1Dead flies make a perfumer's oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor.
A little leaven leavens the entire lump. Just a little sin, deceit, error, and corruption can undermine an entire life, marriage, family, and nation. Even if much wisdom has built the house or empire, it only takes a small “fly in the ointment” to undo the entire enterprise.
2A wise man's heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man's heart directs him toward the left.
There is a way to go that is right and a way that is wrong. The wise go the right way according to the desires of their hearts, which are repentant, while the fool follows the desires of his heart, which are deviant. We live according to who we are on the inside.
3Even when the fool walks along the road, his sense is lacking and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool.
Our outward actions demonstrate what is truly in our hearts such that a fool can be recognized just as he walks along the road because of his lack of sense. He demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool, lacking wisdom, discretion, humility, honor, and truth. As Matthew 7:16 says, “You will know them by their fruits.”
4If the ruler's temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses.
There are times when it becomes necessary for a person to take a stance in opposition to one in authority over him. This might make the superior angry, but the best thing a person can do is to stand firm for truth. To waffle makes the person seem self-interested and only desiring to cause trouble. To stand for principle proves one’s character and that he has no selfish, usurping agenda. This can restore confidence to the king in the person and cause him to reflect on why a person would take such a risk to stand on principle.
5There is an evil I have seen under the sun, like an error which goes forth from the ruler--
6folly is set in many exalted places while rich men sit in humble places.
7I have seen slaves riding on horses and princes walking like slaves on the land.
Solomon’s point is that one of the evil injustices that is common on the earth is that those who are wise and have the makeup of a prince or ruler do not rule but are instead subjected by someone who is a fool. Often times a person who lacks wisdom but is only interested in power is able to manipulate the masses and gain power for himself. The deserving are not ruling as they should, but the undeserving are. Such is an evil common under the sun, and it is dangerous just as evil going forth from a ruler.
8He who digs a pit may fall into it, and a serpent may bite him who breaks through a wall.
9He who quarries stones may be hurt by them, and he who splits logs may be endangered by them.
Those who try to plot evil for others might just fall prey to their own evil devices. Those who try to steal might get injured in the process. Then again, there are those who do honest labor such as quarrying stone or splitting logs, and they, too, could be injured. Thus, both the wicked and the righteous could be injured in life. Things aren’t fair always, but this is the way it is under the sun.
10If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.
A dull axe requires that the laborer chop harder and more frequently. A sharp axe makes the job simpler and faster. Wisdom has the effect of making those who possess it much more efficient and effective in living their lives in light of the fear of the Lord and true, eternal priorities. Wisdom brings success in the truest, ultimate sense so that a person can be the best possible steward of the resources which God has entrusted him in this life under the sun. Wisdom doesn’t guarantee health, wealth, and prosperity, but it does bring with it eternal rewards, true joy, and life to the full.
11If the serpent bites before being charmed, there is no profit for the charmer.
The NKJV is more clear here saying, “A serpent may bite when it is not charmed; The babbler is no different.” One who is quick to speak before evaluating his words with wisdom can bite others and be bit himself by his own foolish speech. It is important to think about what we are going to say before we say it.
12Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him;
13the beginning of his talking is folly and the end of it is wicked madness.
14Yet the fool multiplies words No man knows what will happen, and who can tell him what will come after him?
The wise speak gracious things which bring peace, healing, and comfort, while the fools let their words speak to their own destruction. Their tongues run unbridled and fail to speak that which is edifying rather than evil and hurtful (Ephesians 4:29). The words of the fool cause conflict and harm, leading to wickedness, yet he continues to speak even more. The fool doesn’t know how or when to shut his mouth, but he keeps rambling on nonsense, folly, madness, and error. His words don’t bring comfort or hope for the future, for he puts his hope in man rather than God Who alone knows what will happen in the future.
15The toil of a fool so wearies him that he does not even know how to go to a city.
The fool wears himself out just being foolish that he can’t even figure out how to do the basic things of life like go to the city to buy and sell or have a conversation. He can’t think rightly such that he cannot act rightly. He drowns in his own ignorance and sin, and his laziness and sin consumes him.
16Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad and whose princes feast in the morning.
17Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time--for strength and not for drunkenness.
It takes some life experience to learn wisdom and to be able to have discernment which is suitable to leading others, particularly as a king over an entire nation. It is risky for a young person to be king, unless, of course, he fears the Lord and trusts the Lord for wisdom. God can do the impossible, and He will honor the youth who looks to him as He did with King Josiah. Those who feast in the morning before doing their labor demonstrate their laziness, lack of wisdom, and irresponsibility. A country is better if a king has wisdom, part of which involves directing those in leadership to work hard and then eat for strength. Those who party in the morning and get drunk early in the day, or drunk at all for that matter, are not wisely leading the nation but leaving it open to destruction and attack. Wise leadership is sober and diligent.
18Through indolence the rafters sag, and through slackness the house leaks.
If a person is lazy, things go from order to disorder. This is the natural way of things on this earth. It takes work and labor just to keep things in good working order. The lazy person puts himself in trouble very quickly.
19Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry, and money is the answer to everything.
God is the answer to everything. Men in foolishness turn to food for comfort, wine for escape, and money to make them happy and fix their problems. This is not wisdom but the way of man.
20Furthermore, in your bedchamber do not curse a king, and in your sleeping rooms do not curse a rich man, for a bird of the heavens will carry the sound and the winged creature will make the matter known.
It is important not to speak ill of others because one never knows who hears and will take that news to the one spoken ill of. There could be revenge to deal with at that point. It is best to pray for enemies and love those who persecute (Matthew 5:44).