A Study in the Word – Ecclesiastes 7:1-29


The Preacher uses “better than” to illustrate and compare different options for building wise character. Reputation is an enduring measurement of character (7:1a). When one’s record of life is complete, it gives a better testimony of his life than did the celebration of his birth by others (7:1b). Sorrow makes people face the crucial issues of life that laughter avoids, so people fondly remember your presence in their time of sorrow better than your attendance at a party (7:2-3). How a person deals with the sorrow of others separates wise from fool (7:4).

Hard lessons build character, where foolishness leads astray (7:5-7). Better to endure the strong medicine of rebuke from a wise person than fleeting praise from fools (7:5-6). Verse 7’s “oppression” is “extortion” in NIV and NLT. Giving in to extortion makes the wise act foolishly.

Patience rewards character building, while impatience reveals imprudence (7:8-14) because caution is preferable to impulsive anger (7:8-9). Foolishness cannot get past the past but seeks to reconstruct impossible circumstances (7:10). In wisdom patience looks forward and seeks the long-term benefit, which enhances life and its finer qualities (7:11-12).

Adversity builds stronger character than prosperity since it compels one to rely upon God, who forms life as He wishes (7:13). Whether prosperity or adversity comes, either is a time for trust, for God retains the blueprint of tomorrow to Himself (7:14).

The Preacher saw difficult things as tests to help people evaluate character (7:15-22). He observed a righteous person losing his life by doing right, and a wicked person prolonging his life by doing wrong (7:15). For the righteous, an extremely strict righteousness leads to a legalistic and prideful attitude (7:16). For the wicked, foolish behavior as a rule shortens life (7:17). Godly character built on wisdom grasps the difference (7:18).

Wisdom builds the kind of strength of character unknown by rulers accustomed to exerting unchallenged power (7:19). Character built on wisdom understands the fallen nature of all humanity (7:20), so speaking disparagingly of others is common to everyone, the wise included (7:21-22).

Character flaws are universal, yet character recognizes the futility of seeking perfect wisdom (7:23-24). The wise discover immorality is a constant but bitter lesson. Fearing God offers the probability of avoiding immorality, yet the reality of human sin is a snare (7:25-26). The Preacher concluded: Humanity’s longing to sin prevents beneficial fulfillment of the character wisdom seeks to build (7:27-29).

Dr. David Moore is a university online Bible and theology instructor. Email: dm5867se@outlook.com