Ecclesiastes 4:5

The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.

What does this mean?

  • 1
    Well, I could show it to you, but you'd have to pay close attention, since, for obvious reasons, I can only do it once. :-) – Lucian Oct 17 at 16:23
  • Since the sandwich had not been invented yet, let alone the Whopper or Big Mac, fools ate "Handwiches" instead. – Ruminator Oct 17 at 23:51

The Hebrew translated today would read something to the effect

The fool crosses his arms and self consumes

The idea is not meant to convey he is ingesting his own flesh but that given he is unwilling to open himself up to alternatives views, or exploring the whole story, he stubbornly believes his shortsighted view (most likely incorrect due to the fact that it lacks all the details) and begins to consume himself with the implications and hypothetical consequences of assumed conclusion. This (can) leads to a shut down of his physical body but at a minimum he is consumed mentally by the thought and processes all his interactions through his assumption.

In the extreme this can be likened to the nocebo effect (opposite to the placebo effect). This phenomenon in the medical field refers to a person who upon hearing that he is terminally ill (though not true) begins to shut down. The body burns itself out, if this is not remedied within a very short time span the person dies. This is well documented. Many patients who were told erroneously they had cancer and did not, in their autopsy were found to have no cancer yet still died though perfectly healthy. The body consumed itself as a result of negative (incorrect) information.

In the same way a fool who shuts himself off and refuses to explore and validate his own convictions, consumes himself. Often times becoming bitter, resentful and angry which can lead to a premature death, even if it’s years later. They tend to have a miserable, unhappy and resentful existence.


The morale of the story is not to be a fool who shuts himself off in his own ignorance, telling himself he is right and being consumed by the natural consequences of his erroneous assumed conclusions.


The other aspect involves unforgiving. A fool who crosses his arms, refusing to forgive those who trespass against him, experiences the above consequences.

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The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh. How? Ecclesiastes 4:5

Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 NASB

4 I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind. 5 The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. 6 One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind.

In the above verses, King Solomon addressed two extremes, in verse 4 he says that ceaseless hard work is vanity and striving after the wind. In verse five he says:The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh, yes the sluggish, lazy one, folds his hands that can bring one to poverty and even endanger his health, and even his life. In verse 6 recommends a balance, for his hard work a person should take time periodically to enjoy what he has earned:

Ecclesiastes 2:24 NET

Enjoy Work and its Benefits

24 There is nothing better for[a] people[b] than[c] to eat and drink, and to find enjoyment[d] in their[e] work. I also perceived that this ability to find enjoyment[f] comes from God.[g]

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