ECCLESIASTES 9 – 10
Tonight we will be covering two chapters of Ecclesiastes. In Chapter 9 Solomon will be stressing the idea that no matter who we are or what background we come from, we are all subject to will of God and the forces of nature. Then Chapter 10 will focus on the difference of between the wise and the foolish.
Ecclesiastes 9:1 For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them. 2 All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.
Just as we examined last week, sometimes good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. Just because we live a righteous life does not mean that we are guaranteed a life without mishap. It does not mean that a tornado will hit your neighbor’s house who lives a wicked life and then skip your house. We have got to remember that everyone is subject to the forces of nature. We are also a subject to diseases that plague mankind. Yes, young children who are innocent in the eyes of the Lord will sometimes get cancer or other deadly diseases. This does not happen because God does not love us, it happens because it is part of life. Speaking of God, Jesus said:
Matthew 5:45 … for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
The major difference is that the righteous have hope, and they can know that while life can be hard that no matter how difficult it becomes, we can know that God is on our side and eternity in heaven will be ours. We need to have the same attitude as Job:
Job 1:21 … "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD."
We must never forget what Paul said:
2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Let us learn to trust in God in the good times and the bad realizing that everything works out for the good in the end for those who love the Lord and do His will.
Ecclesiastes 9:3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. 4 But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun.
Mankind has a tendency to walk the wicked path because it is tempting to do whatever you want and what makes you feel good inside, but once you die there is no more hope for you because you have lived your life, and you will face the judgment. There are no second chances, which is why Solomon says a living dog is better than a dead lion. While you still have breath in your body, you have hope because you can turn to God and start living your life for Him. When we do die in the Lord, we can face the judgment day with confidence and look forward to being among those who have also loved the Lord.
Solomon also teaches us some general thoughts about death. When we die, our existence and our direct influence will perish. While we will be remembered for awhile by those close to us, eventually we become nothing more than name added to a family tree or a name on tombstone. Even if we left behind a record of our lives and what we believed, this only gives a person in the future a general idea of what kind of person we were. Given enough time, even our written works can become lost.
Now when it says that dead know nothing, I believe this means that the dead know nothing of what is going on in the earth as the last part of verse says: Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun. Some take this saying of the dead knowing nothing to mean that we soul sleep, but the story of rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 and the souls depicted in Rev. 6 and other verses indicate that we are aware our surroundings after death and we can experience comfort and pain, but we cannot return to the earth, which I believe rules out the idea of their being ghost that are haunting people or warning people.
Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go, eat your bread with joy, And drink your wine with a merry heart; For God has already accepted your works. 8 Let your garments always be white, And let your head lack no oil. 9 Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.
Usually most commentators view the section of Scripture in a positive way and that is certainly one way to look at it, but I can also see this expressing a negative view toward those who choose not to live for God.
First, let me start with the negative. Since Solomon just finished talking about those who died with his emphasis being on those who died while living a wicked life, he could be pointing out the same thing he has taught before, which is you better enjoy all that this life has to offer because God has already accepted your works as a testimony against you. So live up your life of vanity because once you die it will be over for you.
Second, if Solomon is speaking to the righteous, then we can see him repeating the message that he has already taught that all that we have is a gift from God and we need to enjoy the blessing He has given us and be thankful that He has accepted our good works as we live for Him.
Verse 7 tells us to eat with joy.
Verse 8 is not speaking of purity as a white robe can indicate, but to seek comfort. A clean white robe in a hot climate will make one feel more comfortable.
Verse 9 teaches us to find joy in our labor. It should bring us joy knowing that we can work and make money to support our families and to help God’s kingdom grow. It also teaches us to live joyfully with our wives because they are a blessing from Lord.
Verse 10 sums it all up and tells us whatever we do, we need to give 100% because once we are dead, we will no longer have the opportunity to be on this earth. So, make the best of your time on this earth for God and your family.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 I returned and saw under the sun that -- The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all. 12 For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men are snared in an evil time, When it falls suddenly upon them.
