The words of Kohelet, the son of David, King in Jerusalem.
Vanity of vanities, says Kohelet; vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What profit has man of all his labor wherein he labors under the sun?
One generation passes away, and another generation comes; and the earth abides forever. The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arises. The wind goes toward the south, and turns about to the north; it turns about continually in its course, and returns again to its circuits. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place where the rivers go, there they go again. All things toil to weariness; man cannot utter it, the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which shall be, and that which has been done is that which shall be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing whereof it is said: ‘See, this is new’? — it has been already, in the ages that were before us. There is no remembrance of them of former times; neither shall there be any remembrance of them of latter times that are to come, among those who come after.
I Kohelet have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven; it is a sore task that God has given to the sons of men to be exercised therewith. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. That which is crooked cannot be made straight; and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.
I spoke with my own heart, saying: ‘lo, I have gotten great wisdom, more also than any that were before me over Jerusalem’; yea, my heart has great experience of wisdom and knowledge. And I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly — I perceived that this also was a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.
I said in my heart: ‘Come now, I’ll try you with mirth, and enjoy pleasure’; and, behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter; ‘It is mad’; and of mirth: ‘What does it accomplish?’
I searched in my heart how to pamper my flesh with wine, and, my heart still conducting itself with wisdom, how yet to lay hold on folly, till I might see which it was best for the sons of men to do under the heaven for the few days of their life.
I made great works; I built myself houses; I planted myself vineyards; I made myself gardens and parks; and I planted trees in them of all kinds of fruit; I made pools of water, to water the woods springing up with trees; I acquired men-servants and maid-servants, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of herds and flocks, above all that were before me in Jerusalem; I also gathered myself silver and gold, and treasure such as kings and the provinces have as their own; I got myself men-singers and women-singers, and the delights of the sons of men, women very many.
So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom stood me in good stead. And whatever my eyes desired I kept not from them; I withheld not my heart from any joy, for my heart had joy of all my labor; and this was my portion from all my labor.
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do; and, behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was no profit under the sun.
And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness and folly; for what can the man do that comes after the king? Even that which has already been done. Then I saw that wisdom excels folly, as far as light excels darkness. The wise man, his eyes are in his head; but the fool walks in darkness. And I also perceived that one event happens to them all.
Then said I in my heart: ‘As it happens to the fool, so will it happen even to me; and why was I then more wise?’ Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. For of the wise man, even as of the fool, there is no remembrance for ever; seeing that in the days to come all will long ago have been forgotten. And how must the wise man die even as the fool! So I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a striving after wind. And I hated all my labor wherein I labored under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man that shall be after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity.
Therefore I turned about to cause my heart to despair concerning all the labor wherein I had labored under the sun. For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, and with knowledge, and with skill; yet to a man that has not labored therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil. For what has a man of all his labor, and of the striving of his heart, wherein he labors under the sun? For all his days are pains, and his occupation vexation; yea, even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity.
There is nothing better for a man to do than that he should eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy pleasure for his labor. This also I saw, that it is from the hand of god. For who will eat, or who will enjoy, if not I? For to the man that is good in his sight he gives wisdom, and knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner he gives the task to gather and to heap up, that he may leave to him that is good in the sight of god. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to reap;
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;
A time to throw stones, and a time to gather them;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.
What profit has he that works in that he labors? I have seen the task which god has given to the sons of men to be exercised therewith. He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has set the world in their heart, yet so that man cannot find out the work that god has done from the beginning even to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them, than to rejoice, and to get pleasure so long as they live. But also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy pleasure for all his labor, it is the gift of god.
I know that, whatsoever god does, it shall be forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; and god has so made it, that men should fear before him. That which is has been long ago, and that which is to be has already been; and god seeks that which is pursued.
And moreover I saw under the sun, in the place of justice, that wickedness was there; and in the place of righteousness, that wickedness was there. I said in my heart: ‘The righteous and the wicked god will judge; for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.’
I said in my heart: ‘It is because of the sons of men, that god may sift them, and that they may see that they themselves are but as beasts.’ For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even one thing befalls them; as the one dies, so dies the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that man has no pre-eminence above an animal; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are of the dust, and all return to dust. Who knows the spirit of man whether it goes upward, and the spirit of a beast whether it goes downward to the earth? Wherefore I perceived that there was nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his works; for that is his portion; for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?
But I returned and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun; and behold the tears of the oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power, but they had no comforter. Therefore I praised the dead that are already dead more than the living that are yet alive; but better than them both is he that has not yet been, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
Again, I considered all labor and all excelling in work, that it is a man’s rivalry with his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. The fool folds his hands together, and eats his own flesh. Better is a handful of quietness, than both the hands full of labor and striving after wind.
