Ecclesiastes 3-4 Common English Bible (CEB)
A season for everything
3 There’s a season for everything
9 What do workers gain from all their hard work? 10 I have observed the task that God has given human beings. 11 God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end.
12 I know that there’s nothing better for them but to enjoy themselves and do what’s good while they live. 13 Moreover, this is the gift of God: that all people should eat, drink, and enjoy the results of their hard work. 14 I know that whatever God does will last forever; it’s impossible to add to it or take away from it. God has done this so that people are reverent before him.[a] 15 Whatever happens has already happened, and whatever will happen has already happened before. And God looks after what is driven away.[b]
Enjoy what you do now
16 I saw something else under the sun: in the place of justice, there was wickedness; and in the place of what was right, there was wickedness again! 17 I thought to myself, God will judge both righteous and wicked people, because there’s a time for every matter and every deed. 18 I also thought, Where human beings are concerned, God tests them to show them that they are but animals 19 because human beings and animals share the same fate. One dies just like the other—both have the same life-breath. Humans are no better off than animals because everything is pointless.
20 All go to the same place:
21 Who knows if a human being’s life-breath rises upward while an animal’s life-breath descends into the earth? 22 So I perceived that there was nothing better for human beings but to enjoy what they do because that’s what they’re allotted in life. Who, really, is able to see what will happen in the future?
Death is better than oppression
4 When I next observed all the oppressions that take place under the sun, I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no one to comfort them. Their oppressors wield power—but they have no one to comfort them. 2 So I declare that the dead, who have already died, are more fortunate than the living, who are still alive. 3 But happier than both are those who have never existed, who haven’t witnessed the terrible things that happen under the sun.
Envy and loneliness
4 I also observed that people work hard and become good at what they do only out of mutual envy. This too is pointless, just wind chasing.
5 Fools fold their hands and eat their own flesh.
7 Next, I saw under the sun something else that was pointless: 8 There are people who are utterly alone, with no companions, not even a child or a sibling. Yet they work hard without end, never satisfied with their wealth. So for whom am I working so hard and depriving myself of enjoyment? This too is pointless and a terrible obsession.
9 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their hard work. 10 If either should fall, one can pick up the other. But how miserable are those who fall and don’t have a companion to help them up! 11 Also, if two lie down together, they can stay warm. But how can anyone stay warm alone? 12 Also, one can be overpowered, but two together can put up resistance. A three-ply cord doesn’t easily snap.
13 A poor but wise youth is better than an old and foolish king, who no longer listens to advice. 14 He emerged from prison to become king, even though during his rule a poor child[c] is born. 15 I saw all who live and walk under the sun following the next youth who would rise to take his place. 16 There was no counting the number of people he ruled, but those who came later aren’t happy with him. This too is pointless and a chasing after wind.