Online Bible Commentary
Think Before You Speak
Ecclesiastes 5:1 Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. 2 Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes through much activity, And a fool's voice is known by his many words. 4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed-- 5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay. 6 Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God. (NKJV)
Solomon, son of David, was the king of Israel for some forty years (1 Kings 11:42) from 970 B.C. until his death at the age of fifty-nine in 931 B.C. He wrote the book of Ecclesiastes likely near the end of his life, about 935 B.C.
Solomon, being the son of a king, had received the best education known to man at the time. He learned the best of human wisdom. He also was blessed by God with true wisdom, the wisdom from God. He was considered to be the wisest man ever to live.
In this passage, Solomon writes of our relationship with God, and others. We are to be prudent in the presence of God (v. 1a). Solomon confines this behavior to the “house of God”, but we Christians know that our bodies are the temple of God because the Holy Spirit lives within us. So we are to be mindful of these words at all times, not just when we are in church or praying.
To be prudent means to conduct ourselves with wisdom, displaying careful good judgment. We should be humble, listening to what God is saying, rather than trying to impress Him, or others, with our religiosity (v. 1b). “Fools” try to impress God, not knowing that this is “evil” in the eyes of God (v. 1c).
We are not to be careless with our words, speaking from the heart without thinking (v. 2a), for God is Holy, and we are not (v. 2b). Our hearts are impure, so unguarded words will reflect that impurity. So “let your words be few” (v. 2c). Just as a dream comes from having many thoughts, a fool comes from having many words (v. 3).
When we “make a vow to God”, we, also, should not be careless with our words. We should follow through and “not delay to pay” our vow (v. 4a). God “has no pleasure in fools”, those who speak without thinking (v. 4b). Christians should always seek to please God, first and foremost.
It is “better not to vow than to vow and not pay” (v. 5). It is better not to promise anything to God, unless we are sure that we can fulfill that promise. That same advice applies to our human relationships.
Careless words can hurt. They can cause us to sin (v. 6a). We should not try to excuse ourselves before God by saying that we spoke in error, or that we did not mean it. God will see through our excuses, and will “destroy the work” of our hands (v. 6b). Even though our sins can be forgiven, there are earthly consequences of sin.
Just as our “multitude of dreams” are meaningless, so are our “many words” (v. 7a). The person who knows he is wrong is usually the one speaking the most. His words are in vain, meaningless (v. 7b).
The bottom line is that we should “fear God” (v. 7c) with our words. The word translated “fear” in this verse is the Hebrew word “yare” which means to be afraid, frightened, terrified or to revere. We should choose our words carefully. We should think before we speak. As Christians, we are representatives of Jesus Christ. We should honor Him with our words.