“It is from within,
From the human heart,
That evil intentions come.
All these evil things
Come from within.
They defile a person.”
ἔσωθεν γὰρ ἐκ τῆς καρδίας τῶν ἀνθρώπων οἱ διαλογισμοὶ οἱ κακοὶ ἐκπορεύονται, πορνεῖαι, κλοπαί, φόνοι,
μοιχεῖαι, πλεονεξίαι, πονηρίαι, δόλος, ἀσέλγεια, ὀφθαλμὸς πονηρός, βλασφημία, ὑπερηφανία, ἀφροσύνη·
πάντα ταῦτα τὰ πονηρὰ ἔσωθεν ἐκπορεύεται καὶ κοινοῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον.
There is something similar to this in Matthew, chapter 15:19-20. Mark indicated that Jesus said that it is from within the heart of a person (ἔσωθεν γὰρ ἐκ τῆς καρδίας τῶν ἀνθρώπων) that evil or wicked thoughts come forth spreading out (οἱ διαλογισμοὶ οἱ κακοὶ ἐκπορεύονται). This included such evil things as fornication or pornography (πορνεῖαι), theft (κλοπαί), murders or killings (φόνοι), adulteries (μοιχεῖαι), avarice (πλεονεξίαι), wickedness (πονηρίαι), deceit (δόλος), licentiousness or wanton sensuality (ἀσέλγεια,), envy or the evil eye (ὀφθαλμὸς πονηρός), slander, abusive language, or blasphemy (βλασφημία), pride (ὑπερηφανία), and folly or foolishness (ἀφροσύνη). This list in Mark was longer and different than the list in Matthew. All these evil things came from within (πάντα ταῦτα τὰ πονηρὰ ἔσωθεν). They come forth from the person (ἐκπορεύεται). They are the things that defile a person (καὶ κοινοῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον). You can clearly see what Jesus, his disciples, and the early Christian community considered as sins or defilements that made a person unclean or defiled.
You rulers of the earth!
Think of the Lord in goodness!
Seek him with sincerity of heart!
Because he is found
By those who do not put him to the test.
He manifests himself
To those who do not distrust him.
Perverse thoughts separate people from God.
When his power is tested,
It exposes the foolish.
Wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul.
Wisdom will not dwell in a body enslaved to sin.
A Holy Spirit will flee from deceit.
A disciplined spirit will flee from deceit.
The Spirit will leave foolish thoughts behind.
The Spirit will be ashamed
At the approach of unrighteousness.”
This book is set in poetic verses just like Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and The Song of Solomon. This author wants the rulers of the earth to seek God with a sincere heart. Only those who are not testing him will find him. God will manifest himself to those who do not distrust him. Perverse thoughts will separate them from God. If they test his power, he will expose their foolishness. Wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul nor dwell in a body enslaved in sin. The Holy Spirit, who is disciplined, will flee from deceit. He will leave foolish thoughts behind because he is ashamed of the approach of the unrighteousness ones. Here we have a more developed theology of God. He is no longer Yahweh since this is a Greek Septuagint work. He is the Greek Lord (τοῦ Κυρίου). Wisdom (σοφία) is almost equivalent to God (Θεοῦ). Notice also the use of the Holy Spirit (ἅγιον γὰρ πνεῦμα), even if not too specific. The Spirit of God will not stay with the deceitful and unrighteous. The concept of soul (ψυχὴν) also fits in nicely. I will be using the Greek Septuagint to highlight certain words and concepts in this Greek work.
“Words spoken by the wise
Bring them favor.
But the lips of fools
The words of their mouth
Begin in foolishness.
Ends in wicked madness.
Yet fools talk on and on.
No one knows what is to happen.
Who can tell anyone what the future holds?
The toil of fools wears them out.
They do not even know the way to town.”
Qoheleth warns us about fools. The wise know how to speak, so that they gain favors. However, the lips of the fools only consume them. Their words begin in foolishness and end in wicked madness. Fools talk on and on with many words. No one knows what is going to happen in the future. The work of fools wears them out. They are so tired and confused that they do not even know how to get to town.
“All this I have tested by wisdom.
‘I will be wise.’
But it was far from me.
