A Study of Ecclesiastes 10:1
In the study we are going to dig into the Prophecy of Ecclesiastes, chapter 10, but first we have to set a few guidelines which the Word of God gives us to keep us faithful and to keep us under His care. We have in Ecclesiastes 10 a chapter that is not as systematic as the previous chapters. It is a chapter filled with miscellaneous proverbs. Each verse is a proverb independent of the context. So we have to look at this chapter with different eyes. And so, if we are not careful and if we let our imagination run loose, we run the risk of going astray in all directions. But there are a few principles that we must take hold of when we interpret these verses, for we may not drift away into apostacy by declaring things that are contrary to the rest of the Bible.
· Ten Principles to Adhere to
(2nd Peter 1:21, Revelation 22:18-19, Revelation 19:13)
1) This is the Word of God, which means that these are not loose remarks of Solomon, but these words have been dictated by God to Solomon. We derive this from 2nd Peter 1:21, which declares, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;” literally, “as they were borne along by the Holy Ghost.” It means that these words did not come out of the mind of men, but they came out of the mind of God. And if we examine the context we see that this totally agrees with the context of 2nd Peter 1:21.
2) Since these words came from God, and they were dictated to the wisest man on earth, we must conclude that these proverbs contain great wisdom, and they must have eternal impact.
3) If these words contain great wisdom, then it is their purpose to have a worldwide impact on the souls of men. We should not be looking for a historical or cultural interpretation, and we should not be looking for something that applies only to the physical nation of Israel of those days.
4) These words must be harmonious with the whole counsel of God contained in the Old and the New Testament, for if God dictated these words to Solomon, then they may not contradict what God said in other parts of the Old or New Testament.
5) If these words must harmonize with the whole counsel of God, then we should expect to find the Gospel of salvation here through Christ crucified. These words cannot refer to some Gospel aspect that is new. And thus these words must be interpreted in harmony with the Old and New Testament, and they must refer to great wisdom, and they must be of great importance. And thus we must look at this chapter with New Testament eyes, for that is the only way we can understand the Proverbs of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon.
6) The fact that Solomon lived about 960 years before Christ is no hindrance to interpretation by New Testament principles, just like the Prophecy of Isaiah was no hindrance to New Testament interpretation, even though Isaiah lived more than 600 years before Christ. Clearly Isaiah 9 and Isaiah 53 speak about Christ crucified.
7) God dictated these words, and God knew what He was going to write in the New Testament, and for example, God knew that He was going to give the Lord Jesus the name Israel. This is Biblical hermeneutics; not the kind of hermeneutics that churches today have agreed upon.
8) We must keep these principles alive and apply them throughout our interpretations of the Old Testament, for it is the same God who dictated the Old and New Testament, and it is the same Gospel of salvation that God is communicating to those who are the elect the children of God.
9) We must be watchful for the sharp edge of the two-edged Sword of the Word of God, for God is insulted greatly if we violate this principle stated in Revelation 22:18-19, which says paraphrased, “You shall not add to the words of the Prophecy of this Book (the Bible), not even one word and not even one letter in the original Hebrew and Greek texts, for God has finished writing the Bible.” Secondly, “You shall not take away from the words of the Book of this Prophecy (the Bible), not even one word and not even one letter in the original Hebrew and Greek texts, for this Book is an image of the Lord Jesus Christ.” We can see that in Revelation 19:13 where God shows us Christ, and God declares: “And His Name is called The Word of God.” Therefore the Bible is not God, but the Bible is an image of the Lord Jesus Christ who is described by the Bible, not completely, but in human terms.
10) We are often criticized for using the wrong hermeneutics. By this the critics mean that we are using the wrong principles to interpret the words of the Bible. They say we should interpret the Bible only using the historical grammatical method of interpretation.
Where did that come from?
It came from people at the headquarters of the denomination in question. They are not happy when they are not in charge. But if you read the hymns in our Psalter Hymnal that were produced hundreds of years ago, and you will see that the saints of old understood the symbolism in the Bible to a far greater degree than the men that came out of the seminaries these days.
In fact, the modern day pastors use this excuse of “wrong hermeneutics” as a defense mechanism for their lack of understanding of the Bible. But instead, let us use the Bible to proclaim the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and the hermeneutics we should be using, and then we will see that the principles we have set up here have the full approval of God Himself, for they agree fully with the words of the Bible.
