1 These are the words of the teacher,[a] the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 Teacher: Life is fleeting, like a passing mist.
It is like trying to catch hold of a breath;
All vanishes like a vapor; everything is a great vanity.
3 What good does it do anyone to work so hard again and again,
sun up to sundown? All his labor to gain but a little?
4 One generation comes, another goes;
but the earth continues to remain.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
laboring to come up quickly to its place again and again.
6 The wind in its travels blows toward the south,
then swings back around to the north.
Back and forth,
returning in its circuit again and again.
7 All rivers flow to the sea,
but the sea is never full.
To the place where the rivers flow,
there the water returns to flow once again.
8 Words, words, words! So many words! They are wearisome things;
and yet people cannot refrain from speaking.
No eye has ever surveyed the world and said, “I have seen enough”;
no ear has ever listened to creation and said, “I have heard enough.”
9 What has been, that will be;
what has been done, that will be done.
Nothing is new under the sun;
the future only repeats the past.
10 One person may say of some idea,
“Pay attention to this; it’s original!”
But that same idea has already been expressed;
it’s been with us through the ages.
11 We do not remember those people and events of long ago,
as future generations will not remember what is yet to come.
12 I, the teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I decided to seek out and study the wisdom of the ages, of all that had been done under the heavens. I soon discovered the harsh realities of the work God has given us that keeps us so busy. 14 I have witnessed all that is done under the sun, and indeed, all is fleeting, like trying to embrace the wind. 15 There is an old saying:
Something crooked cannot be made straight,
and something missing cannot be counted.
16 I mused over it all and thought to myself, “I have done great things, and I have gained more wisdom than anyone who reigned over Jerusalem before me. I have contemplated great wisdom and knowledge.” 17 I decided to study wisdom and instead acquainted myself with madness and folly. It, too, seemed like trying to pursue the wind, 18 for as my wisdom increased, so did my vexation. As my knowledge grew, so did my pain.
- 1:1 Hebrew, Qoheleth, one who gathers