Then I returned and saw vanity under the sun. There is one who is alone, and he has not a second; yea, he has neither son nor brother; yet there is no end of all his labor, neither is his eye satisfied with riches: ‘for whom then do I labor, and bereave my soul of pleasure?’ This also is vanity, yea, it is a grievous business. Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falls, and has not another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have warmth; but how can one be warm alone? And if a man prevail against him that is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Better is a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king, who knows not how to receive admonition any more. For out of prison he came forth to be king; although in his kingdom he was born poor. I saw all the living that walk under the sun, that they were with the child, the second, that was to stand up in his stead. There was no end of all the people, even of all them whom he did lead; yet they that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind.
Guard your foot when you go to the house of God, and be ready to listen: it is better than when fools give sacrifices; for they know not that they do evil. Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter a word before God; for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes through a multitude of business; and a fool’s voice through a multitude of words.
When you make a vow to God, defer not to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools; pay that which you vow. Better is it that you should not vow, than that you should vow and not pay. Suffer not your mouth to bring your flesh into guilt, neither say you before the messenger, that it was an error; wherefore should God be angry at your voice, and destroy the work of your hands? For through the multitude of dreams and vanities there are also many words; but fear you God.
If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perverting of justice and righteousness in the state, marvel not at the matter; for one higher than the high watches, and there are higher than they. But the profit of a land in every way is a king that makes himself servant to the field.
He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loves abundance, with increase; this also is vanity. When goods increase, those increase that eat them; and what advantage is there to the owner thereof, saving the beholding of them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a labouring man, whether he eat little or much; but the satiety of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept by the owner thereof to his hurt; and those riches perish by evil adventure; and if he has begotten a son, there is nothing in his hand. As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he go back as he came, and shall take nothing for his labor, which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a grievous evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go; and what profit has he that he labors for the wind? All his days also he eats in darkness, and he has much vexation and sickness and wrath.
Behold that which I have seen: it is good, yea, it is comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy pleasure for all his labor, wherein he labors under the sun, all the days of his life which God has given him; for this is his portion. Every man also to whom God has given riches and wealth, and has given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor — this is the gift of God. For let him remember the days of his life that they are not many; for God answers him in the joy of his heart.
There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is heavy upon men: a man to whom God gives riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wants nothing for his soul of all that he desires, yet God gives him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eats it; this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.
If a man beget a hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul have not enough of good, and moreover he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he; for it comes in vanity, and departs in darkness, and the name thereof is covered with darkness; moreover it has not seen the sun nor known it; this has gratification rather than the other; yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, and enjoy no good; do not all go to one place?
All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled. For what advantage has the wise more than the fool? Or the poor man that has understanding, in walking before the living? Better is the seeing of the eyes than the wandering of the desire; this also is vanity and a striving after wind.
Whatsoever comes into being, the name thereof was given long ago, and it is foreknown what man is; neither can he contend with Him that is mightier than he. Seeing there are many words that increase vanity, what is man the better? For who knows what is good for man in his life, all the days of his vain life which he spends as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?
A good name is better than precious oil; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to his heart.
Vexation is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart may be gladdened.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool; this also is vanity.
Surely oppression turns a wise man into a fool; and a gift destroys the understanding.
Better is the end of a thing than the beginning of it; and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Be not hasty in your spirit to be angry; for anger rests in the bosom of fools.
Say not thou: ‘How was it that the former days were better than these?’ for it is not out of wisdom that you inquire concerning this.
Wisdom is good with an inheritance, yea, a profit to them that see the sun. For wisdom is a defence, even as money is a defence; but the excellence of knowledge is, that wisdom preserves the life of him that has it.
Consider the work of God; for who can make that straight, which He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider; God has made even the one as well as the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.
All things have I seen in the days of my vanity; there is a righteous man that perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongs his life in his evil-doing. Don’t be overly righteous; neither make yourself overwise; why should you destroy yourself? Don’t be overly wicked, neither be foolish; why should you die before your time? It is good that you should take hold of the one; yea, also from the other withdraw not your hand; for he that fears God shall discharge himself of them all.
Wisdom is a stronghold to the wise man more than ten rulers that are in a city. For there is not a righteous man upon earth, that does good, and sins not. Also take not heed unto all words that are spoken, lest you hear your servant curse you; for oftentimes also thine own heart knows that you yourself likewise have cursed others.
All this have I tried by wisdom; I said: ‘I will get wisdom’; but it was far from me. That which is is far off, and exceeding deep; who can find it out?
I turned about, and applied my heart to know and to search out, and to seek wisdom and the reason of things, and to know wickedness to be folly, and foolishness to be madness; and I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands; whoso pleases God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her. Behold, this have I found, saith Kohelet, adding one thing to another, to find out the account; which yet my soul sought, but I found not; one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found. Behold, this only have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
Who is as the wise man? and who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom makes his face to shine, and the boldness of his face is changed.
