Ecclesiastes 7-12 New International Version

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.

9 So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God's hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them. 2  All share a common destiny-the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad,[6] the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. As it is with the good, so with the sinful; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them. 3  This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.

4  Anyone who is among the living has hope[7] -even a live dog is better off than a dead lion! 5  For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten. 6  Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun. 7  Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. 8  Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. 9  Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun-all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. 10  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

11  I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. 12  Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.

13  I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me: 14  There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it. 15  Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. 16  So I said, "Wisdom is better than strength." But the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded. 17  The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools. 18  Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.

The Excellence of Wisdom

10 As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. 2  The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left. 3  Even as fools walk along the road, they lack sense and show everyone how stupid they are.

4  If a ruler's anger rises against you, do not leave your post; calmness can lay great offenses to rest. 5  There is an evil I have seen under the sun, the sort of error that arises from a ruler: 6  Fools are put in many high positions, while the rich occupy the low ones. 7  I have seen slaves on horseback, while princes go on foot like slaves. 8  Whoever digs a pit may fall into it; whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake. 9  Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them; whoever splits logs may be endangered by them. 10  If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success. 11  If a snake bites before it is charmed, the charmer receives no fee.

12  Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. 13  At the beginning their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness- 14  and fools multiply words. No one knows what is coming- who can tell someone else what will happen after them? 15  The toil of fools wearies them; they do not know the way to town.

16  Woe to the land whose king was a servant[8]and whose princes feast in the morning. 17  Blessed is the land whose king is of noble birth and whose princes eat at a proper time- for strength and not for drunkenness. 18  Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks. 19  A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything. 20  Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.

11 Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return. 2  Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land. 3  If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie. 4  Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. 5  As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed[9] in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. 6  Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.

7  Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. 8  However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all. But let them remember the days of darkness, for there will be many. Everything to come is meaningless.

Advice to the Young

9  You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. 10  So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless.

12 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"- 2  before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; 3  when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; 4  when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; 5  when people are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags itself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets. 6  Remember him-before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well, 7  and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

8  "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher.[10]"Everything is meaningless!"

The Whole Duty of Man

9  Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. 10  The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. 11  The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails-given by one shepherd.[11] 12  Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

13  Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. 14  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

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"

[6] 9:2 Septuagint (Aquila), Vulgate and Syriac; Hebrew does not have "and the bad."

[7] 9:4 Or "What then is to be chosen? With all who live, there is hope"

[8] 10:16 Or "king is a child"

[9] 11:5 Or "know how life" (or "the spirit" ) / "enters the body being formed"

[10] 12:8 Or "the leader of the assembly" ; also in verses 9 and 10

[11] 12:11 Or "Shepherd"

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