Dribble from the pen

“The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd.”


“They will not then be able to deny that they were words of wisdom, words of mercy, words subversive of their false views, words fully explaining Christ’s kingdom, words entirely in accordance with the Scriptures1”

Quite a few years ago now, I was doing some carpentry work with a young man who had gained a secondary education in carpentry and, in fact had achieved his master’s of carpentry. During a discussion on what constituted a good carpenter, he suggested it was all predicated upon one’s mastery of the hammer. He went on to state and demonstrate that a master carpenter could drive a 16d framing nail to its head into a 4”x 4” oak post with one strike from a 20 oz. framing hammer. It was impressive, yet while actually building a house, he never employed the skill to expedite the construction process. Just like this useless skill for qualifying a mastery of carpentry, so many there are that have a mastery of words, yet their end is useless.

Perhaps no man was more qualified to speak of the qualities of uselessness than the writer of Ecclesiastes, Solomon. He, during his lifetime, had tested the value of countless areas of life. So, he could speak with authority when he wrote these words from Ecc. 12:11. In fact, he had been privileged to possess the kind of wisdom that he speaks of here and employed it in judging and leading the nation of Israel throughout its zenith.

Solomon, speaking of the effects of wise words upon its recipients, turns to the metaphor of shepherd life to illustrate this for us. Thus, he refers to the words of wise men as goads or like goads. The goad was a tool of the shepherd to encourage the resistant sheep in the right direction or the desired direct. So also, wise words will often, initially inflict a measure of pain upon our egos, self-esteem and confidence. But they also will not be vain or empty stabs at nowhere. Genuine words of wisdom always have an intended direction or destination in mind as they are administered. Furthermore, such wise words will be purposefully anticipated for benefit.

Secondly, Solomon states that those who give such wise words, themselves will be living examples of their wisdom by their adherence to the principles found in their wise words. He says; “masters of these collections are like well-driven nails.” Here the instrument of a nail in the hand of the shepherd was used to secure those sheep prone to wander off to a particular place. They would drive a large wooden or iron spike into the ground with a leather strap attached to the spike and then tied the problem sheep to the other end. So those men that are genuinely gifted with true wisdom are not marketers of words, but they will have pinned their lives to the principles and wisdom that they transmit. Just as the sheep fastened to the nail no longer wanders from the care and protection of the shepherd, so, the men that are truly merchants of wisdom will not be found in contradiction to their words with their lives.

Solomon concludes his advice by directing his audience to the importance of considering the source of the wise man’s words. To Solomon, wisdom indisputably has its origin in one single Person, “by one Shepherd.” Since there was no such hierarchial structure among herdsmen in this time in the Mideast, Solomon must be referring to Jehovah, the Almighty God and Shepherd of Israel. So also, the Psalter said; “Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock…” (Ps.80:1) Likewise, the Lord Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd. (Jn. 10:11-18) So, Solomon’s instruction points to the Son of God as the source of wisdom and by it serves notice to all who would read his words that all true wisdom originates with Christ of whom God the Father said; “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matt. 17:5)

The Rev. Ray Druckenmiller is the Pastor at Manning Community Church.

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