Ecclesiastes 10:2 Study: Context, Facts and Life Lessons

Ecclesiastes 10:2 says “A wise person chooses the right road; a fool takes the wrong one” (NLT). 

In this eBibleguide, Victor examines Ecclesiastes 10:2 – the verse in context, important facts about the verse, life lessons and Bible cross references.

Ecclesiastes 10:2 in Context

Ecclesiastes 10:2 in Context

To have a better understanding of Ecclesiastes 10:2, I will start by quoting relevant verses before and after the Bible verse. Before then, let’s look at the background story behind this verse.

The Background of the Story

In Ecclesiastes 9, the writer of this Bible book was talking about the fact that everyone of us will die one day.

In verse 3, he laments “It seems so wrong that everyone under the sun suffers the same fate“. However, later in the same verse, he added something of great importance to our study for this article – “Already twisted by evil, people choose their own mad course, for they have no hope“.

The writer continues like that, talking about different areas relating to the hopelessness of the living – from “The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing” (verse 5), to “Live happily with the woman you love…” (verse 9) – the writer shares life wisdom that we can learn from.

Starting from Ecclesiastes 9:13, the writer began to share his thoughts on wisdom and folly. When he got to Ecclesiastes 10 he intensifies the discussion – starting by comparing how a dead fly can make a bottle of perfume to stink to how little foolishness “spoils great wisdom and honor”.

Finally, in Ecclesiastes 10:2, he says “A wise person chooses the right road; a fool takes the wrong one”.

Relevant Bible Verses Before Ecclesiastes 10:2

Ecclesiastes 9:3-6, 11-12, 17-18 (NLT)
It seems so wrong that everyone under the sun suffers the same fate. Already twisted by evil, people choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway.
4 There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!”
5 The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered.
6 Whatever they did in their lifetime—loving, hating, envying—is all long gone. They no longer play a part in anything here on earth.

11 I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.
12 People can never predict when hard times might come. Like fish in a net or birds in a trap, people are caught by sudden tragedy.

17 Better to hear the quiet words of a wise person than the shouts of a foolish king.
18 Better to have wisdom than weapons of war, but one sinner can destroy much that is good.

Ecclesiastes 10:1
As dead flies cause even a bottle of perfume to stink, so a little foolishness spoils great wisdom and honor.

Then, in our focus verse for this article, the Bible says – 

Ecclesiastes 10:2 (NLT)
A wise person chooses the right road; a fool takes the wrong one.

Relevant Bible Verses After Ecclesiastes 10:2

Ecclesiastes 10:3-4 (NLT)
3 You can identify fools just by the way they walk down the street!
4 If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes.

Important Facts About Ecclesiastes 10:2

Important Facts About Ecclesiastes 10:2

Based on the verses before Ecclesiastes 10:2, the verse itself and verses after it, here are relevant facts about this verse.

  1. It is a fact of life that we are all destined to die. This is a common destiny for everyone that lives on this earth – not withstanding how they live their lives – Ecclesiastes 9:3.
  2. However, the fact that we are all going to die does not negate the fact that we can do some good while we are still alive – “There is hope only for the living” – Ecclesiastes 9:4.
  3. Sometimes, big efforts may not produce the desired results. The fastest runners may not necessarily win the race, neither do the strongest side of a war always win a war. It is also a fact of life that the smartest guys sometimes go hungry and are not necessarily wealthy – Ecclesiastes 9:11.
  4. Hard times and emergencies are unpredictable. Things may not always go the way we planned them. It is just life. Sometimes, it is what it is! – Ecclesiastes 9:12.
  5. Despite so much unpredictability, we still have the power of choice. We can choose either the path of wisdom or foolishness – Ecclesiastes 10:2.

Life Lessons from Ecclesiastes 10:2

Life Lessons from Ecclesiastes 10:2

To further help you understand Ecclesiastes 10:2, here are some life lessons from this verse.

1. The Awareness of Death Should Influence Our Life Choices

In the last section, the first fact I highlighted is that death is inevitable. It is a fact and is unavoidable. This knowledge of the inevitability of death should influence our life choices.

The first thing any smart person should do is to plan for their death. If you will die one day and you cannot avoid it, why not plan for it. Instead of worrying about what will happen to your kids when you die, why not take out a life insurance.

Another way you can plan and prepare for your death is to manage your finances well. In the first instance, avoid borrowing. Some of us have experienced the foolishness of credit cards! Make a conscious decision to live within your income.

