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Reflections of a Royal Philosopher

The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.(A)

Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.(B)
What do people gain from all the toil
    at which they toil under the sun?(C)
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.(D)
The sun rises, and the sun goes down
    and hurries to the place where it rises.(E)
The wind blows to the south
    and goes around to the north;
round and round goes the wind,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.(F)
All streams run to the sea,
    but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
    there they continue to flow.
All things[a] are wearisome,
    more than one can express;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing
    or the ear filled with hearing.(G)
What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done;
    there is nothing new under the sun.(H)
10 Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has already been
    in the ages before us.
11 The people of long ago are not remembered,
    nor will there be any remembrance
of people yet to come
    by those who come after them.

The Futility of Seeking Wisdom

12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to humans to be busy with.(I) 14 I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun, and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.(J)

15 What is crooked cannot be made straight,
    and what is lacking cannot be counted.(K)

16 I said to myself, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my mind has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.”(L) 17 And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.(M)

18 For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.(N)

The Futility of Self-Indulgence

I said to myself, “Come now, I will make a test of pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But again, this also was vanity.(O) I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?”(P) I searched with my mind how to cheer my body with wine—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, until I might see what was good for mortals to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works; I built houses and planted vineyards for myself;(Q) I made myself gardens and parks and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees.(R) I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had slaves who were born in my house; I also had great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and of the provinces; I got singers, both men and women, and delights of the flesh, many concubines.[b](S)

So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me.(T) 10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure from all my toil, and this was my reward from all my toil.(U) 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.(V)

Wisdom and Joy Given to One Who Pleases God

12 So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly, for what can the king’s successor do? Only what has already been done.(W) 13 Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.

14 The wise have eyes in their head,
    but fools walk in darkness.

Yet I perceived that the same fate befalls all of them.(X) 15 Then I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also; why then have I been so very wise?” And I said to myself that this also is vanity.(Y) 16 For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How can the wise die just like fools? 17 So I hated life because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a chasing after wind.(Z)

18 I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to my successor,(AA) 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or foolish? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun,(AB) 21 because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.(AC) 22 What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun?(AD) 23 For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.(AE)

24 There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,(AF) 25 for apart from him[c] who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.(AG)

Everything Has Its Time

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:(AH)

a time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted;(AI)
a time to kill and a time to heal;
a time to break down and a time to build up;
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;(AJ)
a time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;(AK)
a time to seek and a time to lose;
a time to keep and a time to throw away;
a time to tear and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent and a time to speak;(AL)
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.(AM)

The God-Given Task

What gain have the workers from their toil?(AN) 10 I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.(AO) 11 He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.(AP) 12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13 moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. 14 I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it nor anything taken from it; God has done this so that all should stand in awe before him.(AQ) 15 That which is already has been, that which is to be already is, and God seeks out what has gone by.[d](AR)

Judgment and the Future Belong to God

16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that, in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. 17 I said to myself, “God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter and for every work.”(AS) 18 I said to myself with regard to humans that God is testing[e] them to show that they are but animals.(AT) 19 For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals, for all is vanity.(AU) 20 All go to one place, all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again.(AV) 21 Who knows whether the human spirit goes upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth?(AW) 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them?(AX)


  1. 1.8 Or words
  2. 2.8 Meaning of Heb uncertain
  3. 2.25 Gk Syr: Heb apart from me
  4. 3.15 Heb what is pursued
  5. 3.18 Meaning of Heb uncertain

Paul’s Sufferings as an Apostle

16 I repeat, let no one think that I am a fool, but if you do, then accept me as a fool, so that I, too, may boast a little. 17 What I am saying in regard to this boastful undertaking, I am saying not with the Lord’s authority but as a fool;(A) 18 since many boast according to human standards,[a] I will also boast. 19 For you gladly put up with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you put up with it when someone makes slaves of you or preys upon you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or gives you a slap in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

But whatever anyone dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that.(B) 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.(C) 23 Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death.(D) 24 Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.(E) 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea;(F) 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters;(G) 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food,[b] cold and naked.(H) 28 And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant?(I)

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.(J) 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus (blessed be he forever!) knows that I do not lie.(K) 32 In Damascus, the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to[c] seize me,(L) 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall[d] and escaped from his hands.

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  1. 11.18 Gk according to the flesh
  2. 11.27 Gk with frequent fasting
  3. 11.32 Other ancient authorities read and wanted to
  4. 11.33 Gk through the wall