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For a dream

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comes through a multitude of laborious activities,

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and the voice

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a fool comes from

many words.


For as surely as a mountain of cares and concerns about the troublesome business of life produce dreams that aren’t helpful, so the evidence that one is a fool comes to light when someone doesn’t know when to keep quiet.


1: “a dream”

The point here is a comparison intended to prove that someone who talks too much is a fool. The reader is first made to think about the times in his life when he was going through challenging and frustrating circumstances, seeking solutions to his vexing problems, only to be plagued with the additional frustration that his dreams were strange and confusing. Keep in mind that people of those ancient middle eastern cultures put great stock in dreams as a source of guidance. So in the circumstance just described they would wake up wondering if their dream had an important message or was just a strange dream. We all have strange dreams, but the person described was looking for answers and not finding any, even in their dreams. The first part of the verse establishes that such frustrating and useless dreams flow from, and are proof of, too much worry on the mind. Then he moves on to say that too many words “flow from, and are the proof of, folly reigning in the heart.”

We now know that the dream stage of sleep (REM) is necessary for health. But they weren’t thinking about health, they saw dreams as a source of guidance, and in this case there was no guidance found in the dream. That is why the word dream seems to have a negative usage in this verse.

2: “laborious activities”

This Hebrew word means “business, activity, task, occupation” but also “travail.” It emphasizes the hard, unpleasant aspect of work and business because it comes from a root that means “to be bowed down, afflicted, depressed, abased or defiled.” It is not a pleasant word, and it colors all the words that are derived from it with an ugly darkness. Hence the word for “business or activity,” also means “travail.”  The ancient Jews would have understood the meaning of the word when used of the ordinary affairs of life, but they would never lose sight of the dark clouds behind the word.


It sounds strange to us to say it this way – “the voice of a fool,” so think of it as “the speech of a fool,” or “the kind of speech which proves one is a fool.” Also realize that in ancient times there were several word pictures related to speech, things like the lips and the mouth, which pointed to what was deep down inside someone. Your speech is simply the revealing of what is already inside of you. A string of unending words coming out of a person’s mouth reveals that said person is a fool.  A person who talks too much often begins to talk about himself, making himself the center of everything. The context of this verse is still the scenario of someone going to the temple to connect with God. We cannot connect with God by talking about ourselves.