Foolishness

This entry is part 249 of 376 in the series Inquiring Minds
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What is Ecclesiastes 10 verse 3?

Ecclesiastes is one of the books of the wisdom literature genre in the Bible. As such, it is always demonstrating the difference between godly wisdom and earthly foolishness. The writer of Ecclesiastes, probably Solomon, explains that he searched the earth for the most important things and settles at the end of the book on the fear of the Lord and knowledge of God.

One of the continuing refrains of the book of Ecclesiastes is that everything that the writer puts his hand to ends up turning out vein or worthless. It is empty of all eternal success. So in Ecclesiastes chapter 10, he focuses on how just a little bit of foolishness taints any wisdom a person has.

Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left. Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool. If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmness will lay great offenses to rest.” (Ecclesiastes 10:1–4, ESV)

Ecclesiastes 10:1 opens us up to the idea of how much foolishness can ruin any kind of wisdom we have. You could have a beautifully scented perfume that is ruined by the smell of death from flies. You can be extremely wise but practice foolishness and ruin it all.

Just one little folly can ruin years of wise choices. Next, Solomon introduces us to the idea of a wise person and a foolish person walking along the road. The wise person makes the right decision, in this case, to turn to the right. That is the right way to go. That is the wise way to go.

The foolish person decides to do his own thing and turn to the left instead. He makes the wrong or unwise, foolish decision (Ecclesiastes 10:2). The foolish person even trumpets his foolishness as he goes to folly (Ecclesiastes 10:3).

This verse means that you can spot a fool coming down the road. He’s going the wrong way and he’s telling you he’s foolish. It is the epitome of foolishness as an image. It’s almost like the full takes pride in foolishness instead of wanting to be wise.

Ecclesiastes 10:4 adds another principle that when we are calm in a situation, we bring down the level of anger and frustration around us. The fool exacerbates the situation and makes it worse. A wise person seeks to make everyone at ease.

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