Ecclesiastes 10:1 says “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doeth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.” The picture that Solomon paints is that of the ancient apothecary’s shop. The apothecary, historically, was the one who dealt in cures, ointments and perfumes. He would be the ancient equivalent of the modern day pharmacist. It would also be common for him to have fragrances and scented oils burning in his shop, that he would draw in customers from outside the shop. Unfortunately, because it smelled so strong, it would no doubt attract all types of insects. Once the insects came, they would be overwhelmed by the hot oils, and would sink into the fragrant mix. After a few minutes, the burning fragrance would slowly change its smell from that of perfume, to that of dead fly. The very thing that was once used to draw people into the apothecary’s shop was now the thing that was driving people away. It didn’t matter how much perfume he had burning, the smell of the burning dead fly was overwhelming. Solomon then makes the wise analogy that those with wisdom who exercise a little bit of folly are like this perfume. They have so much to offer in their wisdom and honor, but when their folly is revealed those around them lose all their trust in them. This is seen over and over in our culture, whether it is through the impropriety of Tiger Woods, or the indiscretion of General Petraeus, or the alleged indecency of Lance Armstrong. Men who have before been viewed as leaders and role models, unravel their own worlds with some form of folly. They view the satisfaction of the moment worth more than the labors of a lifetime. Solomon says here, that the folly is horrible, even if the person attempts to cover it with layers of wisdom. It will come to light. People will smell the dead fly in the ointment.
Food For Thought: Give an example in your life of what Solomon equates to the dead fly in the perfume.