Ecclesiastes 2 New English Translation (NET Bible)
Futility of Self-Indulgent Pleasure
2 I thought to myself,
“Come now, I will try self-indulgent pleasure to see if it is worthwhile.”
But I found that it also is futile.
2 I said of partying, “It is folly,”
and of self-indulgent pleasure, “It accomplishes nothing!”
3 I thought deeply about the effects of indulging myself with wine
(all the while my mind was guiding me with wisdom)
and the effects of behaving foolishly,
so that I might discover what is profitable
for people to do on earth during the few days of their lives.
Futility of Materialism
4 I increased my possessions:
I built houses for myself;
I planted vineyards for myself.
5 I designed royal gardens and parks for myself,
and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.
6 I constructed pools of water for myself,
to irrigate my grove of flourishing trees.
7 I purchased male and female slaves,
and I owned slaves who were born in my house;
I also possessed more livestock—both herds and flocks—
than any of my predecessors in Jerusalem.
8 I also amassed silver and gold for myself,
as well as valuable treasures taken from kingdoms and provinces.
I acquired male singers and female singers for myself,
and what gives a man sensual delight—a harem of beautiful concubines!
9 So I was far wealthier than all my predecessors in Jerusalem,
yet I maintained my objectivity:
10 I did not restrain myself from getting whatever I wanted;
I did not deny myself anything that would bring me pleasure.
So all my accomplishments gave me joy;
this was my reward for all my effort.
11 Yet when I reflected on everything I had accomplished
and on all the effort that I had expended to accomplish it,
I concluded: “All these achievements and possessions are ultimately profitless—
like chasing the wind!
There is nothing gained from them on earth.”
Wisdom is Better than Folly
12 Next, I decided to consider wisdom, as well as foolish behavior and ideas.
For what more can the king’s successor do than what the king has already done?
13 I realized that wisdom is preferable to folly,
just as light is preferable to darkness:
14 The wise man can see where he is going, but the fool walks in darkness.
Yet I also realized that the same fate happens to them both.
15 So I thought to myself, “The fate of the fool will happen even to me!
Then what did I gain by becoming so excessively wise?”
So I lamented to myself,
“The benefits of wisdom are ultimately meaningless!”
16 For the wise man, like the fool, will not be remembered for very long,
because in the days to come, both will already have been forgotten.
Alas, the wise man dies—just like the fool!
17 So I loathed life because what
happens on earth seems awful to me;
for all the benefits of wisdom are futile—like chasing the wind.
Futility of Being a Workaholic
18 So I loathed all the fruit of my effort,
for which I worked so hard on earth,
because I must leave it behind in the hands of my successor.
19 Who knows if he will be a wise man or a fool?
Yet he will be master over all the fruit of my labor
for which I worked so wisely on earth!
This also is futile!
20 So I began to despair about all the fruit of my labor
for which I worked so hard on earth.
21 For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge, and skill;
however, he must hand over the fruit of his labor as an inheritance
to someone else who did not work for it.
This also is futile, and an awful injustice!
Painful Days and Restless Nights
22 What does a man acquire from all his labor
and from the anxiety that accompanies his toil on earth?
23 For all day long his work produces pain and frustration,
and even at night his mind cannot relax!
This also is futile!
Enjoy Work and its Benefits
24 There is nothing better for people than to eat and drink,
and to find enjoyment in their work.
I also perceived that this ability to find enjoyment comes from God.
25 For no one can eat and drink
or experience joy apart from him.
26 For to the one who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy,
but to the sinner, he gives the task of amassing wealth—
only to give it to the one who pleases God.
This task of the wicked is futile—like chasing the wind!