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
___________________
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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Ecclesiastes 1 – The Words of the Preacher

Jerusalem, Solomon's quarries

Jerusalem, Solomon’s quarries

Clearly Solomon, the writer identifies himself as the son of David, king of Israel, and someone who has “acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me.”  By also identifying himself as “the preacher” Solomon obviously knows that his words will be used for learning and instruction, and certainly intends them as such.  In fact, some have speculated that he may actually have directly addressed an assembly of some sort with some of these teachings.

The same man who wrote many proverbs extolling the value of work and the foolishness of being lazy says in verse 3 “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” In fact, many verses here talk about things “under the sun,” which is the key to understanding here.  All the work that we accomplish here “under the sun” will one day pass away, unlike the earth, the sun itself, the wind and the sea, all of which remain constant.  No matter how grand man’s accomplishments here may be, they will not matter when this life is over.

Even his quest for wisdom, he says, is “striving after wind” because “in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”  What he learned in the end is that there is much that man simply cannot know while “under the sun,” and those truths are the only things that really matter.  All else is but vapor…

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

/Bob’s boy
___________________
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.  

Proverbs 25 – The Glory of God

I have to admit that sometimes it is my inclination, whenever I encounter a verse or two that I just don’t understand, to just move on to another.  And I am certain also that I am not alone in that regard, especially when it comes to the Book of Proverbs.  There is so much wisdom contained in these words from God that we cannot simply open our eyes and our minds and just breathe them all in with complete understanding the way they are “breathed out” by God.  Verse 2 is just such a verse for me.

It is the glory of God to conceal things,
but the glory of kings is to search things out

heavens_005But this one gnawed at me, and I was determined not to just let it go for now.  After searching my heart, the scriptures, and more than a couple of commentaries, I am still not sure I totally get it.  But maybe I am closer than when I started.  Deuteronomy 29:29 reads “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”  What secret things?  And what would God conceal?

So let’s try to make this just as clear as mud now.  In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul tells the Corinthians of an experience of “a man” in third person, of which he is clearly the subject – that of being caught up into heaven.  The text says it happened 14 years earlier, which would make it around 41-42 A.D. – after leaving Damascus. We are not told of any specific vision Paul had at that time, although he surely had many.

The salient point for this discussion however is where verse 4 says “he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.”   It is also true that Jesus told us that God has concealed understanding of the mysteries of the kingdom from those who consider themselves wise – and that he has revealed them to the “little children” (Matthew 11:25, Matthew 13:10-17).

Speculating from now until judgment day as to what Paul saw and heard will not get us any closer to the truth – except to know that there are things not of this “world” that we do not yet know, and some that many or all of us perhaps never will.  But we can all search for the truth in God’s word with our hearts and minds open; and we may find a truth that was hidden from us the last time we searched.  That is the reason we do daily Bible reading; and it is the reason that it is fruitful to do so.  We will never run out of something to learn.

Lean not upon your own understanding…

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

/Bob’s boy
___________________
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.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Proverbs 20 – Like Deep Water

Sometimes the proverbs of these chapters come at us so fast that our eyes want to glaze over, and we can miss any point whatsoever quite easily in any one of them.  Then we read the same set on another occasion, and something just clicks, and we so “oh yeah…i think I get it now!”  Verse 5 of this chapter was one such proverb for me:

“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water,
but a man of understanding will draw it out.”

Humpback_WhaleSolomon presses us in these proverbs, particularly in the first few chapters, to pray for and to seek wisdom for many good reasons.  One of those reasons is to gain a deeper understanding of life, and of the heart.  Along those lines, so many of these proverbs speak of the value and wisdom to be gained by just listening.  By listening to others, we gain experience with the ways of the mind and of the heart – we acquire understanding.  The reference to deep water here is to say that what lies at the heart of a man’s (or a woman’s) intentions, desires, or even something that may really be bothering them is sometime not so obvious.

But by learning to listen, we can also learn what questions to ask to get to the heart of the matter.  And if the heart is up to no good, that will come out as well.  How do we know what questions to ask?  We ask those questions that help us gain a better understanding of what we are listening to.  And how does this help us with our walk with God?  If we truly are to love our neighbor, we must care enough about him to seek some insight into his heart.

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

/Bob’s boy
___________________
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.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Proverbs 9 – The Way of Wisdom

Lady wisdom (2)

Lady wisdom (2) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Together with Proverbs 1:7, verse 10 serves as a parenthetical summary of these first nine chapters, as this section of Proverbs ends and ushers in the actual Proverbs of the remaining chapters.  But here, the “fear of the Lord,” it expounds, is the beginning of wisdom – these chapters have taught the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  And the second part of the verse explains it succinctly – “the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”  Here, Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly are each calling out to mankind (even the simple) to come to a banquet they have prepared, the former of which offers a path to insight (verse 6).

Verse 7 states that one who corrects a scoffer will get abuse, and the scoffer will hate those that reprove him.  This is because of the condition of the heart.  Such people who are hostile to God cannot receive the truth unless they change their heart, and only God can help with that (Romans 8:7-8).   Conversely, reprove a wise man and he will love you; and he will be wiser if you instruct him (verses 8-9).  A righteous man will increase in learning, with instruction.  Perhaps the greatest wisdom of this chapter is in verse 12 “If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it” (Job 22:2).  Those who reject the Lord do so at their own peril.

Verses 13-18 contain the final description of the call of Lady Folly.  She is loud, seductive, and knows nothing.  She implores the same simple ones to come, with the lie that “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”  But her guests have been led down the path of destruction with the dead.

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

/Bob’s boy
___________________
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.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Proverbs 8 – The Blessings of Wisdom

An Oxford degree ceremony — the Pro-Vice-Chanc...

An Oxford degree ceremony — the Pro-Vice-Chancellor in MA gown and hood, Proctor in official dress and new Doctors of Philosophy in scarlet full dress. Behind them, a bedel, another Doctor and Bachelors of Arts and Medicine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Solomon begins by personifying Lady Wisdom further, summoning the reader to hear her call.  This is the ultimate of these chapters illuminating the two paths of wisdom and folly, or foolishness. The fact that the “fear of the Lord” is the beginning of all knowledge is again made infinitely plain in this chapter.  “She” begins by further developing the inclusion of righteousness as an integral part of wisdom (verses 6-9), the reasons for seeking it so earnestly (verses 10-11), and the benefits it provides mankind (verses 15-19).

She calls upon all the “children of man” (verse 4) – the simple, the fool, the learned – all who seek wisdom diligently will find it (verse 17).  But again, we are reminded of the difference between mere knowledge and true wisdom – the insight that comes to those who seek it without wickedness, who have prudence, who are just and seek justice, and those who abhor evil and are not full of pride, arrogance, and who avoid perverse speech.  True wisdom does not dwell in those who do not walk in the path that the Lord has made for us, no matter how “intelligent” that person may be.  Verses 8-9 make clear that only those who truly understand these facts will attain that wisdom, and that is so because those facts are clear for them to understand.  The unrighteous cannot have that understanding, and so they are denied true wisdom.

Verses 22 and following detail how wisdom “was” before God created the earth and all things universal, and how he delighted in his creation.  He created all things physical, all things invisible, and even the abstract.  There would not even be any concept of things such as beauty, love, truth, right, wrong, or even the concept of such things as a name or a number, but for the power of the Lord.  And Jesus, the Son, was there and is Himself that wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:22-24, 1 Cor 1:30, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:15-18).

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

/Bob’s boy
___________________
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.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.