(19) Wisdom strengthens the wise
More than ten rulers of the city.
(20) For there is not a just man on earth who does good
And does not sin.
(21) Also do not take to heart everything people say,
Lest you hear your servant cursing you.
(22) For many times, also, your own heart has known
That even you have cursed others.
(23) All this I have proved by wisdom.
I said, "I will be wise";
But it was far from me.
(24) As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep,
Who can find it out?
(25) I applied my heart to know,
To search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things,
To know the wickedness of folly,
Even of foolishness and madness.
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In verse 19, following the paragraph containing the paradox (Ecclesiastes 7:15-18), he writes, “Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten rulers of the city.” So Solomon made the accumulation of wisdom a major goal in his life, saying in verse 23, “I will be wise.” He wanted to be strong and able to confront all circumstances that beset him. He sought to be prepared.
In verse 25, he expands on his goal: “I applied my heart to know, to search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things.” This is a goal all of us should have. Wisdom does not stand alone. It is a result, built on true knowledge and understanding that a person accumulates along the way to attaining wisdom. All of these will serve us well in life, not only spiritually, but also in family life, business, and civic responsibilities in our communities.
It is interesting that in his search for wisdom, what he discovered may have also included insight into his personal defects. One of these may be revealed in verse 20, “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.” Another may appear in verses 21-22, “Also do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others.” We can take these statements as encouragement not to allow what we discover in our search for wisdom to deter us from continuing on, despite how it affects us personally.
In the rest of the chapter, Solomon touches on a few things he learned that can help us in setting our expectations. However, he says other things that, while not negatives, we should also understand as we search, for instance, writing in verse 23, “But it was far from me.” The search for wisdom is a lifelong endeavor, requiring diligent and continuous effort. In verse 24, he asks, “As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep, who can find it out?” He is gently informing us that we will never find answers to some things.
— John W. Ritenbaugh