Ecclesiastes 10:1-10

Ecclesiastes 10:1

Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.


If a dead fly gets into a bottle of ointment which is used by an apothecary which is someone who makes medicines or medicinal compounds, then the ointment is no good and if used can cause the medicine to be flawed and if a patient takes a flawed medication, it could make them sicker or even cause death.  This is the comparison that Solomon is making that when a person who is known for their wisdom and honor engages in some kind of foolishness which totally goes against his character, then he is basically doing character assassination of himself as if he is poisoning himself with bad medicine.


Ecclesiastes 10:2

A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left.


The right hand means that the wise man is using his abilities and wisdom that he has accrued over the years to perform something in a wise manner.  Then the left hand is showing a person who is resorting to foolishness and unwise mannerisms to do something which will end in troubles.  The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.  (Ecclesiastes 2:14)  Just like the wise man’s eyes which are in his head means he sees the troubles or the prosperity before him.  The foolish man has eyes in his head but neglects what he is seeing and blindly pursues whatever he wants no matter how detrimental it may be to him.  Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.  (Proverbs 17:24)


Ecclesiastes 10:3

Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.


A person acting in a foolish manner who rejects the ways of wisdom will be known to be a fool by the way he is doing something or what he is attempting to do.  He tells everyone he is a fool not by words but by his very actions or goals.  Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge: but a fool layeth open his folly.  (Proverbs 13:16)  Proverbs 13:16 deals specifically with a fool who openly displays it.  Other verses about fools are below where Solomon comments:


It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom.  (Proverbs 10:23)


The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.  (Proverbs 12:15)


Ecclesiastes 10:4

If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.


If a person is a ruler and is given advice by a wise counselor and that ruler rejects the wise counsel, then the counselor must not leave his post in haste and in anger.  Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.  (Ecclesiastes 7:9) Instead a gentle spirit should be had by the counselor because if the ruler accepts foolish advice, the wise counselor will soon be vindicated.  This is also applicable to everyday situations where you may give someone wise counsel and they reject it.  Do not be angry with them because if your counsel is correct, then you too will be vindicated and you may gain a new friend.


Ecclesiastes 10:5

There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler:


Then Solomon turns to the ruler and states what he has seen, how rulers sometimes make wrong decisions or follow bad advice from unqualified counselors.  He calls these things an error which can be understood as an unwitting or mistaken transgression.


Ecclesiastes 10:6

Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place.


Sometimes a ruler raises a person to a high position which they do not deserve or are unqualified to maintain but just because they have entertained the ruler, then that was the reason for promotion instead of proper qualifications.  Then the rich sit in low places and it could mean rich in finances or rich in qualifications for the position they were not given because the unqualified person received it.  We see this every day in business where unqualified people are promoted and the qualified are never advanced.  This is also seen in the church where unqualified people are placed in positions of leadership and lead the church astray because they lack discernment concerning false teachings.


Ecclesiastes 10:7

I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.


Then another one of life’s absurdities is that Solomon has experienced the sight of servants who are riding horses and being exalted to places of honor who do not have the right to be in high exalted positions.  The servants would represent those people who are unqualified for the positions they hold and conversely there are those who are well-qualified to fill other positions but are walking around as servants instead of the leaders they can be.  Their places are that of a servant instead of using the qualifications they have in the service of the ruler or even a business where many qualified people are withheld from promotion by Management simply because they will not do illegal or underhanded things.


Ecclesiastes 10:8

He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.


This verse basically carries two meanings.  The first, is that life is full of risks and one should not limit themselves because risk is involved.  A person may dig a ditch and fall into it if the side of the pit gives way and someone who does grounds keeping may attempt to trim a bush and a snake may be curled up inside the bush and may bite the person doing the trimming because the snake takes it as an attempt to hurt him so he is only making a defense.  Then the second meaning is that a person may fall by their own devices.  A ruler may promote someone who is unqualified and that may lead to disaster within his administration such as a scandal or some other improprieties.  To break the hedge might also mean that a person is impinging upon another person’s property which may cause friction and be like a sting of a serpent coming back to bite him.


Ecclesiastes 10:9

Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.


Then Solomon illustrates further the situation of a person who does things which may cause themselves hurt.  Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen.  (Deuteronomy 27:17)  The first part of the verse deals with removing stones which was forbidden under the law because they set the boundaries of the land given to them when they came into the land of Canaan and everyone was assigned a parcel of land which was not to be sold or given away but handed down to the next generation.  This is what got Naboth killed when he refused to sell his vineyard to King Ahab.  (1 Kings 21)  Then a person who cuts down trees or cuts wood may injure himself if he uses a dull ax or is unskilled in the proper use of tools.  He may also misuse his intellect and cause division (cleaveth) among people causing a rift in the city or country.


Ecclesiastes 10:10

If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.


Continuing from verse 9 about the man who cleaves wood, if he is using an iron that is blunt or dull, then he must put more strength to accomplish his task causing him to become tired very early, possibly before he gets the entire job done.  Wisdom would indicate that he needs to whet the edge of the ax which means to sharpen it which would allow him to gain a deeper slice on the wood without worrying about wood shrapnel flying all over the place causing a possible injury to the eye or other part of the body.  The person’s wisdom should dictate all decisions in life and all attempted projects.  A person should use wisdom on and off the job.  Wisdom must be applied to small tasks as well as large ones.  When we perform a small task and use wisdom, it shows others of our proper skills and it might mean you won’t be as a prince who is walking, instead it may mean you will be noticed and eventually promoted.