Ecclesiastes 7:15–29: Fearing the Lord vs. Scheming
The Preacher mentioned the value of wisdom briefly in the first part of this chapter (Eccl. 7:11–12). Even there, though, the Preacher noted the limitations of wisdom, given the crookedness in the world by the work of God (Eccl. 7:14). In the second half of this chapter, the Preacher gives wisdom closer consideration. Here again, we find the Preacher testing the world, trying to find some path to escape the vanity of life under the sun. What makes this passage unique to what we have seen so far, is that the Preacher will acknowledge some real value for wisdom (v. 19), and he will insist that he personally has sought to be wise (v. 25). Nevertheless, the Preacher still notes that true wisdom is “far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?” (v. 24). Still, the Preacher offers us a better solution here than might at first meet the eye by teaching that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (cf. v. 18).
1) Why does the Preacher warn against prolonging one’s life in evildoing, when wickedness can cause someone to die before his time (v. 15, 17)? What then does the Preacher mean when he he warns against being “overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise” (v. 16)? What, then, is the Preacher commending when he encourages us to fear God (v. 18)? What is the fear of the Lord in the Bible? Why does the Bible urge us toward the fear of the Lord?
2) What practical value does wisdom offer (v. 19)? If, though, there is not a single righteous man on earth, how many are there who are truly wise to receive the benefits of wisdom (v. 20)? On what basis does the Preacher counsel us not to lay to heart the cruel words of others (v. 21–22)? Why do you think that it is this bit of practical wisdom that the Preacher includes at this point in his book? How does this piece of wisdom in particular give protection and power?
3) If the Preacher is attempting to offer us wisdom, why does he insist that wisdom “was far from me” (v. 23)? In what sense is wisdom “far off, and deep, very deep” (v. 24a)? Who indeed can find wisdom (v. 24b)? When the Preacher talks about wisdom in this sense, do you think he is still talking about the kind of practical advice he has just given when he warns us not to be too offended when someone speaks ill of us? What sort of wisdom is the Preacher talking about then?
4) If the Preacher thinks that wisdom cannot be found, why then does he set his heart to find it anyway (v. 25)? Why does the Preacher warn about the adulterous woman on his quest to find wisdom (v. 26)? By this statement, along with stating that he has not found a single women he understands (v. 28), is the Preacher making a blanket condemnation of women, or should we understand the Preacher’s words in a different light? What are the “many schemes” that people have sought out?