· The Ointment of the Apothecary
(Ecclesiastes 10:1, Matthew 12:24, Exodus 30:22-25, Exodus 30:34-35, Revelation 8:3)
So let us now read Ecclesiastes chapter 10.
Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.
Since J.P.Green has left us a very liberal translation in verse 1 of the LITV, let us instead see what we can find in the literal translation according to the On-Line Bible and according to Strong’s Concordance.
Ecclesiastes 10:1 Dead flies (H: Zeboob) cause the ointment (Gr: Gethsemane) of the apothecary to poor out (to belch out) a stinking odour: so doth a little folly him that is precious for wisdom and honour.
In verse 1 the focus is on the dead flies and on the ointment.
Is God concerned about flies and about ointment?
This verse is a parable. Both the ointment and the flies represent people, because God is concerned about people. God chose His words very carefully. The ointment and the dead flies were not chosen capriciously, but they refer to good people and bad people.
Do you remember that the scribes and Pharisees claimed that the Lord Jesus cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of the devils? (Matthew 12:24)
The Hebrew word for flies is Zeboob. Beelzebub is a name for Satan. He is the “Lord of the flies.” Hereby the scribes and Pharisees have committed the unpardonable sin, which means that none of them would ever want to put their trust in someone who operates by the power of Satan. And thus, in this parable the flies represent people or demons who are messengers of Satan. Moreover, since they are dead flies they represent people who are spiritually dead, and remain spiritually dead until their body dies, and hereby God indicates that these people are the incorrigible reprobate. They are absolutely on the way to hell. There is nothing redeemable in them. And they destroy or contaminate wherever they go. Flies are the source of maggots, and maggots are carnivores, like vultures; they eat everything that is dead flesh.
On the other hand, the word for ointment refers to something precious. Very significantly, the Greek Septuagint translation for this word is “Gethsemane.” This word points to people for whom the Lord Jesus suffered the equivalent of an eternity in hell. The Lord Jesus loves the people who are represented by the ointment, and Ecclesiastes 10:1 is a lovely warning call to them to warn them for a stinking disaster.
Moreover, it is described as the “ointment of the apothecary” which is another description to which great honour and holiness is attached.
In Exodus 30 the Lord gave Moses very specific instructions concerning ceremonies that He wants them to fulfill. However, if we look at these ceremonies only as plain ceremonies in the law, then we fall in the same trap that most of the children of Israel fell in when they regarded the ceremonies as laws they must pursue to earn their salvation. These are not plain ceremonies, but they are types and figures of Christ, and of His atonement, and of the church, and of the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, and of righteousness imputed to the saints, and so on and so on. The entire ceremonies found in the law is of that nature. Therefore when Christ came and atoned for our sins all these minute details and prophecies of the law were literally fulfilled, and the ceremonies of the law were done away.
It was in this way that the Lord Jesus Christ could say in Matthew 5:17, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”
Therefore, when we consider the detailed instructions given to Moses in Exodus 30:22-25, we should look beyond the words that are there. God is prescribing the procedure for making anointing oil. We read in Exodus 30:22-25:
¶ Moreover the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels,
And of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin:
And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil.
And notice here is the art of the apothecary. And God warns, in Exodus 30:33, that anyone who dares to make something like it, or imitate it, shall be put to death. Again God gave precise instructions, in Exodus 30:34-35, for making incense which represents the prayers of the saints, according to Revelation 8:3. And God warns that anyone who dares to make an imitation incense and offer it to God shall be put to death. Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, experienced this wrath of God when they offered an imitation incense to God, and He consumed them in a flash of fire.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight:
And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy:
Here again we see that God mentioned “the art of the apothecary.” It must mean that the apothecary is an institution on which God’s favour rests.
But let us not confuse the apothecary with the pharmacy. The English word “pharmacy” is the Greek word “pharmakia” which means “sorcery.” The Greek word for “pharmacy” is connected with the use of drugs, and spells, and incantations, and poisoning, and witchcraft, all of which will inherit the wrath of God. All of you who are using recreational drugs such as cocaine, and methamphetamines, and heroin, and alcohol on a regular basis are put on notice that God considers it sorcery. However, the word “apothecary” is beautifully associated with a knowledge of compounding for the benefit of the saints.
· What Happened to the Ointment?
Let us turn again to the Prophecy of Ecclesiastes, and consider the literal text.
