“The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.”
Explanation and Commentary of Ecclesiastes 10:2
In this context, the right hand is the place of honor, and the left is an inferior position. The right hand is the place of skill, and the left is the place of awkwardness. The right hand is the place of uprightness, and the left is off the mark of righteousness. A wise person’s heart inclines to the right. Wisdom is proven by the way a person lives and acts. Foolishness is also proven by the way a person lives and acts.
It seems that one point is wisdom brings honor to a person. The Bible, especially in the wisdom literature, gives enough information about what is wise for a man or a woman to live perfectly wisely, bearing the image of God with honor. But to know what is wise and fail to live accordingly is the height of foolishness.
James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Read the Bible to know what wisdom is, and obey the Bible to be wise.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Ecclesiastes 10:2
#1 “The heart…”
The heart in Scripture is portrayed as bad or good, depending on what is in it, or how one uses it. Jeremiah says that the heart is deceitful above all things and not to be trusted (Jer 17:9). In that context, the heart represents the emotions and the desires that spring from them, which are not to be trusted. When God looked at man before the flood, he saw that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Gen 6:5). We are called to love God with all of our heart (Mt 22:37). In this way, we direct our hearts toward something. We are promised a new heart from God (Ez 36:26) with his laws and ways written on it by God (Jer 31:33) through the work of Jesus Christ and the filling of the Holy Spirit.
#2 “…of the wise”
In this context, the heart in question belongs to a “wise” person. This would be he or she who has given his or her heart to God. God has filled this person with wisdom to know the right ways of God and to live them out. The wise knows God and has a heart for him.
#3 “…inclines to the right,”
The heart that inclines to the right leans toward wisdom, goodness, and love. This wise person’s heart has been regenerated by God and so experiences the conviction to go the right way. The power and presence of God prevail on the inclinations of the wise because they have given the heart to God to fill as He pleases.
#4 “…but the heart of a fool to the left.”
A fool does not know, fear, love, or trust God. His or her inclinations are evil and heavily influenced by sin, Satan, and the world. In this image “the left” is meant to signify a straying from the path of righteousness. The left symbolizes awkwardness, foolishness, and wrongheadedness. The wise man will lead his heart and fill it with God and the things of God. The fool will neglect this and so be led by his heart or his flesh off the right path that God has laid out for us.
Bible Study on Ecclesiastes 10:2
Expert Overview of Ecclesiastes
Biblical Translations of Ecclesiastes 10:2
The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.
A wise person chooses the right road; a fool takes the wrong one.
A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left.
A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.
A wise man’s heart is at his right hand, But a fool’s heart at his left.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.