Online Bible Commentary
Wisdom Brings Success
Ecclesiastes 10:8 He who digs a pit will fall into it, And whoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a serpent. 9 He who quarries stones may be hurt by them, And he who splits wood may be endangered by it. 10 If the ax is dull, And one does not sharpen the edge, Then he must use more strength; But wisdom brings success. 11 A serpent may bite when it is not charmed; The babbler is no different. 12 The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious, But the lips of a fool shall swallow him up; 13 The words of his mouth begin with foolishness, And the end of his talk is raving madness. 14 A fool also multiplies words. No man knows what is to be; Who can tell him what will be after him? 15 The labor of fools wearies them, For they do not even know how to go to the city! (NKJV)
The book of Ecclesiastes is classified as wisdom literature. Wisdom literature is especially concerned with helping us to deal with the issues of life. It is believed that Solomon wrote this book late in his life.
When Solomon became the king of Israel in 970 B.C. the first thing he asked of God was to be wise. God answered his prayer and made him the wisest man ever to live, at the age of nineteen (1 Kings 3:12).
In this passage, Solomon is writing of the difference between wisdom and folly, or foolishness. He writes in the form of proverbs, which are wise sayings.
Our wisdom or folly is revealed in our actions, and our words. The first half of this passage gives examples of actions, while the second half gives examples of words.
It is folly to follow a life of crime. The digging of a “pit” (v. 8a) refers to setting a trap in order to rob or murder someone. The breaking through a wall (v. 8b) refers to breaking and entering someone’s property in order to steal from them. Criminal activities are folly because they have bad outcomes.
By the same token, even honest work can be folly if not done properly. One who works in a stone quarry can be injured by the stones if he does not take the proper precautions (v. 9a). Even chopping wood can be dangerous if one does not take the proper precautions (v. 9b). A dull ax requires more effort, which could lead to missing the mark and hitting something we should not, like our foot (v. 10a)! It is wise to sharpen an ax before using it. It is wise to take proper precautions before undertaking a job (v. 10b). “Wisdom brings success” (v. 10c).
The third example Solomon gives for wise actions is to be proactive. Do not wait for something bad to happen, like the serpent’s “bite” before charming him (v. 11a). It does no good to babble on and on about a bad possible outcome if we are not proactive in preventing the outcome before it happens (v. 11b). It does no good to shut the barn gate after the horse has already escaped. Talking about the problem is not a solution. The wise man is proactive to make sure the problem does not happen.
Next Solomon gives examples of folly in the use of our words. The words of a wise man are “gracious”, whereas the words of a fool are incendiary, stirring up trouble (v. 12). The fool speaks “foolishness”, and then graduates to “raving madness” (v. 13).
The fool goes on and on, speaking of things he knows nothing about (v. 14a). He pretends to be an expert on everything, when no one can be an expert on everything (v. 14b).
The fool expends much energy, but is not even able to give accurate directions “to the city” (v. 15). He talks until he is red in the face, but his opinions are not to be relied upon. In contrast, the wise man speaks graciously, with few words, but knows what he is talking about.
Solomon wrote these proverbs to help us deal with the issues of life. We are to be wise in our actions and our speech. We are to listen to wise counsel, not the counsel of “raving madness”.
When we follow Solomon’s teaching we will gain wisdom. We will be seen as having wisdom. We will be more successful in life. We will be more successful in our relationships. Wisdom brings success.