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Most people would find no structure in these proverbs – similar to chap. 7

Those that try to group the verses in some type of pattern don’t agree as to the main topics …

J. Norman Whybray: This section consists of short apparently independent pieces, of which the majority are similar in form to the sayings in the Book of Proverbs (cf. Eccles. 7:1-14). Although some of them appear to have been arranged roughly according to theme, it is not possible, despite various attempts which have been made, to find any overall structure in the section as a whole.

But I think there is a common theme running through these verses dealing with the relationship between rulers and their subjects.  Certainly Solomon was qualified to speak on this subject as the great and wise king of the nation of Israel.  He starts out with some more general observations comparing wisdom and folly; but then makes the more specific application to the realm of civil government.  These same principles would apply to other realms as well: leadership and submission in the home; in the church; at work; etc.

Stuart Chase: I must stress, as I have stressed elsewhere, that folly in biblical wisdom literature is more an ethical than an intellectual category. Folly has less to do with your IQ than it has to do with your submission to God’s word. If we carelessly live, speak, act, or think as if there is no God, it can have devastating and long-lasting effects. Though such carelessness shows itself in very practical settings.

Derek Kidner: This chapter takes a calm look at life, sampling it at random, so as to help us to keep our own standards high, without being too surprised at the oddities of others, or taken off our guard in our dealings with the powerful.

Van Parunak: Though Qohelet has warned us that wisdom can’t guarantee happiness or success, still it is better than the alternative. To help us keep wisdom in perspective, he has:

  1. told us a story about what wisdom can and can’t do, showing that wisdom is the best tool for dealing with the world, but that the wise man may not always get the credit he deserves;
  2. compared wisdom and folly, showing that while wisdom is stronger than folly in solving problems, folly is stronger than wisdom in that it can swamp out the effects of wisdom;
  3. outlined the effects of folly in three spheres: leadership, labor, and speech. We should strive to exhibit wisdom in our daily lives.


A.  (:1) Ruining That Which Otherwise Would Be Good —

One Rotten Apple Spoils the Barrel

Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink,

so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor.”

Derek Kidner: It takes far less to ruin something than to create it. . .  it is easier to make a stink than to create sweetness.

Allen Ross: The basic message is clear: as a dead fly (or flies) in perfume can actually reverse the effect so that the perfume becomes foul-smelling, so a little folly can reverse the effects of wisdom and honor. While this can be related to the previous passage—in particular 9:18, with its assertion that one sinner can destroy much good done by a wise person—it is also possible that this verse is making a quite different point, namely, that a wise person who turns to folly makes people forget that he was ever wise. The turning of the wise person into a fool is a distinct possibility (see 7:7), and all that people will remember is the folly.

David Hubbard: Folly has dangers and wisdom has limits—those twin points are made in the first proverb. Folly is so powerful that a little of it—like a bad smell—can overwhelm large amounts of wisdom. This saying seems to use the “fly in the ointment” metaphor to reinforce the idea of 9:18. The “flies” do the same thing to expensive perfume as the “sinner” does to the things “wisdom” is trying to achieve. This is a reminder that the effectiveness of the wise is not measured in batting averages where three hits in ten tries is superb baseball, but in fielding averages where one error in thirty chances is too many. The story is told of a German scholar whose years of impeccable scholarship were disgraced by his use of the wrong Hebrew word for “kill” in an offhand note on the Decalogue’s command against murder. Harsh treatment that was for a learned person, but it serves as a warning against taking lightly either wisdom or the role in teaching it.

B.  (:2) Ruining the Fool’s Course of Life by Consistently Making Bad Choices

Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide – If You Have a Good Conscience

(Divine Guidance for Political Campaigns)

A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right,

but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left.”

Tremper Longman: Wisdom and folly go in two different directions.

Allen Ross: Since most people are right-handed, or turn to the right, the fool’s turning aside to the left makes him more conspicuous. Thus folly draws more attention than wisdom.

H.C. Leupold: Since we believe that the author is writing coherent discourse and has logical sequence of thought we shall expect the thought of the first verse to remain in the forefront, vis., how low the now esteemed Persian monarchy shall be brought by its folly, which is already operative.  We have, therefore, not only general observations that contrast folly and wisdom but thoughts which bear very distinctly upon the historical situation.  The emphasis is, therefore, not chiefly on the “wise man” and his tendencies.  He is brought in only as a foil to the “fool.”  The thought, by way of contrast, runs about as follows: Had the ruling people been wise they would have turned to the right, for the heart of wise men is thus inclined; but being fools, they have directed their attention toward that which is not right.

