. Gives a highly figurative and poetical representation of old age, in which the various infirmities and imbecility’s of that period of life are portrayed in a great variety of images in themselves unconnected, yet mutually tending to identify their prototype.

In this allegory, which is contained in the first seven verses, Solomon, after the manner of the Oriental philosophers meant to put to trial the acuteness of his readers. It has, on this account, afforded much exercise to the ingenuity of the learned, and it has consequently had many different interpretations, As this celebrated passage is introduced in the ceremonial of the symbolic degrees, the following elucidation should prove most interesting and instructive.

"Remember now thy Creator in the day of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. While, the sun, or the noon or the stars be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain.”

This figurative beginning, intended as a general statement of the pains and miseries of age, serves as an introduction to the more specific details which follow. Remarking that as clouds and rain do not appear during the summer in Judea, We may understand this image to be taken from the winter season, denoting the succession of pains and infirmities which so often attend the winter of life.

"In the days when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves.”

By "The keepers of the house" the arms and hands are intended as being to the body, what guards and keepers are to a palace. Or rather, perhaps, they are so called as providing for the sustenance of the house or body; how they tremble in old age is well known. “The strong men bow themselves", may allude to the lower limbs, which bow and totter beneath the aged.

“And the grinders cease because they are few and those that look out of the windows shall be darkened.”

The allusion to the “grinders" is derived from the Eastern custom of females who daily grind the corn required, and thus denote the “teeth”, which masticate and grind down the food for the stomach. The “Eyes”, which become dim or darkened, are indicated by the windows.

"And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the_sound is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low

In consequence of the loss of the teeth, the act of eating is usually performed by aged persons with closed lips; and then also, the gums with their smoothed surfaces are obliged to perform the office of the teeth. Masticating the food with slow and silent labour, which is probably what the Preacher meant by the low sound of the grinding. The word rendered "Bird" (Tzippon) denotes a sparrow or any small bird and thence we shall then have the sense that the aged sleep so unsoundly that the twittering of the smallest birds will suffice to rouse them. When the aged Barzillai (2.Sam.xix.35.) was invited by David to accompany him to Jerusalem, he replied, "I am this day four-score years old..,can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Can I hear any more the voice of singing men or singing women?" He here describes deafness as one of the infirmities of age; but it may allude also to the decay of the organs employed in the production and enjoyment of music.

"And when they shall be afraid of that which is high: and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burdon, and desire shall fail; because man goeth to his long home. And the mourners go about the streets.”

The elucidation of this passage is apparent; it alludes to the difficulty which the aged experience in ascending high places, as well as to the timidity which the consciousness of their infirm condition leads them to exhibit, when they venture to walk out in the public ways, and which, in the narrow streets of the East, is necessarily more marked than with us. The Almond Tree having white blossoms, refers to the white hair of aged persons. By the word rendered "grasshopper" a species of locust is alluded to; the dry, shrunk, crumbling, scraggy old man- his backbone sticking out, his knees projecting forward, his arms backward, his head downward, and the bunching parts of the bones, in general enlarged - is very aptly described by that insect. And from this very likeness, undoubtedly, arose the fable of Tithonus, that, having lived to an extreme old age, he was turned into a grasshopper.

This idea was familiar to the classical ancients, for we find engraved gems in which an emaciated old man is represented by a locust walking erect on its hind legs, and in which all the characteristics enumerated above are brought out with truly singular effect. All that proceeds refers to the decay of man. We now reach another class of circumstances descriptive of what attends and denotes death itself. "Man going to his long home", and "the mourners going about the streets", requires no explanation.

"Or ever the sliver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return to God who gave it."

The Silver Cord signifies that resplendent white cord "The spinal marrow" which passes through the entire length of the backbone. It is very liable to be relaxed and weakened in old age, or a part thereof together broken in its functions, producing the various paralytic complaints, the tremors and debilities to which the aged are so frequently subject.

By the Golden Bowl is understood the skull, and the epithet Golden we conclude to be a term of excellence, denoting the importance of the skull and its valuable contents.

The Pitcher denotes the large canals which issue from the heart, and receive the blood therefrom as from a fountain, the Fountain is the Right Ventricle of the heart, and the Cistern, the Left Ventricle.

The Wheel is the Aorta, the great vessel from which all the arteries of the body, which carry red blood, derive their origin.

THE PREACHER THUS SUMS UP HIS COURSE:

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His Commandments: For this is the whole duty of man."

This we must acknowledge to be a truly Masonic Charge, and hence, deserves especial notice,

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge; nor wisdom, in the empire of shadows where thou goest."