Ecclesiastes 1–12

The words of athe Preacher,1 the son of David, bking in Jerusalem.

cVanity2 of vanities, says athe Preacher,

cvanity of vanities! dAll is vanity.

eWhat fdoes man gain by all the toil

at which he toils under the sun?

A generation goes, and a generation comes,

but gthe earth remains forever.

hThe sun rises, and the sun goes down,

and hastens3 to the place where it rises.

iThe wind blows to the south

and goes around to the north;

around and around goes the wind,

and on its circuits the wind returns.

All jstreams run to the sea,

but the sea is not full;

to the place where the streams flow,

there they flow again.

All things are full of weariness;

a man cannot utter it;

kthe eye is not satisfied with seeing,

nor the ear filled with hearing.

lWhat has been is what will be,

and what has been done is what will be done,

and there is nothing new under the sun.

10  Is there a thing of which it is said,

See, this is new?

It has been malready

in the ages before us.

11  There is no nremembrance of former things,4

nor will there be any remembrance

of later things5 yet to be

among those who come after.

12 I othe Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I papplied my heart6 to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy qbusiness that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is rvanity7 and a striving after wind.8

15  sWhat is crooked cannot be made straight,

and what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said in my heart, I have acquired great twisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. 17 And I uapplied my heart to know wisdom and to know vmadness and folly. I perceived that this also is but ra striving after wind.

18  For win much wisdom is much vexation,

and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

I xsaid in my heart, Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself. But behold, this also was vanity.9 I ysaid of laughter, It is mad, and of pleasure, What use is it? I zsearched with my heart how to cheer my body with winemy heart still guiding me with wisdomand how to lay hold on afolly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I bbuilt houses and planted cvineyards for myself. I made myself dgardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had eslaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of fherds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and ggold and the treasure of hkings and iprovinces. I got jsingers, both men and women, and many kconcubines,10 the delight of the sons of man.

So I became great and lsurpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my lwisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart mfound pleasure in all my toil, and this was my nreward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was ovanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing pto be gained under the sun.

12 qSo I turned to consider rwisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only swhat has already been done. 13 Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. 14 tThe wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the usame event happens to all of them. 15 Then I said in my heart, vWhat happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise? And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. 16 For of the wise as of the fool there is wno enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. xHow the wise dies just like the fool! 17 So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for oall is vanity and a striving after wind.

18 I hated yall my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must zleave it to the man who will come after me, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I aturned about and gave my heart up to despair bover all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What has a man from call the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23 For dall his days are full of sorrow, and his ework is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.

24 fThere is nothing better for a person than that he should geat and drink and find enjoyment11 in his toil. This also, I saw, is hfrom the hand of God, 25 for apart from him12 who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him iGod has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given ethe business of gathering and collecting, jonly to give to one who pleases God. kThis also is vanity and a striving after wind.

For everything there is a season, and la time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to mdie;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

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

a time to nweep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to odance;

a time to pcast away stones, and a time to qgather stones together;

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

a time to seek, and a time to slose;

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

a time to utear, and a time to sew;

a time to vkeep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to whate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

What xgain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen ythe business that zGod has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has amade everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot bfind out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is cnothing better for them than to be joyful and to ddo good as long as they live; 13 also ethat everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toilthis is fGod’s gift to man.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; gnothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, halready has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God iseeks what has been driven away.13

16 Moreover, jI saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even kthere was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 17 I said in my heart, lGod will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is ma time for every matter and for every work. 18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but nbeasts. 19 oFor what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity.14 20 All go to one place. All are from pthe dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows whether qthe spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is rnothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for sthat is his lot. Who can bring him to see twhat will be after him?

uAgain I vsaw all wthe oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had xno one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I ythought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But zbetter than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is avanity15 and a striving after wind.

The fool bfolds his hands and ceats his own flesh.

dBetter is a handful of equietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.

uAgain, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his feyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, gFor whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure? This also is vanity and an unhappy hbusiness.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, ibut how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand hima threefold cord is not quickly broken.

13 Better was ja poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how kto take advice. 14 For he went lfrom prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor. 15 I saw all the living who move about under the sun, along with that16 youth who was to stand in the king’s17 place. 16 There was no end of all the people, all of whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is mvanity and a striving after wind.

