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Ecclesiastes 5-8 Common English Bible (CEB)

Listen and speak carefully

Watch[a] your steps when you go to God’s house. It’s more acceptable to listen than to offer the fools’ sacrifice—they have no idea that they’re acting wrongly. Don’t[b] be quick with your mouth or say anything hastily before God, because God is in heaven, but you are on earth. Therefore, let your words be few.

Dreams come with many cares,
    and the voice of fools with many words.

When you make a promise to God, fulfill it without delay because God has no pleasure in fools. Fulfill what you promise. Better not to make a promise than to make a promise without fulfilling it. Don’t let your mouth make a sinner of you, and don’t say to the messenger: “It was a mistake!” Otherwise, God may become angry at such talk and destroy what you have accomplished.

    When dreams multiply,
        so do pointless thoughts and excessive speech.
        Therefore, fear God.

Hoarding wealth

If you witness the poor being oppressed or the violation of what is just and right in some territory, don’t be surprised because a high official watches over another, and yet others stand over them. But the land’s yield should be for everyone if the field is cultivated.[c] 10 The money lover isn’t satisfied with money; neither is the lover of wealth satisfied with income. This too is pointless. 11 When good things flow, so do those who consume them. But what do owners benefit from such goods, except to feast their eyes on them? 12 Sweet is the worker’s sleep, whether there’s a lot or little to eat; but the excess of the wealthy won’t let them sleep.

13 I have seen a sickening tragedy under the sun: people hoard their wealth to their own detriment. 14 Then that wealth is lost in a bad business venture so that when they have children, they are left with nothing. 15 Just as they came from their mother’s womb naked, naked they’ll return, ending up just like they started. All their hard work produces nothing—nothing they can take with them. 16 This too is a sickening tragedy: they must pass on just as they arrived. What then do they gain from working so hard for wind? 17 What’s more, they constantly eat in darkness, with much aggravation, grief, and anger.

18 This is the one good thing I’ve seen: it’s appropriate for people to eat, drink, and find enjoyment in all their hard work under the sun during the brief lifetime that God gives them because that’s their lot in life. 19 Also, whenever God gives people wealth and riches and enables them to enjoy it, to accept their place in the world[d] and to find pleasure in their hard work—all this is God’s gift. 20 Indeed, people shouldn’t brood too much over the days of their lives because God gives an answer in their hearts’ joy.

Controlled appetite

I saw a tragedy under the sun, and it weighs heavily upon humanity. God may give some people plenty of wealth, riches, and glory so that they lack nothing they desire. But God doesn’t enable them to enjoy it; instead, a stranger enjoys it. This is pointless and a sickening tragedy. Some people may have one hundred children and live a long life. But no matter how long they live, if they aren’t content with life’s good things, I say that even a stillborn child with no grave is better off than they are.[e] Because that child arrives pointlessly, then passes away in darkness. Darkness covers its name. It hasn’t seen the sun or experienced anything. But it has more peace than those who live a thousand years twice over but don’t enjoy life’s good things. Isn’t everyone heading to the same destination? All the hard work of humans is for the mouth, but the appetite is never full. What advantage do the wise have over the foolish? Or what do the poor gain by knowing how to conduct themselves before the living? It’s better to enjoy what’s at hand than to have an insatiable appetite. This too is pointless, just wind chasing.

10 Whatever happens has already been designated, and human beings are fully known. They can’t contend with the one who is stronger than they are. 11 Because the more words increase, the more everything is pointless. What do people gain by it? 12 Because who knows what’s good for human beings during life, during their brief pointless life, which will pass away like a shadow? Who can say what the future holds for people under the sun?

Wisdom is better than wealth

A good name is better than fine oil,
    and the day of death better than the birthday.
It is better to go to a house in mourning
    than to a house party,
    because that is everyone’s destiny;
    and the living should take it to heart.
Aggravation is better than merriment
    because a sad face may lead to a glad heart.
The wise heart is in the house that mourns,
    but the foolish heart is in the house that rejoices.
It is better to obey the reprimand of the wise
    than to listen to the song of fools,
    because the fool’s merriment
    is like nettles crackling under a kettle.
        That too is pointless.
Oppression turns the wise into fools;
    a bribe corrupts the heart.
The end of something is better than its beginning.
    Patience is better than arrogance.
Don’t be too quick to get angry
    because anger lives in the fool’s heart.
10 Don’t ask, “How is it that the former days were better than these?”
    because it isn’t wise to ask this.
11 Wisdom is as good as[f] an inheritance—
    an advantage for those who see the sun.
12 Wisdom’s protection is like the protection of money;
    the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors.

