Ecclesiastes 1-4 Bible in Basic English

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All Is Vanity

1 1  The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2  All is to no purpose, said the Preacher, all the ways of man are to no purpose. 3  What is a man profited by all his work which he does under the sun?

4  One generation goes and another comes; but the earth is for ever. 5  The sun comes up and the sun goes down, and goes quickly back to the place where he came up. 6  The wind goes to the south, turning back again to the north; circling round for ever. 7  All the rivers go down to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the rivers go, there they go again. 8  All things are full of weariness; man may not give their story: the eye has never enough of its seeing, or the ear of its hearing.

9  That which has been, is that which is to be, and that which has been done, is that which will be done, and there is no new thing under the sun. 10  Is there anything of which men say, See, this is new? It has been in the old time which was before us. 11  There is no memory of those who have gone before, and of those who come after there will be no memory for those who are still to come after them.

The Experience of the Preacher

12  I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13  And I gave my heart to searching out in wisdom all things which are done under heaven: it is a hard thing which God has put on the sons of men to do. 14  I have seen all the works which are done under the sun; all is to no purpose, and desire for wind. 15  That which is bent may not be made straight, and that which is not there may not be numbered. 16  I said to my heart, See, I have become great and am increased in wisdom more than any who were before me in Jerusalem—yes, my heart has seen much wisdom and knowledge. 17  And I gave my heart to getting knowledge of wisdom, and of the ways of the foolish. And I saw that this again was desire for wind. 18  Because in much wisdom is much grief, and increase of knowledge is increase of sorrow.

2 1  I said in my heart, I will give you joy for a test; so take your pleasure—but it was to no purpose. 2  Of laughing I said, It is foolish; and of joy—What use is it? 3  I made a search with my heart to give pleasure to my flesh with wine, still guiding my heart with wisdom, and to go after foolish things, so that I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under the heavens all the days of their life. 4  I undertook great works, building myself houses and planting vine-gardens. 5  I made myself gardens and fruit gardens, planting in them fruit-trees of all sorts. 6  I made pools to give water for the woods with their young trees. 7  I got men-servants and women-servants, and they gave birth to sons and daughters in my house. I had great wealth of herds and flocks, more than all who were in Jerusalem before me. 8  I got together silver and gold and the wealth of kings and of countries. I got makers of song, male and female; and the delights of the sons of men—girls of all sorts to be my brides. 9  And I became great; increasing more than all who had been before me in Jerusalem, and my wisdom was still with me. 10  And nothing which was desired by my eyes did I keep from them; I did not keep any joy from my heart, because my heart took pleasure in all my work, and this was my reward. 11  Then I saw all the works which my hands had made, and everything I had been working to do; and I saw that all was to no purpose and desire for wind, and there was no profit under the sun.

12  And I went again in search of wisdom and of foolish ways. What may the man do who comes after the king? The thing which he has done before. 13  Then I saw that wisdom is better than foolish ways—as the light is better than the dark. 14  The wise man's eyes are in his head, but the foolish man goes walking in the dark; but still I saw that the same event comes to them all. 15  Then said I in my heart: As it comes to the foolish man, so will it come to me; so why have I been wise overmuch? Then I said in my heart: This again is to no purpose. 16  Of the wise man, as of the foolish man, there is no memory for ever, seeing that those who now are will have gone from memory in the days to come. See how death comes to the wise as to the foolish!

17  So I was hating life, because everything under the sun was evil to me: all is to no purpose and desire for wind. 18  Hate had I for all my work which I had done, because the man who comes after me will have its fruits. 19  And who is to say if that man will be wise or foolish? But he will have power over all my work which I have done and in which I have been wise under the sun. This again is to no purpose. 20  So my mind was turned to grief for all the trouble I had taken and all my wisdom under the sun. 21  Because there is a man whose work has been done with wisdom, with knowledge, and with an expert hand; but one who has done nothing for it will have it for his heritage. This again is to no purpose and a great evil. 22  What does a man get for all his work, and for the weight of care with which he has done his work under the sun? 23  All his days are sorrow, and his work is full of grief. Even in the night his heart has no rest. This again is to no purpose. 24  There is nothing better for a man than taking meat and drink, and having delight in his work. This again I saw was from the hand of God. 25  Who may take food or have pleasure without him? 26  To the man with whom he is pleased, God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of getting goods together and storing up wealth, to give to him in whom God has pleasure. This again is to no purpose and desire for wind.

