Bible: Eccl 1:12-6:9

Futility of Secular Accomplishment

1:12 I, the Teacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 1 

1:13 I decided 2  to carefully 3  and thoroughly examine 4 

all that has been accomplished on earth. 5 

I concluded: 6  God has given people 7  a burdensome task 8 

that keeps them 9  occupied. 10 

1:14 I reflected on everything that is accomplished by man 11  on earth, 12 

and I concluded: Everything 13  he has accomplished 14  is futile 15 like chasing the wind! 16 

1:15 What is bent 17  cannot be straightened, 18 

and what is missing 19  cannot be supplied. 20 

Futility of Secular Wisdom

1:16 I thought to myself, 21 

“I have become much wiser 22  than any of my predecessors who ruled 23  over Jerusalem; 24 

I 25  have acquired much wisdom and knowledge.” 26 

1:17 So I decided 27  to discern the benefit of 28  wisdom and knowledge over 29  foolish behavior and ideas; 30 

however, I concluded 31  that even 32  this endeavor 33  is like 34  trying to chase the wind! 35 

1:18 For with great wisdom comes 36  great frustration;

whoever increases his 37  knowledge merely 38  increases his 39  heartache.


Futility of Self-Indulgent Pleasure

I thought to myself, 40 

“Come now, 41  I will try 42  self-indulgent pleasure 43  to see 44  if it is worthwhile.” 45 

But I found 46  that it also is futile. 47 

2:2 I said of partying, 48 It is folly,”

and of self-indulgent pleasure, 49 It accomplishes nothing! 50 

2:3 I thought deeply 51  about the effects of 52  indulging 53  myself 54  with wine

(all the while 55  my mind was guiding me 56  with wisdom) 57 

and the effects of 58  behaving foolishly, 59 

so that 60  I might discover what is profitable 61 

for people 62  to do on earth 63  during the few days 64  of their lives.

Futility of Materialism

2:4 I increased my possessions: 65 

I built houses for myself; 66 

I planted vineyards for myself.

2:5 I designed 67  royal gardens 68  and parks 69  for myself,

and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.

2:6 I constructed pools of water for myself,

to irrigate my grove 70  of flourishing trees.

2:7 I purchased male and female slaves,

and I owned slaves who were born in my house; 71 

I also possessed more livestock – both herds and flocks

than any of my predecessors in Jerusalem. 72 

2:8 I also amassed silver and gold for myself,

as well as valuable treasures 73  taken from kingdoms and provinces. 74 

I acquired male singers and female singers for myself,

and what gives a man sensual delight 75 a harem of beautiful concubines! 76 

2:9 So 77  I was far wealthier 78  than all my predecessors in Jerusalem,

yet I maintained my objectivity: 79 

2:10 I did not restrain myself from getting whatever I wanted; 80 

I did not deny myself anything that would bring me pleasure. 81 

So all my accomplishments gave me joy; 82 

this was my reward for all my effort. 83 

2:11 Yet when I reflected on everything I had accomplished 84 

and on all the effort that I had expended to accomplish it, 85 

I concluded: 86  “All these 87  achievements and possessions 88  are ultimately 89  profitless 90 

like chasing the wind!

There is nothing gained 91  from them 92  on earth.” 93 

Wisdom is Better than Folly

2:12 Next, I decided to consider 94  wisdom, as well as foolish behavior and ideas. 95 

For what more can the king’s successor do than what the king 96  has already done?

2:13 I realized that wisdom is preferable to folly, 97 

just as light is preferable to darkness:

2:14 The wise man can see where he is going, 98  but the fool walks in darkness.

Yet I also realized that the same fate 99  happens to them both. 100 

2:15 So I thought to myself, “The fate of the fool will happen even to me! 101 

Then what did I gain by becoming so excessively 102  wise?” 103 

So I lamented to myself, 104 

“The benefits of wisdom 105  are ultimately 106  meaningless!

2:16 For the wise man, like 107  the fool, will not be remembered for very long, 108 

because 109  in the days to come, both will already have been forgotten. 110 

Alas, 111  the wise man dies – just like 112  the fool!

2:17 So I loathed 113  life 114  because what

happens 115  on earth 116  seems awful to me;

for all the benefits of wisdom 117  are futile – like chasing the wind.

Futility of Being a Workaholic

2:18 So I loathed all the fruit of 118  my effort, 119 

for which I worked so hard 120  on earth, 121 

because 122  I must leave it 123  behind 124  in the hands of my successor. 125 

2:19 Who knows if he will be a wise man or a fool?

Yet 126  he will be master over all the fruit of 127  my labor 128 

for which I worked so wisely 129  on earth! 130 

This also is futile!

2:20 So I began to despair 131  about all the fruit of 132  my labor 133 

for which I worked so hard 134  on earth. 135 

2:21 For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge, and skill;

however, he must hand over 136  the fruit of his labor 137  as an inheritance 138 

to someone else who did not work for it.

