Ecclesiastes 7- On Wisdom and Folly

Chapter 7 is full of proverbs, most of which are inter-related. The first few verses speak first of the value of a good reputation, followed by declarations that the day of the death of such a person is better than the day of their birth, partly because of the good name that person has made for himself.  In verses 2-6, “the heart of the wise” and “the heart of fools” means simply that those who are predisposed to wisdom take to heart the acts of sharing the important things of life – and of death – with other people, while others would rather be entertained.

Mourning in Old Testament Israel lasted for a week for an ordinary person, and usually for a month for an important leader, and often included professional singers and mourners.

Mourning in Old Testament Israel lasted for a week for an ordinary person, and usually for a month for an important leader, and often included professional singers and mourners.

Verses 7-12 teach the relationship of goodness to wisdom, and of wickedness to folly, and make contrasts between the former and the latter that are manifested in the way people react to life, and how they behave to others.  Then verses 13-14 point out that having prosperity or adversity in one’s life largely depends on the will of God, as His work is done. We should remember this when we have the latter, and be joyful with the former.

That is a great segue into verses 15-18, the last three verses of which are admittedly difficult to understand; and people have long differed greatly on their meaning. Verse 15 points out that, in this life, a righteous person may receive the fate we would rather see come to a wicked person, and vice-versa. Verses 16-17 are not a license to be sinful, as some have said. They simply mean that one should not believe one’s self to be more righteous or wise than they really are, and therefore deserving of God’s favor – any more than they should be brazenly wicked or completely foolish in their beliefs and actions. As verse 18 points out, it is the one who fears God that will come ahead in the end.

The rest of the chapter continues to elaborate on this relationship of wisdom, folly, good, and evil, with a warning in verses 21-22 not to take everything that others say about us to heart (good or bad). The good things said can lead one to foolishly believe in one’s own righteousness. The bad things said will not matter if we fear God.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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