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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 10:10

If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Iron;   Prudence;   Wisdom;  
Dictionaries:
Holman Bible Dictionary - Poetry;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ecclesiastes;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Blunt;   Iron;  
Encyclopedias:
The Jewish Encyclopedia - Kasher;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for August 18;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse Ecclesiastes 10:10. If the iron be blunt — If the axe have lost its edge, and the owner do not sharpen it, he must apply the more strength to make it cut: but the wisdom that is profitable to direct will teach him, that he should whet his axe, and spare his strength. Thus, without wisdom and understanding we cannot go profitably through the meanest concerns in life.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:10". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-10.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


Thoughts on wisdom and folly (9:13-10:20)

A simple story illustrates how a person may be wise and humble, but the good he does is not appreciated by those who benefit from it. Riches, status and a show of power are the things people admire. If a person lacks these, he is ignored or despised, even though his quiet words of wisdom may save a city from destruction (13-18).
One foolish act can spoil a lot of good. Stupidity leads to wrongdoing and marks a person out as a fool in the eyes of everyone (10:1-3). But when a ruler acts like a fool, the wise person will be patient and not panic. Unfortunately, fools often get into places of authority, but more capable people are not given a chance (4-7). In most activities there is some danger, so people should be careful and plan ahead; otherwise, instead of enjoying success they may meet disaster (8-11).
Fools talk without thinking of the consequences of their words and so get themselves into trouble. They waste their time with much talk about the future, even though no one can know the future. They waste their energy in useless work. They have no idea where they are going (12-15).
Immature rulers, who think only of their own comforts and ignore the needs of the people, bring hardship and discontent to the country they rule (16-17). Laziness leads to decay. If people want to enjoy the good things of life, they must work so that they can earn the money to buy them (18-19). The wise will learn how to control their thoughts and, consequently, their words and actions. In this way they will keep out of trouble (20).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:10". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/ecclesiastes-10.html. 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

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

In this, the author is still talking about cleaving wood; and the iron here is a reference to the axe. "If the axe is blunt and the edge unwhetted, more strength must be put into the blow; successful skill comes from shrewd sense."[8]; Ecclesiastes 10:8-9 were summarized as saying, "Every job has its dangers."[9] This verse (1) is paraphrased: "Wisdom can make any job easier; if a person sharpens the knife (axe) the job is easier. Wisdom is like that."[10]

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:10". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/ecclesiastes-10.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The figures seem to be taken from the work of building up and pulling down houses. In their general application, they recommend the man who would act wisely to be cautious when taking any step in life which involves risk.

Ecclesiastes 10:8

Breaketh an hedge - Rather: “breaks through a wall.”

Serpent - The habit of snakes is to nestle in a chink of a wall, or among stones (compare Amos 5:19).

Ecclesiastes 10:9

Be endangered - Rather: “cut himself.”

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:10". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/ecclesiastes-10.html. 1870.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Chapter 10:

Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking odor: so does a little folly to him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor ( Ecclesiastes 10:1 ).

There are certain men that just should not be doing foolish things. We are reading quite a bit lately about the Bohemian Club and we are told of all the important people in the United States, men who are part of this Bohemian Club. Men who should know better, but evidently don't. And, of course, we are told that our President and Vice President and former President Richard Nixon, David Rockefeller, that elitist of the United States, members of this Bohemian Club, and they have a little retreat north of San Francisco where they go once a year for a retreat. Where they entertain themselves by putting on foolish costumes and dancing around, and going through different types of rites and so forth in this Bohemian Club. But even as dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary carried a stink, so does a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor. In other words, men who are in reputation for wisdom and honor, it's just folly and their life is out of place.

A wise man's heart is at his right hand ( Ecclesiastes 10:2 );

I only bring that up because you're going to be reading more and more about the Bohemian Club. The liberal press has decided to expose its activities because they are sort of ridiculous and, of course, they are out to get some of our leaders and to sort of demolish them as idols in our eyes. And so you're going to be reading more and more about the Bohemian Club. And so when you read about it or hear about it, you'll say, "I heard about that someplace. Where did I hear about that? Oh, yeah." But it's something that they are zeroing in on even as they've zeroed in on Nancy Reagan's fancy clothes and all. They're zeroing in on the Bohemian Club as one of the things. But you see, the problem is by belonging to it they have given them... and going along with the folly of this springtime retreat up there, they celebrate the coming of spring by putting on their little flowered tutus and dancing around and all. They're exposing themselves to this. You're really a man who is of reputation and everything else. It's just out of place. It's just like flies in the ointment of the apothecary. It's just a stinking thing. And so it's tragic that wise men can do such foolish things. Trying to somehow... it's amazing to me what dumb things wise men can do and leaders can do and all.