This also is futile, and an awful injustice! 139 

Painful Days and Restless Nights

2:22 What does a man acquire from all his labor

and from the anxiety that accompanies his toil on earth? 140 

2:23 For all day long 141  his work produces pain and frustration, 142 

and even at night his mind cannot relax! 143 

This also is futile!

Enjoy Work and its Benefits

2:24 There is nothing better for 144  people 145  than 146  to eat and drink,

and to find enjoyment 147  in their 148  work.

I also perceived that this ability to find enjoyment 149  comes from God. 150 

2:25 For no one 151  can eat and drink 152 

or experience joy 153  apart from him. 154 

2:26 For to the one who pleases him, 155  God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy,

but to the sinner, he gives the task of amassing 156  wealth 157 

only to give 158  it 159  to the one who pleases God.

This 160  task of the wicked 161  is futile – like chasing the wind!

A Time for All Events in Life

3:1 For everything 162  there is an appointed time, 163 

and an appropriate time 164  for every activity 165  on earth: 166 

3:2 A time to be born, 167  and a time to die; 168 

a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted;

3:3 A time to kill, and a time to heal;

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

3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

3:5 A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones;

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

3:6 A time to search, and a time to give something up as lost; 169 

a time to keep, and a time to throw away;

3:7 A time to rip, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.

3:8 A time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

Man is Ignorant of God’s Timing

3:9 What benefit can a worker 170  gain from his toil? 171 

3:10 I have observed the burden

that God has given to people 172  to keep them occupied.

3:11 God has made everything fit beautifully 173  in its appropriate time,

but 174  he has also placed ignorance 175  in the human heart 176 

so that 177  people 178  cannot discover what God has ordained, 179 

from the beginning to the end 180  of their lives. 181 

Enjoy Life in the Present

3:12 I have concluded 182  that there is nothing better for people 183 

than 184  to be happy and to enjoy

themselves 185  as long as they live,

3:13 and also that everyone should eat and drink, and find enjoyment in all his toil,

for these things 186  are a gift from God.

God’s Sovereignty

3:14 I also know that whatever God does will endure forever;

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

God has made it this way, so that men will fear him.

3:15 Whatever exists now has already been, and whatever will be has already been;

for God will seek to do again 187  what has occurred 188  in the past. 189 

The Problem of Injustice and Oppression

3:16 I saw something else on earth: 190 

In the place of justice, there was wickedness,

and in the place of fairness, 191  there was wickedness.

3:17 I thought to myself, “God will judge both the righteous and the wicked;

for there is an appropriate time for every activity,

and there is a time of judgment 192  for every deed.

3:18 I also thought to myself, “It is 193  for the sake of people, 194 

so God can clearly 195  show 196  them that they are like animals.

3:19 For the fate of humans 197  and the fate of animals are the same:

As one dies, so dies the other; both have the same breath.

There is no advantage for humans over animals,

for both are fleeting.

3:20 Both go to the same place,

both come from the dust,

and to dust both return.

3:21 Who really knows if the human spirit 198  ascends upward,

and the animal’s spirit descends into the earth?

3:22 So I perceived there is nothing better than for people 199  to enjoy their work, 200 

because that is their 201  reward;

for who can show them what the future holds? 202 

Evil Oppression on Earth

4:1 So 203  I again considered 204  all the oppression 205  that continually occurs 206  on earth. 207 

This is what I saw: 208 

The oppressed 209  were in tears, 210  but no one was comforting them;

no one delivers 211  them from the power of their oppressors. 212 

4:2 So I considered 213  those who are dead and gone 214 

more fortunate than those who are still alive. 215 

4:3 But better than both is the one who has not been born 216 

and has not seen the evil things that are done on earth. 217 

Labor Motivated by Envy

4:4 Then I considered 218  all the skillful work 219  that is done:

Surely it is nothing more than 220  competition 221  between one person and another. 222 

This also is profitless – like 223  chasing the wind.

4:5 The fool folds his hands and does no work, 224 

so he has nothing to eat but his own flesh. 225 

4:6 Better is one handful with some rest

than two hands full of toil 226  and chasing the wind.

Labor Motivated by Greed

4:7 So 227  I again considered 228  another 229  futile thing on earth: 230 

4:8 A man who is all alone with no companion, 231 

he has no children nor siblings; 232 

yet there is no end to all his toil,

and he 233  is never satisfied with riches.

He laments, 234  “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself 235  of pleasure?” 236 

This also is futile and a burdensome task! 237 

Labor is Beneficial When Its Rewards Are Shared

4:9 Two people are better than one,

because they can reap 238  more benefit 239  from their labor.

4:10 For if they fall, one will help his companion up,

but pity 240  the person who falls down and has no one to help him up.

4:11 Furthermore, if two lie down together, they can keep each other warm,

but how can one person keep warm by himself?

4:12 Although an assailant may overpower 241  one person,

two can withstand him.

