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Ecclesiastes 10-12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Miscellaneous Observations

10 Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a foul odor;
    so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
The heart of the wise inclines to the right,
    but the heart of a fool to the left.
Even when fools walk on the road, they lack sense,
    and show to everyone that they are fools.
If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your post,
    for calmness will undo great offenses.

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as great an error as if it proceeded from the ruler: folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. I have seen slaves on horseback, and princes walking on foot like slaves.

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;
    and whoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a snake.
Whoever quarries stones will be hurt by them;
    and whoever splits logs will be endangered by them.
10 If the iron is blunt, and one does not whet the edge,
    then more strength must be exerted;
    but wisdom helps one to succeed.
11 If the snake bites before it is charmed,
    there is no advantage in a charmer.

12 Words spoken by the wise bring them favor,
    but the lips of fools consume them.
13 The words of their mouths begin in foolishness,
    and their talk ends in wicked madness;
14 yet fools talk on and on.
    No one knows what is to happen,
    and who can tell anyone what the future holds?
15 The toil of fools wears them out,
    for they do not even know the way to town.

16 Alas for you, O land, when your king is a servant,[a]
    and your princes feast in the morning!
17 Happy are you, O land, when your king is a nobleman,
    and your princes feast at the proper time—
    for strength, and not for drunkenness!
18 Through sloth the roof sinks in,
    and through indolence the house leaks.
19 Feasts are made for laughter;
    wine gladdens life,
    and money meets every need.
20 Do not curse the king, even in your thoughts,
    or curse the rich, even in your bedroom;
for a bird of the air may carry your voice,
    or some winged creature tell the matter.

The Value of Diligence

11 Send out your bread upon the waters,
    for after many days you will get it back.
Divide your means seven ways, or even eight,
    for you do not know what disaster may happen on earth.
When clouds are full,
    they empty rain on the earth;
whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
    in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
Whoever observes the wind will not sow;
    and whoever regards the clouds will not reap.

Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother’s womb, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything.

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hands be idle; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

Youth and Old Age

Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.

Even those who live many years should rejoice in them all; yet let them remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.

Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

10 Banish anxiety from your mind, and put away pain from your body; for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

12 Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return with[b] the rain; in the day when the guards of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the women who grind cease working because they are few, and those who look through the windows see dimly; when the doors on the street are shut, and the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low; when one is afraid of heights, and terrors are in the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along[c] and desire fails; because all must go to their eternal home, and the mourners will go about the streets; before the silver cord is snapped,[d] and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath[e] returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher;[f] all is vanity.

Epilogue

Besides being wise, the Teacher[g] also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs. 10 The Teacher[h] sought to find pleasing words, and he wrote words of truth plainly.

11 The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings that are given by one shepherd.[i] 12 Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including[j] every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 10:16 Or a child
  2. Ecclesiastes 12:2 Or after; Heb ‘ahar
  3. Ecclesiastes 12:5 Or is a burden
  4. Ecclesiastes 12:6 Syr Vg Compare Gk: Heb is removed
  5. Ecclesiastes 12:7 Or the spirit
  6. Ecclesiastes 12:8 Qoheleth, traditionally rendered Preacher
  7. Ecclesiastes 12:9 Qoheleth, traditionally rendered Preacher
  8. Ecclesiastes 12:10 Qoheleth, traditionally rendered Preacher
  9. Ecclesiastes 12:11 Meaning of Heb uncertain
  10. Ecclesiastes 12:14 Or into the judgment on
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.

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