Dead flies (H: Zeboob) cause the ointment (Gr: Gethsemane) of the apothecary to poor out (to belch out) a stinking odour: so doth a little folly him that is precious for wisdom and honour.
The ointment also originated from the apothecary on which God’s favour rests, and thus the people represented by the ointment are precious in God’s sight. God’s love and favour rests on them. And since the ointment has been compounded in the godly apothecary, it means that these people have been prepared by God to be a sweet savour in His sight and to be a blessing to people on earth.
But what happened now to the ointment?
It is now contaminated by dead flies. First the flies were attracted to the ointment because of its sweet flavor. But the flies did not want to leave; they died on top of the ointment and now the sweet savour of the ointment is mixed with the stench of the dead flies.
When you mix good and evil, who wins?
Evil always wins. The good is overcome by evil.
When people engage in mixed marriages, it is certain that troubles will arise, and verbal battles are going to be fought.
But who will win those battles?
The evil partner in the marriage will always win. You cannot debate with the devil and expect to win. In the Garden of Eden the woman tried to debate with the devil, and she lost. She should not have begun a debate in the first place.
Through mixed marriages the outward professing church is going to the dogs. This is what mixed marriages lead to.
Because it will directly lead to unbelievers infiltrating the assembly of the saints.
The ointment, which was intended to be to the glory of God, will degrade to a stinking mess that is only pleasing to the devil.
But why did God create marriage in the first place?
Why did God arrange the marriage of Adam and Eve?
What is the human marriage a spiritual picture of?
God says that the man and his wife are a spiritual picture of Christ and the church.
God said it plainly in Ephesians 5:23-32.
· Christ and the Church
(Ephesians 1:4, Ephesians 5:23-32, Romans 4:8)
Yes, God gave the church to Christ as a first step to giving Him the Bride of Christ. This is what the Bible declares. We read in Ephesians 1:4 that before the foundation of the world the Father selected a Bride for His Son, and the Father placed the names of the people who were going to become the Bride of Christ into the mind of God the Son. But the Son of God, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the carpenter of Nazareth, had to atone for the sins of all those whom the Father had given Him. And after they have become Born Again they will desire to serve one another in an outward manifestation of their blessed state, through the assembly of the saints.
And now we can begin to see how the parables of Ecclesiastes 10:1 and Ephesians 5:23-32 merge together.
Let us first read the parable of Ephesians 5:23-32, and here God says:
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body.
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
The marriage, as God has established it, was a picture of Christ and the church. And notice from verse 30 how intimately we, as the Bride of Christ, are united with Him: “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” We are inseparably united to Him, as was already determined from before the foundation of the world. The eternal church is the apple of God’s eye; it is very precious, and destined for wisdom and honour.
What else is very precious in God’s eye?
It is the Apothecary, which is the place where the ointment and the anointing oil and the incense are prepared so that they are pleasing to God.
What does the ointment of Ecclesiastes 10:1 represent?
In this parable it represents the church for which Christ died, which is the outward manifestation of the kingdom of Christ on this earth. It is not a perfect kingdom, for it consists of people who are still in their sinful bodies, they still commit sins, but they are people whose sins have been totally forgiven, and thus they are declared righteous in the sight of God. Romans 4:8 says, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” And thus, both the ointment and the church are precious in the sight of the Lord.
But now, something happened to both the ointment and the church.
· What Happened to the Church?
(Luke 18:7-8, Ephesians 5:27, Ecclesiastes 10:1)
The church, represented by the ointment, has been contaminated by flies.
What do these flies represent?
The flies represent messengers of Satan. When the church is no longer persecuted other issues keep the members busy, such as money matters. The church desires to grow in numbers, and people who are not really Born Again desire to join the assemblies, for it is fashionable to do so, and the church is a place where the unsaved find peace and rest on Sundays. They become members, and eventually occupy honourable positions in church offices. These represent the flies, and the flies do not want to leave. They stay and they die there in their honourable positions, and their words and their doctrines continue to be honoured by the denominations where they served. And more unsaved join the assemblies, and so the number of flies keeps increasing in the ointment. Those who were destined for wisdom and honour have engaged in a little folly; they have left the church’s back door open for those who need to hear the Gospel, but who never became saved, because the Father did not draw them. This is a process which every assembly will undergo, because there are fewer and fewer people saved as we approach the end of time.
