Bible: Ecclesiastes 1:12-2:26

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!

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