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Ecclesiastes 1-2 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

Everything is Futile

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

“Absolute futility,” says the Teacher.
“Absolute futility. Everything is futile.”
What does a man gain for all his efforts
that he labors at under the sun?
A generation goes and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets;
panting, it returns to its place
where it rises.
Gusting to the south,
turning to the north,
turning, turning, goes the wind,
and the wind returns in its cycles.
All the streams flow to the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
The streams are flowing to the place,
and they flow there again.
All things[b] are wearisome;
man is unable to speak.
The eye is not satisfied by 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 Can one say about anything,
“Look, this is new”?
It has already existed in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of those who[c] came before;
and of those who[d] will come after
there will also be no remembrance
by those who follow them.

The Limitations of Wisdom

12 I, the Teacher, have been[e] king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to seek and explore through wisdom all that is done under heaven. God has given people this miserable task to keep them occupied. 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun and have found everything to be futile, a pursuit of the wind.[f]

15 What is crooked cannot be straightened;
what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said to myself,[g] “Look, I have amassed wisdom far beyond all those who were over Jerusalem before me, and my mind has thoroughly grasped[h] wisdom and knowledge.” 17 I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly; I learned that this too is a pursuit of the wind.[i]

18 For with much wisdom is much sorrow;
as knowledge increases, grief increases.

The Emptiness of Pleasure

I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy what is good.” But it turned out to be futile. I said about laughter, “It is madness,” and about pleasure, “What does this accomplish?” I explored with my mind how to let my body enjoy life[j] with wine and how to grasp folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—until I could see what is good for people to do under heaven[k] during the few days of their lives.

The Emptiness of Possessions

I increased my achievements. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself and planted every kind of fruit tree in them. I constructed reservoirs of water for myself from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees. I acquired male and female servants and had slaves who were born in my house. I also owned many herds of cattle and flocks, more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. I also amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I gathered male and female singers for myself, and many concubines, the delights of men.[l][m] So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; my wisdom also remained with me. 10 All that my eyes desired, I did not deny them. I did not refuse myself any pleasure, for I took pleasure in all my struggles. This was my reward for all my struggles. 11 When I considered all that I had accomplished[n] and what I had labored to achieve, I found everything to be futile and a pursuit of the wind. There was nothing to be gained under the sun.

The Relative Value of Wisdom

12 Then I turned to consider wisdom, madness, and folly, for what will the man be like who comes after the king? He[o] will do what has already been done. 13 And I realized that there is an advantage to wisdom over folly, like the advantage of light over darkness.

14 The wise man has eyes in his head,
but the fool walks in darkness.

Yet I also knew that one fate comes to them both. 15 So I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will also happen to me. Why then have I been overly wise?” And I said to myself that this is also futile. 16 For, just like the fool, there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man, since in the days to come both will be forgotten. How is it that the wise man dies just like the fool? 17 Therefore, I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me. For everything is futile and a pursuit of the wind.

The Emptiness of Work

18 I hated all my work that I labored at under the sun because I must leave it to the man who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will take over all my work that I labored at skillfully under the sun. This too is futile. 20 So I began to give myself over[p] to despair concerning all my work that I had labored at under the sun. 21 When there is a man whose work was done with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, and he must give his portion to a man who has not worked for it, this too is futile and a great wrong. 22 For what does a man get with all his work and all his efforts that he labors at under the sun? 23 For all his days are filled with grief, and his occupation is sorrowful; even at night, his mind does not rest. This too is futile.

24 There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and enjoy[q][r] his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, 25 because who can eat and who can enjoy life[s] apart from Him?[t] 26 For to the man who is pleasing in His sight, He gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy, but to the sinner He gives the task of gathering and accumulating in order to give to the one who is pleasing in God’s sight. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 1:1 Or of Qoheleth, or of the Leader of the Assembly
  2. Ecclesiastes 1:8 Or words
  3. Ecclesiastes 1:11 Or of the things that
  4. Ecclesiastes 1:11 Or of the things that
  5. Ecclesiastes 1:12 Or Teacher, was
  6. Ecclesiastes 1:14 Or a feeding on wind, or an affliction of spirit
  7. Ecclesiastes 1:16 Lit said with my heart
  8. Ecclesiastes 1:16 Or discerned
  9. Ecclesiastes 1:17 Or a feeding on wind, or an affliction of spirit
  10. Ecclesiastes 2:3 Lit to pull my body
  11. Ecclesiastes 2:3 Two Hb mss, LXX, Syr read the sun
  12. Ecclesiastes 2:8 LXX, Theod, Syr read and male cupbearers and female cupbearers; Aq, Tg, Vg read a cup and cups; Hb obscure
  13. Ecclesiastes 2:8 Or many treasures that people delight in
  14. Ecclesiastes 2:11 Lit all my works that my hands had done
  15. Ecclesiastes 2:12 Some Hb mss read They
  16. Ecclesiastes 2:20 Lit And I turned to cause my heart
  17. Ecclesiastes 2:24 Syr, Tg; MT reads There is no good in man who eats and drinks and enjoys
  18. Ecclesiastes 2:24 Lit and his soul sees good
  19. Ecclesiastes 2:25 LXX, Theod, Syr read can drink
  20. Ecclesiastes 2:25 Some Hb mss, LXX, Syr read me

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