Ecclesiastes 10:1-10 “A Little Folly” On The Part of A Man Known For Wisdom “Sends Forth A Stinking Savor”

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Ecc 10:1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.
Ecc 10:2 A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.
Ecc 10:3 Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.
Ecc 10:4 If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.
Ecc 10:5 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler:
Ecc 10:6 Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place.
Ecc 10:7 I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.
Ecc 10:8 He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.
Ecc 10:9 Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.
Ecc 10:10 If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.


In chapter three we learned that whatever God does, it is lasting.

Ecc 3:14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.
Ecc 3:15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

In the previous chapter we learned that the thing that God is “doing forever” is being done in all men, and that all men will acknowledge that the actions and activities of the past, the present, and the future, are actually the same in all men.

Ecc 9:2 All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.

In the light of these verses which tell us that “whatsoever God does it shall be forever” and “all things come alike to all”, this statement from our Lord should make much more sense:

Luk 11:49 Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:
Luk 11:50 That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation;
Luk 11:51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.

“This generation” is “this generation” reading these words in any generation, because “whatsoever God does it shall be forever [ because] that which has been is now; and that which is to be has already been and God requires that which is past”.
If those statements are true, and they are, then clearly “all things come alike to all”. What King Solomon is teaching us is the truth that the apostle John reveals in these verses:

1Jn 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

“All that is in the world” is speaking specifically of all mankind, “all in Adam”. “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” were already in our original physical parents from the Potter’s hand (Jer 18:4). We have all seen how the account of the events in the Garden of Eden so perfectly parallels the words of 1Jn 2:16.

Gen 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [“lust of the flesh”], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [“lust of the eyes”], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [“the pride of life”], she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

What Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden explain why the holy spirit calls flesh corruption:

1Co 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

This is the state in which Adam, and all in Adam, were created from “the hand of the Potter”.

Jer 18:4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

Which verifies the last verse of the previous chapter:

Ecc 9:18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner [“the first man Adam… the beast] destroyeth much good.

Like Adam, Job, King Saul, King David, the Pharisee who went up to the temple with the publican, like Judas and like Saul of Tarsus, we are all men “in reputation for widom and honor” while we are “at ease in Zion”.

Amo 6:1 Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!

Being “at ease in Zion” is the same as being at ease in Babylon, with no interest in going back to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
Therefore the “one sinner of the last verse of chapter 9, is the same as the man that is “in reputation for wisdom and honor” but is also guilty of “a little folly”, like eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Ecc 10:1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.

The “right hand” is the Biblical symbol of the seat of power.

Ecc 10:2 A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.

A wise man’s spirit is always in check, and his heart is not permitted to deceive him.

Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
Jer 17:10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

It is Christ in us who “tries the reins” of our hearts, but this is how this process within us is worded in the New Testament:

1Co 14:29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
1Co 14:30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
1Co 14:31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
1Co 14:32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

The spirit of a wise man, his heart, “is at his right hand, but a fool’s is at his left” hand and he does not control his spirit, and it is not subject to him. Therefore:

Ecc 10:3 Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.

A foolish man cannot control his tongue or his temper, and his every uncontrolled word demonstrates his foolishness.

Pro 10:19 In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.
Pro 17:28 Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
Ecc 5:3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.

Satan is the undisputed “prince of the power of the air” which in Genesis is called “the spirit of the day… the spirit that … works in the children of disobedience”.

Gen 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool [ Hebrew, ruach, spirit] of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
Eph 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

In the New Testament we are told of this same spirit, of its ‘day’ and its ‘hour’.

Luk 22:53 When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
2Th 2:6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he [ the man of sin] might be revealed in his time.

This is the evil ruler who first rules over us all. King Solomon told us of this time in our lives in chapter nine:

Ecc 9:12 For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.

While the ministers of Satan tell us we can avoid being ruled by our old sinful nature, and we can avoid ever going to Babylon, and avoid the wrath of God that will be poured out upon us while we are there, this is what the scriptures teach:

Jer 25:15 For thus saith the LORD God of Israel unto me; Take the wine cup of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.
Jer 25:16 And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them.
Jer 25:17 Then took I the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me:
Jer 25:18 To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof, and the princes thereof, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, an hissing, and a curse; as it is this day;
Jer 25:19 Pharaoh king of Egypt, and his servants, and his princes, and all his people;
Jer 25:20 And all the mingled people, and all the kings of the land of Uz, and all the kings of the land of the Philistines, and Ashkelon, and Azzah, and Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod,
Jer 25:21 Edom, and Moab, and the children of Ammon,
Jer 25:22 And all the kings of Tyrus, and all the kings of Zidon, and the kings of the isles which are beyond the sea,
Jer 25:23 Dedan, and Tema, and Buz, and all that are in the utmost corners,
Jer 25:24 And all the kings of Arabia, and all the kings of the mingled people that dwell in the desert,
Jer 25:25 And all the kings of Zimri, and all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of the Medes,
Jer 25:26 And all the kings of the north, far and near, one with another, and all the kingdoms of the world, which are upon the face of the earth: and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them.
Jer 25:27 Therefore thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue, and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you.
Jer 25:28 And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup at thine hand to drink, then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ye shall certainly drink.
Jer 25:29 For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my name, and should ye be utterly unpunished? Ye shall not be unpunished: for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the LORD of hosts.

