Ecclesiastes 9:13- 10:20

Theme: The Benefits & Limits of Wisdom


Oprah Winfrey: “Follow your instincts. That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.”

9v15 nobody remembers the poor but wise man who saved the city

Wisdom BETTER than strength


(1) Forgotten

(2) Words no longer heeded

(3) His words are despised

(4) Only takes one sinner to destroy much good

10v1-4 Despite wisdom being better than folly, much wisdom is outweighed by a little folly.

v2 antithetical proverb – the same truth as seen from two different directions/viewpoints. Truth is that wisdom and folly go in two different directions. It is probable that L and R connotations of good and bad or more likely the R is a position of power and strength and L the left is devoid of these connotations.

v4 seems out of place, although perhaps this is a link to v5 (”ruler”) and the fallibility of rulers/leadership. Even if you are wise in your actions around rulers does not guarantee that the ruler will be wise and you will be blessed…

v6-7 fools occupy high positions – this is described as evil!

Interesting that the rich are found in the position that we would normally associated with the wise (perhaps Q associates that in the “normal” course of events the wise would be the wealthy not the fools, but this world is a paradox!)

v8-11 unpredictability of life! Work hard but life is unpredictable.

Reflecting back to 9v1, not retribution like in Ps 7:15 but rather here it is the innocent person engaged in his occupation who is accidentally injured.

v10 If an axe is not sharp then the person wielding it has to exert himself far more. The 2nd part of this verse is more difficult – Longman suggests that “success is the fruit/advantage of wisdom” i.e. the wise man would have sharpened the axe in the 1st place.

But how does this fit into with the previous verses? Perhaps this is again the circular nature of Q arguments – wisdom is better, but life is unpredictable?

v11- seems to be talking about wisdom that is useless in practical situations. It is wise to charm the snake but if it has bitten no amount of wisdom in knowing the value of charming a snake is going to change that – what has happened has already happened! Alternatively – some things are random, and the snake sometimes will just bite and then there is nothing wisdom could have done to prevent it!

v12-14a wisdom better – extolling the virtues of wisdom. The context being that of words (a prominent theme in OT wisdom literature). But v14b again tells us there are no guarantees – (Q challenging the over-confidence of wisdom tradition?)

v14 no guarantees

v15 a fool is a fool – wisdom is always better than folly. Examples to follow…

v16-17 blessed to have a wise (lit. “youth” – perhaps best translation = “immature”) king.

v18 better home/harder worker – wise man. To be lazy in the wisdom tradition is equivalent to being a fool.

v19 enjoy life – money is the answer for everything. It is money that makes the feasting and enjoyment of this life possible. Is this not perhaps a dig at the wisdom teachers who think wisdom is the answer to everything? In the life under the sun – money is the answer to everything!

Do v18-19 operate as a paradox – extols the virtues of hard work, but yet a feast is for enjoying – life is not simplistic, it is a paradox, which is better, wise?

v20 be wise with words (also v12-13)

Being wise with words is a major theme in the Wisdom tradition and even this is employed in developing Q argument. Because everything is so uncertain – be careful – you do not know the future of your words.

NT Break-in:

In v5-7 we have a glimpse of a world upside down.

But even this is not beyond God in 1 Corinthians 1:18 – 2:5, we have another picture of a world upside down. But this one has very different outcomes…


~ by John on August 18, 2008.

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