Online Bible Commentary
The Greatness of Wisdom
Ecclesiastes 9:13 This wisdom I have also seen under the sun, and it seemed great to me: 14 There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great snares around it. 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man. 16 Then I said: "Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, And his words are not heard. 17 Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard Rather than the shout of a ruler of fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war; But one sinner destroys much good." (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 writes of wisdom itself. Wisdom and knowledge are different. One can gain knowledge through the study of the things of the world, whereas wisdom only comes from God. One who does not have a relationship with God can never attain wisdom.
Solomon has seen wisdom in action in this world, and has found it “great” (v. 13). He gives an example of wisdom, perhaps an example of some wisdom that he has seen in action. He writes of “a little city with few men in it” (v. 14a).
A “great king” came and laid siege against the city surrounding it with his forces (v. 14b). A “poor wise man” in the city came forward and reasoned with the king (v. 15a). “By his wisdom” the poor wise man “delivered the city” from the clutches of the king (v. 15b). The city was very thankful for the actions of the wise man, but they then soon forgot all about him (v. 15c).
This example proved that “wisdom is better than strength”, and yet “wisdom is despised” (v. 16a). Wisdom, in the haste to move to action, is often “not heard” (v. 16b).
Solomon contends that “words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard, rather than the shout of a ruler of fools” (v. 17). “Wisdom is better than weapons of war,” and yet someone who proceeds without wisdom can cause much destruction (18).
Why is it that the quietly spoken words of the wise are so often drowned out by the cries for immediate action? Why is it that some are so desperate to do anything, even if it is wrong, that they rush to action? Why aren’t the wise heard?
Solomon gives the answer to these questions in one word –“sinners” (v. 18). Sin is the cause of destroying much good in the world. Sin, such as pride, greed, envy and vengeance, leads to destruction.
The “great king” in the example listened to the wise man. He could have followed his desire for greed and captured the small city. Instead, he resisted sin.
Wisdom comes from God. The more we read the Bible the more wisdom we gain. Through our wisdom, we learn to resist sin and this keeps us from destroying the good in our lives. Our lives become successful, not one disaster after the other. This is why Solomon wrote “this wisdom…seemed great to me” (v. 14).