Ecclesiastes 10:1

1 Dead flies can make a whole bottle of perfume stink, and a little stupidity can cancel out the greatest wisdom.

Ecclesiastes 10:1 Meaning and Commentary

Ecclesiastes 10:1

Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth
a stinking savour
Such, as Jarchi observes, are in the winter season, which are weak and near to death, and get into precious ointment, prepared after the best manner, where they die, and corrupt and spoil it: or, "flies of deaths" F13; deadly ones, which have something in their nature poisonous and pernicious; which, when they light upon the most sweet and savoury ointment, give it an ill smell; [so doth] a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom [and]
a good name is like precious ointment, valuable and fragrant; sin, which is folly, is like a dead fly; not only light and mean, and base and worthless, but hurtful and pernicious, deadly, and the cause of death; and what may seem little, a peccadillo, or, however, one single act of sin, may injure the character of a wise and honourable man, and greatly expose him to shame and contempt, and cause him to stink in the nostrils of men, ( Genesis 36:20 ) ; and to be reproached by men, and religion and government to be reproached for his sake. Thus the affair of Bathsheba and Uriah, what a slur did it bring on the character of David, so famous for wisdom and honour, for religion and piety? and the idolatry of Solomon, the wisest of men; Jehoshaphat, that good king, entering into affinity with Ahab; and pious Josiah going to war with the king of Egypt, contrary to the word of the Lord; with many other instances. This teaches how careful men eminent for gifts and grace should be of their words and actions; since the least thing amiss in them is easily discerned, and soon taken notice of, as the least speck in a diamond, or spot in fine linen, clean and white; and there are wicked and envious persons enough watching for their halting, glad to have an occasion against them, and improve everything to the uttermost: this is a caution to wise magistrates, honourable ministers of the word, and eminent professors more especially. The Targum is,

``evil concupiscence, which dwells at the gates of the heart, is as a fly, and is the cause of death in the world; and corrupts a good name, which was before like to anointing oil, perfumed with spices:''
and to the same purpose the Midrash. One of the names of Satan is Beelzebub, the lord of a fly; who, by his temptations, solicits to sin and folly, which produce the effect here mentioned, and therefore to be shunned as a deadly fly in the ointment, ( Matthew 12:24 ) . Gussetius F14 renders it,
``that which is precious and worthy of honour "proceeds" from wisdom; and folly "comes" from glory, "worldly glory", in a little time.''


F13 (twm ybwbz) "muscae mortis", Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius, Amama, Cocceius, Rambachius.
F14 Ebr. Comment. p. 344.

Ecclesiastes 10:1 In-Context

1 Dead flies can make a whole bottle of perfume stink, and a little stupidity can cancel out the greatest wisdom.
2 It is natural for the wise to do the right thing and for fools to do the wrong thing.
3 Their stupidity will be evident even to strangers they meet along the way; they let everyone know that they are fools.
4 If your ruler becomes angry with you, do not hand in your resignation; serious wrongs may be pardoned if you keep calm.
5 Here is an injustice I have seen in the world - an injustice caused by rulers.
Scripture taken from the Good News Translation - Second Edition, Copyright 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission.