Ecclesiastes 1:2–12:8

Motto Introduced

“Vanity of vanities!” says the Teacher,b

“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!”

All Toil is Profitless and Repetitious

What does a person gain in all his toil

with which he toils under the sun?

A generation goes, and a generation comes,

but the earth stands forever.

The sun rises, and the sun goes down;

to its place it hurries,c and there it rises again.

The wind goes to the south and goes around to the north;

around and around it goes, and on its circuit the wind returns.

All the streams flow to the sea,

but the sea is never full;

to the place where the streams flow,

there they continue to flow.

All things toil continuously;d

no one can ever finish describing this.e

The eye is neverf satisfied with seeing,

and the ear is neverg filled with hearing.

What has been—it is what will be;

what has been done—it is what will be done;

there is nothing new under the sun.

10 There is a thing of which it is said, “Look at this! This is new!”

But it already existed in ages past before us.

11 There is neither remembrance of former generations,

nor will there be remembrance of future generations.

Qohelet Introduces His Quest

12 I, the Teacher,h was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to seek and to search by wisdom all that is done under the heavens.i It is a grievous task God has given to humansj to be busy with.k 14 I saw all the works that are done under the sun. Look! Everything is vanity and chasing wind.

15 What is twisted cannot be straightened,l

and what is lacking cannot be counted.m

16 I said to myself,n “Look! I have become great and have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has precededo me over Jerusalem. I have acquired a great deal of wisdom and knowledge.”p 17 So I dedicated myselfq to learn about wisdom and to learn about delusion and folly. However, I discoveredr that this also is chasing wind.

18 For in much wisdom is much frustration,s

and whoever increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Qohelet’s Investigation of Self-Indulgence

2 I said to myself,a “Come! I will testb pleasure to see whether it is worthwhile.”c But look, “This also is vanity!” I said of laughter, “It is folly!” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?d I also explorede the effects of indulging my fleshf with wine. My mind guiding me with wisdom, I investigatedg folly so that I might discover what is good under heavenh for humansi to do during the days of their lives.j

Qohelet’s Investigation of Personal Accomplishment

I accomplished great things.k I built for myself houses; I planted for myself vineyards. I made for myself gardens and parks, and I planted all sorts of fruit trees in them. I made for myself pools of water from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees. I acquired male slaves and female slaves, as well as children born in my house. I also had livestock, cattle, and flocks more than anyone who was before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered to myself silver and gold—the royal and provincial treasuries. I acquired for myself male and female singers, as well as the delight of men,l voluptuous concubines.m

Thus, I accomplished far moren than anyone who was before me in Jerusalem—indeed, my wisdom stood by me. 10 I neither withheld anything from my eyes that they desired, nor did I deprive any pleasure from my heart. My heart rejoiced in all my toil, for this was my reward from all my toil. 11 Yet when I consideredo all the effort which I expended and the toil with which I toiled to do, then behold, “Everything is vanity and chasing wind! There is nothing profitable under the sun!”

The Living Must Abandon the Work of their Hands to Others at Death

12 Next, I considered wisdom, as well as delusion and folly. What can anyone do who will come after the king that has not already been done? 13 I realized that wisdom has an advantage over folly, just as light has an advantage over darkness. 14 The wise man can see where he is walking,p but the fool walks in darkness. Yet I also realized that both of them suffer the same fate. 15 So I said to myself,qIf I also suffer the same fate as the fool,r what advantage is my great wisdom?”s So I said to myself,t “This also is vanity!”

16 Certainly no one will remember the wise man or the fool in future generations.u When future days come, both will have been forgotten already. How is it that the wise man dies the same as the fool? 17 So I hated life because the work done under the sun is grievous to me. For everything is vanity and chasing wind!

18 So I hated all my toil with which I have toiled under the sun, for I must leave it behind to someone who will be after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be wise or foolish? Yet he will exercise control of all the fruit of my toil with which I toiled wisely under the sun. This also is vanity!