David Thompson: Going right or left is more than just a direction choice. In Scripture, the right side was the side of blessing, the side of God’s favor and protection (Ps. 16:8; 110:5; 121:5). Jesus Christ used the right concept as being those who would enter the eternal kingdom (Matt. 25:31-46). The left side was just the opposite. It represented the side of disaster, calamity and judgment (Matt. 25:31-46). Clearly the right side is the side that pleases God and the left side is the side that doesn’t.

C.  (:3) Ruining the Fool’s Own Reputation and Legacy —

A Fool is Easy to Spot

Even when the fool walks along the road his sense is lacking,

and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool.”

Michael Eaton: the fool cannot conceal himself.  Thus the fool’s inner deficiency comes out in the open for all to see.

We are going to see that when he opens his mouth, it is obvious he is a fool . . . but even as he just moves through life .. he does not live wisely.

Allen Ross: The last line in the verse is capable of at least three different interpretations. Literally it reads, “and he says to everyone he is a fool.”

  • One possibility is that he is calling other people fools.
  • Another is that he proclaims as he walks along, “I am a fool! I am a fool!”
  • The third is that the subject of the verb “says” is the word “heart” (the previous line [NIV, “the fool lacks sense”] being literally, “his heart is lacking”). Fox (ibid., 302–3) compares this to Proverbs 12:23, “The heart of fools cries out, ‘Folly!’” and argues that the idea in v.3 is that a fool’s heart “works against him” and produces behavior that, contrary to what the fool may say, announces to everyone that the person is a fool.

It is not impossible that all three interpretations may be correct.


David Hubbard: Wisdom is a guide in governmental affairs. That was a point that Koheleth returned to frequently. Like all wise men he recognized that human life is basically political. Whether we thrive or chafe will in large measure depend on how we are governed. All of us—from tribal aborigines to urban intellectuals—live under governments. Knowing how to deal with those who order and regulate our lives is an essential part of our education.

A.  (:4) Tempted to Run Away From Your Circumstances —

Keep Your Cool / Hold Your Water

If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your position,

because composure allays great offenses.”

Don’t have a knee jerk reaction; “I’ll just quit” is the easy way out.

What about the need for endurance??  In your job; your church; your family;

The “I want to move to Kansas” mentality – what am I going to accomplish for the Lord in Kansas?

Michael Eaton: The same vocabulary (“anger . . . soothed”) occurs in Judges 8:3 which illustrates the point.

Knut Martin Heim: With his audience probably still in stitches, Qoheleth moves in for the kill, presenting the lesson he wants his audience to adopt above all else: If the spirit of the ruler rises against you, he counsels, do not forsake your position, for calmness can calm great offences. Every part of this instruction is hyper-ambiguous (Krüger 2004: 219). It can be heard as encouraging opportunism. It can also be heard as a critique of opportunism.

David Hubbard: The Preacher’s advice was practical—almost shrewd: “stay on good terms with the powerful.” Use your power of self-control to offset the abuse of power displayed in the temper tantrum of your superior (v. 4).

David Thompson: This is a wisdom principle that is emphasized several times in Scripture–wise people are not prone to quit or abandon ship, they hang in there, they stick to it, they rebound, they stay faithful and try to do their best even if their ruler has become angry with them.

B.  (:5-7) Tempted to Resent Inequities —

The Prince and the Pauper – Incompetence Exalted over Competence

There is an evil I have seen under the sun, like an error which goes

forth from the ruler– folly is set in many exalted places while rich men sit

 in humble places. I have seen slaves riding on horses and princes

walking like slaves on the land.”

“Smarter people than I are making the decisions here . . .”

Often the right people are not promoted to the right jobs … inequities; not our job to try to right every wrong; cf. Peter Principle – someone eventually promoted to one level higher than their level of competence.

