ECCLESIASTES CHAPTER 10.
The Course of Wisdom.
IN THE MIDST OF PRESUMPTION AND ARROGANCE. — V. 1. Dead flies, literally, “flies of death,” that is, such as fall into a mixture and, in decomposing, taint it with their rottenness, cause the ointment of the apothecary to mend forth a stinking savor, so that its value is lost; so doth a little folly, even a small show of sinful weakness, him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor, the one weakness spoils everything. V. 2. A wise man’s heart is at his right hand, that is, he uses his understanding in the proper, expert way; but a fool’s heart at his left, lacking wisdom, he bungles everything that he undertakes. V. 3. Yea, also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, tending to the ordinary business of life, his wisdom faileth him, he gives abundant proof of his stupidity and folly, and he saith to every one, by his every word and act, that he is a fool. V. 4. If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, in an angry outburst, leave not thy place, that is, forget not thy position as subject, remember always that it is a ruler with whom thou dealest, control thy temper; for yielding pacifieth great offenses, it prevents transgressions which otherwise might result. V. 5. There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler, a mistake often made by people possessing authority: v. 6. Folly is set in great dignity, foolish and incompetent persons are given posts of honor and authority, and the rich, not the foolishly wealthy, but the noble, distinguished, and wise, sit in low place, they are deprived of their rightful positions of authority and honor. V. 7. I have seen servants, men whose station in life was among the lowly, upon horses, like mighty lords, and princes, men qualified for the highest positions, walking as servants upon the earth, as a result of some foolish ruler’s caprice. V. 8. He that diggeth a pit, indulging in dangerous work, shall fail into it, that is, he who courts danger must expect it to strike him; and whoso breaketh an hedge, or a stone fence, in whose crevices reptiles make their homes, a serpent shall bite him. It is a matter of record that the one who tries to injure his neighbor is often seriously hurt by the very injury which he intended for his neighbor. V. 9. Whoso removeth stones, either in tearing down an old building or in working in a stony field, in a dangerous occupation, shall be hurt therewith, he must expect injuries of this kind; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby, since the ax-head may strike him. V. 10. If the iron be blunt, the wood-chopper having neglected to tend to it in time, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength, for splitting wood with a dull ax requires greater exertion; but wisdom is profitable to direct, namely, to a successful issue. If a person wants to force matters by main strength, he will probably do so to his own harm; but if he uses proper discrimination, he will succeed without difficulty.
IN THE MIDST OF FOOLISH TALKING AND SLOTHFULNESS. — V. 11. Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment, that is, unless it is kept under enchantment by music or the sound of the voice properly modulated; and a babbler is no better. As one may escape the sting of the serpent by the application of charms, so he may avoid the harm of defamation by wise discretion. V. 12. The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious, full of pleasant graciousness and therefore always most welcome; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself, he will injure himself by his foolish talk, Prov. 10, 8. 14, 21. 32; 15, 2. V. 13. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, as soon as he opens his mouth, it is with silly twaddle; and the end of his talk is mischievous madness, it works injury not only to himself, but mischief also to others. V. 14. A fool also is full of words, he is talkative with empty loquacity; a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him? And yet a fool will usually have most to say about future events, of what he intends to do and accomplish. V. 15. The labor of the foolish wearleth every one of them, the slightest exertion is too much for his lazy bones, because he knoweth not how to go to the city; he does not know the road straight ahead of him, he is ignorant of the simplest matters of every-day life. V. 16. Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, lacking mature judgment and discretion, a thoughtless fool, and thy princes eat in the morning, in excessive gluttony and feasting at the time when they should be dispensing justice. V. 17. Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, not so much by birth, as by wisdom and virtue, and thy princes eat in due season, at the proper time and in the proper way, for strength and not for drunkenness, in intemperate feasting, whereby the mind is blunted and the body corrupted. V. 18. By much slothfulness, due to the owner’s idleness, the building decayeth, no repairs being made, and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through, the roof leaking and the rain penetrating to the interior of the house. V. 19. A feast is made for laughter, for foolish rioting, and wine maketh merry, the foolish rulers engaged therein neglecting the building of the government; but money answereth all things, that is, the reveling rulers believe that money will buy anything and cover up the criminality of their behavior. V. 20. Curse not the king, no, not in thy thought, in the innermost consciousness, the danger being that this state of mind will be revealed, and curse not the rich in thy bed-chamber, in the foolish hope that it will not become known; for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter, that is, the betrayal will be brought about in ways which are almost past understanding, whence it follows that strict prudence must govern the conduct of him who is truly wise. The believer who observes the Eighth Commandment will guard against every form of evil, even in thoughts, not for fear of earthly punishment, but for love of God.