Ecclesiastes 8-12New Living Translation (NLT)
8 How wonderful to be wise,
Obedience to the King
2 Obey the king since you vowed to God that you would. 3 Don’t try to avoid doing your duty, and don’t stand with those who plot evil, for the king can do whatever he wants. 4 His command is backed by great power. No one can resist or question it. 5 Those who obey him will not be punished. Those who are wise will find a time and a way to do what is right, 6 for there is a time and a way for everything, even when a person is in trouble.
7 Indeed, how can people avoid what they don’t know is going to happen? 8 None of us can hold back our spirit from departing. None of us has the power to prevent the day of our death. There is no escaping that obligation, that dark battle. And in the face of death, wickedness will certainly not rescue the wicked.
The Wicked and the Righteous
9 I have thought deeply about all that goes on here under the sun, where people have the power to hurt each other. 10 I have seen wicked people buried with honor. Yet they were the very ones who frequented the Temple and are now praised[a] in the same city where they committed their crimes! This, too, is meaningless. 11 When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong. 12 But even though a person sins a hundred times and still lives a long time, I know that those who fear God will be better off. 13 The wicked will not prosper, for they do not fear God. Their days will never grow long like the evening shadows.
14 And this is not all that is meaningless in our world. In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless!
15 So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.
16 In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. 17 I realized that no one can discover everything God is doing under the sun. Not even the wisest people discover everything, no matter what they claim.
Death Comes to All
9 This, too, I carefully explored: Even though the actions of godly and wise people are in God’s hands, no one knows whether God will show them favor. 2 The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad,[b] ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who make promises to God are treated like people who don’t.
3 It seems so wrong that everyone under the sun suffers the same fate. Already twisted by evil, people choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway. 4 There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!”
5 The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. 6 Whatever they did in their lifetime—loving, hating, envying—is all long gone. They no longer play a part in anything here on earth. 7 So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! 8 Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne!
9 Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil. 10 Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave,[c] there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.
11 I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.
12 People can never predict when hard times might come. Like fish in a net or birds in a trap, people are caught by sudden tragedy.
Thoughts on Wisdom and Folly
13 Here is another bit of wisdom that has impressed me as I have watched the way our world works. 14 There was a small town with only a few people, and a great king came with his army and besieged it. 15 A poor, wise man knew how to save the town, and so it was rescued. But afterward no one thought to thank him. 16 So even though wisdom is better than strength, those who are wise will be despised if they are poor. What they say will not be appreciated for long.
17 Better to hear the quiet words of a wise person
10 As dead flies cause even a bottle of perfume to stink,
2 A wise person chooses the right road;
3 You can identify fools
4 If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit!
The Ironies of Life
5 There is another evil I have seen under the sun. Kings and rulers make a grave mistake 6 when they give great authority to foolish people and low positions to people of proven worth. 7 I have even seen servants riding horseback like princes—and princes walking like servants!
8 When you dig a well,
10 Using a dull ax requires great strength,
11 If a snake bites before you charm it,
12 Wise words bring approval,
13 Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions,
No one really knows what is going to happen;
15 Fools are so exhausted by a little work
16 What sorrow for the land ruled by a servant,[d]
18 Laziness leads to a sagging roof;
19 A party gives laughter,
20 Never make light of the king, even in your thoughts.
The Uncertainties of Life
3 When clouds are heavy, the rains come down.
4 Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.
5 Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb,[g] so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.
6 Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.
Advice for Young and Old
7 Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning.
8 When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. But let them also remember there will be many dark days. Everything still to come is meaningless.
9 Young people,[h] it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. 10 So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless.
12 Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” 2 Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky. 3 Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble; and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop. Remember him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding; and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly.
4 Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades. Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint.
5 Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire. Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral.
6 Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. 7 For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
Concluding Thoughts about the Teacher
8 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.”
9 Keep this in mind: The Teacher was considered wise, and he taught the people everything he knew. He listened carefully to many proverbs, studying and classifying them. 10 The Teacher sought to find just the right words to express truths clearly.[i]
11 The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd[j] drives the sheep.
12 But, my child,[k] let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out.
13 That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. 14 God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.
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