Things Are Bad
6 1-2 I looked long and hard at what goes on around here, and let me tell you, things are bad. And people feel it. There are people, for instance, on whom God showers everything—money, property, reputation—all they ever wanted or dreamed of. And then God doesn’t let them enjoy it. Some stranger comes along and has all the fun. It’s more of what I’m calling smoke. A bad business.
3-5 Say a couple have scores of children and live a long, long life but never enjoy themselves—even though they end up with a big funeral! I’d say that a stillborn baby gets the better deal. It gets its start in a mist and ends up in the dark—unnamed. It sees nothing and knows nothing, but is better off by far than anyone living.
6 Even if someone lived a thousand years—make it two thousand!—but didn’t enjoy anything, what’s the point? Doesn’t everyone end up in the same place?
7 We work to feed our appetites;
Meanwhile our souls go hungry.
8-9 So what advantage has a sage over a fool, or over some poor wretch who barely gets by? Just grab whatever you can while you can; don’t assume something better might turn up by and by. All it amounts to anyway is smoke. And spitting into the wind.
10 Whatever happens, happens. Its destiny is fixed.
You can’t argue with fate.
11-12 The more words that are spoken, the more smoke there is in the air. And who is any better off? And who knows what’s best for us as we live out our meager smoke-and-shadow lives? And who can tell any of us the next chapter of our lives?
The Futility of Life
6 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it weighs heavily on men: 2 a man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God has not given him the power or capacity to enjoy them [all those things which are gifts from God], but a stranger [in whom he has no interest succeeds him and] enjoys them. This is vanity and it is a [cause of] great distress.(A) 3 If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they may be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things and he is not respected and is not given a proper burial [he is not laid to rest in the sepulcher of his fathers], then I say, “Better the miscarriage than he,(B) 4 for the miscarriage comes in futility (in vain) and passes into obscurity; and its name is covered in obscurity. 5 It has not seen the sun nor had any knowledge; yet it has more rest and is better off than he. 6 Even if the other man lives a thousand years twice over and yet has seen no good and experienced no enjoyment—do not both go to one place [the grave]?”
7 All the labor of man is for his mouth [for self-preservation and enjoyment], and yet the desire [of his soul] is not satisfied.(C) 8 For what advantage has the wise man over the fool [for being worldly-wise is not the secret to happiness]? What advantage has the poor man who has learned how to walk [publicly] among the living [with men’s eyes on him; for being poor is not the secret to happiness either]? 9 What the eyes see [enjoying what is available] is better than [craving] what the soul desires. This too is futility and chasing after the wind.
10 Whatever exists has already been named [long ago], and it is known what [a frail being] man is; for he cannot dispute with Him who is mightier than he. 11 For there are many other words that increase futility. What then is the advantage for a man? 12 For who [[a]limited by human wisdom] knows what is good for man during his lifetime, during the few days of his futile life? He spends them like a shadow [staying busy, but achieving nothing of lasting value]. For who can tell a man what will happen after him [to his work, his treasure, his plans] under the sun [after his life is over]?
- Ecclesiastes 6:12 The narrator is trying to prove that life is not worth living, but the Holy Spirit is using him to show that these conclusions are the tragic effect of living “under the sun”—ignoring the Lord, living apart from God the Father, oblivious to the Holy Spirit—and yet face to face with the mysteries of life and nature.
New Living Translation
6 There is another serious tragedy I have seen under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity. 2 God gives some people great wealth and honor and everything they could ever want, but then he doesn’t give them the chance to enjoy these things. They die, and someone else, even a stranger, ends up enjoying their wealth! This is meaningless—a sickening tragedy.
3 A man might have a hundred children and live to be very old. But if he finds no satisfaction in life and doesn’t even get a decent burial, it would have been better for him to be born dead. 4 His birth would have been meaningless, and he would have ended in darkness. He wouldn’t even have had a name, 5 and he would never have seen the sun or known of its existence. Yet he would have had more peace than in growing up to be an unhappy man. 6 He might live a thousand years twice over but still not find contentment. And since he must die like everyone else—well, what’s the use?
7 All people spend their lives scratching for food, but they never seem to have enough. 8 So are wise people really better off than fools? Do poor people gain anything by being wise and knowing how to act in front of others?
9 Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind.
The Future—Determined and Unknown
10 Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny.
11 The more words you speak, the less they mean. So what good are they?
12 In the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow. Who can tell what will happen on this earth after we are gone?