November 27th 2021 – Ecclesiastes 7:15-29

"15 In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. 16 Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.

19 Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.

20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.

23 All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise”, but it was far from me. 24 That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?

25 I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness. 26 And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her. 27 Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher, while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things— 28 which my soul has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found. 29 See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes."

Ecclesiastes 7:15-29

The Preacher picks up once again in 19ff the theme of wisdom (11ff), and continues it to the end of the chapter. The wisdom of learning not to expect absolute integrity and probity from any man (21, 22), in view of the fact that we have no kind of right to expect from others a perfection we do not show in our own lives, is set over against what is said in 23ff about the partial nature of all human accomplishments. Finite man cannot encompass the infinite, and this inevitably means that there are some mysteries for which he can find no answer. He must therefore be content not to know, and since ultimate wisdom cannot be found, and practical wisdom all that he can reach, he must come to terms with such a situation. It is open to question whether the Preacher, in what he says in these final verses (23ff), does in fact come to terms with it, for a note of disenchantment seems to creep in to what he says, particularly about womankind, and one wonders whether 'under the sun' wisdom has temporarily gained the ascendant in his thinking at this point. The Gilcomston Note on these verses says 'We have no desire to disagree with the Preacher, but we wonder if his bitterness about women is not at least partly due to the way he regarded them or treated them. Certainly no happily married Christian is going to talk like this. Did the same man write the last chapter of Proverbs?' At all events, the final statement of the chapter, in 29, reads very graphically: 'God made man upright, but ...'. In that word 'but', as George Philip says, there is a recognition of all we mean theologically when we speak of the fall of man. This is the central and fundamental issue, the root from which the bitter fruit outlined in this book comes.