Next we read Eccl 10:1-10
Note: In this chapter Solomon makes a series of statements that may at times seem to have very little in common with each other. What he is doing, though, is showing us his thoughts, his perception, and, at times, giving us wisdom. Some of these statements are truths rooted in divine revelation, but some of them show him wavering back and forth in the thought processes of the world. Some of these statements give us revelation from G-d, in calling us to live differently, to have a renewed perspective for life in this world. Life in this world is coming to an end, so we want to sow seeds for the Kingdom of G-d.
v1: Dead flies: There is a connection between flies and death. When there is death flies show up. The sages of old saw flies as a type of metaphor for demonic influence.
- Perfumer: In modern Hebrew the word used here is related to a pharmacist – one who mixes things for a potion (mixes medicine, mixes perfume or mixes an ointment).
- Ointment: In Solomon’s books (Proverbs, Song of songs) he frequently refers to ointment or oils. When we see a theme set out or established in Scripture (especially when it appears again and again in a book) we need to apply the same method of interpretation to the context. When Solomon speaks about oil/ointment it is generally in reference to a good name (name is synonymous with character) – SofS1:3, Eccl 7:1 etc
- Foul odour: Stench. When we mix the things of death (i.e.sin) into that which is supposed to be a pleasing ointment or perfume (a good life, a good name/character) it will give off a bad odour – not the desired result. Many believers want to walk in truth, want to walk in the will of G-d, but they also want to still hold on to a “bit” of sinfulness. They take these two contrasting ways of life and try to mix them together. Solomon is warning us here that doing this is going to lead to corruption – the end result is not going to be a pleasing fragrance but is going to be a stench that bubbles up and is going to be manifested in a way that is not pleasing.
- A little folly…wisdom and honour: A person can have wisdom and honour, but if they mix a little foolishness/folly with that it will be the folly that is remembered and not their wisdom and honour. A little bit of wrong can destroy a whole lot of good. We need to be people who guard ourselves from unrighteousness.
v2: In medieval times left-handed people were not considered good and were forced to become right-handed. In English culture today, in order to show extremes, those who are conservative are considered right wing and those who are liberal are on the left. When we read the Bible though we don’t interpret it through cultural tendency or tradition as these are often rooted in falsehood. We need to read within Biblical context – Scripture interpreting Scripture. In the Bible we find that the right is a preferred position to the left (both are related to mindsets or thought processes). The right is related to the will of G-d and the left side is related to that which is in conflict with the will of G-d.
- A wise man’s heart (thought process) is at his right: This means his thoughts are in line with the will of G-d.
- A fool’s heart is at his left: His thoughts are against G-d’s will, against truth (Roms 1:20-22, Ps 14:1).
v3: When we walk in the way of our own foolishness, we are going to be seen as a fool – that we are living in rebellion against G-d (Matt 7:16-20). Our actions reveal a great deal about who we are and what we believe.
v4: Spirit…rises against you: Most scholars understand this as referring to a leader (the word used here refers to a governmental ruler) who becomes angry with you.
- Do not leave your post: When we are in an uncomfortable position we mustn’t leave or flee. We need to deal with our problems. Escape is not a proper action as it is a way of assuring defeat.
- Conciliation pacifies (a term also used to speak of healing) great offenses: We need to bring healing into situations. Deal with sin – sin causes a breach between people.
v5: An error: The word used here is a word that speaks of unintentional sin – unintentionally going against G-d’s will still has consequences.
- Ruler: A different Hebrew word is used for ruler here. A ruler is someone who should be embracing the will of G-d. There are two types of government spoken of in the Bible. Roms 13:1-7 is speaking about a government who punishes evildoers and rewards good – a government that does the will of G-d. This is the kind of government that we are called to obey. When a government doesn’t behave in this way (ie when a government rewards evil and punishes good) we need to speak against it. This doesn’t mean that we become lawbreakers, but we can speak out and we need to always behave, first and foremost, in obedience to the Word of G-d (eg: Acts 4:18-20, Acts 5:27-29)
v6: The rich (resourceful) sit in a lowly place: Those who have resources are not put into positions of leadership – they are not allowed to use their resources for the benefit of others.
Note: In this verse things are in the wrong order. Folly (the poor ones) is elevated and resources are suppressed.
v7: Again in this verse we see that things are out of order. When there is disorder in a land the outcome is going to be that everyone eventually suffers loss. Experiences which are improper do not reflect the standards, the principles, or the commandments of G-d.
- Servants on horses: They are given prominence or honour.
- Princes: These are the ones who should be ruling.
v8: Digs a pit: Usually holes are dug for a purpose (to plant a tree, to lay a foundation etc). This person, however, has not completed the job. When we don’t complete what we started it is going to have an adverse effect on us.
- Breaks through a wall: A wall can be seen as a boundary, a place within which one is safe. It is not normally breached or crossed. This same word is used in regard to the commandments. They place a boundary around us that we would be wise to keep well within.
- Bitten by a serpent: Bursting out of these boundaries (mentioned above) can lead to satanic activity in our lives (eg like with the snake in the garden of Eden). A believer cannot be demonically possessed (a demon cannot enter into us) but he can afflict us, torment us, or cause adversity in our lives. This is why we need to walk in obedience. Obedience pushes those influences (ungodly, unrighteous, demonic influences) out of our lives.
v9: Stones are quarried with a purpose in mind. Wood is also split with a purpose in mind. If there is no purpose in mind when these things are done it can result in adverse effects. We don’t do things just for the sake of doing things. We need to be purposeful about what we do.
v10: Wise people know that they are at an advantage if they are properly equipped (“ax is sharp”) for the jobs they set out to do. There is an advantage to wisdom. Wisdom is being able to take understanding, knowledge, intelligence etc and put it into a situation so that the desire, the proper outcome, (G-d’s will) is manifested.