Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. Eccl 10:1
We have all made foolish mistakes in life; some have been more costly than others. Recently our state’s governor, Chris Christie was involved in the rather foolish scandal involving a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, in an alleged political pay-back to the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing his candidacy. Whether Christie himself was involved cannot be proven, but oddly enough the scandal could very well have cost him the presidency of the United States. In this section of the book of Ecclesiastes, Qoheleth displays the great cost of a little folly while teaching us the value of a course of wisdom as we live life under the sun.
Much like Solomon’s words in the book of Proverbs, the thoughts in this section of Ecclesiastes are somewhat scattered and diverse; however, we do find a repetition of the topics of: rulers, speech, wisdom and folly. When we find repeated subjects such as these, it helps us to determine the overall theme of a passage. While indeed, this passage takes on a more “proverbs-like” feel in the diversity of its verses, I believe the verses are united by the theme of wisdom.
The entire book of Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s application of wisdom to search out the meaning of life under the sun (1:13). Of all men who ever lived, Solomon was given wisdom which surpassed all who were over Jerusalem before him (1:16, 2:9); yet even the application of such great wisdom left the Preacher without answers concerning the things of God; as he explains in Ecclesiastes 8:16-17: When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, … then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.
Although the wisest of men may never fully understand the ways of God, nevertheless, wisdom is important to living life under the sun; and this text, as so many in Ecclesiastes, continues to deal mainly with just that, our earthly existence. It is significant that in these 26 verses, God is not mentioned once. But there is human value to using wisdom navigate our way through life in this dangerous world.
Read the text beginning in Ecclesiastes 9:13 through the end of chapter 10. Take note of each reference to wisdom and the earthly benefits associated with its application. Pray that God would make you wise, for it is an essential quality to life under the sun.