Ecclesiastes 10-12

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

December 8, 2004

Ecclesiastes 10

:1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.

It doesn’t take much to ruin a good thing.

Little things can ruin a good thing.


Scientists now say that a series of slits, not a giant gash, sank the Titanic.

The opulent, 900-foot cruise ship sank in 1912 on its first voyage, from England to New York. Fifteen hundred people died in the worst maritime disaster of the time.

The most widely held theory was that the ship hit an iceberg, which opened a huge gash in the side of the liner. But an international team of divers and scientists recently used sound waves to probe the wreckage, buried in the mud under two-and-a-half miles of water. Their discovery? The damage was surprisingly small. Instead of the huge gash, they found six relatively narrow slits across the six watertight holds.

Small damage, invisible to most, can sink not only a great ship but a great reputation.

-- USA Today (4/9/97). Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 4.

:2 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 good hand, the strong hand. The left hand was the weak or even the “evil” hand. The Latin word for left hand is “sinister”. The wise man’s heart is in the right place. The fool’s heart is in the wrong place.

:3 Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.

Just the way he lives his life shows everyone that he is a fool.

:4 If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.

(Ec 10:4 NLT) {4} If your boss is angry with you, don’t quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes.

:5 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler:

:6 Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place.

:7 I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.

(Ec 10:5-7 NLT) {5} There is another evil I have seen as I have watched the world go by. Kings and rulers make a grave mistake {6} if they give foolish people great authority, and if they fail to give people of proven worth their rightful place of dignity. {7} I have even seen servants riding like princes—and princes walking like servants.

It’s tough when the wrong people get promoted.

:8 He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.

:9 Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.

Life is full of risks.

You can sit on the sofa and play it safe, or take some risks and live real life and make real progress like digging a well, cutting wood, etc.

:10 If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.

It’s wiser to have a sharpened axe. You don’t need to work as hard.


Rabinowitz The Tree Chopper

“Name?” “Rabinowitz.” “Wait a minute, Mr. Rabinowitz. You really don’t look like you’re cut out for this job. Are you sure you’re a lumberjack?” “Yes.” “It’s just that you’re such a little man. Well, let’s see what you can do. Can you chop down that tree over there?” “Sure.” (Chop!) “Hm... not bad. How about that big one behind it? In one stroke? This... I want to see.” “Sure.” (Chop!!!) “Hm ... Very impressive, Mr. Rabinowitz. Really, I apologize for doubting your ability. I mean, you really don’t LOOK like a lumberjack, but you sure can cut trees! Say, where did you learn your trade?” “Well, for many years I worked in the Sahara Forest.” “You mean the Sahara Desert” “Exactly!”

Doing things smarter can save effort. Keep your axe sharp.

:11 Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.

(Eccl 10:11 NASB) If the serpent bites before being charmed, there is no profit for the charmer.

Snakes have no external ears; they pick up sound waves primarily through the bone structure of the head. More than the music played by the charmer, it is the man’s disciplined actions (swaying and “staring”) that hold the snake’s attention and keep the serpent under control. It is indeed an art.[1]

Apparently snake charming was a type of entertainment.  But if you’ve already been bit, it’s a little late. 

Speaking of snakes …



A truck driver is heading west across the Arizona desert. He has been driving all night, and as the sun starts to rise, he feels the need to stop and commune with nature. He pulls to the side of the road, parks, and walks out into the sage brush. As he is standing there, looking around at the beauty of the early morn, he notices a lever sticking out of the ground. After a few moments, he walks over, walks all the way around, and then reaches out to grasp the lever. Just as he does, he hears a voice say, “Don’t touch that lever.” The driver jumps about two feet off the ground, and as he comes down, he looks around. No one is to be seen. Thinking it was just his imagination, he again reaches for the lever. Again the voice yells, “I said don’t touch that lever!” Being more prepared, the driver senses the location of the voice and looks down under a sage brush. There he sees a small snake. The driver, in much astonishment, said, “Was that you that just spoke?” The snake said, “Yes. I have to keep people from touching that lever. If the lever is moved, it will be the end of the world.” The driver, still rather astonished, said, “What is your name? And will you talk on TV?” The snake said his name was Nate and that he wasn’t interested in going on TV; anyway, he had to stay and watch the lever to see that it wasn’t moved. The driver said, “Look, I will get the networks to send out camera crews. That way, you can inform the entire world about the danger of the lever.” Nate thought that over and allowed as how there was a great deal of sense to the idea. The driver, true to his word, got the network camera crews out. They put on broadcasts in which Nate warned the entire world of the dangers of moving the lever. A few weeks later, another truck driver was going through the area. He was following an oil tanker, and the tanker sprang a leak. When the driver’s truck hit the slick, it went out of control, and he found himself headed straight for the lever. He remembered seeing Nate on the TV telling about the lever and so he knew that if he hit it, he would cause the world to end. He strove, with all his might to maneuver the truck. Finally, at the last moment, he was able to swerve, but he ran over Nate, the snake, and killed him flat. The truck driver was heard to say “Well, better Nate than lever.”

