Ecclesiastes 7:1-10

Ecclesiastes 7:1

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.


A good name would be akin to a good reputation.  To have a good reputation enhances a person’s life and is well-remembered after death.  And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.  (Ecclesiastes 8:10)  Those that have a bad name and reputation are not missed, in fact, people are glad when they are dead.  Who remembers the name of John Dillinger or Baby Face Nelson?  Yet who remembers the name of Martin Luther or George Washington?  A good name is better than precious ointment which is symbolic of riches.  A person can be poor but if they are found to be diligent and honest, they will have a good name among their peers.  Then Solomon states that the day of death is better than one’s birth.  That is because when a person dies all their troubles and trials of this earth are behind them.  When a person is born then all the troubles and trials of earth are in front of them.  This is not saying that when an unsaved person dies, their troubles are over, in fact, their troubles just begin.


Ecclesiastes 7:2

It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.


The house of mourning refers to the fact that a person living without God may find him in a time of comfort for their mourning.  Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.  (Matthew 5:4)  It also refers to the death of someone whose family is mourning and we go to them.  It shows us that death is the reality of the end of life and not the mirth and feasting of the world.  Instead of focusing on reality, the fun life tends to divert a person from reality.  Our present world only focuses on good times and does not care to admit their mortality as mirth only diverts the mind from focusing on reality.  The end of all people on earth is the grave and not one, rich or poor, can expect to escape it except those who are alive on the day the Lord returns.  The living or the wise will take that reality of death to heart, that is, they will contemplate the reality of it and accept it as part of life and will prepare for it rather than divert themselves from the inevitable.


Ecclesiastes 7:3

Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.


Sorrow is attached to the realities of life but laughter diverts the mind from reality and makes everything into a fantasy world.  When the countenance of a person is sad, it means that it emanates from the heart of a person and that sorrow can take a hard heart and make it soft or it can prepare a person for ministering to others.  If a person is unsaved, the sadness may soften their heart to the receiving of the gospel.  The sadness also makes the heart better by accepting the reality of a situation whereby a hard heart would make it difficult to accept anything of reality.


Ecclesiastes 7:4

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.


Another great paradox is that the wise person is in the house of mourning as they ponder the realities of life such as death and the afterlife, the vanity of this life and all its trappings, the coming judgment of the unsaved.  Their minds are focused on the certainties of life whereas the person who has the heart of a fool only has care about where their next feast will be or where they will have their next party and they give no thought to any reality of life and when tragedy strikes they do not know how to handle it because they have avoided reality all their life.


Ecclesiastes 7:5

It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.


The rebuke of the wise comes from a heart of concern and reality.  It may also come from something they have experienced in the past and are trying to help someone avoid the pitfalls they fell for.  A rebuke from a wise person is only meant to help and not to condemn.  Open rebuke is better than secret love.  (Proverbs 27:5)  The song of fools is sung by a person who pretends not to have a care in the world.  They concern themselves only with parties, good times and lightheartedness without ever giving any thought to the certainties of life and this mindset can set a person on the wrong road.  Life is filled with certainties and not fantasies.


Ecclesiastes 7:6

For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.


When a person cooks something over a fire and they use branches with thorns for the fire, they crackling sound of the thorns burning means they will soon be consumed by the fire as they will not last as long as a solid piece of wood.  Therefore the lesson is that the laughter of the fool is just for a fleeting moment.  Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.  (Proverbs 14:13)  As Proverbs 14:13 teaches that even when a person is laughing, they still possess a sorrowful heart as they use laughter to attempt to cover over the sorrow in the heart.  Laughter can never remove the realities of life that each of us must face.  This is but a vain attempt to subdue the natural realities that every human will face.


Ecclesiastes 7:7

Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.


The word “mad” is in the Poel stem in the Hebrew and it carries with it the meaning of “becoming insane.”  A wise man who is being oppressed by someone else which could be a rich man oppressing the wise poor man causes a wise man to become like an insane person.  It does not mean he has lost his sensibility but he sees and assesses the fact that the oppression will lead to nothing but a futile end for the oppressor.  The wise man will be unable to use his wisdom in a condition where he is being subjugated by someone else or a system.  Then Solomon brings to light the fact that a gift which could also be a bribe destroys the heart by corrupting it.  One bribe can also lead to a life of expecting a bribe for everything and then judgment and decisions are made according to how much a person can pay thus destroying the credibility of the person requiring it.


Ecclesiastes 7:8

Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.


The end of a thing is better than the beginning because at the beginning one cannot tell the difference between good and bad counsel and that is well-known at the end of the matter when all has been assessed.  At the end of a matter all the troubles and trials are behind and things have been learned when at the beginning there may be troubles and pitfalls that have to be conquered to gain the desired outcome.  Then Solomon speaks about the patient versus the proud in spirit.  The patient person will learn from different challenges that come their way and will not be quick to judge or to become angry if something does not go their way.  They learn to assess things along the way and that is how they gain knowledge.  Those who are proud or haughty in spirit will act before knowledge is gained from any situation.  They become angry quickly and people they work with will get frustrated because of that. People will normally shy away from an angry person plus they will fear to make suggestions.  Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath.  (Proverbs 21:24)  People who are proud and haughty never live a contented or peaceful life.


Ecclesiastes 7:9

Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.


Never be quick to be angry at a situation or a person because quick anger does not allow a person to know the facts of anything and quick anger repels people and does not attract them.  Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:  (Proverbs 22:24)  Proverbs 22:24 warns us that we should not make friends with an angry man because it could lead to further problems such as criminal action including murder and if you are near an angry man who does something like that you could be charged as an accessory to the crime.  Anger has a resting place in the heart or bosom of the fool.  In the bosom, the fool strokes anger and treats it like a household pet.  Instead of rebuking quick anger, they will keep it at hand so when the need arises, the hastily angry man can call upon his trusted companion. An angry man seeks for things to make him angry to justify his evil temperament. 


Ecclesiastes 7:10

Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.


How many have heard the term “The Good Ole’ Days?”  We look back on them and think they were better than today.  However, that is untrue because in memory we will remember only the good things and forget the fact that as we lived in those days there were challenges which may have been different but were tied to those times.  Probably the best years of our lives were when we were in school and our parents took care of us.  Then we forget how hard things were according to our schedule.  We had Gym class where nerds were tortured by the tough guys, there were times we asked a girl out and she said no, there were mid-term and final exams, etc.  I remember when I was 14 years old and being confirmed in my church, I was really nervous about it because the Pastor gave me the longest question to memorize.  The good ole’ days were just as rough as the present but were different according to the time we lived in and the challenges set before us.  This is why Solomon is stating that it is not wise to believe that the days past were better because they too contained challenges and we must never bask in the past but face our challenges with new vigor by what we have learned from past experiences.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,  (Philippians 3:13)