18

nGuard your steps when you go to othe house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to poffer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 19 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore qlet your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with rmany words.

When syou vow a vow to God, tdo not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. uPay what you vow. vIt is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you20 into sin, and do not say before wthe messenger21 that it was xa mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity;22 but23 yGod is the one you must fear.

zIf you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, ado not be amazed at the matter, bfor the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.24

10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

13 cThere is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15 dAs he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16 This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what egain is there to him who ftoils for the wind? 17 Moreover, all his days he geats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.

18 Behold, what I have seen to be hgood and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment25 in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his ilot. 19 Everyone also to whom jGod has given kwealth and possessions land power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toilthis is mthe gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

nThere is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man oto whom pGod gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he qlacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God rdoes not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity;26 it is a grievous evil. If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that sthe days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s tgood things, and he also has no uburial, I say that va stillborn child is better off than he. For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. Moreover, it has not wseen the sun or known anything, yet it finds xrest rather than he. Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy27 no gooddo not all go to the one place?

yAll the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.28 For what advantage has the wise man zover the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? Better ais the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is bvanity and a striving after wind.

10 Whatever has come to be has calready been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to ddispute with one stronger than he. 11 The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? 12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his evain29 life, which he passes like fa shadow? For who can tell man what will be gafter him under the sun?

hA good name is better than precious ointment,

and ithe day of death than the day of birth.

It is better to go to the house of mourning

than to go to the house of feasting,

for this is the end of all mankind,

and the living will jlay it to heart.

Sorrow is better than laughter,

kfor by sadness of face the heart is made glad.

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,

but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

It is lbetter for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise

than to hear the song of fools.

mFor as the crackling of nthorns under a pot,

so is the laughter of the fools;

this also is vanity.30

Surely ooppression drives the wise into madness,

and pa bribe corrupts the heart.

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,

and qthe patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

rBe not quick in your spirit to become angry,

sfor anger lodges in the heart31 of fools.

10  Say not, Why were the former days better than these?

For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

11  Wisdom is good with an inheritance,

an advantage to those who tsee the sun.

12  For the protection of wisdom is like uthe protection of money,

and the advantage of knowledge is that vwisdom preserves the life of him who has it.

13  Consider wthe work of God:

xwho can make straight what he has made crooked?

14 yIn the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, zso that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

15 In my avain32 life I have seen everything. There is ba righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who cprolongs his life in his evildoing. 16 Be not overly righteous, and do not dmake yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. eWhy should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you should take hold of fthis, and from gthat hwithhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.

19 iWisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.

20 Surely jthere is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear kyour servant cursing you. 22 Your heart knows that lmany times you yourself have cursed others.

23 All this I have tested by wisdom. mI said, I will be wise, but it was far from me. 24 That which has been is far off, and ndeep, very deep; owho can find it out?

25 pI turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness. 26 And I find something more qbitter than death: rthe woman whose heart is ssnares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but tthe sinner is taken by her. 27 Behold, this is what I found, says uthe Preacher, while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things 28 which my soul has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. vOne man among a thousand I found, but wa woman among all these I have not found. 29 See, this alone I found, that xGod made man upright, but ythey have sought out many schemes.

Who is like the wise?

And who knows the interpretation of a thing?

zA man’s wisdom makes his face shine,

and athe hardness of his face is changed.

I say:33 Keep the king’s command, because of bGod’s oath to him.34 Be not hasty to cgo from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases. For the word of the king is supreme, and dwho may say to him, What are you doing? Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way.35 For there is a time and a way efor everything, although man’s trouble36 lies heavy on him. For he fdoes not know what is to be, for gwho can tell him how it will be? No man has power to hretain the spirit, ior power over the day of death. There is no jdischarge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it. kAll this I observed while applying my heart to all that is done under the sun, when man had power over man to his hurt.

10 Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of lthe holy place and were mpraised37 in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity.38 11 Because nthe sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, othe heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and pprolongs his life, yet I know that qit will be well with rthose who fear God, because they fear before him. 13 But it will snot be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like ta shadow, because he does not fear before God.

14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people uto whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people vto whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. 15 And I commend joy, for man whas nothing better under the sun but to xeat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see ythe business that is done on earth, how neither zday nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that aman cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, bhe cannot find it out.