Douglas Miller: Verses 6 and 7 describe two contrasting situations defining the evil that Qohelet has introduced in verse 5: foolish people are appointed to important positions while the (perhaps formerly) rich are in lower positions, demoted. Similarly, he notices slaves who have the prestige of riding on horses, while princes are reduced to walking as slaves normally do. Several texts of Egyptian wisdom literature use such comparisons to describe a society in turmoil (cf. Prov 19:10; 30:21-23). This is presented not as a positive situation in which the poor have received unexpected opportunity, but as a chaotic situation in which the most bizarre things are possible, and the governance of society is fragile and uncertain [Political Power, p. 242].

Warren Wiersbe: Solomon’s son Rehoboam was proud and unyielding, and this led to the division of the kingdom (1 Kings 12:1-24).  Instead of following the advice of the wise counselors, he listened to his youthful friends.  He made the elders walk and he put the young men on the horses.  On the other hand, more than one king in Jewish history has been so pliable that he turned out to be nothing but a figurehead.  The best rulers (and leaders) are men and women who are tough-minded but tenderhearted, who put the best people on the horses and don’t apologize for it.

H.C. Leupold: sees God ultimately as the “Ruler” here

David Hubbard: “Be aware of life’s injustices” was another part of the Preacher’s practical advice. His sharp eye had seen rulers make tragic mistakes. They had often put the wrong people in power (vv. 5–7). The warning is a good one. Inequities do arise in life, especially in government. But the Preacher did not tell us what to do about them. Are we to correct such abuses (“error,” v. 5; see 5:6 for the other use in Ecclesiastes of the Heb. shegāgāh which means “a flat-out mistake” for which there can be no valid excuse) or merely to be warned against themʾ In his kind of society, there may not have been much choice. Still, Koheleth cannot be encouraging his students to be complacent about something so harmful (“evil,” v. 5; see 2:21) to and pervasive (“under the sun,” see 1:3) in society. At least he is saying, “Be watchful when others do it”; at most, “Whenever it is in your power to prevent such arbitrary mismanagement, make sure you do so.”

Walter Kaiser: In this connection of pacifying anger aroused by great errors, “There is an evil,” says Qoheleth in one of his favorite introductory phrases (10:5; cf. 5:13; 6:9). Yet in line with the wise and meek attitude he has just counseled in the preceding verse (v. 4), he continues, “Such an error” gives evidence that not everything rulers do is always perfect and fair. This blot on the record of human governments is another one of those enigmas in the divine plan: Why does God allow such foolishness to continue? The blunder and error of human governments can often be seen in this tragedy: rulers put their foolish favorites into office over those who are more qualified (10:5-6). Such strangers to the fear of God are called fools. Meanwhile, those who by birth and training are more qualified for such government posts are passed by. These errors are the natural fruit of partiality, tyranny, and despotism. If the ruler had used wisdom, he would have chosen the “nobles” (literally “the rich”), whose ability to accumulate and handle wealth might have indicated the gifts of prudence and wisdom.

The arbitrariness of despotism is indicated by the frequent reversal of positions among the citizenry. In a culture in which only dignitaries were allowed the privilege of riding, there was great social upheaval, as suggested by the complete reversal of normal roles—servants were riding horses while princes walked like menials at their side (10:7). Many have longed to know why such things are allowed by God to happen. If only—. But that is one part of God’s plan that He has not been pleased to reveal to us in detail. The reality of such arbitrariness is freely granted by the text, but the text also warns us against permitting it to become a roadblock to joyful and active involvement in life.


Derek Kidner: The outlook behind these pointed remarks is not fatalism, as verses 8 and 9 might suggest on their own, but elementary realism. The blinding glimpse of the obvious in verse 10, backed up by the dry humour of the next verse, dispels any doubt. We are being urged to use our minds, and to look a little way ahead. For there are risks bound up with any vigorous action, and the person we call accident-prone has usually himself to blame, rather than his luck. He should have known; he could have taken care. But Qoheleth drops a hint of a parable by talking of a pit and of a serpent; for the pit that traps its maker was a proverbial picture of poetic justice, and the unnoticed serpent was the very image of lurking retribution. This was how the prophet Amos saw it; so too did the witnesses of Paul’s encounter with the viper.

Verse 8, then, may be making a different point from verse 9, aimed at the unscrupulous rather than the feckless. As for the latter, they (or we?) are beautifully dealt with in verses 10 and 11: first with the elaborate patience suited to the dunce, then with a flash of wit and a touch of farce. After the startling opening, where the snake has been too quick for everybody, one can almost see the shrug that accompanies the throw-away line (NEB) — ‘the snake-charmer loses his fee’. As for the victim. . . but why labour the point?

