In this section, the Teacher develops the idea that none of us knows our futures under the sun. He does this in four subsections, beginning with 9:13-10:1. Here, the Teacher tells a fictional story reminiscent of 2 Samuel 20:15-22 in which a poor but wise man saves his small city from certain destruction by a large and powerful army, only to be entirely forgotten once the city no longer needed him; fame and honor are indeed fleeting. Yet, even though the man was poor, and hardly powerful in the city, his counsel was more valuable in the crisis than the council of the city fathers, and it overcame the strength of arms. Thus the Teacher concludes: “Wisdom is better than strength” yet what did this man actually gain? Nothing.
10:2-7 shows us that there are impediments to wisdom under the sun. The wise person is guided by wisdom, is cool under fire and his heart and mind are steadfast, yet there is a very good chance that he is surrounded by fools. The primary example used here is that of an unwise ruler who appoints his friends and “yes men” to high places, and becomes angry with those who actually could have given him wise counsel. I think maybe we may still encounter this problem today.
The third section is in 10:8-11 and deals with the unexpected things that seem to take place so often in this life. The wording here is entirely self explanatory, and I think we can all identify; you just can’t be sure when misfortune might strike, no matter how careful you might be; it’s sort of an “occupational hazard” of being alive.
Finally, in verses 12-15, we see the futility of words. While a wise person’s words are gracious, most of the words we hear come from fools who get carried away and speak injudiciously about all sorts of things. If they are irritated or excited, they get carried away. If they are feeling down, they get carried away, if they are happy they get carried away: blah, blah, blah. Their endeavors come to naught, their projects fail, they become weary; they can’t win. Why?
Oh dear reader, that’s an easy one: because they are fools!
As a result of this, we are back where we started: Nobody knows what will happen next; that is the way of things under the sun.
Next time, we will see that nobody knows when evil will strike; nor does anyone know when good things will take place, for none of us can see the future.