Ecclesiastes 1:1-2:26

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

2 “Futile! Futile!” laments the Teacher.

“Absolutely futile! Everything is futile!”

3 What benefit do people get from all the effort

which they expend on earth?

4 A generation comes and a generation goes,

but the earth remains the same through the ages.

5 The sun rises and the sun sets;

it hurries away to a place from which it rises again.

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

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

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

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

8 All this monotony is tiresome; no one can bear to describe it.

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

9 What exists now is what will be,

and what has been done is what will be done;

there is nothing truly new on earth.

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

It was already done long ago, before our time.

11 No one remembers the former events,

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

they will not be remembered by the future generations.

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

13 I decided to carefully and thoroughly examine

all that has been accomplished on earth.

I concluded: God has given people a burdensome task

that keeps them occupied.

14 I reflected on everything that is accomplished by man on earth,

and I concluded: Everything he has accomplished is futile—like chasing the wind!

15 What is bent cannot be straightened,

and what is missing cannot be supplied.

16 I thought to myself,

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

I have acquired much wisdom and knowledge.”

17 So I decided to discern the benefit of wisdom and knowledge over foolish behavior and ideas;

however, I concluded that even this endeavor is like trying to chase the wind.

18 For with great wisdom comes great frustration;

whoever increases his knowledge merely increases his heartache.

2:1 I thought to myself,

“Come now, I will try self-indulgent pleasure to see if it is worthwhile.”

But I found that it also is futile.

2 I said of partying, “It is folly,”

and of self-indulgent pleasure, “It accomplishes nothing!”

3 I thought deeply about the effects of indulging myself with wine

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

and the effects of behaving foolishly,

so that I might discover what is profitable

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

4 I increased my possessions:

I built houses for myself;

I planted vineyards for myself.

5 I designed royal gardens and parks for myself,

and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.

6 I constructed pools of water for myself,

to irrigate my grove of flourishing trees.

7 I purchased male and female slaves,

and I owned slaves who were born in my house;

I also possessed more livestock—both herds and flocks—

than any of my predecessors in Jerusalem.

8 I also amassed silver and gold for myself,

as well as valuable treasures taken from kingdoms and provinces.

I acquired male singers and female singers for myself,

and what gives a man sensual delight—a harem of beautiful concubines.

9 So I was far wealthier than all my predecessors in Jerusalem,

yet I maintained my objectivity.

10 I did not restrain myself from getting whatever I wanted;

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

So all my accomplishments gave me joy;

this was my reward for all my effort.

11 Yet when I reflected on everything I had accomplished

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

I concluded: “All these achievements and possessions are ultimately profitless—

like chasing the wind!

There is nothing gained from them on earth.”

12 Next, I decided to consider wisdom, as well as foolish behavior and ideas.

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

13 I realized that wisdom is preferable to folly,

just as light is preferable to darkness:

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

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

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

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

So I lamented to myself,

“The benefits of wisdom are ultimately meaningless!”

16 For the wise man, like the fool, will not be remembered for very long,

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

Alas, the wise man dies—just like the fool!

17 So I loathed life because what

happens on earth seems awful to me;

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

18 So I loathed all the fruit of my effort,

for which I worked so hard on earth,

because I must leave it behind in the hands of my successor.

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

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

for which I worked so wisely on earth.

This also is futile!

20 So I began to despair about all the fruit of my labor

for which I worked so hard on earth.

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

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

to someone else who did not work for it.

This also is futile, and an awful injustice!

22 What does a man acquire from all his labor

and from the anxiety that accompanies his toil on earth?

23 For all day long his work produces pain and frustration,

and even at night his mind cannot relax.

This also is futile!

24 There is nothing better for people than to eat and drink,

and to find enjoyment in their work.

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

25 For no one can eat and drink

or experience joy apart from him.

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

but to the sinner, he gives the task of amassing wealth—

only to give it to the one who pleases God.

This task of the wicked is futile—like chasing the wind!