Ecclesiastes 9:10-18

Ecclesiastes 9:10

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.


Solomon is counseling his people that whatever tasks they have should not be done half-heartedly.  In other words, when we have a job to do, cutting corners is not always the right way to do things.  When we study the Bible, we must do it with great effort so we can extract the truth from it.  It is easy to buy a theology book and then read it and claim we have done Bible study when in essence we took the lazy way out.  Whenever we are working for someone, we need to do a good job as best as we can as if we are the ones who owned a business. Ask the question, if you owned a business, would you hire you?  We must be the best we can be at anything.  Now this does not mean if you are planning to sin that you should do the best job at sinning you can, that is never in view and should not be considered.  Then Solomon speaks to the reality of why we should work to the best we can because he states there is no work, or device which can also be understood as reason or intellect, no knowledge or accompanying wisdom in the grave where every human is headed.  This is not discounting the fact that after physical death a true believer will not have work but Solomon is only speaking as to this physical world.


Ecclesiastes 9:11

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.


Then Solomon views this from a different perspective as he now counsels people not to be confident in their abilities.  He states that the race is not always to the swift although you would think that a fast runner would always win, however a fast runner has a better chance of falling and injuring themselves at high speed.  Then he speaks about the strong that normally would be victorious in battle but I am sure he had his father David in mind when he slew Goliath when everyone thought Goliath would win the battle.  Then he speaks about bread to the wise but even those who are unwise and are unable to cook fancy meals will have many ways of preparing regular food.  One food that was eaten back in ancient times was Gruel which was a thin porridge and served in many inns to poor people.  It contained oat, wheat or rice and those are three main things we eat today.  Then he mentions riches to men of understanding which would more likely be able to make and keep wealth.  However, the poor person may have ways of making money and if they live within their means will lack nothing.  Then he speaks about favor to men of skill.  This would mean a person finding favor in the eyes of another such as a friend but how many times has a friend led people astray although it may not be intentional or how many times has a person who has certain skills mess up a job?  Even to those who are somehow favored by skill or wisdom, there are two things which happen to all people on this earth and that is time and chance which means the opposite of what is expected might occur in the life of everyone.  A person may have great wealth and lose it even if wise decisions are made and a poor person may become wealthy even by making an error that turned out in their favor.  In ministry, many ministry leaders refuse to hand over the reins to another and as they get older because of time they make bad decisions but still will not relinquish control.  Everyone gets older and we must live with that reality even though many will deny it. 


Ecclesiastes 9:12

For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.


Here Solomon is impressing upon his readers that no man on earth knows their time of death.  Back in Ecclesiastes 3:2 I wrote about 2 people who jumped off the Empire State Building in New York City but the wind blew them back to safety.  Here were two people who thought that they were going to die when they jumped off a 1,000 foot (305 Meters) building and never expected to be living after they made the jump.  Even suicidal people are not in control of the day of their death.  Then he likens the wisdom of the animals to the sons of men.   Fish could be swimming along in a school when suddenly they are caught in a net and killed when they come out of the water.  Then there is the bird.  Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.  (Proverbs 1:17)  In Proverbs 1:17 Solomon states that it is futile to try and catch a bird when they are watching from the trees what you are attempting to do.  Yet, as wise animals they still get caught in the snare or trap.  Then just like the animals people are also snared or taken in death at a time when it is least expected.  Every human being expects to live to a ripe old age  but sometimes their lifespan is cut short suddenly like in a car accident or some other type of calamity.  You can just be relaxing in an easy chair when death suddenly comes upon you. 


Ecclesiastes 9:13

This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:


Then Solomon brings to light another tenet of wisdom which it seemed many had seen it but it did not make an impression upon them, yet Solomon did not pass it by but chose to study it and add it to his understanding.  This is how one becomes a wise person and a good teacher by investigating what other people neglect.


Ecclesiastes 9:14

There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:


This may be just a parable which Solomon was good at but it basically speaks about the attitude of man toward the weaker ones.   If it is a real historical fact it may speaking about Abel of Beth-maachah which is found in 2 Samuel 20:15 which was a small town that was besieged by Joab in the time of David.  Now Joab was not a king but was the leader of David’s army.  The bulwarks were defenses or fortifications which were made against this small town.


Ecclesiastes 9:15

Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.


Continuing on, he speaks about the fact that a poor man although he was a wise man delivered the city by wise negotiation.  In the town of Abel of Beth-maachah in 2 Samuel 20:15 there was a wise woman who conferred with Joab and in the following verses talked him out of destroying the city by appealing to his humanity after she asked him if he would destroy a city and a mother in Israel?  I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel: thou seekest to destroy a city and a mother in Israel: why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the LORD?  (2 Samuel 20:19)  Another instance of a wise woman who spoke up was Abigail whose husband Nabal was to be destroyed by David after he mistreated David’s representatives.  This is found in 1 Samuel 25.  The Scriptures do not reveal the name of the wise woman found in 2 Samuel 20 and also in Solomon’s historical parable, the name of the poor man is not revealed even after he did a great thing by helping to avoid a disaster to the city.


Ecclesiastes 9:16

Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.


Then Solomon brings this parable to an end but gives the principle that wisdom is better than strength.  The great king who had come against a little town or hamlet had now decided to abandon his siege and this was done by the wise tongue of a poor man.  If he would have been a noble or a wealthy man, then his name would be published all over but since the man was a poor man, he remains nameless.  Then Solomon reveals a principle which is alive and well in our time.  The poor man’s wisdom is despised or condemned.  A great big mistake we make is to believe that if a person has money or a position then they have a hold on wisdom.  This happens in Christianity all the time, a poor Christian may say something or reveal something they did in a study but because they are poor, no one pays attention but if that same thing is stated by someone on the radio or pastors a big church then it automatically becomes gospel.  Some of the wisest Christians I have ever known are those who never set foot in a seminary.  Back in Ecclesiastes 9:11 Solomon had spoken about the fact that the most skilled or the wisest one will not always be the ones who can solve problems.  That principle is alive and well today as those in government are the cause of many of the problems in the world.  Then we have those famous Christians on the radio or those who pastor a big church who have introduced false teachings and are embraced because of their title and position and when a congregant contradicts them according to the Scriptures, then who is the one that gets thrown out of the church?  You got it, the one bringing the truth who contradicted the false teaching is despised and no attention is paid to them.  Even in the false arm of Christianity, money and position rule rather than truth.


Ecclesiastes 9:17

The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.


Then Solomon continues his thoughts from the previous verse.  The wise man may be heard but in a quiet arena, that is, one that has no influence over the people because many will not hear him.  This is in contrast to the chief fool who rules among the fools and because of his rank, he is heard and his advice or counsel is heeded even though it is counted as nonsense or foolishness and will cause trouble in the life of the people hearing it if they adopt his foolish counsel instead of the words of the wise man.  It seems the louder the voice, the more it is accepted whether it is right or wrong.


Ecclesiastes 9:18

Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.


Wisdom is better than the weapons of war as we read in the parable of Solomon’s as the wise man prevented his town from being destroyed.  We also saw in 2 Samuel 20 the wise woman who saved her town by appealing to Joab concerning her town and her being a mother.  The sinner who destroys much good would be one who gives foolish counsel whether it would be by radio or by writing books which gives bad counsel to people who read them.  This would be in contrast to the wisdom which has the ability to prevent a war or a calamity but the sinner would be one who is unsaved and has no restraints on his bad counsel as long as it benefits him or her.  We see this in today’s cults and cultic churches that because one has influence over the people their counsel is accepted and is never despised like truth is.