It is not the physical ruler who is persecuting us, but it is God who sent that spirit to persecute us. When we are reviled we are not to revile again, but we are to “give place unto wrath” and are never to seek revenge.
That is what Jeremiah told Israel concerning the pouring out of God’s wrath upon them by carrying them away into Babylon:

Jer 29:7 And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.
Jer 29:8 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.
Jer 29:9 For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD.
Jer 29:10 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
Rom 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

That is the message we are given in the next verse:

Ecc 10:4 If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.

Outwardly we are to “give place unto [ the] wrath” of our rulers. “Leave not thy place” does not mean that we are to stand there and take the javelin King Saul throws at us. A wise man foresees evil and hides himself:

Pro 22:3 A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.

“Leave not thy place” means we are never to seek our own revenge, because as Rom 12:19 tells us, “Vengeance is [ God’s]”, and is not ours. When we stand on our faith, we are to expect the negative consequences of doing so]. “Leave not your place; for yielding [ to their threats and their anger] pacifies great offences” [ which the Truth always brings with it].
We will all first fail to appreciate God’s wrath being poured out upon us and bringing us to our wits’ end (Psa 107:27), but spiritually we are, in time, to endure with patience the wrath of our Lord when it is poured out upon the kingdom of our beast, the man of sin within us. We will not enter into Christ or His house or His rest, “till the seven plagues of the seven angels has been fulfilled” within each of us.
Here is another way of saying the same thing:

Heb 12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
Heb 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Heb 12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
1Pe 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
1Pe 4:13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
1Pe 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
Rev 15:7 And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.
Rev 15:8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.

“Judgment… begin[ ing] at the house of God” means we be made to give an accounting of the sins God made us to commit in these clay vessels.

Rom 7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
Rom 7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Rom 7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
2Co 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Being made to “give an accounting” for what God Himself causes us to do is foolishness to the natural man within us all, and as foolish as it is to reprove, contend with, and condemn our own Maker and Creator, that is exactly what we all do. This is a “folly” which is common to all men:

Luk 16:2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.

We do not just naturally volunteer to “give an account of [ our] stewardship”. Neither do we just naturally understand and appreciate God’s chastening grace, which brings us to give that “accounting”. That is especially true when God uses evil men to correct us and reveal our man of sin to us.
That is the ‘evil… under the sun’ King Solomon speaks of in these verses:

Ecc 10:5 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler:
Ecc 10:6 Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place.
Ecc 10:7 I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.

The man of sin within us causes us to crucify our Lord, and it is Christ within us who “walks as a servant upon the earth”, submitting to the death of the cross. “Folly is set in dignity, and the [ spiritually] rich sit in a low place”. This is a perfect description of the treatment received by our Lord. It was “an error which proceeded from the ruler”, the chief priests and the rulers of the people, the Pharisees and Pilate. It leads to the carrying of His cross to His crucifixion. This is the perfect description of how the Christ of Christ has always been treated since that precedent which was set by our Lord.
But “the Ruler” from which “an error… proceeds” is also God Himself who “makes us to err” and whose “hand and foreknowledge was the directing power which caused the physical rulers to deliver up and crucify our Lord.”

Isa 63:17 O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.
Act 4:26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
Act 4:27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
Act 4:28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.

Nothing is done outside of the sovereign direction and working of God Himself (Eph 1:11).

Ecc 10:8 He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.
Ecc 10:9 Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.

The evil Joseph’s brothers committed in selling him into Egypt to thwart the work of God, served only to fulfill the Words of God. That is the message of this verse. Here is another way of getting this point across to us:

Jer 2:19 Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.

We work so hard to establish our will and our works. God’s works do not cause us to sweat, because He does the work. Even when we “work out our own salvation” it is really Him doing it:

Php 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Php 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

When we “dig a pit… break a hedge… [ or] remove stones” without the counsel and direction of our Lord, and for our own purposes, we are toiling in vain:

Psa 127:1 A Song of degrees for Solomon. Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

The same is true for anything we do. Unless we are seeking to glorify our Lord, our efforts and our deeds are all done in vain’.
Here is another New Testament way of teaching us this lesson, if we are given to receive it:

1Co 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Nevertheless we will just naturally work so hard to do our own will, and that is the meaning of this last verse:

Ecc 10:10 If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.

