Thursday, February 12, 2009

"End of life" metaphors

Or ever the silver 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 unto God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:6-7

In wealthy homes lamps were traditionally made of gold and suspended by silver chains. Just as those today who can't afford diamonds will wear rhinestones, so in those days those who could not afford such luxuries would use lamps of base metal or pottery, paint them yellow, and suspend them from silver-colored cords. Light and water were Hebrew symbols of life. The loosened "silver" cord or the breaking and spilling of the "golden bowl" (the lamp) is a metaphor of death. Likewise, death is denoted by not being able to get water because the pitcher or the cistern-wheel is broken.

1 comment:

  1. Those who have experienced a near-death or out of body (OBE) experience quite often note that there is a real connection, a silver cord, which connects the physical body and the spiritual body. As we are all vessels of the Lord, "Golden Bowls" if you will, our lives come to an end when that silver cord is finally severed.

    Or as one Christian organization put it:

    Verse 6 appears to use two metaphors to speak of death. The first is of a silver chord and a golden bowl — most likely the bowl was used as an oil light, suspended by a chord. Dying is compared to the breaking of this chord and the crashing of the bowl down to the ground, whereupon it shatters and its light is extinguished. Second, death is compared to a pitcher used to draw water at a well. Death is like the breaking of this pitcher and the pulley which was used to let it down. No more water can be drawn; death has conquered.

    It is interesting that both of these images, the symbols of water and light, are used elsewhere in the scriptures as metaphors for life. The consequence of this termination of life is the decaying process by which the dust returns to the earth. The spirit, in a reversal of Genesis 2, "returns unto God who gave it." This is what death is all about: the shattering of all man’s hope, and the cessation of everything that he was and stood for. (see: )