20 So I began to despairv of all the toil with which I toiled under the sun. 21 For there is a person who toils with wisdom and knowledge and skill, but he must leave his reward to someone who has not toiled for it. This also is vanity and a great calamity. 22 For what does a person receive for all his toil and in the longing of his heart with which he toils under the sun? 23 All his days are painful, his labor brings grief, and his heart cannot rest at night. This also is vanity!

It is Best to Simply Enjoy the Passing Pleasures of Life as Reward for Pleasing God

24 There is nothing better for a person than to eat and drink and find delightw in his toil. For I also realized that this is from the hand of God! 25 For who can eat, and who can enjoy life apart from him?x 26 For to the person who is good in his eyes, he gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and heaping up only to give it to him who is pleasing in the eyes of God. This also is vanity and chasing wind!

God Has Ordained the Ebb and Flow of Human Activities

3 For everything there is an appointed time, a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to beara and a time to die;

a time to plant and a time to root up what is planted;

a time to kill and a time to heal;

a time to break down and a time to build up;

a time to weep and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn and a time to dance;

a time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones;

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek and a time to lose;

a time to keep and a time to throw away;

a time to tear and a time to sew;

a time to be silent and a time to speak;

a time to love and a time to hate;

a time for war and a time for peace.

What does the worker gain in his toil?

No One Understands God’s Mysterious Plan

10 I have seen the business God gives to humansb to preoccupyc them. 11 He has made everything suitable in its time. He also has put the pastd in their hearts, yet no one can grasp what God does from the beginning to the end. 12 So I realized that there is nothing bettere for them than to rejoice and enjoy themselvesf during their lives. 13 And for anyone to eat and drink, that is, to enjoy the fruit of all his toil,g this also is a gift of God.

14 I know everything God does endures forever;

nothing can be added to it, and nothing can be taken from it,

for God so acts that humansh might stand in awe before him.

15 What is—it already was,

and what will be—it already is,

for God will do what he has done.i

God’s Mysterious Plan Allows Injustice to Exist in the World

16 I saw something else under the sun: instead of justice there was evil; instead of righteousness there was wickedness. 17 So I said to myself,j “God will surely judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointedk a time of judgment for every deed and every work.”

18 I said to myself concerning humans,l “God siftsm them in order to shown them that they are like beasts.” 19 For the fate of humanso and the fate of the beast is the same.p The death of the one is like the death of the other, for both are mortal.q Man has no advantage over the beast, for both are fleeting. 20 Both go to one place—both came from dust and both return to dust. 21 For no one knows whether the spirit of a human ascends to heaven and whether the spirit of the beast descends to the ground!

22 So I concluded that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy the fruit of his labor, for this is his lot in life. For no one knows what will happen in the future.r

The Existence of Oppression in the World Makes Human Existence Miserable

4 I looked again, and I saw all the oppression that occurs under the sun.

I saw the tears of the oppressed—

no one comforts them!

Those who oppress them are powerful—

no one can comfort them!a

So I deemed the dead who have already died

more fortunate than the living who are still alive.

But better off than both of them is the one who has not yet been born

and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

People Need Balance in Their Approach to Labor

I also realized that all of the toil and all of the skillful work that is done—it is envy between one man and another.b This also is vanity and chasing wind!

The fool refuses to work with his hands,

so he has nothing to eat except his own skin!c

Better is one handful with peace

than two fists full with toil and chasing wind.

Wealth without Someone with Which to Enjoy It is Futile

I turned again and saw another vanity under the sun. Sometimes a man is all alone with no companion; he also has neither son nor brother. Yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eye is not satisfied with wealth. He laments, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myselfd of pleasure?” This also is vanity—it is an unhappy business!

Friends and Family Can Help One Another in Life

Two are better than the one, for they enjoy a better reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will help up his companion. But pity the one who falls and there is no onee to help him up. 11 Also if two lie together, they …

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