Ecclesiastes 7-12 Revised Standard Version

Wisdom and Folly Compared

7 1  A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death, than the day of birth. 2  It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for this is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to heart. 3  Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad. 4  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. 5  It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. 6  For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity.

7  Surely oppression makes the wise man foolish, and a bribe corrupts the mind. 8  Better is the end of a thing than its beginning; and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. 9  Be not quick to anger, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools. 10  Say not, "Why were the former days better than these?" For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

11  Wisdom is good with an inheritance, an advantage to those who see the sun. 12  For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money; and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it. 13  Consider the work of God; who can make straight what he has made crooked? 14  In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider; God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him. 15  In my vain life I have seen everything; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evil-doing. 16  Be not righteous overmuch, and do not make yourself overwise; why should you destroy yourself? 17  Be not wicked overmuch, neither be a fool; why should you die before your time? 18  It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand; for he who fears God shall come forth from them all. 19  Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers that are in a city. 20  Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. 21  Do not give heed to all the things that men say, lest you hear your servant cursing you; 22  your heart knows that many times you have yourself cursed others.

23  All this I have tested by wisdom; I said, "I will be wise"; but it was far from me. 24  That which is, is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out? 25  I turned my mind to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the sum of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness which is madness. 26  And I found more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters; he who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her. 27  Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher, adding one thing to another to find the sum, 28  which my mind has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found. 29  Behold, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many devices.

8 1  Who is like the wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man's wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his countenance is changed. 2  Keep the king's command, and because of your sacred oath be not dismayed; 3  go from his presence, do not delay when the matter is unpleasant, for he does whatever he pleases. 4  For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, "What are you doing?" 5  He who obeys a command will meet no harm, and the mind of a wise man will know the time and way.

6  For every matter has its time and way, although man's trouble lies heavy upon him. 7  For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be? 8  No man has power to retain the spirit, or authority over the day of death; there is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.

9  All this I observed while applying my mind to all that is done under the sun, while man lords it over man to his hurt.

The Inequalities of Life

10  Then I saw the wicked buried; they used to go in and out of the holy place, and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. 11  Because sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the sons of men is fully set to do evil. 12  Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him; 13  but it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.

14  There is a vanity which takes place on earth, that there are righteous men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. 15  And I commend enjoyment, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink, and enjoy himself, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of life which God gives him under the sun. 16  When I applied my mind to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night one's eyes see sleep; 17  then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out; even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.

9 1  But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God; whether it is love or hate man does not know. Everything before them is vanity, 2  since one fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good man, so is the sinner; and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. 3  This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that one fate comes to all; also the hearts of men are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

4  But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5  For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost. 6  Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and they have no more for ever any share in all that is done under the sun. 7  Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already approved what you do. 8  Let your garments be always white; let not oil be lacking on your head. 9  Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life which he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

11  Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. 12  For man does not know his time. Like fish which are taken in an evil net, and like birds which are caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.

13  I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. 14  There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. 15  But there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16  But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heeded. 17  The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. 18  Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.

The Excellence of Wisdom

10 1  Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off an evil odor; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. 2  A wise man's heart inclines him toward the right, but a fool's heart toward the left. 3  Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to every one that he is a fool.

4  If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for deference will make amends for great offenses. 5  There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as it were an error proceeding from the ruler: 6  folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. 7  I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking on foot like slaves. 8  He who digs a pit will fall into it; and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall. 9  He who quarries stones is hurt by them; and he who splits logs is endangered by them. 10  If the iron is blunt, and one does not whet the edge, he must put forth more strength; but wisdom helps one to succeed. 11  If the serpent bites before it is charmed, there is no advantage in a charmer.

12  The words of a wise man's mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him. 13  The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is wicked madness. 14  A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him? 15  The toil of a fool wearies him, so that he does not know the way to the city.

16  Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning! 17  Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of free men, and your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness! 18  Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. 19  Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything. 20  Even in your thought, do not curse the king, nor in your bedchamber curse the rich; for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter.

11 1  Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. 2  Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what evil may happen on earth. 3  If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth; and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie. 4  He who observes the wind will not sow; and he who regards the clouds will not reap. 5  As you do not know how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. 6  In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

7  Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun. 8  For if a man lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.

Advice to the Young

9  Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. 10  Remove vexation from your mind, and put away pain from your body; for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

12 1  Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when you will say, "I have no pleasure in them"; 2  before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain; 3  in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look through the windows are dimmed, 4  and the doors on the street are shut; when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the voice of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low; 5  they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along and desire fails; because man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets; 6  before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, 7  and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

8  Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

The Whole Duty of Man

9  Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging proverbs with great care. 10  The Preacher sought to find pleasing words, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. 11  The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings which are given by one Shepherd. 12  My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

13  The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. 14  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

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