7 Teacher: A good name is worth more than the finest perfume,
and the day you die is better than the day you were born.
2 In the same way, it is better to go to a funeral
than a celebration.
Why? because death is the end of life’s journey,
and the living should always take that to heart.
3 Sorrow beats foolish laughter;
embracing sadness somehow gladdens our hearts.
4 A wise heart is well acquainted with grief,
but a foolish heart seeks only pleasure’s company.
5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise
than a song written by fools,
6 For the laughter of fools is like
the hiss and crackle of burning thorns beneath a pot.
This, too, is fleeting.
7 Oppression can turn the wise into fools,
and a bribe can damage the noblest heart.
8 Having the last word is better than having the first,
and patience will benefit you more than pride.
9 Do not be quick to anger,
for anger sits comfortably in the lap of fools.
10 Do not ask, “Where have all the good times gone?”
Wisdom knows better than to ask such a thing.
11 It is good to have wisdom along with an inheritance;
they give a clear advantage to those who see the sun.
12 For together wisdom and money are alike in this:
both offer protection from life’s misfortunes,
But the real advantage of knowledge is this:
wisdom alone preserves the lives of those who have it.
13 Think for a moment about the work of God.
Can anyone make straight what God has made crooked?
Often wisdom invites us to ponder great questions. The question, “Can anyone make straight what God has made crooked?” echoes the words of 1:15—“Something crooked cannot be made straight.” Only God can determine what is and what is not. God makes our paths crooked or straight. And we often do not understand why one person’s way is straight and another’s is crooked. The message of the teacher is simple: reverence God regardless of the path you have been given to walk.
14 Teacher: When times are good,
enjoy them and be happy.
When times are bad,
think about this:
God makes both good and bad times,
so that no one really knows what is coming next.
15 In the fleeting time I have lived on this earth, I have seen just about everything: the good dying in their goodness and the wicked living to a ripe old age. 16 So my advice? Do not act overly righteous, and do not think yourself wiser than others. Why go and ruin yourself? 17 But do not be too wicked or foolish either. Why die before it’s your time? 18 Grasp both sides of things and keep the two in balance; for anyone who fears God won’t give in to the extremes.[a]
After each act of creation in Genesis 1, “God saw that His new creation was beautiful and good.” When creation is nearly complete, God not only declares it “good” but is described as “savoring its beauty and appreciating its goodness” (Genesis 1:31). In the creation account recorded in Genesis 2, God places the tree of the knowledge of “good and evil” in the garden and commands the first couple not to eat of the tree. But that is precisely what they do; and in the act of eating, they gain knowledge of good and knowledge of what the absence of good brings. Adam and Eve’s children live with this dichotomy. For example, when Cain is distressed over God’s choice of Abel’s offering over his, God says to Cain, “Don’t you know that as long as you do what is right, then I accept you? But if you do not do what is right, watch out, because sin is crouching at the door, ready to pounce on you!” (Genesis 4:7). The temptation to scheme—that is, to do the “evil” rather than the “good”—begins with the first human pair; the teacher of Ecclesiastes reminds his readers that the same temptation still exists.
19 Wisdom is more powerful to a wise person than 10 rulers in a city.
20 There is not a righteous person on earth who always does good and never sins.
21 Don’t take to heart all that people say;
eventually you may hear your servant curse you.
22 And face it, your heart has overheard how often you’ve cursed others.
23 I have tested all of these sayings against wisdom. I promised myself, “I will become wise,” but wisdom kept its distance. 24 True wisdom remains elusive; its profound mysteries are remote. Who can discover it?
25 So I turned and dedicated my heart to knowing more, to digging deeper, to searching harder for wisdom and the reasons things are as they are. I applied myself to understanding the connection between wickedness and folly, between folly and madness. 26 Along this journey, I discovered something more bitter than death—a seductive woman. Her heart is a trap and net. Her hands shackle your wrists. Those who seek to please God will escape her clutches, but sinners will be caught in her trap. 27 Look at this! After investigating the matter thoroughly to find out why things are as they are, 28 I realize that although I kept on searching, I have not found what I am looking for. Only one man in a thousand have I found, but I could not find a single woman among all of these who knows this. 29 Here is what I have figured out: God made humanity for good, but we humans go out and scheme our way into trouble.
- 7:18 Meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.