Again this emphasizes the fact that not everything turns out as one would think. The fastest does not always win the race, the strongest opponent does not always win the battle and just because you are wise or have great skills does not mean that will be noticed or rewarded for such. The reason why this happens to mankind is because of time and chance. There are no guarantees in life accept for the guarantee of eternity in heaven for those who live for the Lord and eternity in hell for those who do not.
Ecclesiastes 9:13 This wisdom I have also seen under the sun, and it seemed great to me: 14 There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great snares around it. 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man. 16 Then I said: "Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, And his words are not heard.
Here Solomon is talking about heeding wisdom even if it comes from the poor or someone that might be despised by others because of their race, political position or other reasons. There are two ways to look at our text.
First, as some translations word verse 15, the poor man had the wisdom that might have saved the little city, but no one would listen to him because he was poor. This meaning is also implied by verse 16 in our text.
Second, this could be saying that the city did listen to the poor man and he did deliver the city, but no one thanked him for it or remember what he did.
Either view would fit with what Solomon has been saying because sometimes people reject wisdom and pay the price. Other times they heed the wisdom, but the one that gave the wisdom may not enjoy an gain from his wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 9:17 Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard Rather than the shout of a ruler of fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war; But one sinner destroys much good."
This saying is very true. I have noticed many times that those who want to push their foolishness on others will do so loudly. They think the louder they shout their foolish opinions the more people will accept it. Unfortunately, this works sometimes. However, those who know what they are talking about will many times speak in a calm and confident voice. Of course, the wise should always be valued more than the foolish.
Wisdom is certainly
better than weapons of war. Many battles in history have been won by the wisdom
of their commanders not by how many weapons they had. However, one sinner can
destroy much good. I think of Achan, who by his sin caused the children of
IN the last three chapters of Ecclesiastes we see a lot of proverbs, much of which answer the question, what is good for man.
Ecclesiastes 10:1 Dead flies putrefy the perfumer's ointment, And cause it to give off a foul odor; So does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor.
Nobody likes it when a fly lands on their food, but imagine someone whipping you up some scrambled eggs that had dead flied all mixed in with it. That would be gross, and this kind of image that Solomon is giving us with the ointment. Though the ointment itself is highly valued, it becomes less desired with dead flies in it just like a wise respected man who engages is foolishness. All it takes for some well respected person to loose his honor is by engaging in foolishness.
Ecclesiastes 10:2 A wise man's heart is at his right hand, But a fool's heart at his left. 3 Even when a fool walks along the way, He lacks wisdom, And he shows everyone that he is a fool.
Wisdom and folly are just as opposite at ones right and left hand. They each have their own path. The heart of the wise will keep him on the right (Prov. 4:23) , which is the path of righteousness, but the heart of the fool will follow the wrong path, which is the way of the world. Those that are foolish can be found out by their actions, when we find them, we should avoid getting involved with their foolishness.
Ecclesiastes 10:4 If the spirit of the ruler rises against you, Do not leave your post; For conciliation pacifies great offenses.
NET Ecclesiastes 10:4 If the anger of the ruler flares up against you, do not resign from your position, for a calm response can undo great offenses.
The anger of a king or anyone for that matter can be calmed down by not running away and by dealing with him with a calm spirit. It not only shows confidence on your part, but it also shows that you have thought out what you were going to say beforehand.
Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
Ecclesiastes 10:5 There is an evil I have seen under the sun, As an error proceeding from the ruler: 6 Folly is set in great dignity, While the rich sit in a lowly place. 7 I have seen servants on horses, While princes walk on the ground like servants.
Solomon has observed that sometimes mankind is a bad judge of character, and they put the foolish into leadership positions when there were better qualified people to rule. Sometimes those that could be used for good works are left out. He illustrates this by saying that the rich are given a lowly place, and slaves are riding on the horses why the princes walk on the ground.
