The Preacher is still prosecuting his sermon through this Chapter;
but folding up many important sayings within short sentences.
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.
This verse may serve to show us how frequently some of the most precious things are veiled under an unpromising cover. If we take this expression in its literal sense, no doubt it is very true. Folly will give a tinge to much reputation of wisdom, as dead flies will give an unsavory cast to the ointment of the apothecary. But if this were all to be learnt from this scripture, it required not the wisdom of Solomon, much less the teaching of the Holy Ghost, to give such information. But if by the dead flies here spoken of, the blessed Spirit intended to teach the Church, that our corrupt things (nay, our best things, which from sinners by nature dead in trespasses and sin, can be no otherwise than dead,) be mingled with the righteousness of Jesus, whose name for fragrancy is as ointment poured forth; will it not cause all that is blessed in Jesus to lose in our spiritual senses, its sweetness from our ill savor? Reader! why is it that what is precious in Jesus, is not at all times alike precious to us, but from our mingling up with it what is our own?
A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left. (3) Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to 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. (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.
Who that reads of the wise man's heart and the fool's, differing so widely from each other, but must be led therefrom to consider the blessedness of being guided by Him, whose distinguishing character is, that length of days is in his right hand, and in his left riches and honour. Proverbs 3:16.
I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.
There is no doubt great inequality in common life: and not unfrequently, men that are princes in understanding, may be constrained to walk in menial offices, while others weak in intellect, ride in high places. But the beauty of this scripture is in the spiritual sense of it. Here we find in the general, that those whom Jesus hath made kings and priests to God and the Father, are among the offscouring of the earth; while not many mighty, not many noble are called. Oh! how different are the Lord's views from our views, and his thoughts from our thoughts. James 2:5; Revelation 1:6; 1 Corinthians 1:26; 1 Samuel 16:7.
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. (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. (11) Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better. (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? (15) The labour of the foolish wearieth everyone of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.
We shall have a much clearer apprehension of the Preacher's meaning in those several expressions concerning both wisdom and folly, if we always keep in remembrance that by wisdom is implied, That wisdom which maketh wise unto salvation: and by folly, the ignorance of the heart concerning Christ. This doctrine the Holy Ghost graciously explained by Job ages before, when by the mouth of his servant he said, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, is understanding. Job 28:28.
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!
Similar observations to what were made in the preceding verses, will be found applicable here. As in a moral sense, temperance and moderation will tend to keep the faculties clear, and in vigour for national government and rule: so in a spiritual sense, there must be blessedness, when the inability of grace, and a ripeness in wisdom, in things pertaining to Jesus, bring a train of covenant mercies, like the land of Judea, upon the Zion of God.
By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through. (19) A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things. (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.
Here again, as in things of nature, so in grace, the spiritual building will not advance, when inattention to our foundation Christ Jesus, makes the soul go out of the perpendicular. And when coldness, neglect of ordinances, and of secret prayer, beget distance between Jesus and the soul; how shall it be otherwise than that spiritual decays are induced? Money, saith the Preacher, answereth all things, that is, it becomes the universal means of procuring supply to all our earthly wants. And what money is to the carnal, such, and infinitely more, is Jesus to the spiritual. He is meat to the hungry, and water to the thirsty; a garment to the naked, medicine to the sick, warmth to the cold, in short, all things for life, for light, for peace, for joy, and comfort. I am Alpha (saith Jesus) and Omega, the beginning and the end, he that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. Revelation 21:6-7. If Solomon's precept, with which he closeth this chapter, be important, in respect to earthly government; how infinitely more so, in relation to that which is divine. Precious Jesus! I would say for myself and reader, give us grace to rejoice that thou art the universal Governor, and thy kingdom ruleth over all. Daniel 2:44.
READER! the whole of this Chapter leads to very many important reflections, and if followed up to the source from whence all blessings flow, and in which all terminate; we shall find that the Preacher, from the emptiness of creatures, is here setting forth the fulness of the Creator; and in the unsatisfying nature of everything out of Christ, is proclaiming the necessity of Christ to give real comfort to the soul. Doth he say that flies of death are in the richest ointments of creature-making! And what is this, but to show that all fragrancy is in Jesus? Doth he assert that our comforts, and our wisdom, are like the heart of the fool, at the left side? And what doth this imply, but that in Jesus only right-handed blessings are found! Till we find Christ, who alone can cause us to inherit substance, it matters not what else, beside we inherit, for all alike are hollow and unsubstantial. Precious Lord Jesus! cause our souls thus to inherit thee, for like a golden chain, if thus united to thee, in thee we shall inherit all things. So saith thine Apostle, and the experience of thy people in all ages confirm it. All are ours, whether life or death; or things present, or things to come; all are ours, if we are Christ's, for Christ's is God's.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter