The second section of proverbial sayings in Ecclesiastes 7 is comprised of verses 7-14 which reads,
“Extortion turns a wise man into a fool, and a bribe corrupts the heart.
The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun.
Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.
Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider that God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.”
The Teacher, having moved from the topic of death, is now pressing us with the questions of life. Predominantly he is forcing us to face the reality that we do not hold our destiny in our hands. We look to many keys to fit the lock which will either free us from our present fears or from the many unforeseen fears which may befall. Nevertheless, we are still bound to the reality that we are not ensured success or blessing in this life “under the sun”.
In verses 7-10, one is shown what will happen if one refuses to admit that they are not in control.
- Firstly, “extortion turns a wise man into a fool.” In other words, you will use your strength to oppress. You will use power to pressure, threaten, force others to give you what you want. Parenting? Supervising? Shepherding?
- Secondly, “…and a bribe corrupts the heart.” You will use your resources to manipulate others, or manipulate them by allowing them to manipulate you. It may sound convoluted, but dysfunction comes in many shapes and sizes. Parenting? Supervising? Shepherding?
- Thirdly, it “…corrupts the heart” You will so compromise yourself — your most inner self — by allowing yourself to be manipulated and used that it will harm your person. In other words, no illegitimate means may be used disinterestedly. That is, if you play with mud, you will get dirty.
- Fourthly, being “…quickly provoked in your spirit…” This sort of anger is the indignant, resentful, and embittered anger. Michael Eaton, comments on this passage by saying, “a tolerated resentment, makes its home in the heart.” This is what the author of Hebrews refers to as a “root of bitterness”.
- Fifthly, one thinks “…the old days better than these…” You will avoid today’s problems by pining for the past. Rather than face what is before you, you languish in regret beset by the sickness unto death.
- Lastly, the Teacher mentions, “…like an inheritance…” There are many who, rather than deal with what is in front of them and live in the reality of their circumstances, the look to the future for an unforeseen and unreasonable windfall to deliver them. They are full of dreams about their plans, but they are not busy about their present.