Study Guide

Ecclesiastes Folly and Foolishness

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Folly and Foolishness

Ecclesiastes hates folly and foolishness, hates 'em. All the same, he's been known to dip his toes into it. When he went out to experience wisdom, he experienced folly and foolishness too. "Don't knock it till you've tried it," as they say. But Ecclesiastes has tried it—and does not think very highly of it, thank you. Folly and foolishness, for him, is totally destructive. The fool just walks through life mindlessly, chattering on and on about whatever random nonsense has just popped into his head. He's also an idler—he doesn't do work. And Ecclesiastes is really big on work. If you don't put in your fair day's share, you're just "consuming your own flesh."

Folly exists as a foil to wisdom. In order for people to understand what wisdom is, they need to know what folly is too. This is probably why Ecclesiastes wanted to experience it for himself. In order to know wisdom, he had to dabble in its opposite. But once you've got the message, hang up the phone—quick. It's also true that the fool and the wise man both die in the end—the same fate levels them over. If you're wise, though, you at least had some kind of idea about what was up.

Questions About Folly and Foolishness

  1. Why do you think Ecclesiastes thinks it's foolish to talk too much? How come the fool is a blabber-mouth, and the wise man is so quiet?
  2. What do you think the metaphor about the fool "consuming his own flesh" means? How is being lazy and idle like eating your own body?
  3. When he says that fools go to the "house of feasting" instead of to the "house of mourning," does Ecclesiastes contradict what he says about it being good to eat, drink, and be merry? Isn't the fool merry? Or is that false merriness?
  4. If death paves over the fool and the wise man alike, what's the point in being wise? Does it matter if you're a fool?

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