A Time for Everything

3 1  For everything there is a fixed time, and a time for every business under the sun. 2  A time for birth and a time for death; a time for planting and a time for uprooting; 3  A time to put to death and a time to make well; a time for pulling down and a time for building up; 4  A time for weeping and a time for laughing; a time for sorrow and a time for dancing; 5  A time to take stones away and a time to get stones together; a time for kissing and a time to keep from kissing; 6  A time for search and a time for loss; a time to keep and a time to give away; 7  A time for undoing and a time for stitching; a time for keeping quiet and a time for talk; 8  A time for love and a time for hate; a time for war and a time for peace. 9  What profit has the worker in the work which he does? 10  I saw the work which God has put on the sons of man.

11  He has made everything right in its time; but he has made their hearts without knowledge, so that man is unable to see the works of God, from the first to the last. 12  I am certain that there is nothing better for a man than to be glad, and to do good while life is in him. 13  And for every man to take food and drink, and have joy in all his work, is a reward from God. 14  I am certain that whatever God does will be for ever. No addition may be made to it, nothing may be taken from it; and God has done it so that man may be in fear before him. 15  Whatever is has been before, and what is to be is now; because God makes search for the things which are past.

The Injustice of Life

16  And again, I saw under the sun, in the place of the judges, that evil was there; and in the place of righteousness, that evil was there. 17  I said in my heart, God will be judge of the good and of the bad; because a time for every purpose and for every work has been fixed by him. 18  I said in my heart, It is because of the sons of men, so that God may put them to the test and that they may see themselves as beasts. 19  Because the fate of the sons of men and the fate of the beasts is the same. As is the death of one so is the death of the other, and all have one spirit. Man is not higher than the beasts; because all is to no purpose. 20  All go to one place, all are of the dust, and all will be turned to dust again. 21  Who is certain that the spirit of the sons of men goes up to heaven, or that the spirit of the beasts goes down to the earth? 22  So I saw that there is nothing better than for a man to have joy in his work—because that is his reward. Who will make him see what will come after him?

4 1  And again I saw all the cruel things which are done under the sun; there was the weeping of those who have evil done to them, and they had no comforter: and from the hands of the evil-doers there went out power, but they had no comforter. 2  So my praise was for the dead who have gone to their death, more than for the living who still have life. 3  Yes, happier than the dead or the living seemed he who has not ever been, who has not seen the evil which is done under the sun.

4  And I saw that the cause of all the work and of everything which is done well was man's envy of his neighbour. This again is to no purpose and a desire for wind. 5  The foolish man, folding his hands, takes the flesh of his body for food. 6  One hand full of rest is better than two hands full of trouble and desire for wind.

7  Then I came back, and I saw an example of what is to no purpose under the sun. 8  It is one who is by himself, without a second, and without son or brother; but there is no end to all his work, and he has never enough of wealth. For whom, then, am I working and keeping myself from pleasure? This again is to no purpose, and a bitter work. 9  Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their work. 10  And if one has a fall, the other will give him a hand; but unhappy is the man who is by himself, because he has no helper. 11  So again, if two are sleeping together they are warm, but how may one be warm by himself? 12  And two attacked by one would be safe, and three cords twisted together are not quickly broken.

13  A young man who is poor and wise is better than a king who is old and foolish and will not be guided by the wisdom of others. 14  Because out of a prison the young man comes to be king, though by birth he was only a poor man in the kingdom. 15  I saw all the living under the sun round the young man who was to be ruler in place of the king. 16  There was no end of all the people, of all those whose head he was, but they who come later will have no delight in him. This again is to no purpose and desire for wind. 17  Put your feet down with care when you go to the house of God, for it is better to give ear than to make the burned offerings of the foolish, whose knowledge is only of doing evil.

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