Moreover, a three-stranded cord is not quickly broken.

Labor Motivated by Prestige-Seeking

4:13 A poor but wise youth is better than an old and foolish king

who no longer knows how to receive advice.

4:14 For he came out of prison 242  to become king,

even though he had been born poor in what would become his 243  kingdom.

4:15 I considered all the living who walk on earth, 244 

as well as the successor 245  who would arise 246  in his place.

4:16 There is no end to all the people 247  nor to the past generations, 248 

yet future generations 249  will not rejoice in him.

This also is profitless and like 250  chasing the wind.


Rash Vows


Be careful what you do 252  when you go to the temple 253  of God;

draw near to listen 254  rather than to offer a sacrifice 255  like fools, 256 

for they do not realize that they are doing wrong.

5:2 Do not be rash with your mouth or hasty in your heart to bring up a matter before God,

for God is in heaven and you are on earth!

Therefore, let your words be few.

5:3 Just as dreams come when there are many cares, 257 

so 258  the rash vow 259  of a fool occurs 260  when there are many words.

5:4 When you make a vow 261  to God, do not delay in paying it. 262 

For God 263  takes no pleasure in fools:

Pay what you vow!

5:5 It is better for you not to vow

than to vow and not pay it. 264 

5:6 Do not let your mouth cause you 265  to sin,

and do not tell the priest, 266  “It was a mistake!” 267 

Why make God angry at you 268 

so that he would destroy the work of your hands?

5:7 Just as there is futility in many dreams,

so also in many words. 269 

Therefore, fear God!

Government Corruption

5:8 If you see the extortion 270  of the poor,

or the perversion 271  of justice and fairness in the government, 272 

do not be astonished by the matter.

For the high official is watched by a higher official, 273 

and there are higher ones over them! 274 

5:9 The produce of the land is seized 275  by all of them,

even the king is served 276  by the fields. 277 


5:10 The one who loves money 278  will never be satisfied with money, 279 

he who loves wealth 280  will never be satisfied 281  with his 282  income.

This also is futile.

5:11 When someone’s 283  prosperity 284  increases, those who consume it also increase;

so what does its owner 285  gain, except that he gets to see it with his eyes? 286 

5:12 The sleep of the laborer is pleasant – whether he eats little or much

but the wealth of the rich will not allow him to sleep.

Materialism Thwarts Enjoyment of Life

5:13 Here is 287  a misfortune 288  on earth 289  that I have seen:

Wealth hoarded by its owner to his own misery.

5:14 Then that wealth was lost through bad luck; 290 

although he fathered a son, he has nothing left to give him. 291 

5:15 Just as he came forth from his mother's womb, naked will he return as he came,

and he will take nothing in his hand that he may carry away from his toil.

5:16 This is another misfortune: 292 

Just as he came, so will he go.

What did he gain from toiling for the wind?

5:17 Surely, he ate in darkness every day of his life, 293 

and he suffered greatly with sickness and anger.

Enjoy the Fruit of Your Labor

5:18 I have seen personally what is the only beneficial and appropriate course of action for people: 294 

to eat and drink, 295  and find enjoyment in all their 296  hard work 297  on earth 298 

during the few days of their life which God has given them,

for this is their reward. 299 

5:19 To every man whom God has given wealth, and possessions,

he has also given him the ability 300 

to eat from them, to receive his reward and to find enjoyment in his toil;

these things 301  are the gift of God.

5:20 For he does not think 302  much about the fleeting 303  days of his life

because God keeps him preoccupied 304  with the joy he derives from his activity. 305 

Not Everyone Enjoys Life

6:1 Here is 306  another misfortune 307  that I have seen on earth, 308 

and it weighs 309  heavily on people: 310 

6:2 God gives a man riches, property, and wealth

so that he lacks nothing that his heart 311  desires, 312 

yet God does not enable 313  him to enjoy 314  the fruit of his labor 315 

instead, someone else 316  enjoys 317  it! 318 

This is fruitless and a grave misfortune. 319 

6:3 Even if a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years

even if he lives a long, long time, 320  but cannot enjoy his prosperity

even if he were to live forever 321 

I would say, “A stillborn child 322  is better off than he is!” 323 

6:4 Though the stillborn child 324  came into the world 325  for no reason 326  and departed into darkness,

though its name is shrouded in darkness, 327 

6:5 though it never saw the light of day 328  nor knew anything, 329 

yet it has more rest 330  than that man –

6:6 if he should live a thousand years twice, yet does not enjoy his prosperity.

For both of them die! 331 

6:7 All of man’s labor is for nothing more than 332  to fill his stomach 333 

yet his appetite 334  is never satisfied!

6:8 So what advantage does a wise man have over a fool? 335 

And what advantage 336  does a pauper gain by knowing how to survive? 337 

6:9 It is better to be content with 338  what the eyes can see 339 

than for one’s heart always to crave more. 340 

This continual longing 341  is futile – like 342  chasing the wind.

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