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Ecclesiastes 9-12 Common English Bible (CEB)

Everyone faces the same fate

So I considered all of this carefully, examining all of it: The righteous and the wise and their deeds are in God’s hand, along with both love and hate. People don’t know anything that’s ahead of them. Everything is the same for everyone. The same fate awaits the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad,[a] the pure and the impure, those who sacrifice and those who don’t sacrifice. The good person is like the wrongdoer; the same holds for those who make solemn pledges and those who are afraid to swear. This is the sad thing about all that happens under the sun: the same fate awaits everyone. Moreover, the human heart is full of evil; people’s minds are full of madness while they are alive, and afterward they die. Whoever is among the living can be certain about this. A living dog is definitely better off than a dead lion, because the living know that they will die. But the dead know nothing at all. There is no more reward for them; even the memory of them is lost. Their love and their hate, as well as their zeal, are already long gone. They will never again have a stake in all that happens under the sun.

Go, eat your food joyfully and drink your wine happily because God has already accepted what you do. Let your garments always be white; don’t run short of oil for your head. Enjoy life with your dearly loved spouse all the days of your pointless life that God[b] gives you under the sun—all the days of your pointless life![c]—because that’s your part to play[d] in this life and in your hard work under the sun. 10 Whatever you are capable of doing, do with all your might because there’s no work, thought, knowledge, or wisdom in the grave,[e] which is where you are headed.

Listen to common wisdom, not fools

11 I also observed under the sun that the race doesn’t always go to the swift, nor the battle to the mighty, nor food to the wise, nor wealth to the intelligent, nor favor to the knowledgeable, because accidents can happen to anyone. 12 People most definitely don’t know when their time will come. Like fish tragically caught in a net or like birds trapped in a snare, so are human beings caught in a time of tragedy that suddenly falls to them.

13 I also observed the following example of wisdom under the sun—it impressed me greatly: 14 There was a small town with only a few residents. A mighty king came against it, surrounded it, and waged a terrible war against it. 15 Now there lived in that town a poor but wise man who saved everyone by his wisdom. But no one remembered that poor man. 16 So I thought, Wisdom is better than might, but the wisdom of commoners is despised and their words aren’t heeded.

17 The calm words of the wise are better heeded than the racket caused by a ruler among fools.

18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one incompetent person destroys much good.

10 As dead flies spoil the perfumer’s oil,
    so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
The mind of the wise tends toward the right,
    but the mind of the fool toward the left.
Fools lack all sense even when they walk down the street;
    they show everyone that they are fools.
If a ruler’s temper rises against you,
    don’t leave your post, because calmness alleviates great offenses.

There’s an evil that I have seen under the sun: the kind of mistake that comes from people in power. Fools are appointed to high posts, while the rich sit in lowly positions. I have seen slaves on horseback, while princes walk on foot like slaves.

Whoever digs a pit may fall into it,
    and whoever breaks through a wall
    may be bitten by a snake.
Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them;
    whoever splits logs
    may be endangered by them.
10 If an ax is dull
    and one doesn’t sharpen it first,
    then one must exert more force.
It’s profitable to be skillful and wise.
11 If a snake bites before it’s charmed,
    then there’s no profit
    for the snake charmer.
12 Words from a wise person’s mouth are beneficial,
    but fools are devoured by their own lips.
13 Fools start out talking foolishness
    and end up speaking awful nonsense.
14 Fools talk too much!
    No one knows what will happen;
    no one can say what will happen in the future.
15 The hard work of fools tires them out
    because they don’t even know the way to town!
16 Too bad for you, land,
    whose king is a boy
    and whose princes feast in the morning.
17 Happy is the land
    whose king is dignified
    and whose princes feast at the right time for energy,
        not for drunkenness.
18 Through laziness, the roof sags;
    through idle hands, the house leaks.
19 Feasts are made for laughter,
    wine cheers the living,
    and money answers everything.[f]

20 Don’t curse a king even in private; don’t curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird could carry your voice; some winged creature could report what you said!

Take risks; life is short

11 Send your bread out on the water because, in the course of time, you may find it again. Give a portion to seven people, even to eight: you don’t know what disaster may come upon the land. If clouds fill up, they will empty out rain on the earth. If a tree falls, whether to the south or to the north, wherever it falls, there it will lie. Those who watch the wind blow will never sow, and those who observe the clouds will never reap. Just as you don’t understand what the life-breath does in the fetus[g] inside a pregnant woman’s womb, so you can’t understand the work of God, who makes everything happen. Scatter your seed in the morning, and in the evening don’t be idle because you don’t know which will succeed, this one or that, or whether both will be equally good.

Sweet is the light, and it’s pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. Even those who live many years should take pleasure in them all. But they should be mindful that there will also be many dark days. Everything that happens is pointless.

Rejoice, young person, while you are young! Your heart should make you happy in your prime. Follow your heart’s inclinations and whatever your eyes see, but know this: God will call you to account for all of these things. 10 Remove anxiety from your heart, banish pain from your body, because youth and the dawn of life are pointless too.

Troubling days to come

12 Remember your creator in your prime,
    before the days of trouble arrive,
    and those years, about which you’ll say, “I take no pleasure in these”—
    before the sun and the light grow dark, the moon and the stars too,
        before the clouds return after the rain;
    on the day when the housekeepers tremble and the strong men stoop;
when the women who grind stop working because they’re so few,
    and those who look through the windows grow dim;
    when the doors to the street are shut,
        when the sound of the mill fades,
        the sound of the bird rises,
        and all the singers come down low;
    when people are afraid of things above
    and of terrors along the way;
    when the almond tree blanches, the locust droops,
        and the caper-berry comes to nothing;[h]
when the human goes to the eternal abode,
    with mourners all around in the street;
    before the silver cord snaps and the gold bowl shatters;
        the jar is broken at the spring and the wheel is crushed at the pit;
    before dust returns to the earth as it was before
        and the life-breath returns to God who gave it.

Motto and conclusion

Perfectly pointless, says the Teacher, everything is pointless.

Additionally: Because the Teacher was wise, he constantly taught the people knowledge. He listened and investigated. He composed many proverbs. 10 The Teacher searched for pleasing words, and he wrote truthful words honestly.

11 The words of the wise are like iron-tipped prods;
    the collected sayings of the masters
        are like nails fixed firmly by a shepherd.[i]
12     Be careful, my child, of anything beyond them!

There’s no end to the excessive production of scrolls. Studying too much wearies the body. 13 So this is the end of the matter; all has been heard. Worship God and keep God’s commandments because this is what everyone must do. 14 God will definitely bring every deed to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or bad.


  1. Ecclesiastes 9:2 LXX
  2. Ecclesiastes 9:9 Or he or that are given you
  3. Ecclesiastes 9:9 This phrase is missing in some LXX sources, Syr, and Tg.
  4. Ecclesiastes 9:9 Or portion
  5. Ecclesiastes 9:10 Or underworld; Heb Sheol
  6. Ecclesiastes 10:19 Or money is everyone's answer.
  7. Ecclesiastes 11:5 Correction with Tg; MT like the bones
  8. Ecclesiastes 12:5 Heb uncertain
  9. Ecclesiastes 12:11 Or fixed by one shepherd
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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