Ecclesiastes 10

1 Just as dead flies make perfumed oil stink, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
2 A wise man's heart leads him rightly, but a fool's heart leads him astray;
3 and when a fool travels, he has no good sense, thus showing everyone that he is a fool.
4 If a ruler gets angry at you, stay at your post, because calmness soothes great offenses.
5 Another evil I have seen under the sun, the kind of mistake rulers make, is that
6 fools are promoted to high positions, while the rich occupy humble places.
7 I have seen servants riding horses, while princes walk on foot like slaves.
8 He who digs a pit may fall into it; he who breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.
9 He who quarries stones may get hurt by them, he who chops wood puts himself in danger.
10 If the [hatchet's] iron [blade] is blunt, and [its user] doesn't sharpen it, he will have to exert more effort; but the expert has the advantage of his skill.
11 If a snake bites before it is charmed, the snake-charmer has no advantage.
12 The words spoken by the wise bring them favor, but the lips of a fool swallow him up.
13 What he says starts with foolishness and ends with wicked madness.
14 A fool keeps talking and talking, yet no one knows what the future will bring -can anyone tell a person what will happen after he's gone?
15 The efforts of a fool wear him out; he doesn't even know the way to town!
16 Woe to you, land, when your king is a child, and your leaders start their parties in the morning!
17 Happy are you, land, when your king is well-born, and your princes eat at the proper time, in order to stay strong, not to get drunk!
18 When the owner is lazy, the roof sags; when hands are idle, the house leaks.
19 Parties are made for having a good time, wine adds cheer to life, and money has an answer for everything.
20 Don't insult the king, not even in your thoughts; and don't insult the wealthy, not even in your bedroom; for a bird in the air might carry the news, a creature with wings might repeat what you said.

Ecclesiastes 10 Commentary

Chapter 10

To preserve a character for wisdom. (1-3) Respecting subjects and rulers. (4-10) Of foolish talk. (11-15) Duties of rulers and subjects. (16-20)

Verses 1-3 Those especially who make a profession of religion, should keep from all appearances of evil. A wise man has great advantage over a fool, who is always at a loss when he has anything to do. Sin is the reproach of sinners, wherever they go, and shows their folly.

Verses 4-10 Solomon appears to caution men not to seek redress in a hasty manner, nor to yield to pride and revenge. Do not, in a passion, quit thy post of duty; wait awhile, and thou wilt find that yielding pacifies great offences. Men are not preferred according to their merit. And those are often most forward to offer help, who are least aware of the difficulties, or the consequences. The same remark is applied to the church, or the body of Christ, that all the members should have the same care one for another.

Verses 11-15 There is a practice in the East, of charming serpents by music. The babbler's tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison; and contradiction only makes it the more violent. We must find the way to keep him gentle. But by rash, unprincipled, or slanderous talk, he brings open or secret vengeance upon himself. Would we duly consider our own ignorance as to future events, it would cut off many idle words which we foolishly multiply. Fools toil a great deal to no purpose. They do not understand the plainest things, such as the entrance into a great city. But it is the excellency of the way to the heavenly city, that it is a high-way, in which the simplest wayfaring men shall not err, ( Isaiah 25:8 ) . But sinful folly makes men miss that only way to happiness.

Verses 16-20 The happiness of a land depends on the character of its rulers. The people cannot be happy when their princes are childish, and lovers of pleasure. Slothfulness is of ill consequence both to private and public affairs. Money, of itself, will neither feed nor clothe, though it answers the occasions of this present life, as what is to be had, may generally be had for money. But the soul, as it is not redeemed, so it is not maintained with corruptible things, as silver and gold. God sees what men do, and hears what they say in secret; and, when he pleases, brings it to light by strange and unsuspected ways. If there be hazard in secret thoughts and whispers against earthly rulers, what must be the peril from every deed, word, or thought of rebellion against the King of kings, and Lord of lords! He seeth in secret. His ear is ever open. Sinner! curse not THIS KING in thy inmost thought. Your curses cannot affect Him; but his curse, coming down upon you, will sink you to the lowest hell.

Chapter Summary


This chapter treats of the difference between wisdom and folly; and of the preferableness of the one, to the other, especially in civil government: folly is compared to a dead or deadly fly; a little of which as much hurts a wise man's reputation, as that does the most precious ointment, Ec 10:1. A wise man and a fool differ in the situation of their heart; which is in the one on the right hand, in the other on the left, Ec 10:2; the folly of the latter lies not only in his heart, but betrays itself throughout the whole of his conversation, Ec 10:3. And it is one part of wisdom in a subject to bear patiently the anger of his prince, and not in a passion and at once leave his service, Ec 10:4. And, among the follies of princes, this is a great one; to bestow their honours and favours on improper persons, to the neglect of such as are deserving, Ec 10:5-7. And several proverbial expressions are used, as cautions to a wise man against plotting mischief to others; breaking in upon the constitution and laws of a commonwealth; weakening the strength of the state by an methods, and making discord in it, and carrying thin by mere strength and force; when, if wisdom used, it would direct to proper ways and means, by which things would be managed to the best advantage, Ec 10:8-10. Then the babbling of fools against a government is exposed, which is like the secret bite of a serpent, Ec 10:11; and the difference between the words of wise men, which express grace and kindness, and are amiable and acceptable to men; and those of fools, which destroy themselves, begin in folly, and end in mischief; are noisy, and without meaning; do not direct to things most plain and easy, but wearisome and fatiguing to themselves and others, Ec 10:12-15. Next the unhappiness of a land is observed, when the governors of it are childish, intemperate, slothful, and prodigal; the happiness of a country when it is the reverse, Ec 10:16-19; and the chapter is concluded with advice not to curse a king, or any great personage; no, not in the most private and secret manner; since, by one means or another, it will be discovered Ec 10:20.

Ecclesiastes 10 Commentaries