Do you know anyone who talks too much? Do you ever talk too much yourself? Has talking too much ever brought trouble on anyone you know? I must confess that I have to answer yes to all three questions. Solomon and the Holy Spirit point out this problem in Ecclesiastes 10. Words and the thoughts they represent are one of the main things which separate us from the other life forms. We ought to be more careful with our words. Words can be a great source of either good or evil. Jesus warned us that we will be judged by our words; we will give an account for every idle word we speak. James pointed out the great difficulty in controlling our tongues and the great damage that causes. Solomon points out many of the dangers which should provide us with great motivation for carefully considering our words.
It seems to me that verses 8 through 15 of Ecclesiastes 10 fit together to paint a portrait of a fool and his words. Verse 8 speaks of a man falling into a pit which he himself dug. That is a good description of a fool who can’t or won’t stop talking until he has committed himself to something he can never fulfill. A fool will speak long defending a position that is indefensible, even though he and his listeners know it to be without defense. Verse 8 also speaks of a man getting bitten by a snake that slithers out of a wall he is breaking down. A fool will needlessly and very often wrongly tear down another person only to find himself getting hurt in the process. Verse 9 tells of a man who gets injured while quarrying stones. A fool will expend much time and energy in “digging up dirt” on another person. The fool will then spread the dirt around. The fool always gets dirty himself, though often he doesn’t even realize it. Verses 9 and 10 speak of a man who gets hurt while splitting a log. A fool will spew out many words “splitting hairs” on some subject. The fool will be hurt in the process because listeners will quickly see his foolishness. As the listeners begin to ignore or rebuke the fool, he will begin to work harder because his axe is dull. The fool gets louder and more persistent, when he ought to sharpen his axe. He should graciously remove himself from the situation and go study the situation so that he would no longer be ignorant on the topic at hand.
Verse 11 tells of a snake charmer being bitten before the snake was charmed. If the snake charmer got bit by his snake, the performance would be over and the charmer would not get paid. He would receive ridicule from the crowd and sickness from the snake. The fool rushes to speak. He wants to get his words out before anyone else has a chance. Listening is not part of the fool’s plan. Thus, the fool wants to hold the floor because he loves the sound of his own voice, wanting to make sure the listeners have a chance to marvel at his knowledge. The fool could save himself much embarrassment if he would wait for others to speak because he could find out that he was wrong before putting it out in the open for all to see. The fool will receive ridicule from the listeners and suffering from his foolish words.
In verses 12 through 15, Solomon points out that everyone benefits from the words of a wise man and everyone is harmed by the words of the fool. That would be a good measuring tool for us. Before we speak, we ought to consider: Will anyone benefit? Solomon closes this passage with a scathing assessment of the fool. Despite all the bad things that have resulted from his foolish words, the fool multiplies his words. Yes, multiplies his words! Solomon declares that the fool is so stupid that he cannot even follow the road signs into town. May God help me; the fool looks a lot like me.