-The conclusions from observing the reality of life continue in this thought provoking chapter. Dead flies stink up perfumer’s oil, or ointment. In the same way, a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor. A wise man’s heart takes him to the right (biblical symbol for righteousness, John 21:6, Matthew 25:31-40), while the foolish man’s heart takes him to the left (biblical symbol for wickedness, Matthew 25:41-46). A fool can be spotted easily enough even when he/she is walking along the road. Their sense is lacking and their demonstrations prove they are foolish. I have seen this many times as I drive along, especially in urban settings. When a person in authority has their temper rise against us, we should not abandon our position. We should be confident, but composed. Composure, the Holy Spirit tells us through Solomon, allays (nuwach- settles, calms, quiets, reduces in intensity or severity, alleviates) great offenses. There is more evil that the Preacher has seen under the sun, like an error that goes forth from a ruler. That error of evil is folly finding itself in many exalted places, while rich men (I take this to mean rich in wisdom) can find themselves in humble places. Solomon had seen slaves riding on horses and princes walking like slaves on the land. Extenuating circumstances made good people suffer hardships too often in this fallen planet. Wisdom continues as the king relates how one who digs a pit could actually fall into it themselves (Psalm 9:15; 57:6, Proverbs 26:27), and a person breaking through a wall may actually get snake bit. One who quarries stones can be hurt by them if they were to fall on them. And, the one who splits logs can also be endangered due to the laws of gravity. “If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.” The proverbial sayings go on to relate how wisdom, although valuable in dangerous and difficult tasks (like charming a snake), can lose its value with poor timing (Ecclesiastes 10:1-11).
-Words become the theme once more as the chapter concludes. Graciousness is indicative of a wise people’s words, while the lips of fools tend to consume them. Solomon says, “The beginning of talking is folly and the end of it is wicked madness.” Too much talk leads to much trouble in our world when people aren’t controlled by the Holy Spirit’s grace and kindness. Yet, the fool multiplies words, and the future becomes more and more uncertain with less and less predictability. The work of a fool so wearies him/her, that he/she will not even know how to go to a city. They get lost in other words. Woe is pronounced on lands where the king is young, inexperienced, foolish, and feasts (partying and drinking alluded to here) at inappropriate times. Blessing is pronounced though on lands where the king is noble, and where princes eat at the appropriate time for strength and not for drunkenness. This is wisdom. “Through indolence (`atslah- sluggishness, laziness, slothfulness) the rafters sag, and through slackness (shiphluwth-idleness, inactivity, remissness of the hands) the house leaks.” Temporal-worldly thinking arises again as Solomon breaks out with some realism, “Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry, and money is the answer to everything.” The New English Bible translation renders this verse, “The table has its pleasures, and wine makes a cheerful life; and money is behind it all (Ecclesiastes 10:19).” Worldly thinking typically concludes that money can meet all the demands and makes everything kosher. Then, the Preacher returns to the mouth theme by reminding us that even in the secret-private places, like our bedchamber or sleeping room, we still should not curse a king, or one in authority. A bird of the heavens will carry the sound of our hatred, complaining, irritations, and possibly gossip to make our defiling matter known before people of influence and power (Ecclesiastes 10:12-20).
-*Application* Whether we are in authority or under authority, we desperately need these words of wisdom to conduct our lives in an honorable, peaceful, and practical manner. Composure is key to handling any kind of conflict or opposition. We must keep our cool and not over react in worldly anger (James 1:20). This will defuse our enemies and create an opportunity to speak the life of Christ Jesus into the situation. We must always use our words wisely and under the LORD’s commands to build up and not tear down (Ephesians 4:29).
-*Application* Referring to the knowledge in Ecclesiastes 10:10, this old axe story is a good one. One day there was a contest between two woodsmen in chopping down trees. One began ferociously swinging and hit the wood with more and more and more force without stopping. We wore himself out with effort as he observed his opponent taking breaks and leaving the scene of the contest with his axe in hand. As the time wore on though, the man who was taking all the breaks was actually cutting down more trees and eventually won the contest. When asked how he did this taking so many perceived breaks in the action, he rationally explained to them that he wasn’t taking breaks; he was sharpening his axe for deeper, more precise cuts into the wood. Work smarter, not harder.
Verses to Memorize: Ecclesiastes 10:4, 10, 18