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Be Careful About Making Promises

Be very careful when you go to worship God. It is better to listen to God than to give sacrifices like fools. Fools often do bad things, and they don’t even know it. Be careful when you make promises to God. Be careful about what you say to him. Don’t let your feelings cause you to speak too soon. God is in heaven, and you are on the earth. So you need to say only a few things to him. This saying is true:

Bad dreams come from too many worries,
    and too many words come from the mouth of a fool.

If you make a promise to God, keep your promise. Don’t be slow to do what you promised. God is not happy with fools. Give God what you promised to give him. It is better to promise nothing than to promise something and not be able to do it. So don’t let your words cause you to sin. Don’t say to the priest,[a] “I didn’t mean what I said.” If you do this, God might become angry with your words and destroy everything you have worked for. You should not let your useless dreams and bragging bring you trouble. You should respect God.

For Every Ruler There Is a Ruler

In some country you will see poor people who are forced to work very hard. You will see that this is not fair to them. It is against their rights. But don’t be surprised! The ruler who forces them to work has another ruler who forces him. And there is still another ruler who forces both of these rulers. Even the king is a slave—his country owns him.[b]

Wealth Cannot Buy Happiness

10 Those who love money will never be satisfied with the money they have. Those who love wealth will not be satisfied when they get more and more. This is also senseless.

11 The more wealth people have, the more “friends” they have to help spend it. So the rich really gain nothing. They can only look at their wealth.

12 Those who work hard all day come home and sleep in peace. It is not important if they have little or much to eat. But the rich worry about their wealth and are not able to sleep.

13 There is a very sad thing that I have seen happen in this life.[c] People save their money for the future.[d] 14 Then something bad happens and they lose everything. So they have nothing to give to their children.

15 People come into the world with nothing. And when they die, they leave with nothing. They might work hard to get things, but they cannot take anything with them when they die. 16 It is very sad that people leave the world just as they came. So what does a person gain from “trying to catch the wind”? 17 They only get days that are filled with sadness and sorrow. In the end, they are troubled, sick, and angry.

Enjoy Your Life’s Work

18 I have seen what is best for people to do on earth: They should eat, drink, and enjoy the work they have during their short time here. God has given them these few days, and that is all they have.

19 If God gives some people wealth, property, and the power to enjoy those things, they should enjoy them. They should accept the things they have and enjoy their work—that is a gift from God. 20 People don’t have many years to live, so they must remember these things all their life. God will keep them busy with the work they love to do.[e]

Wealth Does Not Bring Happiness

I have seen another thing in this life that is not fair and is very hard to understand. God gives some people great wealth, riches, and honor. They have everything they need and everything they could ever want. But then God does not let them enjoy those things. Some stranger comes and takes everything. This is a very bad and senseless thing.

A man might live a long time and have 100 children. But if he is not satisfied with those good things, and if no one remembers him after his death, I say that a baby who dies at birth is better off than that man. It is senseless when a baby is born dead. The baby is quickly buried in a dark grave, without even a name. The baby never saw the sun and never knew anything. But the baby finds more rest than the man who never enjoyed what God gave him. He might live 2000 years. But if he does not enjoy life, then the baby who was born dead has found the easiest way to the same end.[f]

People work and work to feed themselves, but they are never satisfied. In the same way a wise person is no better than a fool is. It is better to be a poor person who knows how to accept life as it is. It is better to be happy with what you have than to always want more and more. Always wanting more and more is useless. It is like trying to catch the wind.[g]

10-11 You are only what you were created to be—a human, and it is useless to argue about it. People cannot argue with God about this because he is more powerful than they are, and a long argument will not change that fact.

12 Who knows what is best for people during their short life on earth? Their life passes like a shadow. No one can tell them what will happen later.

A Collection of Wise Teachings

A good reputation is better than expensive pleasures.[h]
    The day someone dies is better than the day they were born.
It is better to go to a funeral than to a party,
    because everyone must die,
    and the living need to remember this.

Sorrow is even better than laughter,
    because when our face is sad, our heart becomes good.
A wise person thinks about death,
    but a fool thinks only about having a good time.
It is better to be criticized by the wise
    than praised by the foolish.
The laughter of fools is such a waste.
    It is like thorns burning under a pot.
The thorns burn so quickly
    that the pot does not get hot.[i]
Even the wise will forget their wisdom,
    if someone pays them enough.
    That money destroys their understanding.
It is better to finish something
    than to start it.
It is better to be gentle and patient
    than to be proud and impatient.
Don’t become angry quickly,
    because anger is foolish.
10 Don’t say, “Life was better in the ‘good old days.’
    What happened?”
    Wisdom does not lead us to ask that question.

11 Wisdom is better if you also have property. Wise people[j] will get more than enough wealth. 12 Wisdom and money can protect you. But knowledge gained through wisdom is even better—it can save your life.

13 Look at what God has made. You cannot change a thing, even if you think it is wrong. 14 When life is good, enjoy it. But when life is hard, remember that God gives us good times and hard times. And no one knows what will happen in the future.

