The Book of Ecclesiastes
James J. Barker

Lesson 11



  1. Ecclesiastes chapter 10 is a collection of loosely connected maxims. It is similar in style to the book of Proverbs.
  2. There is a thread running from chapter to chapter (cf. 9:18; 10:1).
  3. We have here in chapter 10 a sharp contrast between the wise man and the foolish man.  The word “fool” or “foolishness” or “folly” (etc.) is used nine times in this chapter (cf. 10:1-3, 6, 12-15).
  4. The word “wise” or “wisdom” is found five times (10:1-3, 10, 12).
  5. Back in 7:1, Solomon said, “A good name is better than precious ointment.” Now in 10:1, Solomon says that dead flies cause the ointment to stink.
  6. What fly excrement is to sweet perfume, folly is to the reputation of a wise and honorable person.
  7. This is the theme for chapter 10: wise people stay away from foolishness.
  8. A man can spend a lifetime building a good reputation for wisdom and honor. Then he makes one blunder and all his accomplishments are forgotten. His reputation is ruined.
  9. In the Bible the heart represents the inner man. In Proverbs 4:23, Solomon wrote, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
  10. So in Eccl. 10:2 he writes, “A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.”  “In the ancient world, the right hand was the place of power and honor, while the left hand represented weakness and rejection (Matt. 25:33, 41)” (Warren Wiersbe, Bible Exposition Commentary).
  11. The right hand is generally more dexterous, and the left hand is generally more awkward.  The idea behind Eccl. 10:2 & 3 is that a wise man walks right, but a “fool is an awkward bungler” (William MacDonald, Enjoying Ecclesiastes).


I. FOOLISH RULERS (10:4 — 7, 16 — 20).

  1. King Solomon was a great ruler.  When he was a young king, the LORD appeared unto Solomon in a dream and asked him, “Ask what I shall give thee” (I Kings 3:5).  Solomon could have asked for just about anything, but he asked the Lord for an understanding heart (wisdom) (I Kings 3:9).
  2. The Bible says, “And the speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing” (I Kings 3:10).
  3. Unfortunately, King Solomon himself started acted foolishly when he started marrying heathen wives.  Nehemiah said, “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin” (Nehemiah 13:26).
  4. Some rulers are foolish and proud.  Ecclesiastes 10:4 teaches us how to deal with a ruler with a bad temper.  It is wise not to walk away in a huff.  This will only make things worse.  It is better to be meek and submissive, “for yielding pacifieth great offences” (cf. Proverbs 16:14, 32).
  5. Scofield says the theme of Ecclesiastes is “All is vanity.”  And Scofield says this theme is unfolded in chapter 10, “in view of the anarchy of the world.”
  6. This “anarchy” is described in Eccl. 10:5-7.   Often unqualified, incompetent men are appointed to positions of authority, while qualified, capable men waste their talents “n low place” (10:6).
  7. King Solomon saw “servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth” (10:7).
  8. This foolishness is illustrated in the life of King Solomon’s son Rehoboam.  He rejected the advice of his older and wiser counselors, and followed the advice of his younger and foolish friends (I Kings 12:1—19).
  9. King Rehoboam was immature, and therefore he surrounded himself with other immature men (Eccl. 10:16, 17).
  10. Isaiah 3:4 says, “And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.”  This was the judgment of God upon a backslidden people.
  11. King Solomon refers to the sin and shame of drunkenness in verse 17.  In Proverbs 20:1, Solomon wrote, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”
  12. “Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty” (Pro. 23:20, 21).
  13. “Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again” (Proverbs 23:29—35).
  14. Ecclesiastes 10:17 is referring specifically to the drunkenness of rulers. I heard a preacher say the biggest party in Washington is not the Republican Party or the Democrat Party. It is the cocktail party. Many of our leaders are nothing but a bunch of drunkards.
  15. Charismatic “prosperity” preachers like Oral Roberts often quote Ecclesiastes 10:19, “Money answereth all things.”  But in the context, this verse is talking about fools, especially pleasure-loving, drunken fools.
  16. “Curse not the king…” (Eccl. 10:20). First Peter 2:17 says we are to “Fear God” and “Honour the king.”
  17. In Acts 23:5, the apostle Paul said, “Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.”  Paul was quoting Exodus 22:28.
  18. We have all the heard the old saying, “A little birdie told me.” It probably goes all the way back to King Solomon and Ecclesiastes 10:20.



  1. While some say these are warnings about how foolish men are often injured at their workplace, verse 8 is a vivid picture of divine retribution. For example, Psalm 7:15 & 16 says, “He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.”
  2. Psalm 9:15 & 16 says, “The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken.  The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.”
  3. Referring to the wicked, Psalm 10:2 says, “Let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.”
  4. Psalm 35:7, 8: “For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul.  Let destruction come upon him at unawares; and let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall.”
  5. Psalm 57:6: “They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves.”
  6. Proverbs 26:27 says, “Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.”
  7. Proverbs 28:10: “Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit.”
  8. It is foolish man chops wood with a dull ax or digs with a dull hoe, while a wise man keeps his tools sharp (10:9, 10).


III. FOOLISH WORDS (10:11 — 15)

  1. Ecclesiastes 10:11 says, “Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment.” This refers to the snake charmers of the East.  Referring to the wicked, Psalm 58:4, 5 says, “Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.”
  2. The Bible describes foolish talkers as dangerous serpents, who will bite us when we are off guard.
  3. We have a contrast here between the words of a wise man and the words of a fool (10:12-14). A fool is a “babbler” (10:11b). “A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be” (10:14).
  4. Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.”
  5. Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
  6. Proverbs 13:3 says, “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.”
  7. Proverbs 21:23 says, “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.”
  8. James 3 has much to say about the tongue.  James 3:8 says, “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”
  9. When it comes to our speech, the Lord Jesus Christ is our great example.  John 7:46 says the temple officers said, “Never man spake like this man.”
  10. Some foolish talking goes beyond foolishness to “mischievous madness” (10:13).
  11. No one knows what the future holds, but the fool thinks he does (10:14).  James 4:15 says, “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”
  12. Ecclesiastes 10:15 says a fool “knoweth not how to go to the city.”  This sounds like our modern day saying, “He does not know enough to come in out of the rain.”

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