*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

Ecclesiastes 7:11-14 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Ecclesiastes 7:11
  • Ecclesiastes 7:12
  • Ecclesiastes 7:13
  • Ecclesiastes 7:14

Wisdom can shade us from the difficulties of this world, starting with understanding that God is the true source of stability.

Verse 11 states that both wisdom and inheritance are good (towb). They are an advantage to those who see the sun.

The Hebrew word translated protection in the phrase for wisdom is protection in verse 12 is “tsel,” which literally means “shadow” or “shade.” So both wisdom and money are a shade, a protection from the sun. There is a strange irony that those who see the sun need a protection from the sun and are at an advantage when they receive that protection.

We cannot look directly at the sun (an idea that harkens to Exodus 33 when God tells Moses if he looks at His face Moses will die). The protection of wisdom and money helps protect us in adversity, even as it places a shadow over our vision.

Money is included as a protection. Monetary savings is a protection on many fronts. For example, it protects against a reversal such as sickness or job loss. Money can also work as a sort of protection against foolishness. It might allow us time to reflect and pursue understanding.

However, although money is a protection or shade, Solomon says wisdom is superior. The advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors.You would think Solomon might say this about money. But money simply provides power to do more of whatever we have in our heart to do. If we have wisdom, we will do more good. Our lives will be preserved from foolish self-destruction. But if we live as fools, money will simply escalate the rate of our self-destruction.

Wisdom shields us from certain pitfalls and consequences in the moral/spiritual realm, just as money provides protection from certain physical hardships. But more importantly, the advantage of the knowledge of skillful living in day-to-day situations—wisdom—is that it brings to life its possessor. This is more than preservation from death; it is the positive production of a rich and full experience.

Solomon commends God’s wisdom. As Solomon made clear in earlier chapters, without God’s wisdom we as humans are locked up in our own finite understanding. Man can’t develop sufficient understanding through reason and experience to know what is right to do. But humans can and should live by the wisdom God has called us to. And trust that God will make things right in His own time. This section is an invitation to faith in God’s benevolence.

Solomon tells us to consider the work of God. The word translated consider is the same word translated see in the phrase see the sun. We can’t really avoid the sun. Perhaps Solomon is connecting that experience with the reality of God. For the work of God is like the sun in that it happens all around us. So we ought to pay attention, and consider all we see that is the work of God, and seek to understand what God’s work is telling us.

Solomon notes this reality with the rhetorical question “Who is able to straighten what God has bent?”The expected answer is “no one.” We cannot reach up and dim the sun; we can only seek protection from its rays. And if it takes God’s strength to bend something, we won’t have the strength to straighten it.

This points out the reality that there is much that we as humans cannot control. But we can control our attitude. The perspective we choose. We can’t straighten what God has bent, but we can choose to be happy in the day of prosperity. It might seem odd that we would need to be told to choose happiness when things are going well. But on reflection, when things are going well, it is typical human behavior to be unhappy because our circumstances aren’t even better. Solomon advises us to see things as they are, and when we are blessed, to be grateful and enjoy it. To choose to be happy.

What do we do when prosperity is replaced with adversity? Solomon tells us to choose a perspective that God has made circumstances of adversity just as much as He made circumstances of prosperity. It is not unusual for a single circumstance to be adversity for one person and prosperity to another. A hailstorm is adversity to a homeowner and prosperity for the roofing company. Rain brings prosperity to the farmer but adversity to the baseball team. The circumstance brings an opportunity to each.

The discussion ends with a curious phrase. We need to greet prosperity with happiness, but also choose a perspective that we can gain benefit during adversity. Why? So that man will not discover anything that will be after him. This phrase applies to the observation that God has made both prosperous as well as adverse circumstances. God has made the one as well as the other.

This appears to be saying that God gave us this full range of experiences, prosperity as well as adversity, for our benefit. That we might learn. Discover. That we might have a complete opportunity to discover all God has for us to gain in our life under the sun. In observing that man will not discover anything that will be after him, Solomon is pointing out the plain truth that we cannot know the future. Our future might hold adversity and it might hold prosperity. We do not need to worry which it is, because God has made the one as well as the other, and both are in God’s hands, who has our best interest at heart.

Biblical Text
11 Wisdom along with an inheritance is good
And an advantage to those who see the sun.
12 For wisdom is protection just as money is protection,
But the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors.
13 Consider the work of God,
For who is able to straighten what He has bent?
14 In the day of prosperity be happy,
But in the day of adversity consider—
God has made the one as well as the other
So that man will not discover anything that will be after him.

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