Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day.

Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 10:3

Even when the fool walks along the road, his sense is lacking and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Wisdom;   Thompson Chain Reference - Folly;   Fools;   Wisdom-Folly;   The Topic Concordance - Foolishness;  
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Wisdom;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Poetry;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ecclesiastes;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher;  
Every Day Light - Devotion for August 21;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse Ecclesiastes 10:3. When - a fool walketh by the way — In every act of life, and in every company he frequents, the irreligious man shows what he is. Vanity, nonsense, and wickedness are his themes: so that in effect he saith to every one that he is a fool.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 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 Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:3". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

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

Moffatt rendered this: "Even on a walk the fool shows lack of sense, for he calls everyone a fool."[2] This reminds this writer of a traffic sign on a very dangerous curve on an old Tennessee highway many years ago. It read, "Slow Down!" "You Might Meet Another Fool."

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 10:3". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

“Way” may be understood either literally (compare Ecclesiastes 10:15), or figuratively, of the course of action which he follows.

He saith ... - He exposes his folly to every one he meets.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 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. "

Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:3". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

A wise person may also lose his opportunity to give counsel through the error of someone else, for example, one of the rulers he has been advising. "The right" and "the left" (Ecclesiastes 10:2) are not the political right and left, conservatism and liberalism. They are the place of protection and the place of danger, or, to put in another way: the correct way and the incorrect way (cf. Psalms 16:8; Psalms 110:5; Psalms 121:5). [Note: Cf. Delitzsch, p. 373.] The "road" (Ecclesiastes 10:3) is not a literal highway but the fool’s metaphorical way of life. The wise man does not quit his job when his boss gets angry with him. He maintains his composure and so gives the impression, rightly or wrongly, that his boss did not need to be angry.

"The lesson is that the self-controlled person who has less rank is really more powerful than the out-of-control supposed superior." [Note: Hubbard, p. 213.]

Unfortunately, one’s good work does not always receive the praise it deserves. Sometimes the promotion goes to the less qualified person because of the supervisor’s caprice or folly. Consequently, the ruler’s illogical decision nullifies the better worker’s wisdom (Ecclesiastes 10:5-7).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:3". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way,.... The king's highway, the common road; as he passeth along the streets, going to any place, or about any business:

his wisdom faileth [him]; or "his heart" p; he appears by his gait, his manner of walking, to want a heart, to be a fool; walking with a froward mouth, winking with his eyes, speaking with his feet, and teaching with his fingers; all which shows the frowardness and folly of his heart, Proverbs 6:12; or he discovers it throughout his conversation, in all the actions of it, in whatsoever business he is concerned, and in all the affairs of life. The Targum is,

"when he walketh in a perplexed way;''

then his wisdom fails him; he does not know which way to take, whether to the right or left: this can never be understood of the highway of holiness, in which men, though fools, shall not err, Isaiah 35:8;

and he saith to everyone [that] he [is] a fool; his folly is manifest to all; he betrays it, by his words and actions, to every man he has to do with; his sins and transgressions, which are his folly, he hides not, they are evident to all; and, as the Targum expresses it,

"all say he is a fool:''

though indeed he himself says this of every other man, that he is a fool; for, according to the Vulgate Latin version, he, being a fool himself, thinks everybody else is so.

p לבו "cor ejus", Pagninus, Montanus, &c.

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 10:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Advantages of Wisdom.

      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.   2 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 every one that he is a fool.

      In these verses Solomon shows,

      I. What great need wise men have to take heed of being guilty of any instance of folly; for a little folly is a great blemish to him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour, and is as hurtful to his good name as dead flies are to a sweet perfume, not only spoiling the sweetness of it, but making it to send forth a stinking savour. Note, 1. True wisdom is true honour, and will gain a man a reputation, which is like a box of precious ointment, pleasing and very valuable. 2. The reputation that is got with difficulty, and by a great deal of wisdom, may be easily lost, and by a little folly, because envy fastens upon eminency, and makes the worst of the mistakes and miscarriages of those who are cried up for wisdom, and improves them to their disadvantage; so that the folly which in another would not be taken notice of in them is severely censured. Those who make a great profession of religion have need to walk very circumspectly, to abstain from all appearances of evil, and approaches towards it, because many eyes are upon them, that watch for their halting; their character is soon sullied, and they have a great deal of reputation to lose.

      II. What a deal of advantage a wise man has above a fool in the management of business (Ecclesiastes 10:2; Ecclesiastes 10:2): A wise man's heart is at his right hand, so that he goes about his business with dexterity, turns his hand readily to it, and goes through it with despatch; his counsel and courage are ready to him, whenever he has occasion for them. But a fool's heart is at his left hand; it is always to seek when he has any thing to do that is of importance, and therefore he goes awkwardly about it, like a man that is left-handed; he is soon at a loss and at his wits' end.

      III. How apt fools are at every turn to proclaim their own folly, and expose themselves; he that is either witless or graceless, either silly or wicked, if he be ever so little from under the check, and left to himself, if he but walk by the way, soon shows what he is; his wisdom fails him, and, by some impropriety or other, he says to every one he meets that he is a fool (Ecclesiastes 10:3; Ecclesiastes 10:3), that is, he discovers his folly as plainly as if he had told them so. He cannot conceal it, and he is not ashamed of it. Sin is the reproach of sinners wherever they go.

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 10:3". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.