Let us now turn our attention to the Gospel According to Luke, and the eighteenth chapter. The Lord Jesus is teaching about prayer, and He tells us here a parable of an unjust judge who is nagged by a widow asking him to avenge her. But now, the bottom line is not about the judge and not about the nagging widow, but about the need for prayer near the end of time. We read in Luke 18:
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
In other words, “When the Son of man cometh” near the end of time, shall He find much faith in the earth?
Even though people know that the end of time is near, and they know that Christ shall come as the Judge to judge all their misdeeds, shall there be many people who will turn to Christ in prayer?
It is a rhetorical question. No, there will not be many people who will turn to Christ. As we approach the end of time the number of people who will be saved will become smaller and smaller, so that when Christ comes again the number of saints will be as small, relatively, as when God destroyed the world with the flood of Noah’s days.
The church will have died, because the number of unsaved people in the organized church has made the church a stench in the sight of God instead of the sweet institution that Christ established in Ephesians 5:23-32.
The flies have taken over the ointment, and have died there. As a result the ointment is belching out the stench of dead flies and their false gospels. We should keep in mind, however, that Satan is not the victor. We read in Ephesians 5:27, “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
In other words, the church that Christ established consists only of those individuals for which Christ suffered and died. It is the eternal church. It is not the outwardly visible church, but the eternal church whose membership is invisible to the naked eye. This is the church that cannot be destroyed by Satan, for the Lord Jesus said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against this eternal church. And so, Ecclesiastes 10:1 is really a prophecy of the outward visible church in the last days. This is how the church goes under in the last days. But we should not wring our hands in despair, for if we look back in time we see that the church has always been in this sad state, although not as bad as in the end time.
· The Temple of God: A Prophecy of the Ointment and the Flies
The history of Christianity and of the New Testament church is for a great deal duplicated by the history of Old Testament Israel and of the Old Testament temple. When in the New Testament the Lord speaks of the temple, He actually refers to the church, for the souls of the saints are the temple of God. Let us now read Revelation 11:1-2 where God tells us in symbolical terms what the church is like.
And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
Although John is called to measure the temple only, The Lord indicates three distinct areas in these two verses: First of all there is the temple building, with its holy and most holy place, and the people who congregate there for worship. Secondly there is the outer court, which is the “open space”, surrounding the temple building, which is called the “Court of the Gentiles”, for it is open to everyone who wants to come close to the temple of God. Thirdly there is the holy city, which shall together with the outer court be surrendered to the Gentiles, “to be trodden under foot forty and two months”. Therefore three distinct areas are spoken of: the temple, the court outside the temple, and the holy city. John is commissioned to measure only the temple and the altar and those that worship therein, not the court or the holy city. And he is told that only the temple will remain undefiled.
The very important question that is now before us is this: HOW must we understand this part of the Revelation of Jesus Christ?
Must we take it all in the literal sense?
Remember that at the time John received this prophecy Jerusalem was already destroyed for at least twenty or twenty-five years, and the temple was totally destroyed. Nowhere do I find in the New Testament an indication that we must expect once more a literal holy city on earth and a literal temple therein. Let us now consider this temple. Spiritually, Revelation 11 informs us that this city is also called “Sodom and Egypt”, and also “where our Lord was crucified”, referring to the Jerusalem of bricks and mortar. But it was also called “the holy city”, “the faithful city”, “the righteous city”, “the throne of the Lord”, and “the city of God” for no other reason than that it was a “type” of the heavenly Jerusalem, and that the Lord dwelt there in the temple. All that came to an end when Christ died. Old Testament Jerusalem was a very imperfect type of the heavenly Jerusalem. It was more a type of the spiritual city of God in the New Testament time. For in Jerusalem there was a temple. God did not dwell in the entire city, but only in a small compartment in the temple. And thus we realize that we must distinguish the Old Testament temple from the Old Testament city of Jerusalem. We must not imagine that the Lord dwelt in all that was called the temple. There was the court of the Gentiles, which was called so for the reason that it was open to all, Jew and Gentile, and people did not stay in that court for the purpose of worshipping. It was here that the buying and selling of animals took place. In the midst of this court of the Gentiles stood the temple building, wherein was also the court of the women, the court of Israel, and the court of the priests. And then, even smaller, was the Holy Place where the altar of incense, the table of showbread and the lampstand were located. And then again smaller was the Holy of Holies, separated from the Holy place by a heavy curtain, the veil, wherein the Ark of the Covenant was located, and it was only there, in the Ark of the Covenant, that the Lord dwelt in a special way.
