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Ecclesiastes 11New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 11

[a]Send forth your bread upon the face of the waters;
    after a long time you may find it again.
Make seven, or even eight portions;
    you know not what misfortune may come upon the earth.

No One Knows What Good Will Come

[b]When the clouds are full,
    they pour out rain upon the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
    wherever it falls, there shall it lie.
One who pays heed to the wind will never sow,
    and one who watches the clouds will never reap.
Just as you do not know how the life breath
    enters the human frame in the mother’s womb,
So you do not know the work of God,
    who is working in everything.
In the morning sow your seed,
    and at evening do not let your hand be idle:
For you do not know which of the two will be successful,
    or whether both alike will turn out well.

Poem on Youth and Old Age. [c]Light is sweet! and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. However many years mortals may live, let them, as they enjoy them all, remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that is to come is vanity.

Rejoice, O youth, while you are young
    and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart,
    the vision of your eyes;
Yet understand regarding all this
    that God will bring you to judgment.
10 Banish misery from your heart
    and remove pain from your body,
    for youth and black hair are fleeting.[d]


  1. 11:1–2 These two sayings can be understood against a commercial background. They acknowledge the uncertainty and risk such activity involves. At the same time they encourage action and a spirit of adventure. The first (v. 1) speaks of trade and overseas investment: Export your grain (“bread”) to foreign markets and you may be surprised at the substantial profits. The second (v. 2) encourages diversification of investment (seven, or even eight shipments of grain) to insure against heavy losses.
  2. 11:3–6 Verses 3, 4, and 6 expand on the theme of uncertainty and human inability to assess accurately every situation. Verse 4, however, comments on the disadvantages of too much caution: Only those willing to risk will enjoy success. But only the Creator knows the mystery of the “work of God” (v. 5).
  3. 11:7–10 The concluding part of the book opens with a final bittersweet homage to life and an enthusiastic encouragement to rejoice in its gifts while they are within grasp.
  4. 11:10 Fleeting: lit., “vanity.”
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


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