People Cannot Really Be Good

15 In my short life, I have seen everything. I have seen good people die young, and I have seen evil people live long lives. 16-17 So why ruin your life? Don’t be too good or too bad, and don’t be too wise or too foolish. Why should you die before your time?

18 Try to be a little of this and a little of that.[k] Even God’s followers will do some good things and some bad things. 19-20 Surely there is no one on earth who always does good and never sins. But wisdom can make one person stronger than ten leaders in a city.

21 Don’t listen to everything people say. You might hear your own servant saying bad things about you. 22 And you know that many times you too have said bad things about other people.

23 I used my wisdom and thought about all these things. I wanted to be wise, but I couldn’t do it. 24 I cannot understand why things are as they are. It is too hard for anyone to understand. 25 I studied and I tried very hard to find true wisdom. I tried to find a reason for everything.

I did learn that it is foolish to be evil, and it is crazy to act like a fool. 26 I also found that some women are dangerous like traps. Their hearts are like nets, and their arms are like chains. It is worse than death to be caught by these women. God’s followers should run away from them. Let the sinners be caught by them.

27-28 The Teacher says, “I added all this together to see what answer I could find. I am still looking for answers, but I did find this: I found one good man in a thousand. But I did not find even one good woman.

29 “There is one other thing I have learned. God made people good, but they have found many ways to be bad.”

Wisdom and Power

No one can understand and explain things the way wise people can. Their wisdom makes them happy. It changes a sad face into a happy one.

I say you should always obey the king’s command. Do this because you made a promise to God. Don’t be afraid to give suggestions to the king, and don’t support something that is wrong. But remember, the king gives the commands that please him. He has the authority to give commands, and no one can tell him what to do. People will be safe if they obey his command. But wise people know the right time to do this, and they also know when to do the right thing.

There is a right time and a right way to do everything. You must decide what you should do, even when it might cause problems and you are not sure what will happen. No one can tell you what will happen in the future.

No one has the power to keep their spirit from leaving or to stop their death. During war, no soldier has the freedom to go wherever he wants. In the same way evil does not allow anyone who does wrong to go free.

I saw all this. I thought very hard about the things that happen in this world. I saw that people always struggle for the power to rule others, and this is bad for them.

10 I also saw great and beautiful funerals for evil people. While the people were going home after the funeral services, they said good things about the evil people who had died. This happened even in the same towns where the evil people had done many bad things. This is senseless.

Justice, Rewards, and Punishment

11 Sometimes people are not immediately punished for the bad things they do. Their punishment is slow to come, and that makes other people want to do bad things too.

12 A sinner might do a hundred evil things and still live a long time. But I know that it is still better to obey and respect God. 13 Evil people don’t respect God, so they will not get good things or live long lives. Their lives will not be like the shadows that become longer and longer as the sun goes down.

14 There is something else that happens on earth that does not seem fair. Bad things should happen to bad people, and good things should happen to good people. But sometimes bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. This is not fair. 15 So I decided it was more important to enjoy life because the best thing people can do in this life[l] is to eat, drink, and enjoy life. At least that will help people enjoy the hard work God gave them to do during their life on earth.

We Cannot Understand All God Does

16 I carefully studied the things people do in this life. I saw how busy people are. They work day and night, and they almost never sleep. 17 I also saw that no one can understand all that God does. People can try and try to understand the things that happen here on earth, but they cannot. There may be wise people who claim to understand the meaning of these things, but they are wrong. No one can understand it all.


  1. Ecclesiastes 5:6 priest Or “angel” or “messenger.” This might be an angel, a priest, or a prophet.
  2. Ecclesiastes 5:9 The ruler … owns him Or “One ruler is cheated by a higher ruler. And they are cheated by an even higher ruler. Even the king gets his share of the profit. The wealth of the country is divided among them.”
  3. Ecclesiastes 5:13 in this life Literally, “under the sun.” Also in 6:1.
  4. Ecclesiastes 5:13 for the future Or “to their harm.”
  5. Ecclesiastes 5:20 God … to do Or “God will do whatever he wants to them.”
  6. Ecclesiastes 6:6 then the baby … the same end Or “Isn’t it true that all go to the same place?”
  7. Ecclesiastes 6:9 Or “Having what you can see is better than chasing after the things you want. This is also like trying to catch the wind.”
  8. Ecclesiastes 7:1 A good reputation … pleasures Literally, “better a name than good perfume.” This is a wordplay in Hebrew. The word for “name” and the word for “perfume” sound alike.
  9. Ecclesiastes 7:6 Or “The cackling of fools, like the crackling of thorns under a pot, is senseless.”
  10. Ecclesiastes 7:11 Wise people Literally, “People who see the sun.” This means wise people can see and plan what they should do.
  11. Ecclesiastes 7:18 Try … of that Or “Hold onto this, but don’t let go of that.”
  12. Ecclesiastes 8:15 in this life Literally, “under the sun.” Also in verse 16 and 9:3, 9, 11, 13.

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