But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, chow the righteous and the wise and their deeds are din the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. eIt is the same for all, since fthe same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil,39 to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who gswears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that ethe same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and hmadness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but ithe dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for jthe memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.

Go, keat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

lLet your garments be always white. Let not moil be lacking on your head.

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your nvain40 life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your oportion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, pdo it with your might,41 qfor there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

11 rAgain I saw that under the sun sthe race is not to the swift, nor tthe battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and uchance vhappen to them all. 12 For man wdoes not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and xlike birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are ysnared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.

13 I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. 14 There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. 15 But there was found in it za poor, wise man, and he by his awisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16 But I say that bwisdom is better than might, though cthe poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard.

17 The words of the wise heard in dquiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. 18 eWisdom is better than weapons of war, but fone sinner destroys much good.

Dead flies make gthe perfumer’s ointment give off a stench;

so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.

hA wise man’s heart inclines him to the right,

but a fool’s heart to the left.

Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense,

and he isays to everyone that he is a fool.

If the anger of the ruler rises against you, jdo not leave your place,

kfor calmness42 will lay great offenses to rest.

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as it were lan error proceeding from the ruler: mfolly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. nI have seen slaves oon horses, and princes walking on the ground like slaves.

He who pdigs a pit will fall into it,

and qa serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall.

rHe who quarries stones is hurt by them,

and he who ssplits logs is endangered by them.

10  If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge,

he must use more strength,

but wisdom helps one to succeed.43

11  If the serpent bites before it is tcharmed,

there is no advantage to the charmer.

12  The words of a wise man’s mouth uwin him favor,44

but vthe lips of a fool consume him.

13  The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness,

and the end of his talk is evil madness.

14  wA fool multiplies words,

though no man knows what is to be,

and who can tell him xwhat will be after him?

15  The toil of a fool wearies him,

for he does not know ythe way to the city.

16  zWoe to you, O land, when your king is a child,

and your princes feast in the morning!

17  Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility,

and your princes feast at the proper time,

for strength, and not for adrunkenness!

18  Through sloth the roof sinks in,

and through indolence the house leaks.

19  Bread is made for laughter,

and bwine gladdens life,

and cmoney answers everything.

20  Even in your thoughts, ddo not curse the king,

nor in your ebedroom curse the rich,

for a bird of the air will carry your voice,

or some winged creature tell the matter.

fCast your bread upon the waters,

gfor you will find it after many days.

hGive a portion to iseven, or even to eight,

jfor you know not what disaster may happen on earth.

If the clouds are full of rain,

they empty themselves on the earth,

and if a tree falls to the south or to the north,

in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.

He who observes the wind will not sow,

and he who regards the clouds will not reap.

As you do not know the way kthe spirit comes to lthe bones in the womb45 of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening mwithhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to nsee the sun.

So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember othat the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is pvanity.46

qRejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. rWalk in the ways of your heart and sthe sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things tGod will bring you into judgment.

10 Remove vexation from your heart, and uput away pain47 from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

Remember also your Creator in vthe days of your youth, before wthe evil days come and the years draw near of which xyou will say, I have no pleasure in them; before ythe sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and zthose who look through the windows are dimmed, and athe doors on the street are shutwhen bthe sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all cthe daughters of song are brought low they are afraid also of what is high, and dterrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along,48 and desire fails, because man is going to his eeternal fhome, and the gmourners go about the streets before the silver cord is snapped, or hthe golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is ishattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and jthe dust returns to the earth as it was, and kthe spirit returns to God lwho gave it. mVanity49 of vanities, says nthe Preacher; all is vanity.

Besides being wise, nthe Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging omany proverbs with great care. 10 nThe Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

11 pThe words of the wise are like goads, and like qnails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are rgiven by sone Shepherd. 12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making umany books there is no end, and vmuch study is a weariness of the flesh.

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. wFear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.50 14 For xGod will bring every deed into judgment, with51 every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Read in Context

Download the Free ESV Bible App

Go deeper into God’s Word with the ESV Bible app, featuring interactive reading plans, personal bookmarks and notes, streaming audio, powerful search tools, a free study Bible, and more.

Available for: iOS Android

Placeholder