I [counsel you]: keep the king’s command, and that in regard of the oath of God. Be not hasty to go out of his presence; stand not in an evil thing; for he does whatever pleases him. Forasmuch as the king’s word has power; and who may say to him: ‘What doest thou?’ Whoso keeps the commandment shall know no evil thing; and a wise man’s heart discerns time and judgment.
For to every matter there is a time and judgment; for the evil of man is great upon him. For he knows not that which shall be; for even when it comes to pass, who shall declare it unto him?
There is no man that has power over the wind to retain it; neither has he power over the day of death; and there is no discharge in war; neither shall wickedness deliver him that is given to it. All this have I seen, even applied my heart thereto, whatever the work that is done under the sun; what time one man had power over another to his hurt. And so I saw the wicked buried, and they entered into their rest; but they that had done right went away from the holy place, and were forgotten in the city; this also is vanity.
Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil; because a sinner does evil a hundred times, and prolongs his days — though yet I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, that fear before Him; but it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he fears not before God.
There is a vanity which is done upon the earth: that there are righteous men, unto whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there are wicked men, to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous — I said that this also is vanity. So I commended mirth, that a man has no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry, and that this should accompany him in his labor all the days of his life which God has given him under the sun.
When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth — for neither day nor night do men see sleep with their eyes — then I beheld all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun; because though a man labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.
For all this I laid to my heart, even to make clear all this: that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God; whether it be love or hatred, man knows it not; all is before them. All things come alike to all; there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean and to the unclean; to him that sacrifices and to him that sacrifices not; as is the good, so is the sinner, and he that swears, as he that fears an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one event unto all; yea also, the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die; but the dead know nothing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. As well their love, as their hatred and their envy, is long ago perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
Go your way, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works. Let your garments always be white; and let your head lack no oil. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love all the days of the life of your vanity, which He has given you under the sun, all the days of your vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in your labor wherein you labor under the sun. Whatsoever your hand attains to do by your strength, that do; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go.
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all. For man also knows not his time; as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, even so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.
This also have I seen as wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me: there was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it; now there was found in it a man poor and wise, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. Then said I: ‘Wisdom is better than strength; nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.’
The words of the wise spoken in quiet are more acceptable than the cry of a ruler among fools.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroys much good.
Dead flies make the ointment of the perfumer fetid and putrid; so does a little folly outweigh wisdom and honour.
A wise man’s understanding is at his right hand; but a fool’s understanding at his left.
Yea also, when a fool walks by the way, his understanding fails him, and he says to every one that he is a fool.
If the spirit of the ruler rise up against you, leave not your place; for gentleness allays great offenses.
There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, like an error which proceeds from a ruler: Folly is set on great heights, and the rich sit in low place. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.
He that digs a pit shall fall into it; and whoever breaks through a fence, a serpent shall bite him. Whoso quarries stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaves wood is endangered thereby. If the iron be blunt, and one does not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength; but wisdom is profitable to direct. If the serpent bite before it is charmed, then the charmer has no advantage.
The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness; and the end of his talk is grievous madness. A fool also multiplies words; yet man knows not what shall be; and that which shall be after him, who can tell him? The labor of fools wearies every one of them, for he knows not how to go to the city.
Woe to you, O land, when your king is a boy, and your princes feast in the morning! Happy art thou, O land, when your king is a free man, and your princes eat in due season, in strength, and not in drunkenness!
By slothfulness the rafters sink in; and through idleness of the hands the house leaks.
A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes glad the life; and money answers all things.
Curse not the king, no, not in your thought, and curse not the rich in your bedchamber; for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which has wings shall tell the matter.
Cast your bread upon the waters, for you shall find it after many days. Divide a portion into seven, yea, even into eight; for you know not what evil shall be upon the earth.
If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth; and if a tree fall in the south, or in the north, in the place where the tree falls, there shall it be. He that observes the wind shall not sow; and he that regards the clouds shall not reap. As you know not what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so you don’t know the work of God who does all things. In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hand; for you know not which shall prosper, whether this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
And the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun. For if a man lives many years, let him rejoice in them all, and remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many. All that comes is vanity.
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth; and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know thou, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove vexation from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh; for childhood and youth are vanity.
Remember then your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when you shalt say: ‘I have no pleasure in them’; before the sun, and the light, and the moon, and the stars, are darkened, and the clouds return after the rain; in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out shall be darkened in the windows, and the doors shall be shut in the street, when the sound of the grinding is low; and one shall start up at the voice of a bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low; also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and terrors shall be in the way; and the almond-tree shall blossom, and the grasshopper shall drag itself along, and the caperberry shall fail; because man goes to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets; before the silver cord is snapped asunder, and the golden bowl is shattered, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel falls shattered into the pit; and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Vanity of vanities, saith Kohelet; all is vanity.