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God Has Ordained the Ebb and Flow of Human Activities

For everything there is an appointed time, a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to bear[a] and a time to die;
    a time to plant and a time to root 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 weep and a time to laugh;
    a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones;
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek and a time to lose;
    a time to keep and a time to throw away;
a time to tear and a time to sew;
    a time to be silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What does the worker gain in his toil?

No One Understands God’s Mysterious Plan

10 I have seen the busyness God gives to humans[b] to preoccupy[c] them. 11 He has made everything suitable in its time. He also has put the past[d] in their hearts, yet no one can grasp what God does from the beginning to the end. 12 So I realized that there is nothing better[e] for them than to rejoice and enjoy themselves[f] during their lives. 13 And for anyone to eat and drink, that is, to enjoy the fruit of all his toil,[g] this also is a gift of God.

14 I know everything God does endures forever;
    nothing can be added to it, and nothing can be taken from it,
        for God so acts that humans[h] might stand in awe before him.
15 What is—it already was,
    and what will be—it already is,
        for God will do what he has done.[i]

God’s Mysterious Plan Allows Injustice to Exist in the World

16 I saw something else under the sun: instead of justice there was evil; instead of righteousness there was wickedness. 17 So I said to myself,[j] “God will surely judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed[k] a time of judgment for every deed and every work.”

18 I said to myself concerning humans,[l] “God sifts[m] them in order to show[n] them that they are like beasts.” 19 For the fate of humans[o] and the fate of the beast is the same.[p] The death of the one is like the death of the other, for both are mortal.[q] Man has no advantage over the beast, for both are fleeting. 20 Both go to one place—both came from dust and both return to dust. 21 For no one knows whether the spirit of a human ascends to heaven and whether the spirit of the beast descends to the ground!

22 So I concluded that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy the fruit of his labor, for this is his lot in life. For no one knows what will happen in the future.[r]


  1. Ecclesiastes 3:2 Or “a time to be born”; MT reads the active form “to bear children
  2. Ecclesiastes 3:10 Literally “the sons of the man”
  3. Ecclesiastes 3:10 Or “to be busy”
  4. Ecclesiastes 3:11 Literally “eternity”
  5. Ecclesiastes 3:12 Literally “no good”
  6. Ecclesiastes 3:12 Literally “to rejoice and to do good”
  7. Ecclesiastes 3:13 Literally “to see good in all his toil”
  8. Ecclesiastes 3:14 Or “they”
  9. Ecclesiastes 3:15 Literally “God seeks what is pursued”
  10. Ecclesiastes 3:17 Literally “in my heart”
  11. Ecclesiastes 3:17 The MT reads שָׁם “there,” but repointing to שָׂם, “he has appointed,” makes better sense
  12. Ecclesiastes 3:18 Literally “the sons of the man”
  13. Ecclesiastes 3:18 Or “tests”
  14. Ecclesiastes 3:18 The MT reads active “to see,” but causative “to show” is reflected by LXX, Syriac Peshitta, and Latin Vulgate
  15. Ecclesiastes 3:19 Literally “the sons of the man”
  16. Ecclesiastes 3:19 Literally “is one”
  17. Ecclesiastes 3:19 Literally “and one breath is for all”
  18. Ecclesiastes 3:22 Literally “For who can bring him to see in what will be after him?”