When we were little kids, we would make up our clubs with our secret oaths and our initiations and our passwords, and you know, the whole thing. We were... had our own little mafias and secret organizations and you know, "Blood, man," and just, we were brothers and this whole thing. Well, that's great when you're a little boy and living in a world of unreal fantasies. But when you grow up and you still get into these secret clubs and you have your secret passwords and your secret handshakes and your special little robes and clothes and hats and, you just haven't grown up and that's your problem.

Paul said, "When I was a child, I thought as a child, I spoke as a child, and acted as a child. But when I was old, I put away the childish things" ( 1 Corinthians 13:11 ). When you get old, it's time to put those things away. But some people just don't grow up. And thus, they are exposing themselves to ridicule and to the press which will expose them. "A wise man's heart is at his right hand."

but a fool's heart at his left ( Ecclesiastes 10:2 ).

Now I don't know that there's any scientific. I don't know what he's saying. Help! I think I'm getting a heartbeat.

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 ( Ecclesiastes 10:3 ).

I mean, you're, when you're a fool you just, it's obvious. You express it.

If the spirit of the ruler rises up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding will pacify great offenses ( Ecclesiastes 10:4 ).

Oh, how much better it is to yield a point than to hang on. And if we would only learn just to yield a point. It can pacify great offenses. It can stop big arguments. It can actually save your life at times. There's some really nuts out there in the world. And a lot of people have been killed by insisting on their right of ways. "It's my right of way." And you can insist on your right of way but get wiped out. So, "Yielding can pacify great offenses." Give in to the point. What difference does it make? Whether there were five or six fish in that basket. You know, you can get in the biggest arguments over some stupid thing like that. Get angry. Get where you don't speak for a day or two because, "There's five." "No, there's six." "No, five." Maybe there were five. Yield it. Why argue? It's dumb to just argue over things like that. Yielding can pacify great offenses. Good advice.

There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceeds from the ruler: Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in a low place. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the eaRuth ( Ecclesiastes 10:5-7 ).

There seems to be oftentimes inconsistency.

He that digs a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaks a hedge, a serpent shall bite him ( Ecclesiastes 10:8 ).

They used a hedge about to keep the serpents out. You break the hedge; the serpent will bite you. You dig a pit; you'll fall into it. These are just sort of proverbs.

Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby. If the iron be blunt, and he do not sharpen the edge, then must he put in more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct ( Ecclesiastes 10:9-10 ).

So figure it out, man. If you're trying to chop wood with a dull iron, dull hatchet or dull ax, it's going to take more strength. Sharpen it, takes less strength. Makes sense.

Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better ( Ecclesiastes 10:11 ).

He'll bite, too.

The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness. A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him? ( Ecclesiastes 10:12-14 )

We don't know the future. People talk so confidently of the future and all. You don't know what's going to be out there, you don't know what the future holds.

The labor of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knows not how to go to the city. Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning! ( Ecclesiastes 10:15-16 )

That means they were drunk all night so they eat in the morning.

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! By much slothfulness the building decayeth ( Ecclesiastes 10:17-18 );

Now you that are managers of buildings and so forth, you might choose that to put above the time clocks for the maintenance men.

and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through. A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answers all things ( Ecclesiastes 10:18-19 ).

Now my wife believes that this is a scriptural truth. But I was trying to tell you, this is Solomon and he's talking about worldly wisdom. And it's amazing how that the world thinks that money is a cure-all. Money will answer everything.

Curse not the king, no not even in your thoughts; and curse not the rich in your bedroom: for a little bird of the air will carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter ( Ecclesiastes 10:20 ).

It's amazing how you say something about someone to a person in confidence thinking that that won't go any further, but it's amazing how many times it will get right back to the person. And then you have the phone call and say, "Did you say... ?" And, "What did you mean when you said... " Oh, so better not to tell little birds. That's where they got the phrase, "A little bird told me." Came from this. "





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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:10". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/ecclesiastes-10.html. 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Improper timing can also nullify wisdom. Four different situations illustrate the fact that though wisdom is valuable in a variety of everyday tasks (Ecclesiastes 10:8-10), one can lose its advantage if the timing is not right (Ecclesiastes 10:11).

