What Did the Wise Man Mean?
Do Not Get Overly Concerned About What People Say
At times a person may wonder, What do others say about me? Do they really like me or not? When that is the case, there is a need for caution. The wise man advised: “Do not give your heart to all the words that people may speak, that you may not hear your servant calling down evil upon you. For your own heart well knows even many times that you, even you, have called down evil upon others.”—Eccl. 7:21, 22.
It is unwise to become overly concerned about things that people say, taking their words too much to heart. Humans are imperfect and so may say things to others about friends and acquaintances that are not at all flattering to them. Solomon noted that a servant, who should be loyal to his master, may become vexed and call down evil upon him. So a person simply cannot take every remark seriously and allow himself to become upset about it. On the other hand, when comments are exceptionally favorable, this can have a bad effect in feeding one’s pride.
Accordingly, when it comes to people’s words, it is good to think about one’s own speaking. As Solomon noted, the person himself may often have said bad things about others, without malicious intent. Why, then, get all upset about what others say by taking their words too seriously? Why even be unduly curious about what is being said? Whether favorable or unfavorable, what others say can unbalance a person if he treats it too seriously.
Despite his extensive investigation of human affairs, Solomon realized that complete understanding still was not within his grasp. He stated: “All this I have tested with wisdom. I said: ‘I will become wise.’ But it was far from me.” (Eccl. 7:23) The principles Solomon formulated as a result of his extensive research were tested. He made use of his wisdom in evaluating them and was satisfied that they were correct, sound. He had come to appreciate the vanity, the emptiness, of a materialistic way of life that ignores the Creator. Yet Solomon realized that, in the absolute sense, he was far from wisdom. This was despite the fact that he had really wanted to gain insight, as is evident from the determination expressed in the words, “I will become wise.” Though outstandingly endowed with wisdom, Solomon was unable to fathom many things. He continued: “What has come to be is far off and exceedingly deep. Who can find it out?” (Eccl. 7:24) Evidently Solomon made this observation about God’s dealings, works and purposes.—Compare Romans 11:33, 34.
The State of Humankind
Recognizing the grandeur and complexity of God’s work, Solomon again directs his attention to human affairs. He writes: “I myself turned around, even my heart did, to know and to explore and to search for wisdom and the reason of things, and to know about the wickedness of stupidity and the foolishness of madness; and I was finding out: More bitter than death I found the woman who is herself nets for hunting and whose heart is dragnets and whose hands are fetters. One is good before the true God if one escapes from her, but one is sinning if one is captured by her.”—Eccl. 7:25, 26.
Note that careful, whole-hearted investigation led Solomon to single out a bad woman, a prostitute, as one of the worst things with which a man can get involved. He compares her allurements to “dragnets” and “fetters.” The man who is ensnared by such a woman may go through an experience more bitter than death, perhaps contracting a loathsome venereal disease or bringing ruin to his family if he is married. More importantly, yielding to a prostitute can jeopardize one’s relationship with Jehovah God.
Solomon’s making such a strong point about the allurements of a bad woman suggests that a very low standard among women may have prevailed at that time. This may have been because of foreign influence and a leaning toward Baal worship, a fertility cult that Solomon later sponsored in an attempt to please his foreign wives. (1 Ki. 11:3-8) This background may shed light on what Solomon next wrote: “See! This I have found, . . . one thing taken after another, to find out the sumup, which my soul has continuously sought, but I have not found. One man out of a thousand I have found, but a woman among all these I have not found.”—Eccl. 7:27, 28.
Solomon came to realize that an upright man was hard to find. There might be one out of a thousand. Yet, based on his own experience with numerous wives and concubines and his observations of other women, Solomon concluded that the ideal in women was even rarer at that time. This does not mean that there were no fine women but that, as a whole, exemplary ones were few. Blessed indeed was the man who had found a good wife. The book of Proverbs fittingly says: “A capable wife who can find? Her value is far more than that of corals.” (Prov. 31:10) “Has one found a good wife? One has found a good thing.”—Prov. 18:22.
The fact that upright men and women were hard to find cannot, however, be charged to God. Solomon acknowledged: “The true God made mankind upright, but they themselves have sought out many plans.” (Eccl. 7:29) Instead of abiding by God’s righteous standards, for the most part men and women have chosen willfully to follow their own plans, schemes, devices or ways, to their injury.