The Silver Cord

The Silver Cord

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.”(Ecclesiastes 12:6 KJV)

     Years ago, I heard an evangelist discuss being attacked in the night by a witch.  The witch was having an out of body experience and she appeared in his hotel room at night to strangle him.  When he awoke, he prayed and the Holy Spirit told him to tell her that he would, “cut the silver cord if she didn’t leave immediately.”  She left.  When he began looking for some biblical support for what had just happened to him, he stumbled across the above-quoted passage.  Let’s look at the Hebrew of the Masoretic text and the Greek of the Septuagint to determine if this interpretation is indeed plausible.

      First, the Hebrew text reads, “hebel haceseph” which is roughly translated, “cord the silver.”  What is interesting about the word for cord is that it is a derivative of the word, “to bind.”  The idea here is that when strands are bound together, they become a cord or a rope.  Sometimes it is translated as “snares” as in Psalm 116:3:  “The snares of death encompassed me.” (ESV)  In the present context, the silver cord seems to mean “that which binds the soul or the inner man, to the physical body of a man.  When this cord is cut, “the spirit will return unto God” (Ecclesiastes 12:7) As the Keil and Delitzsch commentary notes, “…the third brings to view the dissolution of the life of the body, by which the separation of the soul and the body, and return of both to their original condition is completed. Ere the silver cord is loosed, and the golden bowl is shattered, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel is shattered in the well, and the dust returns to the earth as that which it was, the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (1)  Hence, it would seem that the silver cord is what binds the spirit man to the natural man.

      The Greek of the Septuagint affords a similar interpretation.  It reads, “anatraph to scoinion tou arguriou.”   Which is roughly translated, “destroyed is the cord of silver.”  The Greek word used for cord here, “scoinion” which is used in the New Testament.  In John 2:16 when Jesus fashions a whip of cords, this is the Greek word that is used.  Consequently, the same idea of “that which is bound” is presented here in the Greek text.

   Solomon may also be using a Near Eastern household commodity as an allegorical representative of a spiritual truth in light of the context.  “The extinction of consciousness is figuratively represented by the golden lamp, which is hung up by a sliver cord in the midst of a house or tent, and now, since the cord which hold it is broken, it falls down and is shattered to pieces, so that there is at once deep darkness; the destruction of the bodily organism, by a fountain, at which the essential parts of it s machinery, the pitcher and windlass, are broken and rendered forever useless.” (2)

      In conclusion, we can see both from the linguistic text and the context of the verse, that Solomon was using a physical example to represent a spiritual reality.  There is something that binds the spirit man to the physical man.  When that bond is severed, both return to their original states.  They simply cannot exist with each other.  God has created us to be His “image-bearers” in the physical realm.  He has created us with a spirit man that communes with Him.  The purpose of this endeavor is for us to be here in the physical realm all that He is in the spiritual realm.  The bond that holds this union between physical and spiritual is “the silver cord.”


 1.   Keil, C.F., Delitzsch, F. “Commentary On The Old Testament” Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Mass. 2006, volume 6, page 800.

 2. Ibid page 802.