2 1-2 I said to myself, “Come now, be merry; enjoy yourself to the full.” But I found that this, too, was futile. For it is silly to be laughing all the time; what good does it do?
3 So after a lot of thinking, I decided to try the road of drink, while still holding steadily to my course of seeking wisdom.
Next I changed my course again and followed the path of folly, so that I could experience the only happiness most men have throughout their lives.
4-6 Then I tried to find fulfillment by inaugurating a great public works program: homes, vineyards, gardens, parks, and orchards for myself, and reservoirs to hold the water to irrigate my plantations.
7-8 Next I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born within my household. I also bred great herds and flocks, more than any of the kings before me. I collected silver and gold as taxes from many kings and provinces.
In the cultural arts, I organized men’s and women’s choirs and orchestras.
And then there were my many beautiful concubines.
9 So I became greater than any of the kings in Jerusalem before me, and with it all I remained clear-eyed, so that I could evaluate all these things. 10 Anything I wanted I took and did not restrain myself from any joy. I even found great pleasure in hard work. This pleasure was, indeed, my only reward for all my labors.
11 But as I looked at everything I had tried, it was all so useless, a chasing of the wind, and there was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.
12 Now I began a study of the comparative virtues of wisdom and folly, and anyone else would come to the same conclusion I did[a]— 13-14 that wisdom is of more value than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness; for the wise man sees, while the fool is blind. And yet I noticed that there was one thing that happened to wise and foolish alike— 15 just as the fool will die, so will I. So of what value is all my wisdom? Then I realized that even wisdom is futile. 16 For the wise and fool both die, and in the days to come both will be long forgotten. 17 So now I hate life because it is all so irrational; all is foolishness, chasing the wind.
18 And I am disgusted about this—that I must leave the fruits of all my hard work to others. 19 And who can tell whether my son will be a wise man or a fool? And yet all I have will be given to him—how discouraging!
20-23 So I turned in despair from hard work as the answer to my search for satisfaction. For though I spend my life searching for wisdom, knowledge, and skill, I must leave all of it to someone who hasn’t done a day’s work in his life; he inherits all my efforts, free of charge. This is not only foolish but unfair. So what does a man get for all his hard work? Days full of sorrow and grief, and restless, bitter nights. It is all utterly ridiculous.
24-26 So I decided that there was nothing better for a man to do than to enjoy his food and drink and his job. Then I realized that even this pleasure is from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy apart from him? For God gives those who please him wisdom, knowledge, and joy; but if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away from him and gives it to those who please him. So here, too, we see an example of foolishly chasing the wind.
- Ecclesiastes 2:12 and anyone else would come to the same conclusion I did, literally, “for what can the man do who comes after the king?”