I find more bitter than death
the woman who is a snare,
whose heart is a trap
and whose hands are chains.
The man who pleases God will escape her,
but the sinner she will ensnare.
‘Look,’ says the Teacher, ‘this is what I have discovered:
‘Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things –(Eccl. 7:26-29 NIV)
while I was still searching
but not finding –
I found one upright man among a thousand,
but not one upright woman among them all.
This only have I found:
God created mankind upright,
but they have gone in search of many schemes.’
V26 is reminiscent of Proverbs chapter seven were the seductress takes the foolish man capture. To commit adultery is like having an arrow stab you in the liver (Prov. 7). I have a friend in Northern Ireland who taught Christian Counselling at Bible College and practised counselling for many years. He is a medical doctor but decided to be involved in counselling. He quotes this verse about a man committing adultery like being stabbed in the liver to emphasise the serious nature of the sin. He acknowledges David’s recovery from adultery in the penitent Psalm 51, but he says in his years of counselling he has not found one person who has successfully recovered from adultery. He says the picture of being stabbed in the liver is such a serious wound and so internal that it is hard to recover from it. The man committing the adultery finds it hard to forgive himself, and it is difficult for him to accept that God has forgiven him. It is also hard for the wife who has been sinned against to forgive. Adultery is not the unpardonable sin, but the description of what adultery does to a person as described in Prov. 7 should be embraced by every Christian man and woman to serve as a guard against committing that sin.
To say that the woman who ensnares is more bitter than death describes the injury that is done to one’s wife. A godly wife may find it harder to come to terms with her husband’s adultery than to come to terms with his death. The sin of adultery is such treachery and betrayal that each of us should heed the warning of scripture.
The Preacher says that the adulterous woman has a heart that is a trap, and her hands are like chains that take one captive. The man who pleases God will escape this woman but the sinner she will ensnare.
No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”(Gen. 39:9 NIV)
The thought that enabled Joseph to resist this temptation was, ‘how could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God.’
In Ecc 7:27 the Preacher gives us an insight into how he carried out his research. His conclusion does not come from a single piece of research, but through a careful analysis of the evidence in order to arrive at the sum of all things.
I am reading 23 commentaries on the book of Ecc. Nearly all of them dodge the meaning of v28. Some explain what it doesn’t mean. Everyone wants to be careful to avoid being labelled as a misogynist. Some who take the view that this is a description of life without God, say the Preacher is a misogynist in keeping with the men of his time.
But before we dismiss the Preacher of being a misogynist, we need to remember that the Bible presents iniquity as an equal opportunity employer.
The Preacher is not comparing men and women here at all. The woman is v26 is not an individual woman but rather is Dame Folly from Proverbs and other Wisdom literature. The Preacher’s search was not among men (males) but among people and there he was only able to find one person (either male of female) in a thousand who was wise. He did not find a woman among them all. He was seeking for the woman who was the opposite to the femme fatale of v26, Dame Folly and she was Lady Wisdom. Wisdom in the book of Proverbs is personified as a woman:
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.”(Prov. 4:6-9 NIV)
The personification of wisdom is in contrast to Dame Folly who is the adulterous woman in Proverbs chs. 6-7.
V29 tells us that God had made mankind upright or straight, but people made themselves crooked. In the Garden of Eden mankind sought for knowledge and their continual scheming takes them far away from God.
Lord God, in this world we find everyone a sinner, and few find wisdom or righteousness. As we live out our lives help us to increase in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and to excel in the wisdom given in Your word, because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.