Ecclesiastes 7:  Just Fit In

For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense, But the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it.  Ecclesiastes 7:12

Wisdom as a Defense


The ethical conclusion Ecclesiastes draws is defensive in nature.  He urges no zealous pursuit of good, no commitment to unrealistic ideals.  And in this too Ecclesiastes differs from the rest of the Scripture.  Because God is, our labor is never in vain (“empty, meaningless); we can confidently give ourselves “fully to the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58)

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Why better? (7:1-4)  What assumptions underlie this brief collection of the Teacher’s proverbs?  Some suggest that sorrow and grief forces us to think about the meaning of life and that this is better than living superficially.  However, the rest of the book points out that the more eagerly a man searches for life’s meaning, ghe greater his disappointment and frustration.  A better reason is seen when we note that this collection launches Qoheleth’s examination of ethics.  What he seems to say is that realism is better than guide.  It is best to be aware of life’s dark side and live with reality than to deceive yourself and build your life on illusion.

Again the author is right – if his methodology and resources are appropriate.  But if we look beyond human experience to revelation, and rely not on reason but on faith, we reach very different conclusions indeed.

The laid-back life (7:7-9).  Ecclesiastes takes side with the stoics.  Step back.  Don’t become too involved.  Don’t arouse passion or get hope.  If we don’t care, we can’t be hurt too much.

7:11 Wisdom is as good as inheritance; in fact, wisdom is even more advantageous or profitable.  Who see the sun:  This seems to be a variation on the more familiar phrase “under the sun.”

7:12 The word translated defense literally means “shade” or “shelter,” a kind of protection.  The Hebrew word translated here as excellence is often rendered profit in Ecclesiastes.

Fight no windmills (7:13-14).  Don Quixote is a classic idealist, rushing off to fight windmills in the mistaken assumption they are giants and assuming that a local prostitute is a lady in disguise.  The realist may be moved by Quixote’s noble delusion, but considers it madness.  So does the Teacher.  Man can do nothing to make any difference, so he resigns himself to take what comes, enjoy the good, and try to survive the bad.

Just fit in (7:15-18).  Moderation is the ethical watchword.  It doesn’t pay to be wicked.  But it doesn’t pay to be overly righteous either.  If we look for our reward in this life, he’s right.  If we look for it later, he couldn’t be more wrong.

[From another commentary]

7:16 Do not be overly righteous:  Few verses in Ecclesiastes are more susceptible to incorrect interpretation than these (vv. 16-18).  This is not the so-called golden mean that advises:  “Don’t be too holy and don’t be too wicked; sin to a moderate degree.”  The Preacher was warning instead about pseudo-religiosity and showy forms of worship.  The Hebrew verb for “be wise” may be rendered “think yourself wise,” and to “be overly righteous” would mean “righteous in your own eyes.”

** There seems to be no blue sky in this chapter.  No fighting spirit.  Keep our heads low and enjoy what we have at hand.  Who knows what will happen after we die?  Interesting that Solomon calls himself a Teacher and a Preacher.  His father David calls himself a humble servant.  I’d rather listen to his father.  He has better connection.

7 1  A good name is better than precious ointment, And the day of death than the day of one’s birth; 2  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 take it to heart. 3  Sorrow is better than laughter, For by a sad countenance the heart is made better. 4  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. 5  It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise Than for a man to hear the song of fools. 6  For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, So is the laughter of the fool. This also is vanity.

7  Surely oppression destroys a wise man’s reason, And a bribe debases the heart. 8  The end of a thing is better than its beginning; The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. 9  Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, For anger rests in the bosom of fools. 10  Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?” For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.

11  Wisdom is good with an inheritance, And profitable to those who see the sun. 12  For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense, But the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it. 13  Consider the work of God; For who can make straight what He has made crooked? 14  In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, So that man can find out nothing that will come after him. 15  I have seen everything in my days of vanity: There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness, And there is a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness. 16  Do not be overly righteous, Nor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself? 17  Do not be overly wicked, Nor be foolish: Why should you die before your time? 18  It is good that you grasp this, And also not remove your hand from the other; For he who fears God will escape them all. 19  Wisdom strengthens the wise More than ten rulers of the city. 20  For there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin. 21  Also do not take to heart everything people say, Lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22  For many times, also, your own heart has known That even you have cursed others.

23  All this I have proved by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise”; But it was far from me. 24  As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep, Who can find it out? 25  I applied my heart to know, To search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things, To know the wickedness of folly, Even of foolishness and madness. 26  And I find more bitter than death The woman whose heart is snares and nets, Whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God shall escape from her, But the sinner shall be trapped by her. 27  “Here is what I have found,” says the Preacher, “Adding one thing to the other to find out the reason, 28  Which my soul still seeks but I cannot find: One man among a thousand I have found, But a woman among all these I have not found. 29  Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes.”















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