Actually, sometimes it’s not better late than never.  Sometimes it’s just too late.  That is if the snake has already bit you.

:12 The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.

:13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.

:14 A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?

(Ec 10:14 NLT) {14} Foolish people claim to know all about the future and tell everyone the details! But who can really know what is going to happen?

:15 The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.

(Eccl 10:15 NKJV) The labor of fools wearies them, For they do not even know how to go to the city!

The fool loves to talk and talk.  They can claim even to know the future, yet they can’t find their way to the present.

:16 Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!

:17 Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!

:18 By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.

(Eccl 10:18 NLT) Laziness lets the roof leak, and soon the rafters begin to rot.

:19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.

(Eccl 10:19 NLT) A party gives laughter, and wine gives happiness, and money gives everything!

:20 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

(Eccl 10:20 NLT) Never make light of the king, even in your thoughts. And don't make fun of a rich man, either. A little bird may tell them what you have said.

This is probably where the phrase, “a little bird told me”, came from.


Elisha and the king of Syria – Elisha was telling the king of Israel the things that the king of Syria said in his bedroom.
God knows.  And sometimes He tells.  Sometimes the “little bird” is the Holy Spirit.

Don’t say anything about someone else that you wouldn’t say to their face.

Ecclesiastes 11

:1 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

The idea is sending your grain out in merchant ships to foreign lands.  It was a pretty risky business adventure considering the reliability of shipping in those days.

Perhaps this is talking about taking the risk of investing.

Maybe learning to invest in people.

One translation has it:

(Eccl 11:1 NLT) Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later.

:2 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

Another way of putting it:  Don’t put all your eggs into one basket.

Spread your investments around.

:3 If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.

Wherever you go, there you are.

:4 He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

(Eccl 11:4 NLT) If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.

We often look at things we admire and don’t realize the process that can go into things happening.


Marriage – you might admire a certain marriage and wish your marriage was like that marriage. But good marriages don’t just happen, they take a lot of work.
Ministry – we can look at some large ministry and think that we can’t do anything until we get to be a large ministry. Yet you then ignore the very people that God has put you together with. Even large ministries used to be small.

:5 As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

His ways are not like ours.

(Isa 55:8-11 KJV)  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. {9} For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. {10} For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: {11} So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

God works in mysterious ways


The hymn God Moves in a Mysterious Way has been a source of great comfort and blessing to many of God’s people since William Cowper wrote it in the 18th century. Yet few people know of the unusual circumstances that led to its composition.

William Cowper was a Christian, but he had sunk to the depths of despair. One foggy night he called for a horsedrawn carriage and asked to be taken to the London Bridge on the Thames River. He was so overcome by depression that he intended to commit suicide. But after 2 hours of driving through the mist, Cowper’s coachman reluctantly confessed that he was lost. Disgusted by the delay, Cowper left the carriage and decided to find the London Bridge on foot. After walking only a short distance, though, he discovered that he was at his own doorstep! The carriage had been going in circles. Immediately he recognized the restraining hand of God in it all. Convicted by the Spirit, he realized that the way out of his troubles was to look to God, not to jump into the river. As he cast his burden on the Savior, his heart was comforted. With gratitude he sat down and penned these reassuring words:

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants His foot-steps in the sea and rides upon the storm.
You fearful saints, fresh courage take: The clouds you so much dread are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning providence faith sees a smiling face.
Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.

:6 In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

(Eccl 11:6 NLT) Be sure to stay busy and plant a variety of crops, for you never know which will grow--perhaps they all will.

Keep at it. You don’t know when you’re going to plant a seed that takes root.


After years of service in South Africa, the famous missionary Robert Moffat returned to Scotland to recruit helpers. When he arrived at the church one cold wintry night, he was dismayed that only a small group had come out to hear him. What bothered him even more was that the only people in attendance were ladies. Although he was grateful for their interest, he had hoped to challenge men. He had chosen as his text Proverbs 8:4, “Unto you, O men I call.” In his discouragement he almost failed to notice one small boy in the loft pumping the bellows of the organ. Moffat felt frustrated as he gave the message, for he realized that very few women could be expected to undergo the rigorous life in undeveloped jungles. But God works in mysterious ways.

Although no one volunteered that evening, the young fellow assisting the organist was deeply moved by the challenge. As a result, he promised God he would follow in the footsteps of this pioneer missionary. And he remained true to his vow. When he grew up, he went and ministered to the unreached tribes of Africa. His name was David Livingstone! Moffat never ceased to wonder that his appeal which he had intended for men had stirred a young boy, who eventually became a mighty power of God.

