Don’t be too wise or too wicked (Eccl 7:15-7:18)

“In my vain life,

I have seen everything.

There are righteous people

Who perish in their righteousness.

There are wicked people

Who prolong their life

In their evildoing.

‘Do not be too righteous!

Do not act too wise!

Why should you destroy yourself?

Do not be too wicked!

Do not be a fool!

Why should you die before your time?’

It is good

That you should take hold of this,

Without letting go of the other.

Whoever fears God

Shall succeed with both.”

In a strange admonition, Qoheleth wanted people to be neither too wise nor too wicked. There is no ultimatum extreme here, since this is a centrist view. He admits that he has had a vain life, but he has seen everything. He has seen the righteous perish, while the wicked have prolonged their life of evildoing. So he warns us not to be too righteous or wise, because you might destroy yourself. At the same time, he warns against being too wicked or foolish, because you also might die before your time. He says that you should be a little righteous and a little wicked, some of each. The most important thing was to fear God. That way you would succeed, whether being wise or foolish.

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