81Only the wise know what things really mean. Wisdom makes them smile and makes their frowns disappear.
2Do what the king says,8.2 Some ancient translations Do what the king says; Hebrew unclear. and don't make any rash promises to God. 3The king can do anything he likes, so depart from his presence; don't stay in such a dangerous place. 4The king acts with authority, and no one can challenge what he does. 5As long as you obey his commands, you are safe, and a wise person knows how and when to do it. 6There is a right time and a right way to do everything, but we know so little! 7None of us knows what is going to happen, and there is no one to tell us. 8No one can keep from dying or put off the day of death. That is a battle we cannot escape; we cannot cheat our way out.
9I saw all this when I thought about the things that are done in this world, a world where some people have power and others have to suffer under them. 10Yes, I have seen the wicked buried and in their graves, but on the way back from the cemetery people praise them in the very city where they did their evil. It is useless.8.10 Verse 10 in Hebrew is unclear.
11Why do people commit crimes so readily? Because crime is not punished quickly enough. 12A sinner may commit a hundred crimes and still live. Oh yes, I know what they say: “If you obey God, everything will be all right, 13but it will not go well for the wicked. Their life is like a shadow and they will die young, because they do not obey God.” 14But this is nonsense. Look at what happens in the world: sometimes the righteous get the punishment of the wicked, and the wicked get the reward of the righteous. I say it is useless.
15So I am convinced that we should enjoy ourselves, because the only pleasure we have in this life is eating and drinking and enjoying ourselves. We can at least do this as we labour during the life that God has given us in this world.
16Whenever I tried to become wise and learn what goes on in the world, I realized that you could stay awake night and day 17and never be able to understand what God is doing. However hard you try, you will never find out. The wise may claim to know, but they don't.
91I thought long and hard about all this and saw that God controls the actions of wise and righteous people, even their love and their hate. No one knows anything about what lies ahead. 2It makes no difference.9.2 people, even their… difference; or people, but no one knows whether it is out of love or hate. 2 It makes no difference what lies ahead of us. The same fate comes to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the bad,9.2 Some ancient translations and the bad; Hebrew does not have these words. to those who are religious and those who are not, to those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. A good person is no better off than a sinner; one who takes an oath is no better off than one who does not. 3One fate comes to all alike, and this is as wrong as anything that happens in this world. As long as people live, their minds are full of evil and madness, and suddenly they die. 4But anyone who is alive in the world of the living has some hope; a live dog is better off than a dead lion. 5Yes, the living know they are going to die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward; they are completely forgotten. 6Their loves, their hates, their passions, all died with them. They will never again take part in anything that happens in this world.
7Go ahead — eat your food and be happy; drink your wine and be cheerful. It's all right with God. 8Always look happy and cheerful. 9Enjoy life with the woman you love, as long as you live the useless life that God has given you in this world. Enjoy every useless day of it, because that is all you will get for all your trouble. 10Work hard at whatever you do, because there will be no action, no thought, no knowledge, no wisdom in the world of the dead — and that is where you are going.
11I realized another thing, that in this world fast runners do not always win the race, and the brave do not always win the battle. The wise do not always earn a living, intelligent people do not always get rich, and capable people do not always rise to high positions. Bad luck happens to everyone. 12You never know when your time is coming. Like birds suddenly caught in a trap, like fish caught in a net, we are trapped at some evil moment when we least expect it.
13There is something else I saw, a good example of how wisdom is regarded in this world. 14There was a little town without many people in it. A powerful king attacked it. He surrounded it and prepared to break through the walls. 15Someone lived there who was poor, but so clever that he could have saved the town. But no one thought about him.9.15 he could have… him; or he saved the town. But later on no one remembered him. 16I have always said that wisdom is better than strength, but no one thinks of the poor as wise or pays any attention to what they say. 17It is better to listen to the quiet words of a wise person than to the shouts of a ruler at a council of fools. 18Wisdom does more good than weapons, but one sinner can undo a lot of good.
101Dead flies can make a whole bottle of perfume stink, and a little stupidity can cancel out the greatest wisdom.
2It is natural for the wise to do the right thing and for fools to do the wrong thing. 3Their stupidity will be evident even to strangers they meet along the way; they let everyone know that they are fools.
4If your ruler becomes angry with you, do not hand in your resignation; serious wrongs may be pardoned if you keep calm.10.4 keep calm; or submit to him.
5Here is an injustice I have seen in the world — an injustice caused by rulers. 6Stupid people are given positions of authority while the rich are ignored. 7I have seen slaves on horseback while noblemen go on foot like slaves.
If you dig a pit, you fall in it; if you break through a wall, a snake bites you. 9If you work in a stone quarry, you get hurt by stones. If you split wood, you get hurt doing it. 10If your axe is blunt and you don't sharpen it, you have to work harder to use it. It is more sensible to plan ahead. 11Knowing how to charm a snake is of no use if you let the snake bite first. 12What the wise say brings them honour, but fools are destroyed by their own words. 13They start out with silly talk and end up with pure madness. 14A fool talks on and on.
No one knows what is going to happen next, and no one can tell us what will happen after we die.
15Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work.
16A country is in trouble when its king is a youth and its leaders feast all night long. 17But a country is fortunate to have a king who makes his own decisions and leaders who eat at the proper time, who control themselves and don't get drunk.
18When someone is too lazy to repair his roof, it will leak, and the house will fall in.
19Feasting makes you happy and wine cheers you up, but you can't have either without money.
20Don't criticize the king, even silently, and don't criticize the rich, even in the privacy of your bedroom. A bird might carry the message and tell them what you said.