Folly, Ecc 10:1-15

In Ecc 10:1-15, Solomon elaborates on his wise understanding of folly.

Folly in Reputation, v.1

Practically speaking, this is true.  The ointment of the apothecary can have a sweet smell, as in Ex 30:34-35.  But if a few flies die in the confection, the savor is going to stink with the smell of dead flies.

Likewise, if a person is in reputation for wisdom and honor, then it only takes a little folly for his reputation to be tainted by his foolishness.  Joshua is a good example in Jos 7:6-10.  So is David in 2 Sam 11.

Folly in Heart, v.2

The heart is located in the center and left of the chest.  It’s not on the right hand.  But Solomon is no speaking anatomically.  The right hand is the place of power, prominence, honor, and oath.  Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim, Gen 48:18. Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power, Ex 15:6.  From his right hand went a fiery law, Deut 33:2.  She (Bathsheba) sat on Solomon’s right hand, 1 Ki 2:19.  Because he (the LORD) is at my right hand, I shall not be moved, Ps 16:8.  The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool, Ps 110:1.  The Lord hath sworn by his right hand, Is 62:8.  He shall set the sheep on his right hand, Matt 25:33.  The Lord… sat on the right hand of God, Mk 16:19.

So, a wise man recognizes the importance of his heart and thus he gives his heart prominence.  Prov 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.  There are 82 references to the heart in Proverbs, alone.  Prov 23:26 My son, give me thine heart.  Prov 2:2 apply thine heart to understanding.  Prov 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart.

A fool, on the other hand, esteems his heart of little worth by contrast.  Prov 18:2 A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.  Prov 28:26 He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.  Prov 10:20 The heart of the wicked is little worth.

Folly in Actions, v.3

According to this verse, you can tell a fool just by watching him.  His wisdom will fail him when he walks by the way, and everyone will know he’s a fool.  Nabal is a perfect example, 1 Sam 25:10-17, 25.

Folly in Resistance, v.4

Yielding pacifieth great offenses.  Shimei could have lived out his full life if he had believed and obeyed this verse, 1 Ki 2:36-46.

Folly in Management, v.5-7

The error is attributed to the ruler.  He promotes the wrong man.  Folly is set in great dignity.  One of the best cases in the Bible is Haman in Esther.  Had Haman not been exposed for his decree against the Jews before Purim, the outcome of that day would have been far different than it was.  The king profited greatly when Mordecai replaced Haman.  Haman, on the other hand, with his foolish decree, could have caused the downfall of Ahasuerus’s kingdom.

Note: God was not in error when he promoted Pharaoh to great dignity and left Moses on the back side of the desert.  This was by design, Rom 9:17, and resulted in the destruction of Egypt and the glory to God.

Servants upon horses and princes walking. See Prov 19:10.  The trouble is that the ruler promotes a person with the qualities of a servant to the position of a prince.  And he leaves someone who has the aptitude of a prince in the position of a servant.  Solomon said, “I have seen” this.  For us, the lesson is significant.  Be careful in management to put the right people in charge.

Folly in Labour, v.8-10

A pit, Prov 26:27.  Spiritually Prov 28:10, Ps 7:15.  Practically, cover the pit or put a fence around it, or else you’re liable to fall in.  Metaphorically, if you dig a pit for someone else, you’ll fall into your own pit, in time.  The Pharisees did.  The devil will.

A hedge.  Practically, you have to be careful with what’s living in the hedge when you start chopping it down.  Metaphorically, the hedge is protection against evil beasts, as around a vineyard.  If you take down the hedge of protection, like Job had, the devil, that old Serpent, can get you.

Stones and wood.  Practically, this kind of manual labor results in injuries, Num 35:22-23, Deut 19:5.  It’s the nature of this work.  So, be especially careful when doing this work.

Blunt iron.  Abe Lincoln is reputed to have said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax”.  Whether he did or not, the adage is wise.  The duller the ax, the more strength is required to use it.  Thus, wisdom is profitable to direct.  My trouble was always trying to accomplish tasks without the right tools.  Start with the right tools and the task will be easier.

Folly in Words, v.11-14

The serpent and the babbler.  A babbler is like a serpent that hasn’t been enchanted.  He can hurt you with his words.  Best not to hang around either of these.

Ecc 10:12-14 the fool.  His lips will swallow up himself, Prov 18:7.  Best to stay quiet, Prov 17:28.  His words will come back to bite him.  The beginning is foolishness and the end is mischievous madness.  The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God, Ps 14:1. Fools make a mock at sin, Prov 14:9, Gal 6:7-8.  This is madness.

Full of words, multitude of words, Ecc 5:3.  A man cannot tell what shall be.  True. Yet fools spend hours talking about what is going to happen in elections, economics, sports, etc.  The talk of the lips tendeth only to penury, Prov 14:23.  And what shall be after him, who can tell him?  Ecc 3:22, 6:12.  No one.

Folly of the Foolish, v.15

The labour of the foolish wearieth everyone of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.  It’s not that only fools get weary in labour.  Be not weary in well doing.  Jesus sat on the well because he was wearied with his journey, Jn 4:6.  Much study is a weariness of the flesh, Ecc 12:12.

Also, it’s not that every one that’s foolish is ignorant of the directions to the city.  Many of them know the way to the city.  And they may even go to the city.  But they leave there as foolish as when they arrived.  They don’t learn anything while there.

The labour of the foolish wearieth them, because they don’t know how to go to the city to get the wisdom they need to be wise in their labour.  In the city, the foolish can find wisdom, Prov 8:1-5, 34; 9:3-6, 9; 1:20-25.  With the wisdom available from others in the city, the fool could learn how to labour wisely.  But Prov 24:7, he doesn’t even know what questions to ask.

Note that it’s possible to pick up some good country wisdom outside the city.  But there’s more to know than country wisdom to be wise.  Forrest Pritchard, the author of Gaining Ground, picked up a lot of wisdom and turned the family farm into a profitable business.  He got some of that wisdom in the city.

To study the prior lesson, see Time, Chance, and Wisdom. To study the next lesson, see Practical Wisdom.