Ecclesiastes 7 – Live in Reverence to God & The Sage

In view of the incurable evil of man

1 A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.

2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.

3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.

4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.

6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.

7 Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.

8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

9 Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.

10 Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.

11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.

12 For wisdom is a defense, and money is a defense: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.

13 Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?

14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.

15 All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.

16 Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?

17 Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?

18 It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.

19 Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.

20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

21 Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee:

22 For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.

23 All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.

24 That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?

25 I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:

26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.

27 Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account:

28 Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.

29 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.

The Sage

Sages
The ‘Classical’ philosophies of ancient Greeks are the first on historic record to start asking the most basic yet profound questions of Life, the Universe, and everything. Modern philosophies tend to ask more complex questions about our experiences in Existence, and many of the basic questions are redefined by scientific theories.

It is wise to know past examples of thought, although we are capable of coming to many of the same conclusions without having read them, or may have already formulated some similar theories independently.

The original Seven Sages of Greece were: Thales, Pittacus, Periander, Cleobulus, Solon, Bias, Chilon.

The epilogue of Ecclesiastes identify the writer as a sage or wise man (Ecc 12:9).  His teachings are viewed as part of “the words of the wise,” which are like goads.  Those who master thee teachings are said to be firmly embedded nails (Ecc 12:11).

Such ideas represent the outlook of Biblical Wisdom Literature.  Although the theme of wisdom is present throughout the Bible, most scholars consider Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes to be Biblical Wisdom Literature in the strictness sense.  Outside the Bible, in both Jewish and pagan writings, there are many other texts that could be called wisdom literature, a genre that can be recognized both by how it speaks and by what it says.

Wisdom texts frequently assume the posture of a parent addressing a child.  The reader is often addressed as “my son” (cf Prov 1:8, 10, 15; 2:1; 3:1; 5:1; Ecc 12:12).

Wisdom Literature uses proverbial sayings and parables, as well as mnemonic (intended or arranged to assist the memory) or numerical lists (e.g., Prov 1:1, 10:1, 30:15-16, 18-19, 21-23, 29-31; Ecc 12:9).

Wisdom literature concentrates on ethical themes within wisdom texts, even to the extent of addressing the conduct of God himself (as is done several times in the book of Job).

The figure of the sage is at the center of the wisdom tradition.

Sometimes “wise” is simply an adjective to connote that an individual was thoughtful, intelligent, skilled, or devout (Deut 1:13; 1 Kgs 2:9).  In other instances, a wise person was assumed to have been a member of a social class of sages whose functions included those of teacher, government counselor or scribe.

Sages
The ‘Classical’ philosophies of ancient Greeks are the first on historic record to start asking the most basic yet profound questions of Life, the Universe, and everything. Modern philosophies tend to ask more complex questions about our experiences in Existence, and many of the basic questions are redefined by scientific theories.

It is wise to know past examples of thought, although we are capable of coming to many of the same conclusions without having read them, or may have already formulated some similar theories independently.

The original Seven Sages of Greece were: Thales, Pittacus, Periander, Cleobulus, Solon, Bias, Chilon.

The sage was the embodiment of wisdom, the master of tradition and the teacher of all who craved instruction.  The sage was the opposite of the fool (Prov 3:35, 10:1, 14:1; Ecc 10:12).

The Bible attest to the presence of sages in a technical sense in Egypt (Gen 41:8), Babylon (Dan 2:12-18), Persia (Est 1:13), and Israel itself (Prov 1:16, 13:20; Ecc 12:11).

Significant examples of wisdom literature have been discovered throughout the ancient Near East.  Egyptian examples can be seen in The Instruction of Ptahhotep and The Instruction of Ani.  Mesopotamian examples  are found in texts such as The Wisdom of Ahiqar, The are found in texts such as The Wisdom of Ahiqar, The Babylonian Theodicy and even aspects of The Epic of Gilgamesh.  Many of these texts contain ideas and terms that are similar to what is seen in the Biblical wisdom traditions.  For some scholars the contact between the Bible and other ancient Near Eastern literature seems closest in this area.

Easter literature continued in the Jewish literature of the post-Biblical period.  Texts in the Apocrypha such as the Wisdom of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) and The Wisdom of Solomon attest to the vibrancy of the tradition.  After the destruction of Herod’s temple in A.D. 70, the Judaism of the rabbinic sages was constructed around wisdom central call that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov 1:7, 22:4; Ecc 12:13).  The voluminous Jewish literary production of Misnah, Midrash, and Talmud has been affectionately deemed the “literature of the sages.”

Enjoy what you have while you can, but realize that adversity and hard times can strike at any moment. Because of this, life is short. Death is inevitable. We shouldn’t ignore it because it makes sense to plan ahead to experience God’s mercy rather than his justice. People who are too righteous and too wise are blind to their own faults. There will always be things that we don’t understand. Thinking that you have attained enough wisdom is a sure sign that you haven’t.