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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.(A)
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.”

Invest in Many Ventures

11 Ship(A) your grain across the sea;
    after many days you may receive a return.(B)
Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
    you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.

If clouds are full of water,
    they pour rain on the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
    in the place where it falls, there it will lie.
Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
    whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.

As you do not know the path of the wind,(C)
    or how the body is formed[a] in a mother’s womb,(D)
so you cannot understand the work of God,
    the Maker of all things.

Sow your seed in the morning,
    and at evening let your hands not be idle,(E)
for you do not know which will succeed,
    whether this or that,
    or whether both will do equally well.

Remember Your Creator While Young

Light is sweet,
    and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.(F)
However many years anyone may live,
    let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember(G) the days of darkness,
    for there will be many.
    Everything to come is meaningless.

You who are young, be happy while you are young,
    and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
    and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
    God will bring you into judgment.(H)
10 So then, banish anxiety(I) from your heart
    and cast off the troubles of your body,
    for youth and vigor are meaningless.(J)


  1. Ecclesiastes 11:5 Or know how life (or the spirit) / enters the body being formed

11 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.

He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:

But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.

Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

10 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.