It is far off.
It is deep.
It is very deep.
Who can find it out?
I turned my mind to know it.
I turned my mind to search it out.
I turned to seek wisdom.
I turned to seek the sum of things.
I know that wickedness is folly.
I know that foolishness is madness.”
Qoheleth was tested by wisdom. He wanted to be wise, but it was far away and too deep for him. He wanted to know who was able to find wisdom. Unlike the psalms, where the beginning of wisdom was simply fear of Yahweh, Qoheleth has a hard time finding wisdom, since he does not make the connection here with the fear of God. He wanted to know about wisdom and calculations. He knew that wickedness and foolishness were folly and madness.
“I said to myself.
I will make a test of pleasure.
This also was vanity.
I said of laughter.
‘It is mad.’
I said of pleasure.
‘What use is it?’
I searched with my mind
How to cheer my body with wine.
My mind was still guiding me with wisdom.
How am I am to lay hold of folly?
I wanted to see
What was good for mortals
To do under heaven
During the few days of their life.”
Qoheleth was once again talking to himself. He wanted to enjoy pleasure. However, he found that it too was useless and in vain. He laughed, but it was kind of a mad laughter. What was the use of all this pleasure? He tried to cheer his body with wine, even though he was able to maintain the wisdom in his mind. He wanted to enjoy folly and foolishness. What kind of things can mortals do during their short span of life under the heavens?
“The mouth of a loose woman is a deep pit.
Whomever Yahweh is angry with
Will fall into it.
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.
But the rod of discipline drives it far away.
Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself,
Will only lead to a loss.
Giving to the rich,
Will only lead to a loss.”
The mouth of a loose woman is like a deep pit. If Yahweh is angry with anyone, they will fall into that pit. In order to get foolishness out of child, it is better to discipline them with the rod to drive out that foolishness. If you oppress the poor to get rich, this will only lead to your own poverty. If you give to rich, you also will end up poor.
“Better the poor walking in integrity
Than one perverse in speech
Who is a fool!
Desire without knowledge is not good.
Whoever moves too hurriedly misses the way.
One’s own folly leads to ruin.
Yet the heart rages against Yahweh.
Wealth brings many new friends.
But the poor are left friendless.
A false witness will not go unpunished.
A liar will not escape.
Many seek the favor of the generous.
Everyone is a friend to a giver of gifts.
If the poor are hated by their relatives,
How much more are they shunned by their friends.
When they call after them,
They are not there.”
This is a mixed bag for the poor. It is better to be poor if you are honest and have integrity. However later on, you are without friends and relatives if you are poor. The poor never catch a break. Of course, it is better to be poor than be a perverse fool in your speech. Desire is not good enough. You need knowledge. Don’t go too fast or you will get lost. Foolishness will lead to ruin. The foolish heart rages against Yahweh. Wealth, as noted, brings friends, while the poor are stuck without friends. Liars will not escape from punishment. They will die. The reason the rich have so many friends is that many seek their favor, hoping to get a gift or two from the wealthy. The poor have a problem with relatives and friends who do not stand up for them when they call. It is not good to be poor, even if you are honest.
“A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance.
But by the sorrow of the heart
The spirit is broken.
The mind of him who has understanding
But the mouths of fools
Feed on folly.
All the days of the poor are evil.
But a cheerful heart has a continual feast.”
If you happy inside, in your heart, it will show on your face. If you have a sorrowful heart, your spirit is broken. The understanding people seek knowledge. However fools feed on folly and foolishness. All the days of the poor of heart are evil, while the cheerful heart has a continual festival.
“A soft answer turns away wrath.
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge.
But the mouths of fools pour out folly.
The eyes of Yahweh are in every place.
They keep watch on the evil.
They keep watch on the good.
A gentle tongue is a tree of life.
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
A gentile tongue or being soft spoken is the tree of life. A soft spoken person can often turn away an angry person. On the other hand, a harsh bellicose person actually stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise with his words dispenses knowledge to all. However, the mouth of a fool pours out folly and foolishness. We have to remember that Yahweh sees everything with his eyes. He keeps watch over all the good and the bad evil also. Perverse behavior breaks the spirit, while the gentile words are the source of life.