"The sum of these four clauses [in Ecclesiastes 10:8-9] is certainly not merely that he who undertakes a dangerous matter exposes himself to danger; the author means to say, in this series of proverbs which treat of the distinction between wisdom and folly, that the wise man is everywhere conscious of his danger, and guards against it." [Note: Delitzsch, p. 379.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:10". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-10.html. 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

If the iron be blunt,.... With which a man cleaves wood: the axe, made of iron:

and he do not whet the edge; with some proper instrument to make it sharper, that it may cut the more easily;

then must he put to more strength; he must give a greater blow, strike the harder, and use more force; and yet it may not be sufficient, or; it may be to no purpose, and he himself may be in the greatest danger of being hurt; as such are who push things with all their might and main, without judgment and discretion;

but wisdom [is] profitable to direct; this is the "excellency" of wisdom, that it puts a man in the right way of doing things, and of doing them right; it directs him to take the best methods, and pursue the best ways and means of doing things, both for his own good and the good of others; and so it is better than strength, Ecclesiastes 9:16.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:10". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-10.html. 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Mutual Duties of Princes and Subjects.

      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.   7 I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.   8 He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh a 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.

      The scope of these verses is to keep subjects loyal and dutiful to the government. In Solomon's reign the people were very rich, and lived in prosperity, which perhaps made them proud and petulant, and when the taxes were high, though they had enough to pay them with, it is probable that many conducted themselves insolently towards the government and threatened to rebel. To such Solomon here gives some necessary cautions.

      I. Let not subjects carry on a quarrel with their prince upon any private personal disgust (Ecclesiastes 10:4; Ecclesiastes 10:4): "If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, if upon some misinformation given him, or some mismanagement of thine, he is displeased at thee, and threaten thee, yet leave not thy place, forget not the duty of a subject, revolt not from thy allegiance, do not, in a passion, quit thy post in his service and throw up thy commission, as despairing ever to regain his favour. No, wait awhile, and thou wilt find he is not implacable, but that yielding pacifies great offences." Solomon speaks for himself, and for every wise and good man that is a master, or a magistrate, that he could easily forgive those, upon their submission, whom yet, upon their provocation, he had been very angry with. It is safer and better to yield to an angry prince than to contend with him.

      II. Let not subjects commence a quarrel with their prince, though the public administration be not in every thing as they would have it. He grants there is an evil often seen under the sun, and it is a king's-evil, an evil which the king only can cure, for it is an error which proceeds from the ruler (Ecclesiastes 10:5; Ecclesiastes 10:5); it is a mistake which rulers, consulting their personal affections more than the public interests, are too often guilty of, that men are not preferred according to their merit, but folly is set in great dignity, men of shattered brains, and broken fortunes, are put in places of power and trust, while the rich men of good sense and good estates, whose interest would oblige them to be true to the public, and whose abundance would be likely to set them above temptations to bribery and extortion, yet sit in low places, and can get no preferment (Ecclesiastes 10:6; Ecclesiastes 10:6), either the ruler knows not how to value them or the terms of preferment are such as they cannot in conscience comply with. It is ill with a people when vicious men are advanced and men of worth are kept under hatches. This is illustrated Ecclesiastes 10:7; Ecclesiastes 10:7. "I have seen servants upon horses, men not so much of mean extraction and education (if that were all, it were the more excusable, nay, there is many a wise servant who with good reason has rule over a son that causes shame), but of sordid, servile, mercenary dispositions. I have seen these riding in pomp and state as princes, while princes, men of noble birth and qualities, fit to rule a kingdom, have been forced to walk as servants upon the earth, poor and despised." Thus God, in his providence, punishes a wicked people; but, as far as it is the ruler's act and deed, it is certainly his error, and a great evil, a grievance to the subject and very provoking; but it is an error under the sun, which will certainly be rectified above the sun, and when it shall shine no more, for in heaven it is only wisdom and holiness that are set in great dignity. But, if the prince be guilty of his error, yet let not the subjects leave their place, nor rise up against the government, nor form any project for the alteration of it; nor let the prince carry on the humour too far, nor set such servants, such beggars, on horseback, as will ride furiously over the ancient land-marks of the constitution, and threaten the subversion of it.