Allen Ross: These verses deal with various occupational hazards (vv.8–9) or with problems to be encountered in the performance of one’s task (vv.10–11). It is important to note from the outset that with regard to the hazards there is no indication of moral judgments being made, nor, for that matter, are there any evaluations of the skills or work ethic of the tradesmen to whom these accidents happen. Nor is there any indication that the “accidents” are due to carelessness; they just happen.

A.  (:8-9) Wisdom Understands the Dangers and Uncertainties of Life —

Accidents Happen – They are Unavoidable

Fine line between production and catastrophe – No Guarantees of Success in this life; God’s Sovereignty and Providence governs all circumstances; the Fool is not in control.

(Cf. Haman in Book of Esther 7:10)

Sometimes: What goes around, comes around

4 Examples:

  1. Digging a Pit

 “He who digs a pit may fall into it,

David Thompson: – Success does not come through vindictive plots.

The idea of “digging a pit” is the idea of setting a trap for someone so that one might entrap or ensnare them. This imagery is often used in Scripture — Ps. 7:15-16; 9:15-16; 35:6-8; 57:6; Prov. 26:27; Jer. 18:18-23.

There are people who believe that the way to the top is to try to get rid of anyone who stands in their way. These people are manipulative schemers who will do whatever it takes to try and trap a person so they can climb the ladder of success.

  1. Breaking through a wall

and a serpent may bite him who breaks through a wall.

David Thompson: Solomon’s point here is that one had better carefully watch his attack before he just starts using his power to start breaking through a wall, for he may discover that a snake is in the wall and it may bite him and kill him

  1. Gathering Stones

He who quarries stones may be hurt by them,

David Thompson: Solomon’s point is this; if we are just relying on our own strength to try and tackle something like the removal of something big and powerful, we may discover that we are the one who ends up being hurt.

  1. Splitting Logs

and he who splits logs may be endangered by them.”

You can be your own worst enemy

Tremper Longman: The thought, though not the motivation, is similar to Psalm 7:15: “He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made.”  The context of the Psalm is clearly one of just retribution.  The enemy tries unjustly to trap an innocent person, but ends up in his own trap.  Qohelet’s use of this image is the opposite.  Here an innocent person is simply engaged in his occupation, and he is accidentally injured.  This is the first of four illustrations of people who are simply doing their jobs and who fall prey to the dangers that are inherent in their occupations.  Their injuries are simply accidental.  They are not punishments for bad behavior, and they are not mentioned so that the wise person can avoid them; they are unavoidable accidents.  No matter how careful people are they may fall into the pit they dug, and they might be surprised by a snake on the other side of the wall they are demolishing.

Warren Wiersbe: Solomon was describing people who attempted to do their work and suffered because they were foolish.

David Thompson: There are many ways that at first glimpse seem to be able to lead you to the top or to success. That word “success” which occurs in verse 10 is one that means there are certain paths that appear would take one to gain, profit or preeminence (Gesenius, p. 377). At first appearance, these are paths that would seem to take people to the top, but in all reality may take you nowhere.

Solomon came to realize that the key to success was one’s relationship to God. That is why he will conclude this book with his conclusion which is “fear God and keep His commandments” (12:12). In these verses Solomon sets forth this idea


B.  (:10) Wisdom Must be Applied Skillfully — Work Smart / Use the Right Tools

If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert

more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.”

Douglas Miller: What follows is the obvious: if the iron is not sharpened, more strength must be exerted (v. 10 NRSV). Yet wisdom (NRSV) brings an advantage (yitron), as the Teacher has said previously (2:13; 7:12). In this case the advantage could be the sharpening of the iron (so less energy is needed) or clever compensation for a dull iron. In either case, the worker is still vulnerable to a bad outcome, but the possibility of a good outcome is increased. Just as one should sharpen an iron tool before using it, one should employ a snake charmer to avoid snakebite. Yet the snake may bite first, resulting in no advantage (NRSV; NIV: profit) to the snake charmer (10:11b, lit., master of the tongue, perhaps one who speaks incantations) [Special Terms: Gain, p. 253]. Some problems can be attributed to a lack of wisdom, but accidents can happen even when wisdom is employed.

