11These are the words of the Philosopher, David's son, who was king in Jerusalem.
2It is useless, useless, said the Philosopher. Life is useless, all useless. 3You spend your life working, labouring, and what do you have to show for it? 4Generations come and generations go, but the world stays just the same. 5The sun still rises, and it still goes down, going wearily back to where it must start all over again. 6The wind blows south, the wind blows north — round and round and back again. 7Every river flows into the sea, but the sea is not yet full. The water returns to where the rivers began, and starts all over again. 8Everything leads to weariness — a weariness too great for words. Our eyes can never see enough to be satisfied; our ears can never hear enough. 9What has happened before will happen again. What has been done before will be done again. There is nothing new in the whole world. 10“Look,” they say, “here is something new!” But no, it has all happened before, long before we were born. 11No one remembers what has happened in the past, and no one in days to come will remember what happens between now and then.
12I, the Philosopher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13I determined that I would examine and study all the things that are done in this world.
God has laid a miserable fate upon us. 14I have seen everything done in this world, and I tell you, it is all useless. It is like chasing the wind. 15You can't straighten out what is crooked; you can't count things that aren't there.
I told myself, “I have become a great man, far wiser than anyone who ruled Jerusalem before me. I know what wisdom and knowledge really are.” 17I was determined to learn the difference between knowledge and foolishness, wisdom and madness. But I found out that I might as well be chasing the wind. 18The wiser you are, the more worries you have; the more you know, the more it hurts.
21I decided to enjoy myself and find out what happiness is. But I found that this is useless, too. 2I discovered that laughter is foolish, that pleasure does you no good. 3Driven on by my desire for wisdom, I decided to cheer myself up with wine and have a good time. I thought that this might be the best way people can spend their short lives on earth.
I accomplished great things. I built myself houses and planted vineyards. 5I planted gardens and orchards, with all kinds of fruit trees in them; 6I dug ponds to irrigate them. 7
I bought many slaves, and there were slaves born in my household. I owned more livestock than anyone else who had ever lived in Jerusalem. 8
I also piled up silver and gold from the royal treasuries of the lands I ruled. Men and women sang to entertain me, and I had all the women a man could want.
Yes, I was great, greater than anyone else who had ever lived in Jerusalem, and my wisdom never failed me. 10Anything I wanted, I got. I did not deny myself any pleasure. I was proud of everything I had worked for, and all this was my reward. 11Then I thought about all that I had done and how hard I had worked doing it, and I realized that it didn't mean a thing. It was like chasing the wind — of no use at all. 12After all, a king can only do what previous kings have done.
So I started thinking about what it meant to be wise or reckless or foolish. 13Oh, I know, “Wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. 14The wise can see where they are going, and fools cannot.” But I also know that the same fate is waiting for us all. 15I thought to myself, “I will suffer the same fate as fools. So what have I gained from being so wise?” “Nothing,” I answered, “not a thing.” 16No one remembers the wise, and no one remembers fools. In days to come, we will all be forgotten. We must all die — wise and foolish alike. 17So life came to mean nothing to me, because everything in it had brought me nothing but trouble. It had all been useless; I had been chasing the wind.
18Nothing that I had worked for and earned meant a thing to me, because I knew that I would have to leave it to my successor, 19and he might be wise, or he might be foolish — who knows? Yet he will own everything I have worked for, everything my wisdom has earned for me in this world. It is all useless. 20So I came to regret that I had worked so hard. 21You work for something with all your wisdom, knowledge, and skill, and then you have to leave it all to someone who hasn't had to work for it. It is useless, and it isn't right! 22You work and worry your way through life, and what do you have to show for it? 23
As long as you live, everything you do brings nothing but worry and heartache. Even at night your mind can't rest. It is all useless.
The best thing anyone can do is to eat and drink and enjoy what he has earned. And yet, I realized that even this comes from God. 25How else could you have anything to eat or enjoy yourself at all? 26
God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness to those who please him, but he makes sinners work, earning and saving, so that what they get can be given to those who please him. It is all useless. It is like chasing the wind.