Journey in the Word

Karen Ingrid Clark

Ecclesiastes 10: 1 – 7

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Week  Seven – Day 3 – Ecclesiastes 10:1 – 7  SOAP v. 1,2WK7D3

10 Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench;
so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right,
but a fool’s heart to the left.
Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense,
and he says to everyone that he is a fool.
If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place,
for calmness will lay great offenses to rest.

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as it were an error proceeding from the ruler: folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking on the ground like slaves.

O – Oh, this passage made for a great conversation this morning!   Asking the theologian in the room about the “right and left”  led us into language, commentaries, and just plain fun….

First off, Solomon talks about what foolish does in our lives.  It ruins them.  Even if we have earned a good reputation, we can ruin that with foolish acts and thoughtlessness.  We see in great people, Presidents even – what we remember of them is their foolishness:  Nixon and Watergate, Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe.  Just like “flies in the ointment” ruin it, our foolish decisions can break a good reputation.

But, it was the “left” hand and “right hand” that prompted the discussion.  My mind went immediately to the idea that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father.  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  (Colossians 3:1 – ESV)  The right hand is the place of honor in the Bible.  Then we were brought to Matthew 25 – the story of the sheep and the goats.  Jesus said that when the Son of Man comes again, he will sit on his throne, gather the people of the nations, and separate them, just as a shepherd separates sheet and goats.  The sheep are placed on the right; the goats are placed on the left.  Those on the right were blessed – those on the left were cursed and sent to eternal punishment.

I remembered when I went to Hong Kong for Alliance Youth Corp in 1978, and was told, that when out in public, that it would be best that I eat with my right hand.  I am left handed.   But, in that culture, at that time, the right hand was the hand for eating, the left hand was considered “dirty.”  It was the hand used for bathroom necessities.  Therefore, it would be best that I use my right hand as much as possible.  That point stuck with me for many years!

Then the conversation went to language, as I had looked up David Guzman’s commentary.  I read out loud the short article, mentioning that the Latin word for “left” came from the base word of sinister.  This went to the Portuguese language.   In Portuguese, the word for right is “destra” – coming from a Latin base that implies dexterity.  The word for left is “sinistra” – coming from the Latin base of sinister.

A – SO – what does this all mean for today??  I think that Solomon was comparing the wise and the foolish.  Using the right and left hand analogies or metaphors would make sense to his culture.  We see so many instances in the Bible of wise and foolish – in the Proverbs, in the Psalms, even in James.  Jesus told parables of the wise man and the foolish man.  We even have our kids sing songs that describe this:  “The wise men built his house upon the rock…..”  With so many examples, one would think that we would all choose to be wise!  But, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 – ESV)

Do I really think before I act?  Before I speak?  Before my face shows my true feelings?  Oh, that I would consistently choose to be wise!  I want to be a woman who CONSISTENTLY is choosing the RIGHT, not the LEFT!  It is interesting that Solomon uses the heart in his analogy.  “A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left.”  (Eccl. 10:2 – ESV)  I desire that my HEART would INCLINE me to the right!  It doesn’t mean that I would always choose the right, but that my heart would be inclined to choose the right.  I want my heart in the right place, today.

P – Father God, thank You for this reminder – to incline my heart to You, to the right, to the place of wisdom.  Father, my heart IS inclined to follow its own path – incline it to follow You.  Incline my heart to You – to walk in all Your ways, to keep Your commandments.  Incline my heart to obey You – your statutes and testimonies – not to pursue selfish gain.  Incline my ear to hear You, to listen for Your voice, so that I will obey and follow You, not my own inclination.  Thank You for this strong reminder, and Your Word, which is living and active – and sharper than a two-edged sword.  Today, You pierced me with it – helping me to look at my own life, attitudes and actions.  Walk with me today – in all that I do, so that I will bring glory to You.  Amen.

Numbers 15:39 – And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after.

Joshua 24:23 – He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel.”

Judges 9:3 – And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, and their heartinclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.”

1 Kings 8:58 – that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers.

Psalm 10:17 – O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear

Psalm 119:36Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!

Psalm 119:112 – I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.

Psalm 141:4 – Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!

Proverbs 22:17 – [ Words of the Wise ] Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge,

Ecclesiastes 10:2 – A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left.

Jeremiah 7:24 – But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.

Jeremiah 11:8 – Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”


“Since the right hand was regarded as the side of strength, skill, and favor, the wise man’s heart is known and a strength to him. This is not true of the fool, whose heart is at his left.

  1. ” ‘Right’ and ‘left’ are natural symbols for the strong and good, one the one hand, and for the weak and bad, on the other hand … The Latin word sinistermeans ‘left.'” (Wright)” – David Guzman – blueletterbible

Verse two states that “wise people move to the right . . . while fools move to the left.” The contrast between “right” and “left” reflects the ancient Near Eastern ideas of “clean” and “unclean.” The right hand was considered the clean hand and was a symbol for prosperity, while the left hand was considered the unclean hand and a symbol for disaster. The clean hand was used for eating, for acts of hospitality, and for greeting others. The unclean hand was used for personal hygiene. Thus, in this metaphor the right is equated with God’s goodness, while the left is equated with ignorance of God’s goodness. – (The VOICE version – commentary within the passage – biblegateway)

Matthew 25 – Sheep and goats –“ 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’  41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”” (Matthew 25:31 – 46 – ESV)


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