Good times and bad

13 Consider God’s work! Who can straighten what God has made crooked? 14 When times are good, enjoy the good; when times are bad, consider: God has made the former as well as the latter so that people can’t discover anything that will come to be after them.

15 I have seen everything in my pointless lifetime: the righteous person may die in spite of their righteousness; then again, the wicked may live long in spite of their wickedness. 16 Don’t be too righteous or too wise, or you may be dumbfounded.[g] 17 Don’t be too wicked and don’t be a fool, or you may die before your time. 18 It’s good that you take hold of one of these without letting go of the other because the one who fears God will go forth with both.

19 Wisdom makes a wise person stronger than ten rulers who are in a city. 20 Remember: there’s no one on earth so righteous as to do good only and never make a mistake.[h] 21 Don’t worry about all the things people say, so you don’t hear your servant cursing you. 22 After all, you know that you’ve often cursed others yourself!

Life is complicated

23 I tested all of this by wisdom. I thought, I will be wise, but it eluded me.

24 All that happens is elusive and utterly unfathomable. Who can grasp it? 25 I turned my mind to know, to investigate, and to seek wisdom, along with an account of things, to know that wickedness is foolishness and folly is madness.

26 I found one woman more bitter than death: she who is a trap, her heart a snare, her hands shackles. Anyone who pleases God escapes her, but a sinner is trapped by her. 27 See, this is what I found, says the Teacher, examining one matter after another to account for things. 28 But there’s something that I constantly searched for but couldn’t find: I found one man among a thousand, but I couldn’t find a woman among any of these.[i]

29 See, this alone I found: God made human beings straightforward, but they search for many complications.

Who is wise? And who knows the meaning of anything?
    A person’s wisdom brightens the expression;
        it changes the hardness of someone’s face.

Watch out for power

Keep[j] the king’s command
    as you would keep a solemn pledge.
Don’t be dismayed; leave his presence.
    Don’t linger in a harmful situation
    because he can do whatever he wants!
Because the king’s word has authority,
    no one can say to him, “What are you doing?”

Whoever keeps a command will meet no harm, and the wise heart knows the right time and the right way because there’s a right time and right way for every matter. But human misfortunes are overwhelming because no one knows what will happen, and no one can say when something might happen. No one has control over the life-breath,[k] to retain it, and there’s no control over the day of death. There’s no release from war, and wickedness won’t deliver those who practice it.

I observed all of this as I paid attention to all that happens under the sun. Sometimes people exercise power over each other to their detriment. 10 Then I saw the wicked brought to their graves, with people processing from a holy place,[l] while those who had lived honestly were neglected in the city. This too is pointless.

11 The condemnation for wicked acts isn’t carried out quickly; that’s why people dare to do evil. 12 Wrongdoers may commit a hundred crimes but still live long lives. But I also know that it will go well for those who fear God, for those who are reverent before God. 13 But it will not go well for the wicked; they won’t live long at all because they aren’t reverent before God. 14 Here’s another thing that happens on earth that is pointless: the righteous get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked get what the righteous deserve. I say that this too is pointless.

Enjoy life

15 So I commend enjoyment because there’s nothing better for people to do under the sun but to eat, drink, and be glad. This is what will accompany them in their hard work, during the lifetime that God gives under the sun.

16 Then I set my mind to know wisdom and to observe the business that happens on earth, even going without sleep day and night 17 I observed all the work of God—that no one can grasp what happens under the sun. Those who strive to know can’t grasp it. Even the wise who are set on knowing are unable to grasp it.


  1. Ecclesiastes 5:1 4:17 in Heb
  2. Ecclesiastes 5:2 5:1 in Heb
  3. Ecclesiastes 5:9 Correction; Heb uncertain; or The land's advantage in everything is this: a king for a plowed field.
  4. Ecclesiastes 5:19 Or portion in life, as in 5:18
  5. Ecclesiastes 6:3 Correction; Heb puts the lack of burial site with those who do not enjoy life's good things.
  6. Ecclesiastes 7:11 Or Wisdom is good with
  7. Ecclesiastes 7:16 Or destroyed
  8. Ecclesiastes 7:20 Or and never sin
  9. Ecclesiastes 7:28 Heb uncertain
  10. Ecclesiastes 8:2 Correction; Heb I (say?) keep
  11. Ecclesiastes 8:8 Or wind
  12. Ecclesiastes 8:10 Or temple
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible


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