1:1 The words of the Teacher, 1 the son 2 of David, king 3 in Jerusalem: 4
Introduction: Utter Futility
1:2 “Futile! 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!