David Hubbard: The key to the passage may be, “But wisdom brings success” (lit. “profit,” “advantage,” Heb. yitrôn, see 1:3). Wisdom, with its cautious common sense, coaches its adherents to be careful and thereby cut down the possibility of accidents in otherwise hazardous work.

Stuart Chase: Several years ago, at the Rez Conference in Randburg, a question-and-answers session was arranged with keynote speaker Voddie Baucham. During the session, a young, very zealous man expressed his frustration that he had not yet found something of real significance to do with his life for the Lord. He wanted to get out there and make a difference and asked Voddie for counsel. Voddie thought for a moment and then said, “Do nothing.” He paused for a moment before explaining. He exhorted the young man that the best thing he could do at that time was to patiently involve himself in typical local church ministry. Sit at the feet of more seasoned Christians and take time to learn. In time, God may use him, but he would be ill-advised to rush into significant ministry without careful, deliberate preparation. He needed, in other words, to take as much time as necessary to sharpen his axe before swinging it. It was sage advice. Solomon would have approved.

C.  (:11) Wisdom Must Be Applied at the Right Time — Timing is Everything

If the serpent bites before being charmed, there is no profit for the charmer.”

Warren Wiersbe: Snake charmers were common as entertainers in that day (v. 11, and see Ps. 58:4-5 and Jer. 8:17).  Snakes have no external ears; they pick up sound waves primarily through the bone structure of the head.  More than the music played by the charmer, it is the man’s disciplined actions (swaying and staring) that hold the snake’s attention and keep the serpent under control.  It is indeed an art.

Allen Ross: Whatever the case may be, it should be noted that unlike v.10, there is nothing in the verse that suggests the charmer was late or negligent. It just happened. Wisdom and skill are wonderful things to have, but opportunity is needed as well. You have to be diligent, but you also have to be fortunate.


David Hubbard: Three proverbs (vv. 12–13, 14, 15) center in the gift of speech and its impact on its hearers. Koheleth, like the wise teachers of Proverbs, knew that his students were headed for positions of responsibility, whether in government service or business. As persons of prominence they had to watch their language. Success or failure would be determined, in some measure at least, by the winsomeness, accuracy, and frugality of their speech. Like the snake charmer (v.11), they had to be “masters of the tongue.”


A.  (:12-14a) The Folly of Speaking Stupidly

Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a

fool consume him; the beginning of his talking is folly, and the end of it is

wicked madness. Yet the fool multiplies words.

  1. Destructive words – James 3:1-12
  2. Wacko words – they don’t even make any sense

Allen Ross: If a fool gives a speech, and at the beginning it sounds like nonsense, then wait till you hear the end of the speech! While this could almost be funny, unfortunately the madness at the end of the speech is characterized by “wickedness” or “evil” as well.

  1. Multiplication of words – Prov. 10:19

Derek Kidner: The little portrait of the fool likewise hints at the inner attitudes that underlie his words. If we laughed at him in verse 3, we see the tragic and dangerous side of him now. In Scripture he is wrong-headed rather than dull: his thinking (and therefore his speaking) refuses to begin with God. Verse 13 in fact makes this clear, spanning the whole process from its foolish start to its disastrous end. That end, in wicked madness, may look too lurid to be true; but its two elements, moral and mental, are the final fruits of refusing the will and truth of God. If there are innumerable unbelievers whose earthly end could hardly be described as either wickedness or madness, it is only because the logic of their unbelief has not been followed through, thanks to the restraining grace of God. But when a whole society goes secular, the process is far more evident and thorough-going.

B.  (:14b) The Folly of Thinking Stupidly – Presumptuous Boasting

No man knows what will happen,

and who can tell him what will come after him?”

C.  (:15) The Folly of Working Stupidly

The toil of a fool so wearies him

that he does not even know how to go to a city.”

Michael Eaton: Any form of toil the fool finds wearisome.  The result is incompetence.  The second half of the verse specifies his “utter ignorance of the things easily come-at-able and familiar to everybody” (Ginsburg).

J. Norman Whybray: The fool’s efforts are bound to come to nothing: he remains as before one who cannot even find his way home. The second half of the verse is probably a popular saying about people who “do not know enough to come in out of the rain” (Gordis).