:7 Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:

:8 But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.

Enjoy the times of light.

Don’t forget the dark times.  That’s where God molds and shapes you.

:9 Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

:10 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Enjoy your youth while you can.

Just remember that you will be judged by God one day.

Ecclesiastes 12

:1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

There will be a day when you will grow old…

:2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

:3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

:4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;

:5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

:6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

silver cord – thought to be a picture of what holds man’s life in his body.

:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

Every person will die one day.  From dust to dust.

:8 Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.

:9 And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.

:10 The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.

:11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

It’s good to pay attention to the words of the wise – to the words of Scripture.

:12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

(Ec 12:12 NLT) {12} But, my child, be warned: There is no end of opinions ready to be expressed. Studying them can go on forever and become very exhausting!

:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.


Fear God

The Christmas Miracle
Updated: 2:08 p.m. ET Dec. 5, 2004Dec. 5 - Seventy-nine percent of Americans believe that, as the Bible says, Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, without a human father, according to a new NEWSWEEK poll on beliefs about Jesus.
Sixty-seven percent say they believe that the entire story of Christmas—the Virgin Birth, the angelic proclamation to the shepherds, the Star of Bethlehem and the Wise Men from the East—is historically accurate. Twenty-four percent of Americans believe the story of Christmas is a theological invention written to affirm faith in Jesus Christ, the poll shows. In general, say 55 percent of those polled, every word of the Bible is literally accurate. Thirty-eight percent do not believe that about the Bible.
In the NEWSWEEK poll, 93 percent of Americans say they believe Jesus Christ actually lived and 82 percent believe Jesus Christ was God or the Son of God. Fifty-two percent of all those polled believe, as the Bible proclaims, that Jesus will return to earth someday; 21 percent do not believe it. Fifteen percent believe Jesus will return in their lifetime; 47 percent do not, the poll shows.
When asked if there would be more or less kindness in the world today if there had never been a Jesus, 61 percent of all those polled say there would be less kindness. Forty-seven percent say there would be more war if there had never been a Jesus (16 percent say less, 26 percent say the same); 63 percent say there would be less charity; 58 percent say there would be less tolerance; 59 percent say there would be less personal happiness and 38 percent say there would be less religious divisions (21 percent say more and 26 percent say the same).
Just 11 percent of those surveyed say American society as a whole very closely reflects true Christian values and the spirit of Jesus; 53 percent say it somewhat reflects those values. But 86 percent say they believe organized religion has a “a lot” or “some” influence over life in the United States today. Nine percent say it has “only a little” influence.
Sixty-two percent say they favor teaching creation science in addition to evolution in public schools; 26 percent oppose such teaching, the poll shows. Forty-three percent favor teaching creation science instead of evolution in public schools; 40 percent oppose the idea.
For this NEWSWEEK Poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates interviewed by telephone 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older on Dec. 2 and Dec. 3. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
© 2004 Newsweek, Inc.
Interesting numbers. 82 percent believing that Jesus is God. 55 percent believing that the Bible is accurate. 52 percent believing that Jesus is coming back.
So how can we have so much wickedness in our nation?
How is it that one school district in Cuppertino California is keeping a Christian school teacher from using historical documents like the Declaration of Independence and George Washington’s diaries because they mention God?
How is it that a Christmas Parade in Denver does not allow a church to participate because they want to sing Christmas Carols in the parade?

There was another poll taken a year ago by George Barna, a Christian pollster (WorldNet Daily, Dec. 3, 1993)

His poll was about whether or not people have a “Biblical worldview”.
For the purposes of the research, a biblical worldview was defined as believing that absolute moral truths exist; that such truth is defined by the Bible; and firm belief in six specific religious views. Those views were that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He still rules it today; salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned; Satan is real; a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people; and the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.
His conclusions?
Only 4 percent of adults have a Biblical worldview
Of those who claim to be “born again”, only 9 percent have a Biblical worldview
Only 7 percent of Protestants overall maintained a biblical worldview, according to the study. Of adults who attend mainline Protestant churches, only 2 percent shared those values. Among Catholics, less than one-half of 1 percent had a biblical worldview. The denominations that produced the highest proportions of adults with a biblical worldview were non-denominational Protestant churches, with 13 percent, Pentecostal churches, with 10 percent, and Baptist churches with 8 percent.
It’s one thing to say that you believe that “every word of the Bible is literally accurate” (Newsweek, 55%), and another to actually conform your life to live what the Bible teaches.

The difference?

I wonder if it isn’t the “fear of God”.
People who have near-death experiences have a glimpse of the “fear of God”.
(Heb 9:27 KJV) And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
The problem is for those of us who aren’t so close to that “near-death” experience.

Solomon would tell us that the most important thing in life is to learn to fear God in all you do.

[1]Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1990). Be satisfied (Ec 10:8). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.