In spite of its enigmatic nature, I love the Book of Ecclesiastes. Perhaps having to work so hard to pull the meaning out of it is one thing I like about it. Ecclesiastes contrasts the world's unbelieving philosophies (things "under the sun") with a philosophy based on God's truth (things"under heaven"). My son and I read the Epic of Gilgamesh, an ancient Babylonian myth, this year in our home school. It kept reminding me of the "under the sun" statements in Ecclesiastes, and it made we wonder if Solomon had read that text. Whatever the case, he was often directly refuting the Babylonian philosophy and worldview reflected in the Epic. (The idea that because life is vain, we merely live and then die, so we may as well, "eat drink and be merry," is directly stated in the Epic of Gilgamesh. See Eccl. 8:15) And since there is, "nothing new under the sun," (1:3), Solomon was refuting the vain philosophies of our day, too.
By far my favorite verse in Ecclesiastes is 10:2, "A wise man's heart is at his right hand, But a fool's heart at his left." The first time I remember focusing on this verse the truth came flooding into my mind--the truth, that is, that I had no idea what the verse was trying to say. I elegantly responded, "Huh?"
I wasn't able to find much on this verse in the commentaries on my shelf, and what I did find didn't seem very satisfying, so this funny little verse knocked around in my head for a long time. I'll share what insight I've come up with from its residence in my brain, and I'd love to hear comments from anyone else who has something to add to it.
An important rule of interpreting a text is to let the text interpret itself, by paying attention to how terms are used and defined. I focused on the terms "heart" and "right hand."
Today we often think of the heart as the seat of our emotions. I think it would be more accurate to define heart as it is used in Scripture as the seat of our affections. Emotions are closely tied to affections and desires, but they are not exactly the same thing. When Jesus tells us that it is from the heart that evil words and wicked deeds come, He is not saying they come from our emotions; He is saying they come from what we love--those things we wickedly love more than we love God, (in defiance of the greatest commandment).
The verse tells us that the wise man has his heart at his right hand. In Scripture, what is at someone's right hand? The Son, when He ascended into heaven sat down at the right hand of the Father. The firstborn son was blessed with his father's right hand on his head. (See Genesis 48 where Israel is blessing his grandsons.) When God is exercising His power He is said, metaphorically, to be extending His right hand. (See Exodus 15:12 or Isaiah 48:13) Sitting at either the right hand or the left of a king was a place of honor, but the right hand position was highest, and often was reserved for someone with subordinate authority, such as a vizier. Such a "right hand man," served his master by exercising authority on his behalf.
So what does it mean that our hearts, if we are wise, are at our right hands, but if we are fools, they are at our left? Perhaps it asks this question: Are you the one ruling your heart or is your heart ruling you? Are you the king or the servant? We can either be served by our hearts or we can live our lives serving our own affections. If our hearts hold God and His truth most dear, our hearts will help us to serve Him well and avoid sinning against Him. We will keep the greatest commandment to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength. However, if our hearts are charmed by other things, we will foolishly serve those affections and be a slave to sin.
Of course if we need a new heart, we cannot give ourselves a heart transplant so we can better love God and serve Him. But God promises to do just that for His children. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them." (Ezekiel 36:26-27)