David Hubbard: The final saying (v. 15) sums up both the fate and competence of fools. First, their endless efforts at talking—so “labor” (Heb. ʿamāl) 1:3) must mean here—accomplish nothing more than the exhaustion of their energies—a bane to them and a boon to their audience. Second, their lack of wisdom is glaringly exposed: “they do not even know how to go to the city!” is probably a stock saying like “They can’t even find their way home,” or “They don’t know enough to come in out of the rain.”


David Hubbard: Chaos was the result of the undisciplined regime that stemmed from ill-prepared leadership. It showed itself in the physical neglect of public buildings (v. 18), where the picture of collapsed roof beams (“building decays”) and the water-soaked “house” may be a metaphor of the damage done to the kingdom by the lazy, pleasure-loving leaders (on ʿāsēl, lazy, sluggish, see Prov. 6:6, 9). It showed itself further in the waste of “money” (v. 19, lit. “silver”; see 2:8) that was a public crime, adding to the shame of the carousals described in verse 16 and repeated here. The lavish, riotous, and cruel banquet in Esther (ch. 1), may remind us of the potential degradation of royal drinking bouts.

A.  (:16-17) Contrast Between Foolish and Wise Leadership –

The Quality of Leadership Makes All the Difference

  1. Foolish Leadership – Cursing on the Land

Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad and whose princes feast in the morning.”

  1. Wise Leadership – Blessing on the Land

Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose

princes eat at the appropriate time– for strength, and not for drunkenness.”

Cf. Is. 5:11-13; 21:5

Michael Eaton: Another criterion of national wisdom is self-control.  Drinking in the early hours of the day marked a dissolute, slothful approach to life, with emphasis on luxury and personal indulgence.  As we have frequently seen personal enjoyment had a place for the Preacher and the antithesis to indulgence here is not asceticism, but self-control.  The mark of such pleasure is that it is to be enjoyed in a state of strength, not in a state of drunkenness.  The enjoyment of life’s pleasures as the outworking of a position of wisdom-strength is a mark of national bliss; the pseudo-enjoyment of self-centered indulgence is a mark of national danger.

B.  (:18) Laziness on the Part of Leaders Leads to Ruin

Through indolence the rafters sag,

and through slackness the house leaks.”

You could debate whether vs. 18 applies to the leaders or just to everyone in general.

Derek Kidner: The chapter ends, as it began, with shrewd remarks on practical politics, as if to re-emphasize that the interest of the wise in ultimate questions does nothing to lessen their concern for the present. The wise man cates very much about the way his country is governed, and about the way to rule himself and his affairs, in a world which is at once demanding (18), delightful (19) and dangerous (20).

How the Wise can avoid Frustration?

C.  (:19) Response: Enjoy Your Life as Best as Possible (or applied sarcastically to rulers?  Just raise taxes to try to fix everything)

Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry, and

money is the answer to everything.”

D.  (:20) Response: Bite Your Tongue — Discretion is the Better Part of Valor

Furthermore, in your bedchamber do not curse a king, and in your

sleeping rooms do not curse a rich man, for a bird of the heavens will

carry the sound, and the winged creature will make the matter known.”

Furthermore” connects vs. 19 and 20 – speaking to the same group of people

Warren Wiersbe: Even if we can’t respect the person in the office, we must respect the office (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).  “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people” (Ex. 22:28).

David Hubbard: The final result of the political chaos that seems to dominate this passage is the embargo that is placed on all criticism of dissent (v. 20). “Curse” here is probably not an invoking of judgment on the “king” (who may also be the one called “rich” in the parallel clause), but a voicing of disparaging comments (“revile,” NIV; “speak ill,” NEB; see on 7:21–22). “Rich” seems to connect this verse with verse 19 and suggest that the reviling thoughts and words were triggered by the whole program of carousing (v. 16), laziness (v. 18), and profligacy (v. 19) that tarred the reputation of the court. The “bird” (v. 20) must be both hyperbole to show how carefully a would-be critic had to control tongue and mind, and metaphor to show how comprehensive and controlled was the king’s network of informers. We use the same metaphor today, “A little bird told me.” The admonition called for a pragmatic prudence on the courtier’s part. That such restraint was necessary gave a pathetic ring to the whole regime.