Ecclesiastes 2 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
Does “Having Fun” Bring Happiness?
2 I said to myself, “I should have fun—I should enjoy everything as much as I can.” But I learned that this is also useless. 2 It is foolish to laugh all the time. Having fun does not do any good.
3 So I decided to fill my body with wine while I filled my mind with wisdom. I tried this foolishness because I wanted to find a way to be happy. I wanted to see what was good for people to do during their few days of life.
Does Hard Work Bring Happiness?
4 Then I began doing great things. I built houses, and I planted vineyards for myself. 5 I planted gardens, and I made parks. I planted all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I made pools of water for myself, and I used them to water my growing trees. 7 I bought men and women slaves, and there were slaves born in my house. I owned many great things. I had herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. I owned more things than any other person in Jerusalem did.
8 I also gathered silver and gold for myself. I took treasures from kings and their nations. I had men and women singing for me. I had everything any man could want.
9 I became very rich and famous. I was greater than anyone who lived in Jerusalem before me. My wisdom was always there to help me. 10 Anything my eyes saw and wanted, I got for myself. My mind was pleased with everything I did. And this happiness was the reward for all my hard work.
11 But then I looked at everything I had done and the wealth I had gained. I decided it was all a waste of time! It was like trying to catch the wind.[a] There is nothing to gain from anything we do in this life.[b]
Maybe Wisdom Is the Answer
12 Then I decided to think about what it means to be wise or to be foolish or to do crazy things. And I thought about the one who will be the next king. The new king will do the same as the kings before him.[c] 13 I saw that wisdom is better than foolishness in the same way that light is better than darkness. 14 Wise people use their minds like eyes to see where they are going. But for fools, it is as if they are walking in the dark.
I also saw that fools and wise people both end the same way. 15 I thought to myself, “The same thing that happens to a fool will also happen to me. So why have I tried so hard to become wise?” I said to myself, “Being wise is also useless.” 16 Whether people are wise or foolish, they will still die, and no one will remember either one of them forever. In the future, people will forget everything both of them did. So the two are really the same.
Is There Real Happiness in Life?
17 This made me hate life. It was depressing to think that everything in this life is useless, like trying to catch the wind.
18 I began to hate all the hard work I had done, because I saw that the people who live after me would get the things that I worked for. I will not be able to take them with me. 19 Some other person will control everything I worked and studied for. And I don’t know if that person will be wise or foolish. This is also senseless.
20 So I became sad about all the work I had done. 21 People can work hard using all their wisdom and knowledge and skill. But they will die and other people will get the things they worked for. They did not do the work, but they will get everything. That makes me very sad. It is also not fair and is senseless.
22 What do people really have after all their work and struggling in this life? 23 Throughout their life, they have pain, frustrations, and hard work. Even at night, a person’s mind does not rest. This is also senseless.
24-25 There is no one who has tried to enjoy life more than I have. And this is what I learned: The best thing people can do is eat, drink, and enjoy the work they must do. I also saw that this comes from God.[d] 26 If people do good and please God, he will give them wisdom, knowledge, and joy. But those who sin will get only the work of gathering and carrying things. God takes from the bad person and gives to the good person. But all this work is useless. It is like trying to catch the wind.
Ecclesiastes 2 New International Version (NIV)
Pleasures Are Meaningless
2 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.
4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless
12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
15 Then I said to myself,
“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
Toil Is Meaningless
17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.