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Ecclesiastes 10

Ecc 10:1 . . Dead insects will cause even a bottle of perfume to stink! Yes, an ounce of foolishness can outweigh a pound of wisdom and honor.

Before the wonders of modern chemistry, perfumes were made (and many still are) from animal and vegetable sources. Those, being all-natural, in a day prior to modern preservatives, could spoil if the perfumer wasn't careful to keep his product protected from exposure to temperature, insects, dirt, moisture, and other contaminants. All the skills and patience and knowledge exercised in the making of expensive scents could be completely annulled by simply forgetting to put the cap back on a jar.

Anyway, Ecc 10:1 certainly rings true in this day and age as the Roman Catholic Church's credibility steadily goes down the tubes because of its ongoing pedophilia scandals aggravated by its deplorable cover-ups.

As I write this, we have a US President here in America whose every word has to be coached lest his thoughtless gaffes bring discredit to not only his political party, but the whole country; which goes to show that just one foolish man in a position of influence can cause a lot of damage to an entire system's reputation.

Ecc 10:2 . . A wise man's mind tends toward the right hand, a fool's toward the left.

The right hand is the most useful and dexterous of the two hands. (at least for right-handed people anyway). It swings hammers and it writes letters. It pulls back the bow string, and it wields the sword and axe. It holds your cup of coffee, and it stirs cake mix. So to put your mind towards your right hand is to make your mind the leader in your efforts; in contrast to the fool who doesn't bother taking time to think anything through before charging ahead. The fool leaves behind him a wake of errors; and is always learning things the hard way. His favorite (full time) university is the School Of Hard Knocks. Pity, but it seems to be the only way he ever learns anything.

Ecc 10:3 . . A fool's mind is also wanting when he travels, and he lets everybody know he is a fool.

For some strange reason, the average male doesn't like to ask for directions when he travels. Women usually don't mind at all because they want to get where they're going. The men want to get there too, but they don't want to get there as wimpy men; they want to find their own way there as macho men. They prefer to think of themselves as commandos, patrol leaders: map and compass experts. So they often end up lost and turned around because their male pride won't permit them to let somebody (especially wives and girlfriends) help them find the way.

And then there are people who don't prepare for emergencies when they travel. They don't bring a car blanket, nor hat, nor paper towels, nor tarp, nor flares, nor water, nor first aid supplies, nor flashlight, nor food-- their spare tire is flat, and they haven't a clue how to install their car's tire chains (that is; if they even have a set) and they try to get by all year long on regular tires rather than go to the trouble of purchasing and installing seasonal tires.

Ecc 10:4 . . If the wrath of a lord flares up against you, don't give up your post; for when wrath abates, grave offenses are pardoned.

It is amazing how time has a way of healing things, and making people's anger dissipate. If your boss blows his top at you for something or other and rakes you over the coals, don't lose heart and quit your job just yet. He'll cool off after a while and soon be back to his old self again. Sooner or later, the boss himself will trip up and do something stupid like sexual harassment or creating a hostile workplace; thus putting himself in the awkward position of owing you one. Then you'll be even, and can go on as if nothing ever happened; and he'll be very glad you didn't do something rash like haul him down to the Equal Employment Opportunity office and make an issue of his professional conduct.

Ecc 10:5-6 . . Here is an evil I have seen under the sun as great as an error committed by a ruler: Folly was placed on lofty heights, while rich men sat in low estate. I have seen slaves on horseback, and nobles walking on the ground like slaves.

That is more a contrast between the nature of two types of character than actual estate. A good biblical example of what Solomon is talking about can be seen at Acts 23:23-24:27; where Paul the apostle mounted his defense against the accusations of his Jewish enemies before a Roman governor named Felix.

Felix wasn't born into nobility. No, he was actually an emancipated slave who worked himself up to rank by craftiness and cruelty. Felix ruled, not with a nobleman's mentality, but with a slave's. Tacitus, Hist. 5, says this of Felix: Per omnem saevitiam ac libidinem jus regium servili ingenio exercuit — "He used royal power with a servile genius, and in connection with all the varieties of cruelty and lust."

Felix should have been judged by Paul, not the other way around. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became nervous and said: That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you. (Acts 24:25)

Felix's wife, Drusilla, was a piece of work herself. Her father was Herod Agrippa 1, the one who ordered the death of James the brother of John (Acts 12:2). Her great uncle, another Herod, ordered the Lord's cousin John beheaded (Mk 6:27). And last but not least, her great grandfather was the infamous Herod who ordered the slaughter of pre-schoolers. (Matt 2:16)

Ecc 10:8-9 . . He who digs a pit may fall into it, and a serpent may bite him who breaks through a wall. He who quarries stones may be hurt by them, and he who splits logs may be endangered by them.

