Balancing Prov. 1:5 and Ecc. 12:12

Hey guys! So, this is not a question about a bible contradiction. I do not believe Scripture can contradict itself, especially when it comes to bible proverbs, which are not exhaustive, universal statements, but rather insights into small portions of the complex web of human character that God has designed.

With that disclaimer aside, I’d love some help figuring out how to balance these two verses I recently came across:

“…let a wise person listen and increase in learning, and let a discerning person obtain guidance…”
Proverbs 1:5

And

“But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body.
Ecclesiastes 12:12

(All emphasis is added)

So what does Solomon have in mind when he says “learning” in the proverb, and what does he have in mind when he says “much study” in Ecclesiastes?

How does one study and pursue wisdom righteously? How much is too much?

Thanks in advance for your answers!

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Good question, @Zagusto123!

I would say that the issue is quality rather than quantity. I would rather become a student of wisdom than an expert on nonsense. A lot of what the world considers wisdom nowadays is what Paul describes as science falsely so called in I Timothy 6:20-21. And he says to avoid it because it can lead one to err concerning the faith.

When Solomon says that there’s no end to the writing of books and its a weariness to try to learn them all, I don’t think he means the Bible or academic disciplines that are consistent with the Bible.

When I was a kid, I tried to learn all the characteristics that some book said described people who were born under different signs of the zodiac. In retrospect, that was a complete waste of time and brain cells. Nobody can learn everything, therefore we all have to prioritize what’s really worth learning about - what’s worth majoring on and what needs only a cursory sketch of the idea.

Solomon’s verse in Proverbs 1:5 says that a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels. That qualification would actually exclude a great many books that young people (and older ones) are being encouraged to read in our day.

I hope this will help you balance these verses with the rest of scripture.

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Thanks, James. Yes, I guess it does take a measure of discernment on which books we read and how much time we devote to study. It also just requires a level of faith that God will guide our literary journey for his kingdom purposes.

(By the way, I grew up in Cornelia/Clarkesville! I’m right down the road in Duluth, now. Small world!)

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Hi Zach!

I approach these two verses by first considering both their contexts.
The book of Proverbs is a compilation of ‘sayings’ and wisdom, while the book of Ecclesiastes seems to be somewhat like a ‘sober reflection’ on reality which doesn’t always play out as expected.

The beauty of Ecclesiastes is that it gives us a sense of reality - dispelling our common illusion of control. The book of Proverbs talks about the way the world works; principles and how to live wisely, and hence much of it seem like cause and consequence, but Ecclesiastes soon presents us with the reality that even though we seek to do many things right, we are not in control of the outcome.

Concerning these two verses, Proverbs 1:5 tells us a general principle that learning is good, while Eccl 12:12 could warn us not to idolise the pursuit of knowledge, and contextually speaking, it’s the end of a book where the author is in a sense warning the reader not to distort what the Teacher had taught/said throughout the book.

Therefore, the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge is good. The line that makes it ‘too much’ is when we think that we find salvation in knowledge and wisdom rather than in God. Pursuit of God is the whole purpose in our lives as believers, knowledge and wisdom can help us in that, but never to replace that. :slight_smile:

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Ha - I live in Clarkesville! We take our church kids ice skating in Duluth every winter!

Let me know if you ever want to get together some time!