      1. Let neither prince nor people violently attempt any changes, nor make a forcible entry upon a national settlement, for they will both find it of dangerous consequence, which he shows here by four similitudes, the scope of which is to give us a caution not to meddle to our own hurt. Let not princes invade the rights and liberties of their subjects; let not subjects mutiny and rebel against their princes; for, (1.) He that digs a pit for another, it is ten to one but he falls into it himself, and his violent dealing returns upon his own head. If princes become tyrants, or subjects become rebels, all histories will tell both what is likely to be their fate and that it is at their utmost peril, and it were better for both to be content within their own bounds. (2.) Whoso breaks a hedge, an old hedge, that has long been a land-mark, let him expect that a serpent, or adder, such as harbour in rotten hedges, will bite him; some viper or other will fasten upon his hand, Acts 28:3. God, by his ordinance, as by a hedge, has inclosed the prerogatives and powers of princes; their persons are under his special protection; those therefore that form any treasonable designs against their peace, their crown, and dignity, are but twisting halters for themselves. (3.) Whoso removes stones, to pull down a wall or building, does but pluck them upon himself; he shall be hurt therewith, and will wish that he had let them alone. Those that go about to alter a well-modelled well-settled government, under colour of redressing some grievances and correcting some faults in it, will quickly perceive not only that it is easier to find fault than to mend, to demolish that which is good than to build up that which is better, but that they thrust their own fingers into the fire and overwhelm themselves in the ruin they occasion. (4.) He that cleaves the wood, especially if, as it follows, he has sorry tools (Ecclesiastes 10:10; Ecclesiastes 10:10), shall be endangered thereby; the chips, or his own axe-head, will fly in his face. If we meet with knotty pieces of timber, and we think to master them by force and violence, and hew them to pieces, they may not only prove too hard for us, but the attempt may turn to our own damage.

      2. Rather let both prince and people act towards each other with prudence, mildness, and good temper: Wisdom is profitable to direct the ruler how to manage a people that are inclined to be turbulent, so as neither, on the one hand, by a supine negligence to embolden and encourage them, nor, on the other hand, by rigour and severity to exasperate and provoke them to any seditious practices. It is likewise profitable to direct the subjects how to act towards a prince that is inclined to bear hard upon them, so as not to alienate his affections from them, but to win upon him by humble remonstrances (not insolent demands, such as the people made upon Rehoboam), by patient submissions and peaceable expedients. The same rule is to be observed in all relations, for the preserving of the comfort of them. Let wisdom direct to gentle methods and forbear violent ones. (1.) Wisdom will teach us to whet the tool we are to make use of, rather than, by leaving it blunt, oblige ourselves to exert so much the more strength,Ecclesiastes 10:10; Ecclesiastes 10:10. We might save ourselves a great deal of labour, and prevent a great deal of danger, if we did whet before we cut, that is, consider and premeditate what is fit to be said and done in every difficult case, that we may accommodate ourselves to it and may do our work smoothly and easily both to others and to ourselves. Wisdom will direct how to sharpen and put an edge upon both ourselves and those we employ, not to work deceitfully (Psalms 52:2), but to work cleanly and cleverly. The mower loses no time when he is whetting his scythe. (2.) Wisdom will teach us to enchant the serpent we are to contend with, rather than think to out-hiss it (Ecclesiastes 10:11; Ecclesiastes 10:11): The serpent will bite if he be not by singing and music charmed and enchanted, against which therefore he stops his ears (Psalms 58:4; Psalms 58:5); and a babbler is no better to all those who enter the lists with him, who therefore must not think by dint of words to out-talk him, but be prudent management to enchant him. He that is lord of the tongue (so the phrase is), a ruler that has liberty of speech and may say what he will, it is as dangerous dealing with him as with a serpent uncharmed; but, if you use the enchantment of a mild and humble submission, you may be safe and out of danger; herein wisdom, the meekness of wisdom, is profitable to direct. By long forbearing is a prince persuaded,Proverbs 25:15. Jacob enchanted Esau with a present and Abigail David. To those that may say any thing it is wisdom to say nothing that is provoking.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:10". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/ecclesiastes-10.html. 1706.