Chapter 7 is a chapter of wisdom, and reads much like the Proverbs. It covers three subjects, the first of which is being serious here in vv. 1-7. This section, in turn, is divided into three subsections.
The first of these is found in verses 1-2, and deals with maintaining a good name. This expression would mean the same thing to Solomon that it would have meant to out fathers’ generation; a good reputation in the community. With a good name, many doors will open, with a less than good name, many will be closed. The Teacher brings some other ideas into this, but we aren’t going to be confused, because on this most excellent adventure of ours, we pay closer attention to context than many others do!
A good name is better than fine perfume,
and the day of death better than the day of birth. (v. 1)
The good name set the subject for this verse, and in that context, of course the day of death is better for you went through life with your good reputation intact. Verse 2 works the same way:
It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.
For a person to bear in mind that death is the destiny of everyone is a sober thought indeed, and when it comes to maintaining a good name, sober thoughts are the ones that will keep a person on track. Certainly living a frivolous life is no way to maintain respect in the community.
This idea of there being value in mourning continues in verses 3-4:
Frustration is better than laughter,
because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
Notice the way the Teacher moves into his point at the end of verse 4. His whole thought is that mourning is good for the heart because it keeps our minds off of the mere pursuit of mindless pleasure, which is what? Right you are: Meaningless!
The third subsection is the value of a rebuke.
It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person
than to listen to the song of fools.
Like the crackling of thorns under the pot,
so is the laughter of fools.
This too is meaningless.
Extortion turns a wise person into a fool,
and a bribe corrupts the heart. (5-7)
Once again, notice the matter of context; verse 5 changed the subject, so we are now talking about the value of a rebuke. Better we should heed the rebuke of the wise than listen to the chattering of fools. It sounds almost like something parents tell their children; of course the rebuke of a wise person is more valuable than the chattering of fools! I really like the next verse; the cracking of thorns under a pot; thorns, like fools, can cut you and cause injury, but the pot smashes them when placed upon them. Thos smashed thorns are worthless, just like the laughter of a fool; priceless imagery.
So what do extortion and bribery have to do with this? Think of the contrast between the rebuke of the wise with the laughter of the fool. Which one is likely to become involved with extortion and bribery?
Ah, good, I see you’ve got it!
The next section, vv. 8-14 is all about patience, so I know that if you are anything like me, you’ll be paying extra close attention when we continue our adventure…