Anyone who's ever chopped kindling, already knows how easy it is for sticks of wood to fly up into your face from a blow of the axe.

One of the most dangerous jobs up here in the northwest is logging. There's ten ways from Sunday to get yourself injured logging. Chain saws rip men, loose boughs called widow-makers fall on their heads, cables called chokers sometimes catch the men and crush their hands, tear them in half or pull an arm or leg off their bodies; falling trees lurch and skid rearwards off the stump to hit the logger if he forgets to stand off to the side. They are constantly tripping and falling, getting scratched, bitten by bugs, yelled at, cursed, and threatened by the Bull of the woods (their foreman).

Should men stop logging because it's dangerous? Should they stop digging trenches for pipelines because sometimes the trenches cave in? Should they stop tearing down old buildings for new shopping malls and apartment houses because there might be a rattler, or a scorpion, or a brown recluse spider in the rubble? No. All those hazards just quite naturally come with the turf.

Blue collar men are constantly in danger. But a wise worker will pay attention in safety meetings, and put into practice what's he's taught so he doesn't inadvertently kill himself in the process of bringing home the bacon. My boss always said: Cliff; I don't care if you get killed on the job just so long as you do it safely. (chuckle) That's one of the paradoxes of the blue collar world. Safe working practices save many lives and limbs; but none are fool proof.

Ecc 10:10 . . If the axe has become dull and he has not whetted the edge, he must exert more strength. Thus the advantage of a skill [depends on the exercise of] prudence.

We have a saying in the blue collar world: Work smarter, not harder. Many times a job can be facilitated by just simply taking the time to go and get the right tool instead of struggling to make do with the wrong one. But men can be stubborn; and are sometimes careless, lazy and/or in a hurry; with often predictable results.

Ecc 10:11 . . If the snake bites because no spell was uttered, no advantage is gained by the trained charmer.

That continues the thought from verse 10: "Thus the advantage of a skill [depends on the exercise of] prudence."

Trained snake charmers lose control over cobras when they fail to exercise the snake charming skills they learned in training. Charmers can't just sit there and do nothing. The snake might strike and end the show before the charmer gets any money from his audience. That principle obviously applies in just about any area of life where skills (and prudence) are required to produce results; like driving a car, SCUBA diving, banking, typing, sewing, cooking, rock climbing, welding . . whatever. Trainings and skills are only valuable when they're applied and put to use.

Ecc 10:12-14a . . A wise man's talk brings him favor, but a fool's lips are his undoing. His talk begins as silliness and ends as disastrous madness. Yet the fool talks and talks!

There are some talk shows on television that I simply cannot endure because the hosts are so rude and disorderly. Those people continually interrupt each other and hardly let the others complete a sentence before blurting out their own thoughts; and many times all are talking at once with a din that reminds me of a chicken house with all the birds clucking and squawking an incoherent cacophony.

For some people, every conversation is a venue for monologue: they do all the talking. I used to work with a young man who not only talked very fast, but with a pretty fair amount of animated arm waving and head tossing to go with it. He had a maddening habit of never finishing one topic at a time. In mid sentence he would branch off to another; leaving the first incomplete. His conversation was like that continually and the effect was nerve jangling because your mind was constantly shifting gears trying to keep up with each new train of his erratic thoughts.

People's words are like pools of water. Some are very deep; yet so clear that you can see all the way down. Others are shallow, but alas, so murky that we cannot see even one inch below the surface.

Ecc 10:14b . . A man cannot know what will happen; who can tell him what the future holds?

Well . . some people seem to know a little something everything. No matter what topic comes up in conversation, they have something to share about it as if you were the student, and they the master; and they are prolific with rash predictions about this and about that, e.g. "just you wait and see" and/or "mark my words."

Ecc 10:15 . . A fool's exertions tire him out, for he doesn't know how to get to a town.

(chuckle) There's a modern colloquialism similar to that one: So and so is so dumb that he doesn't know his right hand from his left. Or: He wouldn't be able to find his nose if it wasn't attached to his face. That's the general impression bucket-mouths make upon their victims.

"Sooner meet a bereaved she-bear than a fool with his nonsense." (Pro 17:12)

"A knowledgeable man is sparing with his words; a man of understanding is reticent. Even a fool, if he keeps silent, is deemed wise— intelligent, if he seals his lips." (Pro 17:27-28)

It isn't necessary to be an aged wizard like Gandalf to be truly wise because wisdom isn't really measured by a person's age. It's measured in good sense. Frodo the Hobbit, although young and inexperienced, is wise in his own way. Some of his friends are imbeciles. But not Frodo. Although he enjoys a good time as well as any of his peers, Frodo is careful to avoid stupidity. Because he exercises a considerable amount of self control, Frodo is the only inhabitant of Middle Earth who can be trusted to bear the one ring that rules them all.

