1. Ecclesiastes 4:13 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

Summary of Ecclesiastes 4:13

Ecclesiastes 4:13 (ESV)

13 Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice.

Solomon points out two contrasts in this verse. It concerns young and old, and wise and foolish. This is an example and not a specific historical event.

The contrast is made even stronger by saying of the young man that he is poor. That he is of low origin. When you look at this youth and you look at the old king, it seems obvious that the old king is far superior to that youth. Yet the Spirit says that it would be better if this boy should be king over the people – because this youth is wise. Wisdom implies more than age and status.

We also find other examples of this in the Bible. I will mention two instances:

a. Psalm 119:99–100: “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.”

b. 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

This verse in Ecclesiastes is not primarily about the wisdom of the Word. It is mainly an observation based on general human wisdom. When a king reigns for a long time and no longer listens to the advice of others, the people he rules will often have a hard time.

The wisdom that rises above this general human wisdom is when a king is guided by God’s wisdom. It means that a king should also listen when someone else gives him advice from God’s Word; when he shows a government that they are on the wrong path. It would be better to have a king who is not rich or old but who truly listens to advice. That represents a king who loves his country and his people, and who above all wants to listen to the Lord.