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Ecclesiastes 1 Good News Translation (GNT)

Life Is Useless

These are the words of the Philosopher, David's son, who was king in Jerusalem.

It is useless, useless, said the Philosopher. Life is useless, all useless. You spend your life working, laboring, and what do you have to show for it? Generations come and generations go, but the world stays just the same. The sun still rises, and it still goes down, going wearily back to where it must start all over again. The wind blows south, the wind blows north—round and round and back again. 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. 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. 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.

Good News Translation (GNT)

Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

Ecclesiastes 1 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Reflections of a Royal Philosopher

The words of the Teacher,[a] the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,[b]
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What do people gain from all the toil
    at which they toil under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun goes down,
    and hurries to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south,
    and goes around to the north;
round and round goes the wind,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
    but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
    there they continue to flow.
All things[c] are wearisome;
    more than one can express;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    or the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has already been,
    in the ages before us.
11 The people of long ago are not remembered,
    nor will there be any remembrance
of people yet to come
    by those who come after them.

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,
    and what is lacking cannot be counted.

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,
and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 1:1 Heb Qoheleth, traditionally rendered Preacher
  2. Ecclesiastes 1:2 Heb Qoheleth, traditionally rendered Preacher
  3. Ecclesiastes 1:8 Or words
  4. Ecclesiastes 1:12 Heb Qoheleth, traditionally rendered Preacher
  5. Ecclesiastes 1:14 Or a feeding on wind. See Hos 12.1
  6. Ecclesiastes 1:17 Or a feeding on wind. See Hos 12.1
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Ecclesiastes 1 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

The words of Kohelet the son of David, king in Yerushalayim:

Pointless! Pointless! — says Kohelet —
Utterly meaningless! Nothing matters!
What does a person gain from all his labor
at which he toils under the sun?

Generations come, generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, the sun sets;
then it speeds to its place and rises there.
The wind blows south,
then it turns north;
the wind blows all around
and keeps returning to its rounds.
All the rivers flow to the sea,
yet the sea is not full;
to the place where the rivers flow,
there they keep on flowing.

Everything is wearisome,
more than one can express;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
the ear not filled up with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new
under the sun.
10 Is there something of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It existed already in the ages before us.
11 No one remembers the people of long ago;
and those to come will not be remembered
by those who come after them.

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;
what is not there can’t be counted.

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;
the more knowledge, the more suffering.

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved.

Ecclesiastes 1 The Message (MSG)

The Quester

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.]
    There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke.
What’s there to show for a lifetime of work,
    a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives,
    but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old
        planet earth.
The sun comes up and the sun goes down,
    then does it again, and again—the same old round.
The wind blows south, the wind blows north.
    Around and around and around it blows,
    blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind.
All the rivers flow into the sea,
    but the sea never fills up.
The rivers keep flowing to the same old place,
    and then start all over and do it again.
Everything’s boring, utterly boring—
    no one can find any meaning in it.
Boring to the eye,
    boring to the ear.
What was will be again,
    what happened will happen again.
There’s nothing new on this earth.
    Year after year it’s the same old thing.
Does someone call out, “Hey, this is new”?
    Don’t get excited—it’s the same old story.
Nobody remembers what happened yesterday.
    And the things that will happen tomorrow?
Nobody’ll remember them either.
    Don’t count on being remembered.

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,
A minus that won’t add up.

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.
The more you know, the more you hurt.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

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