Ecc 10:16a . .Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad

It is a very sad time in a country's progress when the young are getting their own way. God is known for punishing Moses' people by saddling them with immature leadership and with disrespect for senior citizens. Some see lowering the USA voting age to 18 as progress and a step in the right direction. The Bible would see it as an evidence of America's decadence.

"He will destroy all the nation's leaders— the heroes, soldiers, judges, prophets, diviners, elders, army officers, honorable citizens, advisers, skilled magicians, and expert enchanters. Then he will appoint children to rule over them, and anarchy will prevail. People will take advantage of each other— man against man, neighbor fighting neighbor. Young people will revolt against authority, and nobodies will sneer at honorable people." (Isa 3:2-5)

Children's activities, like little league baseball and cub scouts, need adult supervision. Kids, no matter how intelligent, just haven't the maturity to rule either themselves or others. Management of lands and peoples requires a degree of maturity, experience, and self discipline; which is why it's totally stupid to lower the voting age instead of raising it especially when the new 21 in America is now somewhere around 26, and where civil disobedience is thought to be patriotic, and where parent-demeaning sitcoms rate high in television programming.

Ecc 10:16b-17 . . and whose princes feast in the morning. Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time— for strength, and not for drunkenness.

The word "princes" is translated from sar (sar) which means: a head person of any rank or class— captains, chiefs, generals, governors, keepers, lords, taskmasters, monarchs, kings, magnates, barons, czars, foremen, supervisors, etc.

A hearty breakfast of pancakes, fruit, and cereal wouldn't be considered feasting. But a banquet, replete with alcohol, so early in the day, would have to be construed as indulgence. Here in America, where we have so much, overeating is a big problem. Many of us don't eat because we're hungry. No, we eat for recreation: simply because we like food.

* Overeating isn't the same as gluttony. Real gluttony is where revelers stuff themselves then regurgitate it so they can continue. But chronic overeating can be evidence of the possible presence of other vices. There used to be an old saying that chubby people are the happiest people. But we now know that over-eating is often the result of psychological problems like depression and anxiety disorders. Is that the kind of people we need in positions of leadership? I seriously doubt it.

Ecc 10:18-19 . .Through slothfulness the ceiling sags, through lazy hands the house caves in. They make a banquet for revelry; wine makes life merry, and money answers every need.

People with vices often put a higher priority upon satisfying their appetites than taking care of business. Drug addicts often lose their jobs for non-productivity and tardiness. Some lose their friends, and their mental health. Gamblers risk the loss of their homes, credit ratings, and bank accounts. Binge eaters risk heart attacks, strokes, and hardening of the arteries. Smokers risk cancer, premature aging, and high blood pressure. And addicts on meth risk losing their teeth, ergo: the best time to break a bad habit is before it starts.

Ecc 10:20 . . Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.

The word for "revile" is translated from qalal (kaw-lal'); and basically means: to belittle, vilify, despise or express contempt for someone. It can also mean to wish (either in your heart or out loud) for someone's misfortune, or to hope they experience some sort of harm, calamity, and/or injury.

Vilifying the rich is one thing; but vilifying those that employ you in their business is quite another and can possibly lead to the loss of a promotion, or even your job.

Solomon's advice on this point is extremely valuable; and the practice of discretion is an outstanding social skill. It never seems to fail, that when friends get together, some begin airing petty grievances against their supervisors. Of course they wouldn't dare do this if any of the supervisors' friends were around; but they make the common mistake of assuming their friends are all loyal, and can keep a secret, and protect them from scandal. But you just never know who among your friends might be wearing two faces; and looking for an opportunity to curry favor with the very person you just now ran into the ground.

Even the walls can quite literally have ears. Here's how. One year, we were on vacation and staying at a friend's home in the town where we were. Well, one evening as my wife and I were planning our itinerary for the next day, I complained that the day would be ruined if our host wanted to come with us. Guess what? Their home had central heating and every room was equipped with a vent that connected to the main ductwork; which quite effectively carried sounds to every room in the house like a tubular telegraph system. Our host overheard everything we said.

Nowadays we pretty much have to assume that strange rooms, and even our workplaces, are equipped with hidden microphones and tiny little video cameras. Privacy is becoming scarcer and scarcer in the modern world.



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