Dark Hair and Foolishness go Hand in Hand

“Rejoice, young man, in your youth and let your heart please you in the days of your youth. Walk in the way of your heart and by the sight of your eyes. Know that God comes to you with judgment in all these things. Turn aside from the vexation in your heart for youth and dark hair are vanity.”

(Ecclesiastes 11:9-10)

“Youth and dark hair”? Literally the Hebrew word toward the end of verse 10 is שַׁחֲרוּת (shacharuth) means “blackness.” Yet, in Hebrew, it is a figure of speech that refers to the dark, black hair of someone at the prime of their youth — before the grey streaks begin to show up. Of course, in the Hebrew culture, Grey hair is a crown of glory gained by a righteous life (Proverbs 16:31), so again, you have a contrast between the wisdom of the old and the folly of the youth. Our various English translations tend to render this idiom in a variety of ways, but in each case, the idea that Solomon is talking about the vanity of youth is meant to be conveyed.

So, what is Solomon saying? There is a tongue-in-cheek tone to these words. He (almost sarcastically) says, “go and enjoy the foolishness of your youth because God will judge you for it.” We might expect him to say, “No young man, turn back from those things,” and this is something that he has already said. Yet, as he wraps up the book he begins driving the point home and saying, “If you insist on this foolishness, in spite of what I told you, go do it, but then you will face the judgment of God.”

How often God permits us to do some things that are unwise. They may be wastes of time, money, energy, or resources, but God does not bring us into direct judgment for them. Indeed, we will have to answer to God, though, for our folly in the time of judgment. In the end, those foolish things we do are vanity — empty. So, does that mean we ought to never do frivolous things in our youth? The reality is, that won’t happen. We are sinners and we have not yet grown to maturity to understand what we ought an ought not do. The sad thing is when old men with the grey hair of age live in the folly of youth rather in the maturity of their peers.

In the end, though, the call upon is to learn to turn away from those things that vex and antagonize our hearts — don’t run into situations in a fit of anger and don’t rush to attack everything with which you disagree around you. Pick and choose your battles and grow in the wisdom that suits the grey hairs forming on your head.

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