1 ¶ Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour. 2 A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left. 3 Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.
Solomon continues to extol the value of wisdom as he points out that it doesn’t take much to ruin something valuable like dead flies do expensive ointment. So, your reputation, as good as you think it is, can easily be brought down by one thoughtless or sinful action.
A wise man carries his heart like a right-handed man uses his right hand. It is practical and useful and wisdom comes natural to him, and is not forced. To a fool wisdom is a difficult thing like a right-handed man trying to wield a tool with his left hand. If you are right-handed try writing a letter with your left hand or driving a nail holding the hammer in your left. You’ll see how awkward and unnatural wisdom is for a fool when he tries to apply it to any situation.
A fool cannot hide his foolishness. In whatever he does it will eventually become clear to everyone of what nature he is. A fool’s behavior announces to everyone that he is a fool.
Solomon spoke about fools a great deal in Proverbs. As a king he had probably met many of them. He certainly fathered one.
4 ¶ If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences. 5 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: 6 Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place. 7 I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth. 8 He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him. 9 Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby. 10 If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct. 11 Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.
The Biblical definition of, “spirit,” with a lowercase s, is often, depending on the context, about an attitude, ability, a person’s will, or feelings.
Genesis 6:3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
Exodus 35:21 And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the LORD’S offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments.
In verse 4 Solomon talks about submitting to a human authority. Americans don’t have much of a concept of submission to earthly authority, one reason being that in our country we are supposed to be the political authority over the government which is a rather different direction for this verse to take. An American politician would do well to acknowledge his faults and errors to us and this has been shown to be true in history as we are much more likely to forgive a political leader who admits his errors up front than one who fights for his innocence and then finally confesses. One of the main political parties in this country doesn’t seem to care and the other one shoots its own wounded so this is arguable, I understand.
For us, we acknowledge that God is our ruler and we would do well to confess our sins to Him as He promises forgiveness.
1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
God’s forgiveness and cleansing is precipitated by our confession to Him and acknowledgement. I would recommend that if you still are plagued by the sin you didn’t so much as confess it as you sought a pass for being punished by committing it. There is a difference. Repentance of sin isn’t so much a, “I did this. I’m sorry. Don’t punish me,” as it is a, “I did this. I’m sorry. I never want to do it again. Please remove it from me.”
In 5-7 as presented in context with verse 6 Solomon points out how the ruler who is not wise will promote and take as advisors inferior men while the people he should be listening to are set in a subservient role. Solomon thought it evil that a ruler would set foolishness in dignity and prefer the lower to the better man. Again, reversing that, as in America the people are to be the ruler politically, it is stupid for us to have elevated media stars to positions of power rather than search for the best and noblest to lead the way. We often find ourselves in a position where we have placed a base person in a powerful position merely because of his or her appearance and how favorably the media handles them. We, ostensibly the rulers in this country, are very bad judges of character because we are so shallow ourselves.
Solomon then goes on to lay out a few sayings regarding the consequences of our (or the ruler’s) dumb decisions. We would do well to use wisdom in choosing our temporary leaders and they would do better to use wisdom in determining the direction they lead the country, state, or locality. Solomon goes on, in his way referring to a king in his day, to describe the fools we have elected.
12 ¶ The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself. 13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness. 14 A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him? 15 The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.
The fool who is a ruler will talk and talk and say nothing of value. While a wise man’s words are full of grace the fool starts out sounding like one and ends up seeming to be insane. Who knows what he is talking about? By the time the fool is done talking you don’t know which way is up, or in the idiom of the Bible, don’t even know how to walk into the city with wide gates and avenues. The most obvious thing becomes complicated because of what the fool says. Just listen to the typical political stump speech.
16 ¶ Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning! 17 Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness! 18 By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through. 19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things. 20 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.
Matthew Henry noted that the, “happiness of a land depends on the character of its rulers.” Of course with the character of the average American so low we cannot expect much from the people we choose among us to lead.
I was told in the Army that the men eat first, their officers last. I was also told that the three priorities should be men, mission, and materiel, in that order. It is a sad day for a country when an immature leader is ruling and the leaders put their needs first above the people and indulge in every depravity. A fortunate country is one where the leaders carry themselves with dignity and are respectable and not prone to such depravity and bad behavior and place the people they are serving first.
Solomon makes a point about how a building needs to be maintained and we can compare that statement, based on his context, to the building of state. Any good government is a balancing act and must with effort be carefully maintained. A bunch of slothful, greedy, and corrupt rulers bribed by gifts and seeking their own ends and not the people’s will bring the house down.
And, as a wise man once said, if something doesn’t make any sense you can be sure there is a dollar in it. If you want to know why things happen that seem to have no logic to them just follow the money. Solomon points the importance of greed out over 3,000 years ago. Using the appearance of gaiety and feasting as a ruse. Solomon says to look at the influence of money.
But, be careful what you say about these things openly, particularly now on the internet where we all speak so freely and often carelessly, because someone is listening. Fowls of the air are a reference to Satan’s attack in stealing the word of God from a shallow professor of faith in Mark, chapter 4, and “birds of the air” will infiltrate the highest levels of the organized church, the kingdom of heaven, in Matthew 13. In the true spiritual kingdom of God uniting all true believers those wicked people as, “fowls of the air,” will shelter themselves in its shadow but, of course, are not part of it, in Mark, chapter 4.
Consider the birds of the air and the fowls of the air and Satan, the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), in the fact that there is no longer such a thing as a truly confidential conversation or private thought spoken aloud. Or, perhaps there never was.