Online Bible Commentary
The Excellence of Knowledge
Ecclesiastes 7:5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise Than for a man to hear the song of fools. 6 For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, So is the laughter of the fool. This also is vanity. 7 Surely oppression destroys a wise man's reason, And a bribe debases the heart. 8 The end of a thing is better than its beginning; The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. 9 Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, For anger rests in the bosom of fools. 10 Do not say, "Why were the former days better than these?" For you do not inquire wisely concerning this. 11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance, And profitable to those who see the sun. 12 For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense, But the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it. 13 Consider the work of God; For who can make straight what He has made crooked? 14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, So that man can find out nothing that will come after him. (NKJV)
The book of Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon, is classified as wisdom literature. Wisdom literature is especially concerned with helping us to deal with the issues of life.
Solomon, a son of David, was known as the builder king of Israel. David, the warrior king, fought to build a strong and secure Israel. That left Solomon free to embark on building the infrastructure to make Israel into a great nation, a center of trade and commerce.
Late in his life, Solomon, considered the wisest man to ever live, had the time to write, and compile, the wisdom books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. He also wrote the book of Song of Solomon, a poem informing of God’s ideal for romantic love.
All this was possible because David had fought the wars to make Israel safe and secure. However, the wars also depleted the resources and the time that were needed to build and enlighten. The best path seems to seek preventative measures so that war is not necessary, but that is not always possible.
In this passage, Solomon is again writing proverbs. He gives us seven proverbs on a variety of subjects.
The first proverb is that “it is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than…the song of fools” (v. 5). It is better for us to listen to constructive criticism from wise people than the empty praises of fools. Constructive criticism helps us. Empty praise may be sweet to the ears but it has no redeeming value.
Solomon gives us an example of this. Burning thorns make a lot of noise. They crackle and pop and sound like they are effective. In reality they do not burn and do not produce heat. They are worthless, in vain, just as the “laughter of the fool” (v 6).
The second proverb is that power corrupts and bribes corrupt the heart (v. 7). Bribes keep good people from following their heart. Many politicians are bought and paid for by the rich and powerful who finance their campaigns.
The third proverb is that the “patient in spirit”, the one who endures to the end, is better than the “proud in spirit” (v. 8). Patience is a virtue, while pride is a sin. Patience allows God to work, while pride comes before the fall.
Next, the wise person is slow to anger but the fool is easily angered (9). Next, it is not wise to think the “good ole days” were better than today (v. 10). It is not profitable, nor realistic. It was a different day and a different time.
The sixth proverb is that wisdom is good as “an inheritance” because it is “profitable” in life (v.11). Wisdom and money are both necessary, but wisdom is better because it is a better way to improve your life. “Wisdom gives life to those who have it.” This is “the excellence of knowledge” (v. 12).
The seventh proverb is that God is so powerful that His decrees cannot be thwarted by man (v. 13). So be joyful in times of prosperity and thoughtful in times of adversity, for they are both from God so that we will know that He is the One who controls our future (v. 14).
True wisdom comes from God. The Bible is God’s word. Therefore we find true wisdom from reading the Bible. Wisdom instructs us on how to deal with the issues of life. It tells us how to live life. “The excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it.”