But now, today, all this outward show has disappeared.
There is no more such a city.
There is no more such a temple.
There is no more such an altar built with hands.
Instead the temple and the holy city are the church of the living God. The Lord Jesus Christ is our altar of atonement and reconciliation in that city of our God. But although the outward form of wood and of stone is no more, the distinction between Jerusalem and the outer court and the temple sanctuary still exists and holds good. It is on this basis of truth that we must explain the words of Revelation 11:1-2.
Jerusalem in its broadest sense is the representation of the entire New Testament church, in the entire world. And just as all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were nominally inhabitants of the city of God in the Old Testament, so also all the so-called Christians belong nominally to the church of God in the New Testament time. But within this great city of the Christian world we must distinguish between three different classes of people.
In the First Place, in this nominally Christian world there is the “false church”, which is the church that has openly cast off her Christian garment. It means that the false church has openly renounced the great truths of sin and guilt, and of atonement and redemption through the blood of Christ, and of the divinity of Christ, and of the vicarious atonement and sacrifice of our Lord, and that salvation is only through Christ and through no one else. This false church still calls itself a Christian church but it denies Christ as the Saviour of His people, and it denies that Christ is even able to save whom He will. It is to be compared with Jerusalem sacrificing to Moloch, filled with abomination, the city of God serving the Devil.
In the Second Place, there is also in the New Testament church the outer court. It represents the “show-church”, which is that part of Jerusalem which outwardly pretends to belong to the true church, it subscribes to its confessions, it pretends to believe in the great truths of atonement and redemption, but is inwardly hypocritical, and adheres to its confessions rather than to the Bible. They can be compared to the tares among the wheat of Matthew 13. They go with God’s people to His temple for worship, but they never enter the spiritual sanctuary of the fellowship with God. They remain in the outer court. But they are in the church, as our Lord so plainly has indicated in His parable of the Wheat and the Tares.
In the Third Place, there are the real spiritual people of God, His saints, who have been truly saved, the invisible true church, the body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the real temple and sanctuary proper where God dwells, and where the people worship at the spiritual altar of Christ in spirit and in truth. These people are represented by the temple which John must measure.
And thus we need to see three distinctions in the Old Testament city: The city of Jerusalem, the outer court, and finally the temple.
Likewise there are also three distinctions in the spiritual Jerusalem of our day: The Christian world or the false church, the show-church, and the true church consisting of the people of the Lord. It is to these three groups that the text of Revelation 11:1-2 refers, and it does so very plainly.
No one with eyes to see and ears to hear, studying the New Testament passages of the holy city and the temple would arrive at another conclusion. We are taught here in symbolic language not only what the essential condition is of the church in the New Testament time, but also what shall be its outward manifestation towards the end, at the second coming of Christ.
Can you see the abundance of flies that are descending on the ointment?
The church is in deep trouble with God for allowing all these flies to descend on the precious ointment.
What makes the distinction between saved people and unsaved people in the church?
The distinction is not in their enthusiasm, or in their commitment to serve in the church, but in their doctrine of who Christ is and who God is. This distinction determines whom they worship. People can worship their idols very sincerely, even to the point of sacrificing their children, but they are sincerely wrong. And so, this is how false gospels are introduced into the church, and this is how the false gospels take hold of the direction the church takes. The lesson for us is that we must be very careful in examining what we teach our children and what we teach our spiritual children. On the other hand, there must be a willingness in our children to be taught the true Gospel. This is a willingness that is only a gift from God. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. And since it is God’s plan to gradually diminish the number of saints in the world we should not despair if the situation in the church will grow worse. In fact, Revelation 11 was written by God. It is a warning to us, but it is also a prophecy which will come true, because God has declared it unto us. In the end many shall fall away openly and shall identify themselves with the false church. But at the same time the true children of God must not be afraid, neither be amazed. If we should find that in the end many shall fall away from the church, and even from the temple proper, and add themselves to Antichrist, we must not fear. For all these things must come to pass. Before the darkest darkness of night Christ shall come and take His Bride to eternal glory. And in this promise we must trust Him completely.
By Alfred Chompff