The third way we can prepare for our death is to save and invest. One of our biggest worries is what will happen to our family when we die. Instead of worrying about this, save and invest your money so that when you eventually die, your kids can have some money to continue from where you stopped.

Finally, pay off your mortgage as soon as possible. This ties into the ongoing discussion in this section. If you live within your income, avoid borrowing, save and invest, you should avoid missing paying your mortgage.

So, the first life lesson we can learn from the verses before Ecclesiastes 10:2, is that the knowledge of death should influence the life choices we make.

2. The Awareness of Death Should Give You Perspective

This is yet another important life lesson we can learn from the study of Ecclesiastes 10:2 and its surrounding verses.

If we are destined to die, why do we sometimes live as though that is not a fact of life. Maybe we have been able to accumulate some wealth. Maybe we have a good job. Or we have a great family. Do any of these give us the right to brag, or become proud?

Here is a big lesson from the study of the focus verse and its surrounding verse: whatever you have is not necessarily as a result of your effort, wisdom, education or even your influence. Some people have made similar, or even better effort and have not achieved as much. So, whatever you have is from God (John 3:27).

Here is another thing to help give you perspective: whatever you have achieved, you will die one day and leave them behind.

So, the second lesson from Ecclesiastes 10:2 study is this – live your life with the perspective of the inevitability of death!

3. Learn to Manage Failures and Setbacks

Another important fact from Ecclesiastes 10:2 and the verses around it is that failures and setbacks are normal (Ecclesiastes 9:11). This is extremely important because if you accept the fact that you may experience setbacks, you will prepare for them.

Not all investments will go as planned. Not all business ventures will succeed. Some of our live choices will end in disappointment. This is a fact of life. This is why people sign contracts, and take out business insurance.

Now, if you accept the life reality that bad things will happen sometimes, you can plan for them. This is particularly important for Christians because sometime, we think (and wrongly so), that we will never face failures or troubles. This is an assumption that is not based on scripture. In John 16:33, Jesus Himself told us that as far as we live on this earth, we will have trouble. To learn more about this, read this devotional – Don’t Be Troubled or Afraid.

So, here is another lesson from our study of Ecclesiastes 10:2 and the verses around it: since life is unpredictable, and setbacks will happen sometimes, prepare for them!

4. Choose Wisdom and Avoid Foolishness

The 4th lesson I want to emphasise from the study of Ecclesiastes 10:2 is that wise or foolish choices is what it is – choice.

Our life choices make or mar us. At every turn in our life, we are making choices. As teenagers we have to choose whether to allow peer pressure to influence us wrongly. Then, we have to decide a life career.

We also have to decide to marry or not. And if we decide to marry, we have to decide who to marry. Eventually, if we get married, our choices largely shape the outcome of our marriage.

5. Since Death is Inevitable, Live a Life of Impact

The final life lesson to learn from Ecclesiastes 10:2 study is this: since death is inevitable, live a life of impact. Live a life of legacy.

In Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the habits is begin with the end in mind. In this principle of effectiveness, Stephen Covey encourages us to envision what we want in life so we can work towards it.

This principle agrees with the point I want to emphasise in this section. What do you want people to remember you for when you are gone? What do you want people to say about you in your funeral?

If you think about these things, it should influence your actions today. Since death is inevitable, live your life to the fullest. Make life choices that will live a legacy behind. Let your life be not just about you but about other people.

Finally, ensure that by the time you are going to your grave, you have lived. Do not allow fear to limit you. The grave, they say is the place where you find the greatest dreams that were never fulfilled. The graveyard is the place where ideas that were never started are buried. Let this not be your story.

Here are my last recommendations: take a long perspective to life. Do not take shortcuts. Let integrity count and live a legacy behind!

Bible Cross References

  1. John 3:27
  2. Ecclesiastes 9:3
  3. Ecclesiastes 9:4
  4. Ecclesiastes 9:11
  5. Ecclesiastes 9:12

I hope you found the study of Ecclesiastes 10:2 helpful? Kindly share your views using the “Leave a Reply” form found towards the end of this page. You may also share your life experiences that will help other readers.

Finally, for more eBibleguide studies scriptures, visit our Scriptures Explained page.

Victor Ashiedu
Victor started following Christ on December 30th, 1999. He believes that believers have to spend time in God's word - the more you know the Word, the more you know your rights in Christ Jesus! He started, firstly to help him stay in God's Word. But, also hopes to contribute to the Christain community.


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Akin-Ojo Victor
Akin-Ojo Victor
1 year ago

I can not like this enough. If there was a like like like button I would hit it 1000 times.


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