Eccl. 9: 12. “For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.”
This is quite a picture that Solomon paints. Think of all those fish swimming in the ocean, unaware of the net that is waiting for them. Fish, they say, have very short attention spans. Your goldfish can pay attention for around 9 seconds. So once it reaches the far end of the aquarium, it has no memory of where it started, Around and around it goes. Just an interesting note here: Studies are showing that normal human adults have an attention span, these days, of about eight seconds, largely due to the rapidly moving digital age in which our eyes are caught. Did you ever wonder why advertisements flash on and off so quickly? That’s why. We can’t pay attention very long. I remember when a typical ad took several minutes, and the only visual was of someone holding the product while the voiceover extolled its virtues. All in black and white.
Anyway. Back to the fish. They have no sense of the brevity of life, because they simply can’t pay attention long enough to say, “Hey, guys! There’s a big old net over here! Turn around and go the other way!” And BAM! Their lives are over.
Same for birds. There’s a reason we say that folks who can’t pay attention to the world around them are birdbrains. When we lived in central Minnesota, we had a large picture window looking into our back yard. Lots of woods. And lots of dumb birds who smacked into that window time after time, knocking themselves loopy. We finally taped up the black silhouette of a large hawk on the window, and the smaller birds began avoiding it.
Just as the fish and the birds get caught in nets and snares, their lives ending in a moment, so it can happen to us. We can be caught in an evil time before we know it, and our lives are never the same.
What is an evil time?
Think of 1930’s Germany, still suffering from the effects of the Versailles Treaty, electing Adolph Hitler to rescue them from financial depression. To accomplish his purpose, he blamed the “greedy” Jews and began to systematically remove them first from their homes, and then into the death camps. That was an evil time. Unexpected, nearly impossible for the extremely poor to escape. Many of them didn’t really believe the stories they heard, and were caught up in the evil before they knew it. What is shocking to me is that so many people today still deny the Holocaust in spite of mountains of evidence to the contrary.
We humans often see only what we want to see, denying any other possibility. Like fish. Like birdbrains.