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10 A few dead flies in perfume
    make all of it stink,
and a little foolishness
    outweighs a lot of wisdom.
Sensible thoughts lead you
    to do right;
foolish thoughts lead you
    to do wrong.
Fools show their stupidity
    by the way they live;
it’s easy to see
    they have no sense.
Don’t give up your job
    when your boss gets angry.
If you stay calm,
    you’ll be forgiven.

Some things rulers do are terribly unfair: They honor fools, but dishonor the rich; they let slaves ride on horses, but force slave owners to walk.

If you dig a pit,
    you might fall in;
if you break down a wall,
    a snake might bite you.[a]
You could even get hurt
by chiseling a stone
    or chopping a log.
10 If you don’t sharpen your ax,
    it will be harder to use;
if you are smart,
    you’ll know what to do.[b]
11 The power to charm a snake
does you no good
    if it bites you anyway.

12 If you talk sensibly,
    you will have friends;
if you talk foolishly,
    you will destroy yourself.
13 Fools begin with nonsense,
and their stupid chatter
    ends with disaster.
14 They never tire of talking,
but none of us really know
    what the future will bring.
15 Fools wear themselves out—
they don’t know enough
    to find their way home.[c]

16 A country is in for trouble
    when its ruler is childish,
and its leaders
    party all day long.
17 But a nation will prosper
    when its ruler is mature,
and its leaders
    don’t party too much.
18 Some people are too lazy
to fix a leaky roof—
    then the house falls in.
19 Eating and drinking
    make you feel happy,
and bribes can buy
    everything you need.
20 Don’t even think
    about cursing the king;
don’t curse the rich,
    not even in secret.
A little bird might hear
    and tell everything.

Footnotes

  1. 10.8 a snake might bite you: Walls of houses were often made of stones with mud to fill in the cracks between them. If some of the mud washed out, a snake could be living inside the wall.
  2. 10.10 do: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 10.
  3. 10.15 home: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 15.

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