Bible: Ecclesiastes 1-2


1:1 The words of the Teacher, 1  the son 2  of David, king 3  in Jerusalem: 4 

Introduction: Utter Futility

1:2Futile! Futile!” laments 5  the Teacher, 6 

“Absolutely futile! 7  Everything 8  is futile! 9 

Futility Illustrated from Nature

1:3 What benefit 10  do people 11  get from all the effort

which 12  they expend 13  on earth? 14 

1:4 A generation comes 15  and a generation goes, 16 

but the earth remains 17  the same 18  through the ages. 19 

1:5 The sun rises 20  and the sun sets; 21 

it hurries away 22  to a place from which it rises 23  again. 24 

1:6 The wind goes to the south and circles around to the north;

round and round 25  the wind goes and on its rounds it returns. 26 

1:7 All the streams flow 27  into the sea, but the sea is not full,

and to the place where the streams flow, there they will flow again. 28 

1:8 All this 29  monotony 30  is tiresome; no one can bear 31  to describe it: 32 

The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear ever content 33  with hearing.

1:9 What exists now 34  is what will be, 35 

and what has been done is what will be done;

there is nothing truly new on earth. 36 

1:10 Is there anything about which someone can say, “Look at this! It is new!”? 37 

It was already 38  done long ago, 39  before our time. 40 

1:11 No one remembers the former events, 41 

nor will anyone remember 42  the events that are yet to happen; 43 

they will not be remembered by the future generations. 44 

Futility of Secular Accomplishment

1:12 I, the Teacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 45 

1:13 I decided 46  to carefully 47  and thoroughly examine 48 

all that has been accomplished on earth. 49 

I concluded: 50  God has given people 51  a burdensome task 52 

that keeps them 53  occupied. 54 

1:14 I reflected on everything that is accomplished by man 55  on earth, 56 

and I concluded: Everything 57  he has accomplished 58  is futile 59 like chasing the wind! 60 

1:15 What is bent 61  cannot be straightened, 62 

and what is missing 63  cannot be supplied. 64 

Futility of Secular Wisdom

1:16 I thought to myself, 65 

“I have become much wiser 66  than any of my predecessors who ruled 67  over Jerusalem; 68 

I 69  have acquired much wisdom and knowledge.” 70 

1:17 So I decided 71  to discern the benefit of 72  wisdom and knowledge over 73  foolish behavior and ideas; 74 

however, I concluded 75  that even 76  this endeavor 77  is like 78  trying to chase the wind! 79 

1:18 For with great wisdom comes 80  great frustration;

whoever increases his 81  knowledge merely 82  increases his 83  heartache.


Futility of Self-Indulgent Pleasure

I thought to myself, 84 

“Come now, 85  I will try 86  self-indulgent pleasure 87  to see 88  if it is worthwhile.” 89 

But I found 90  that it also is futile. 91 

2:2 I said of partying, 92 It is folly,”

and of self-indulgent pleasure, 93 It accomplishes nothing! 94 

2:3 I thought deeply 95  about the effects of 96  indulging 97  myself 98  with wine

(all the while 99  my mind was guiding me 100  with wisdom) 101 

and the effects of 102  behaving foolishly, 103 

so that 104  I might discover what is profitable 105 

for people 106  to do on earth 107  during the few days 108  of their lives.

Futility of Materialism

2:4 I increased my possessions: 109 

I built houses for myself; 110 

I planted vineyards for myself.

2:5 I designed 111  royal gardens 112  and parks 113  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 114  of flourishing trees.

2:7 I purchased male and female slaves,

and I owned slaves who were born in my house; 115 

I also possessed more livestock – both herds and flocks

than any of my predecessors in Jerusalem. 116 

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

as well as valuable treasures 117  taken from kingdoms and provinces. 118 

I acquired male singers and female singers for myself,

and what gives a man sensual delight 119 a harem of beautiful concubines! 120 

2:9 So 121  I was far wealthier 122  than all my predecessors in Jerusalem,

yet I maintained my objectivity: 123 

2:10 I did not restrain myself from getting whatever I wanted; 124 

I did not deny myself anything that would bring me pleasure. 125 

So all my accomplishments gave me joy; 126 

this was my reward for all my effort. 127 

2:11 Yet when I reflected on everything I had accomplished 128 

and on all the effort that I had expended to accomplish it, 129 

I concluded: 130  “All these 131  achievements and possessions 132  are ultimately 133  profitless 134 

like chasing the wind!

There is nothing gained 135  from them 136  on earth.” 137 

Wisdom is Better than Folly

2:12 Next, I decided to consider 138  wisdom, as well as foolish behavior and ideas. 139 

For what more can the king’s successor do than what the king 140  has already done?

2:13 I realized that wisdom is preferable to folly, 141 

just as light is preferable to darkness:

2:14 The wise man can see where he is going, 142  but the fool walks in darkness.

Yet I also realized that the same fate 143  happens to them both. 144 

2:15 So I thought to myself, “The fate of the fool will happen even to me! 145 

Then what did I gain by becoming so excessively 146  wise?” 147 

So I lamented to myself, 148 

“The benefits of wisdom 149  are ultimately 150  meaningless!

2:16 For the wise man, like 151  the fool, will not be remembered for very long, 152 

because 153  in the days to come, both will already have been forgotten. 154 

Alas, 155  the wise man dies – just like 156  the fool!

2:17 So I loathed 157  life 158  because what

happens 159  on earth 160  seems awful to me;

for all the benefits of wisdom 161  are futile – like chasing the wind.

Futility of Being a Workaholic

2:18 So I loathed all the fruit of 162  my effort, 163 

for which I worked so hard 164  on earth, 165 

because 166  I must leave it 167  behind 168  in the hands of my successor. 169 

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

Yet 170  he will be master over all the fruit of 171  my labor 172 

for which I worked so wisely 173  on earth! 174 

This also is futile!

2:20 So I began to despair 175  about all the fruit of 176  my labor 177 

for which I worked so hard 178  on earth. 179 

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

however, he must hand over 180  the fruit of his labor 181  as an inheritance 182 

to someone else who did not work for it.

This also is futile, and an awful injustice! 183 

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? 184 

2:23 For all day long 185  his work produces pain and frustration, 186 

and even at night his mind cannot relax! 187 

This also is futile!

Enjoy Work and its Benefits

2:24 There is nothing better for 188  people 189  than 190  to eat and drink,

and to find enjoyment 191  in their 192  work.

I also perceived that this ability to find enjoyment 193  comes from God. 194 

2:25 For no one 195  can eat and drink 196 

or experience joy 197  apart from him. 198 

2:26 For to the one who pleases him, 199  God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy,

but to the sinner, he gives the task of amassing 200  wealth 201 

only to give 202  it 203  to the one who pleases God.

This 204  task of the wicked 205  is futile – like chasing the wind!

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