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Ecclesiastes 10 Contemporary English Version (CEV)

10 A few dead flies in perfume
    make all of it stink,
and a little foolishness
    outweighs a lot of wisdom.
Sensible thoughts lead you
    to do right;
foolish thoughts lead you
    to do wrong.
Fools show their stupidity
    by the way they live;
it’s easy to see
    they have no sense.
Don’t give up your job
    when your boss gets angry.
If you stay calm,
    you’ll be forgiven.

Some things rulers do are terribly unfair: They honor fools, but dishonor the rich; they let slaves ride on horses, but force slave owners to walk.

If you dig a pit,
    you might fall in;
if you break down a wall,
    a snake might bite you.[a]
You could even get hurt
by chiseling a stone
    or chopping a log.
10 If you don’t sharpen your ax,
    it will be harder to use;
if you are smart,
    you’ll know what to do.[b]
11 The power to charm a snake
does you no good
    if it bites you anyway.

12 If you talk sensibly,
    you will have friends;
if you talk foolishly,
    you will destroy yourself.
13 Fools begin with nonsense,
and their stupid chatter
    ends with disaster.
14 They never tire of talking,
but none of us really know
    what the future will bring.
15 Fools wear themselves out—
they don’t know enough
    to find their way home.[c]

16 A country is in for trouble
    when its ruler is childish,
and its leaders
    party all day long.
17 But a nation will prosper
    when its ruler is mature,
and its leaders
    don’t party too much.
18 Some people are too lazy
to fix a leaky roof—
    then the house falls in.
19 Eating and drinking
    make you feel happy,
and bribes can buy
    everything you need.
20 Don’t even think
    about cursing the king;
don’t curse the rich,
    not even in secret.
A little bird might hear
    and tell everything.


  1. 10.8 a snake might bite you: Walls of houses were often made of stones with mud to fill in the cracks between them. If some of the mud washed out, a snake could be living inside the wall.
  2. 10.10 do: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 10.
  3. 10.15 home: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 15.

Ecclesiastes 10 New International Version (NIV)

10 As dead flies give perfume a bad smell,
    so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
The heart of the wise inclines to the right,
    but the heart of the fool to the left.
Even as fools walk along the road,
    they lack sense
    and show everyone how stupid they are.
If a ruler’s anger rises against you,
    do not leave your post;
    calmness can lay great offenses to rest.

There is an evil I have seen under the sun,
    the sort of error that arises from a ruler:
Fools are put in many high positions,
    while the rich occupy the low ones.
I have seen slaves on horseback,
    while princes go on foot like slaves.

Whoever digs a pit may fall into it;
    whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.
Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them;
    whoever splits logs may be endangered by them.

10 If the ax is dull
    and its edge unsharpened,
more strength is needed,
    but skill will bring success.

11 If a snake bites before it is charmed,
    the charmer receives no fee.

12 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious,
    but fools are consumed by their own lips.
13 At the beginning their words are folly;
    at the end they are wicked madness—
14     and fools multiply words.

No one knows what is coming—
    who can tell someone else what will happen after them?

15 The toil of fools wearies them;
    they do not know the way to town.

16 Woe to the land whose king was a servant[a]
    and whose princes feast in the morning.
17 Blessed is the land whose king is of noble birth
    and whose princes eat at a proper time—
    for strength and not for drunkenness.

18 Through laziness, the rafters sag;
    because of idle hands, the house leaks.

19 A feast is made for laughter,
    wine makes life merry,
    and money is the answer for everything.

20 Do not revile the king even in your thoughts,
    or curse the rich in your bedroom,
because a bird in the sky may carry your words,
    and a bird on the wing may report what you say.


  1. Ecclesiastes 10:16 Or king is a child
New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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