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Sabbath School Lessons on Ecclesiastes
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 37 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 11: Dead Flies and Snake Charmers: More Life Under the Sun *
Introduction: Last week, we ended our study with the story of the man
who saved the city against a great military power. The people of the
city forgot the man because he was poor. His wisdom was not valued by
them. This week, Solomon continues to urge us to consider the
importance of wisdom in our words and in our work. Let's wisely dive
into our study!
- Dead Flies and Democrats
- Read Ecclesiastes 10:1. Picture dead flies in an open jar
of perfume. Would you pick the flies out and use the
- If you say "no," wouldn't the stink of the flies be
gone once you scooped them out of the perfume?
- Wouldn't it be the "green" thing to do to save all
that perfume? (You put perfume on your body. The idea
of rubbing dead fly juice on you is just revolting.
Besides, someone might be able to smell just a hint
of "dead fly" on you.)
- Now that you have focused on this problem, how
careful will you be in the future to keep the top on
your jar of perfume?
- How careful should you be to avoid a little folly in
your life? (You have all of this good perfume in the
jar and you have all of these good and honorable
things in your life. It seems irrational to waste all
the perfume because of a few dead flies, but the sad
fact is that you can ruin your life by a few (maybe
even one) foolish deed.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 10:2. Just when you thought Solomon was
writing for another time and place, American Republicans
realize his words are for our time, right?
- Seriously, Solomon has just told us how much a little
foolishness can ruin our life. How do you understand
his advice to avoid foolishness? How do we get our
hearts to lean right? Should we literally bend to the
right? (The commentary, Be Satisfied, explains "in
the ancient world the right hand was the place of
power and honor, while the left hand represented
weakness and rejection." If you are wise, your mind
is set on what is morally right and that will tend
towards power and honor. If you are foolish, you will
gravitate towards what is wrong and that will get you
- Read Ecclesiastes 10:3. Are foolish people obvious?
(Solomon tells us that even in simple tasks - like driving
the car - you can tell if a person lacks wisdom.)
- Practical Advice for Would Be Fools
- Read Ecclesiastes 10:4. Have you ever seen someone stomp
out of a meeting in anger? Have you ever seen someone
quit their job in a huff? (I know a fellow who quit a job
he otherwise liked because he became angry in a moment.
The next day he changed his mind and his boss told him he
had already quit. My impression is that his working life
was never again as good. Solomon says "When your boss gets
angry, stay calm, keep working, explain your position and
you can clear up your boss's misconceptions.")
- Read Ecclesiastes 10:5-7. Can you depend on your boss not
to be a fool? (No. Rulers make mistakes and promote fools
to positions of authority. When that happens, take it
calmly and do your best in your work.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 10:8-9. If you work hard and smart, is
there any guarantee that you will succeed?(Solomon's
message is that being wise and hard-working, being
inclined to do what is right, is not a sure-fire method
for success. Because of poor judgment, some fools may have
authority over you. Sometimes, your hard work ends up
injuring you. Life here on earth is not absolutely
- Read Ecclesiastes 10:10. What should you do if you are
working under the authority of a fool? Does a dull ax have
anything to do with this?(Solomon says that even if you
have to work under poor conditions (working with a dull
ax), if you work hard and skillfully, you can overcome the
difficult conditions. The message seems to be that life
is unpredictable, life presents challenges, but in general
terms being wise and skillful will bring success.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 10:11. What if you are doing what
Solomon suggests in Ecclesiastes 10:10, and your "dull ax"
boss bites you before you have been able to show the
results of your hard, skillful work? (In that case, you
are not going to profit from your hard work.)
- Would being "bitten" by your boss be your fault?
After all, in this story you are the "snake charmer."
Has the snake charmer failed in being "charming?"
(Compare Proverbs 22:11.)
- Is there some other point that you think Solomon is
making here? (Solomon seems quite worried about
snakes. He mentions being bitten in this verse and in
Ecclesiastes 10:8. Snake charming on its face is a
dangerous profession. His point may be that if you
engage in high risk work or high risk investments,
you may get bitten.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 10:12. What is a gracious word? (Read
Proverbs 25:11. I like this mental picture. You appreciate
gracious words. You are uplifted by gracious words. I
remember a diligent church worker who created all sorts of
problems with her words. She knew that her words offended,
but that did not change her behavior. I remember her
(often) saying, "I'm going to be direct, because that is
just the way I am." Then she would rip off your ears with
her "direct" criticism. We are by nature sinners, but that
is no justification to continue sinning! Consider your
- Another interesting mental picture is found in
Ecclesiastes 10:12: a fool is consumed by his own
lips. Imagine your lips eating you! What does this
mean? (Your words destroy the quality of your life.
See, Proverbs 10:21.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 10:13-14. How is folly different from
madness? Why would a fool start out with words which are
folly and end up with words which are madness? (All of us
can remember times when we foolishly said something. If
you are wise, you will learn from this and not repeat it.
However, if you are a fool, you learn nothing and you
continue to pour out nonsense, expecting a different
result. A contemporary saying is that the definition of
insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a
- Why does this text end with a comment about the
future? What do foolish words have to do with
predicting the future? (Read Proverbs 27:1. We want
to boast about our hopes and dreams. But, this, too,
is foolish for we do not know the future. The future
is in God's hands.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 10:15. Why would a fool get more tired
from his work than a wise person? (The fool is talking so
much, he is not paying attention to what is going on.
That requires him to waste time doing unnecessary things.
The commentary, Be Satisfied, had the interesting comment
that the fool is talking so much he misses the sign
pointing out the way to the town. I must confess that I've
been talking while driving and missed the sign marking the
exit to my destination.)
- "He can't find his way to the courthouse," is an old
saying about incompetent lawyers. Since I always seem
to be litigating in a new court, I'm often trying to
find the courthouse. Would this expression apply to
me? (What Solomon and this expression tell us is that
if you cannot find the place where you are supposed
to be working, you obviously cannot do the work. If
work is in town, and you cannot find the way to town,
you are in trouble.)
- Would it be fair to understand "the town" (city) to
refer to the New Jerusalem?
- Let's skip down and read Ecclesiastes 10:18. Yesterday, I
was contemplating my life and I saw what I thought was a
deficiency. Nothing around my house gets fixed unless I
fix it. The guys at my office don't know how to do the
"practical" things I do, so they pay other people to do
those things. Does the fact that I am working while others
are paying to have things fixed disprove what Solomon
says? (Others work to earn money to pay workers to do what
they cannot do. In one way or another, the guys at my
office "work" to keep the roof from leaking or the rafters
from sagging. The goal, which I am missing, is to employ
other workers to make money for you!)
- Read Ecclesiastes 10:19. Do you agree? If so, how is this
true? (Since Solomon was just writing about laziness, he
may be suggesting that bribes are the "answer" when you
are a foolish, lazy ruler.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 10:20. What is a "bird of the air?" If
you are an employee, do you follow this wise advice? (You
remember all of the discussion about foolish, "dull-ax,"
bosses? If you think you have one, you should keep that to
yourself. Even thinking about your complaints about your
boss does you no good.)
- In what situations other than employment would this
- Friend, life here on earth is not entirely predictable. If
you want to improve the odds of success, Solomon counsels
to focus on what is right, pay attention to your words,
and show wisdom in everything you do.
- Next week: The Way of the Wind.
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.