If were to move this idea to the political realm, I am sure there is much we could say about it, but I am more interested in point out that this also happens in the church sometimes. Those who should not be leaders in the church are put over the church, and those who could do great things for the kingdom of God are hindered from using their God given talent and their money to help the church grow. Sometimes this is done because of the politics of a congregation, other times it is the doing of the individual who knows they have much more they could offer the church, yet for their selfish reasons they do not use their talents or their money to help the church grow. Remember, Solomon says when things like this happen it is evil.
Ecclesiastes 10:8 He who digs a pit will fall into it, And whoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a serpent. 9 He who quarries stones may be hurt by them, And he who splits wood may be endangered by it. 10 If the ax is dull, And one does not sharpen the edge, Then he must use more strength; But wisdom brings success. 11 A serpent may bite when it is not charmed; The babbler is no different.
There are several things we can learn from these verses, but the main thought is that it does not matter what you do, there are risk involved and the more careless you are the greater chance you will get hurt by your own work. As verse 10 states, we need to keep our axe sharp so the work we do will be easier. The more we prepare ourselves and keep our mind on our task the more efficient we will be and the less we will get hurt.
A good example of for verse 8 would be Haman in the Book of Esther who had it all, but in the end let his pride get in the way and the gallows he had built for Mordecia were used to hang him instead.
Whether we are working at our job or working for the Lord, let us be aware of the dangers that are involved and do our best to stay focused and prepared so that we can work efficiently and as safely as we can.
Ecclesiastes 10:12 The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious, But the lips of a fool shall swallow him up; 13 The words of his mouth begin with foolishness, And the end of his talk is raving madness. 14 A fool also multiplies words. No man knows what is to be; Who can tell him what will be after him? 15 The labor of fools wearies them, For they do not even know how to go to the city!
As Solomon likes to do, he points out the difference between the wise and the foolish. The wise will use his words carefully to make the deepest impact in a positive way, but the fool will allow his lip flap in the wind and will spew out anything and everything, which gets him into heap of trouble. The fool has no problem talking about things they do not understand. As a way of exaggeration Solomon says the fool who labors to be foolish, which means it is their main focus in life, that they are not even wise enough to know how to go to the city or as some translation say find their way home.
Ecclesiastes 10:16 Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, And your princes feast in the morning! 17 Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles, And your princes feast at the proper time -- For strength and not for drunkenness! 18 Because of laziness the building decays, And through idleness of hands the house leaks.
The idea of the king being a child is referring to a immature king, and if the princes or those who are charge are feasting in the morning it means they are lazy and not concerned about their kingdom or their country. These two things combined would certainly spell disaster. While it might not happen quickly, eventually their building will decay and the kingdom will collapse.
Just is the opposite is true, when the king is mature and has been trained well and when the princes eat at the proper time and have the right focus then the kingdom will be strong. Same thing is true when it comes to the church. Those in it and its leaders must be focused on making wise decision and teaching the Word of God so that future leaders in the church will know how to be good leaders that make God’s Word their foundation in life and making decision for the church to grow and stay strong. Our next verse goes along with verse 18:
Ecclesiastes 10:18 Because of laziness the building decays, And through idleness of hands the house leaks. 19 A feast is made for laughter, And wine makes merry; But money answers everything.
Verse 19 is a fool’s creed. He believes that life consists of feasting to make you laugh, wine to make happy, and that money is the answer to everything. There are many that have this philosophy today, but this is the thinking of a fool because money is not the answer to everything, and stuffing your gut with food and drink is not where true happiness is found because true happiness can only be found by living for God, and God’s Word is the answer for everything.
Ecclesiastes 10:20 Do not curse the king, even in your thought; Do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom; For a bird of the air may carry your voice, And a bird in flight may tell the matter.
We all heard the
expression, “a little birdie told
If someone starts cursing our president and he makes an idle threat to kill him, that person could easily be arrested and locked up for making such statements. So, the main idea is to watch what you think and watch what you say.
From a spiritual sense we certainly need to watch what we think because God knows what we are thinking even if we never say it. So, let us always to our best to keep our thoughts pure by transforming our minds with the Word of God.