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Wisdom and Folly

10 Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink,
    so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
The heart of the wise is to his right,
    and the heart of the fool is to his left.
Even as the fool walks along the way,
    his heart lacks sense
    and tells everyone what a fool he is.

If a ruler’s spirit rises up against you,
    do not leave your post,
for composure allays great offences.
There is a wrong I have seen under the sun
    like an error proceeding from a ruler.
Fools are placed in many high positions,
    while the rich sit in low ones.
I have seen slaves on horses,
    and princes walking on the ground like slaves.

Whoever digs a pit may fall into it,
and whoever breaks through a fence may be bitten by a snake.
Whoever quarries stones may be hurt by them,
and whoever splits logs may be endangered by them.
10 If the iron axe is blunt
    and one doesn’t sharpen the edge,
then he must exert more force.
So wisdom has the advantage of giving success.

11 If the snake bites before it is charmed,
    there is no profit for the charmer.
12 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious,
    but the lips of a fool destroy him.
13 The words from his mouth begin as folly
    and end as grievous madness—
14 and the fool multiplies words.

No one knows what will happen,
    and who can tell him what will happen after him?
15 The mischief of fools wearies them
    for he doesn’t know how to go to town.

16 Oy to you, O land, when your king is a youth[a]
    and your princes feast in the morning.
17 Happy are you, O land, when your king is a son of nobles,
    and your princes eat at the proper time—
    in self-control and not in drunkenness!

18 By laziness the rafters sag,
    and by idle hands the house leaks.

19 A feast is made for laughter,
    and wine makes life glad—
but money is the answer for everything.

20 Do not ridicule the king—even in your thoughts,
    nor curse the rich in your bedroom.
For a bird of the air may carry your voice,
    and a winged creature may report your words.


  1. Ecclesiastes 10:16 Or, servant.