The Hebrew word translated ‘whet’ in this verse is most often translated as ‘curse’ or ‘cursed’, and ‘curseth’, and ‘accursed’. but it is also translated in many other ways as the King James Concordance demonstrates:

Total KJV Occurrences: 88
curse, 17
Gen_8:21, Lev_19:14, Deu_23:4, Jos_24:9, 2Sa_16:9-11 (4), Neh_13:2, Psa_62:4, Psa_109:28, Pro_30:10, Ecc_7:21, Isa_8:20-21 (3), Jer_15:10 cursed, 17
Lev_20:9, Lev_24:11, Lev_24:14, Lev_24:23, Jdg_9:27, 1Sa_17:43, 2Sa_16:5, 2Sa_16:7, 2Sa_16:13, 2Sa_19:21, 1Ki_2:8, 2Ki_2:24, Neh_13:25, Job_3:1, Job_24:18, Ecc_7:22 (2)
light, 7
1Sa_18:23, 1Ki_16:31, 2Ki_3:18, 2Ki_20:10, Isa_49:6, Eze_8:17, Eze_22:7
curseth, 6
Gen_12:3, Exo_21:17, Lev_20:9, Lev_24:15, Pro_20:20, Pro_30:11
lighter, 5
1Ki_12:4, 1Ki_12:9-10 (2), 2Ch_10:10, Psa_62:9
swifter, 5
2Sa_1:23, Job_7:6, Job_9:25, Jer_4:13, Hab_1:8
vile, 4
1Sa_3:13, 2Sa_6:22, Job_40:4, Nah_1:14
lightly, 3
1Sa_2:30, Isa_9:1, Jer_4:24
abated, 2
Gen_8:8, Gen_8:11
despised, 2
Gen_16:4-5 (2)
ease, 2
2Ch_10:4, 2Ch_10:9
esteemed, 2
1Sa_2:30, 1Sa_18:23
lighten, 2
1Sa_6:5, Jon_1:5
slightly, 2
Jer_6:14, Jer_8:11
accursed, 1
afflicted, 1
bright, 1
bring, 1
contempt, 1
Isa_23:9 (2)
despise, 1
easier, 1
easy, 1
moved, 1
revile, 1
swift, 1
whet, 1

The thought seems clear enough. A dull axe, knife, sword or plowshear, requires greater effort to do the work, and such a condition is contrasted with doing all we do according to the wisdom of God. The holy spirit connects being dull with being cursed, and being cursed with the need for whetting.
Earlier King Solomon had made this statement:

Pro 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Again, the message is that we need contact and counsel from one another to stay “sharper than a two edged sword”, which is how the word and wisdom or God is compared:

Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Since there was no hardened steel to sharpen iron in Solomon’s day, the only way iron sharpened iron was for one piece to be heated and then beaten to a sharp edge by the other piece of iron. That is, after all very much how the Lord works within us. He puts us in a furnace of earth, then He beats us into an instrument for His service:
Our creator can use anyone as His “smith” with whom to sharpen iron with iron:

1Sa 13:19 Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:
1Sa 13:20 But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.
1Sa 13:21 Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads.

“There was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel” and because of that the Israelites were dependent upon their own enemies to sharpen their shares, coulters, axes, and mattocks.
The words ‘Yet they’ are not in the Hebrew. It simply states that ‘They had blunt mattocks, coulters forks, and axes’. There were no “files” as we understand that word, among either the Israelites or the Philistines.
Here is the Hebrew word translated as “files” in 1Sa 13:21:

pets- ee- raw’
From H6484; bluntness: – + file.

What the Hebrew reads is ‘They had bluntness for mattocks, coulter, and forks and axes…
The sharpening that was done by the Philistines had to do with cold iron striking hot iron to sharpen it for agricultural purposes. It is not speaking of honing a sword or a knife with a modern file.
Here is what the smiths who made both the sword and the agricultural implements did in Israel.

Isa 44:12 The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.
Isa 54:16 Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.

It is safe to say that “iron sharpens iron” if it is ‘hit when the iron is hot’. In conclusion here are a couple of New Testament ways of repeating the message of how a friend sharpens his friend, and how that which is blunt is made sharp by the fire of the wisdom of God:

Heb 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Heb 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Eph 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Eph 4:16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

The truth is the fire of God’s Word, and it cannot be denied that we all need “that which every joint supplies” of that burning, fiery word of God.
When we “speak [ His]… truth in love” our “love” must always be first and foremost our obedience to those fiery words, and never allow our understanding of the word ‘love’ to be twisted into a “little folloy” which will cause us to become enablers of those who wrest the word of God.

1Jn 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
1Jn 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

Next week, if the Lord wills, we will see that “The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them…”

Ecc 10:11 Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.
Ecc 10:12 The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.
Ecc 10:13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.
Ecc 10:14 A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?
Ecc 10:15 The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.
Ecc 10:16 Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!
Ecc 10:17 Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!
Ecc 10:18 By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.
Ecc 10:19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.
Ecc 10:20 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

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