Ecclesiastes 1 Good News Translation (GNT)
Life Is Useless
1 These are the words of the Philosopher, David's son, who was king in Jerusalem.
2 It is useless, useless, said the Philosopher. Life is useless, all useless. 3 You spend your life working, laboring, and what do you have to show for it? 4 Generations come and generations go, but the world stays just the same. 5 The sun still rises, and it still goes down, going wearily back to where it must start all over again. 6 The wind blows south, the wind blows north—round and round and back again. 7 Every river flows into the sea, but the sea is not yet full. The water returns to where the rivers began, and starts all over again. 8 Everything leads to weariness—a weariness too great for words. Our eyes can never see enough to be satisfied; our ears can never hear enough. 9 What has happened before will happen again. What has been done before will be done again. There is nothing new in the whole world. 10 “Look,” they say, “here is something new!” But no, it has all happened before, long before we were born. 11 No one remembers what has happened in the past, and no one in days to come will remember what happens between now and then.
The Philosopher's Experience
12 I, the Philosopher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I determined that I would examine and study all the things that are done in this world.
God has laid a miserable fate upon us. 14 I have seen everything done in this world, and I tell you, it is all useless. It is like chasing the wind. 15 You can't straighten out what is crooked; you can't count things that aren't there.
16 I told myself, “I have become a great man, far wiser than anyone who ruled Jerusalem before me. I know what wisdom and knowledge really are.” 17 I was determined to learn the difference between knowledge and foolishness, wisdom and madness. But I found out that I might as well be chasing the wind. 18 The wiser you are, the more worries you have; the more you know, the more it hurts.
Ecclesiastes 1 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Reflections of a Royal Philosopher
1 The words of the Teacher,[a] the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,[b]
The Futility of Seeking Wisdom
12 I, the Teacher,[d] when king over Israel in Jerusalem, 13 applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. 14 I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.[e]
15 What is crooked cannot be made straight,
16 I said to myself, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.[f]
18 For in much wisdom is much vexation,
Ecclesiastes 1 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
1 The words of Kohelet the son of David, king in Yerushalayim:
2 Pointless! Pointless! — says Kohelet —
4 Generations come, generations go,
8 Everything is wearisome,
12 I, Kohelet, have been king over Isra’el in Yerushalayim. 13 I wisely applied myself to seek out and investigate everything done under heaven. What a bothersome task God has given humanity to keep us occupied! 14 I have seen all the activities that are done under the sun, and it’s all pointless, feeding on wind.
15 What is crooked can’t be straightened;
16 I said to myself, “Look, I have acquired much wisdom, more than anyone ruling Yerushalayim before me.” Yes, I experienced a great deal of wisdom and knowledge; 17 yet when I applied myself to understanding wisdom and knowledge, as well as stupidity and folly, I came to see that this too was merely feeding on wind.
18 For in much wisdom is much grief;
Ecclesiastes 1 The Message (MSG)
1 These are the words of the Quester, David’s son and king in Jerusalem
2-11 Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.]
I’ve Seen It All
12-14 Call me “the Quester.” I’ve been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I looked most carefully into everything, searched out all that is done on this earth. And let me tell you, there’s not much to write home about. God hasn’t made it easy for us. I’ve seen it all and it’s nothing but smoke—smoke, and spitting into the wind.
15 Life’s a corkscrew that can’t be straightened,
16-17 I said to myself, “I know more and I’m wiser than anyone before me in Jerusalem. I’ve stockpiled wisdom and knowledge.” What I’ve finally concluded is that so-called wisdom and knowledge are mindless and witless—nothing but spitting into the wind.
18 Much learning earns you much trouble.