Ecclesiastes 5-8 New International Version

The Folly of Rash Vows

5 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. 2  Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. 3  A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool.

4  When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5  It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. 6  Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, "My vow was a mistake." Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7  Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.

The Vanity of Life

8  If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still.

9  The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields. 10  Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. 11  As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them? 12  The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep. 13  I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, 14  or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit. 15  Everyone comes naked from their mother's womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. 16  This too is a grievous evil: As everyone comes, so they depart, and what do they gain, since they toil for the wind? 17  All their days they eat in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.

18  This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them-for this is their lot. 19  Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil-this is a gift of God. 20  They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

6 I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: 2  God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil. 3  A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4  It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded. 5  Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man- 6  even if he lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity. Do not all go to the same place?

7  Everyone's toil is for their mouth, yet their appetite is never satisfied. 8  What advantage have the wise over fools? What do the poor gain by knowing how to conduct themselves before others? 9  Better what the eye sees than the roving of the appetite. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 10  Whatever exists has already been named, and what humanity is has been known; no one can contend with someone who is stronger.

11  The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone? 12  For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone?

Wisdom and Folly Compared

7 A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. 2  It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. 3  Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. 4  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure. 5  It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools. 6  Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless.

7  Extortion turns a wise person into a fool, and a bribe corrupts the heart. 8  The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. 9  Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. 10  Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions.

11  Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. 12  Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it. 13  Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? 14  When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. 15  In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: the righteous perishing in their righteousness, and the wicked living long in their wickedness. 16  Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise- why destroy yourself? 17  Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool- why die before your time? 18  It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.[1] 19  Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful than ten rulers in a city. 20  Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins. 21  Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you- 22  for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.

23  All this I tested by wisdom and I said, "I am determined to be wise"- but this was beyond me. 24  Whatever exists is far off and most profound- who can discover it? 25  So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly. 26  I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare. 27  "Look," says the Teacher,[2] "this is what I have discovered: "Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things- 28  while I was still searching but not finding- I found one upright man among a thousand, but not one upright woman among them all. 29  This only have I found: God created mankind upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes."

8 Who is like the wise? Who knows the explanation of things? A person's wisdom brightens their face and changes its hard appearance. 2  Obey the king's command, I say, because you took an oath before God. 3  Do not be in a hurry to leave the king's presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. 4  Since a king's word is supreme, who can say to him, "What are you doing?" 5  Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.

6  For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a person may be weighed down by misery. 7  Since no one knows the future, who can tell someone else what is to come? 8  As no one has power over the wind to contain it, so[3] no one has power over the time of their death. As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it.

9  All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun. There is a time when a man lords it over others to his own[4] hurt.

The Inequalities of Life

10  Then too, I saw the wicked buried-those who used to come and go from the holy place and receive praise[5] in the city where they did this. This too is meaningless. 11  When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people's hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong. 12  Although a wicked person who commits a hundred crimes may live a long time, I know that it will go better with those who fear God, who are reverent before him. 13  Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow.

14  There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15  So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun. 16  When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth-people getting no sleep day or night- 17  then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.

Footnotes

[1] 7:18 Or "will follow them both"

[2] 7:27 Or "the leader of the assembly"

[3] 8:8 Or "over the human spirit to retain it," / "and so"

[4] 8:9 Or "to their"

[5] 8:10 Some Hebrew manuscripts and Septuagint (Aquila); most Hebrew manuscripts "and are forgotten"

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