1Be careful about going to the Temple. It is better to go there to learn than to offer sacrifices as foolish people do, people who don't know right from wrong. 2Think before you speak, and don't make any rash promises to God. He is in heaven and you are on earth, so don't say any more than you have to. 3The more you worry, the more likely you are to have bad dreams, and the more you talk, the more likely you are to say something foolish. 4So when you make a promise to God, keep it as quickly as possible. He has no use for a fool. Do what you promise to do. 5Better not to promise at all than to make a promise and not keep it. 6Don't let your own words lead you into sin, so that you have to tell God's priest that you didn't mean it. Why make God angry with you? Why let him destroy what you have worked for? 7No matter how much you dream, how much useless work you do, or how much you talk, you must still stand in awe of God.
Life is Useless
8Don't be surprised when you see that the government oppresses the poor and denies them justice and their rights. Every official is protected by the one over him, and both are protected by still higher officials.
9Even a king depends on the harvest.
10If you love money, you will never be satisfied; if you long to be rich, you will never get all you want. It is useless. 11The richer you are, the more mouths you must feed. All you gain is the knowledge that you are rich. 12Workers may or may not have enough to eat, but at least they can get a good night's sleep. The rich, however, have so much that they stay awake worrying.
13Here is a terrible thing that I have seen in this world: people save up their money for a time when they may need it,14and then lose it all in some unlucky deal and end up with nothing left to pass on to their children. 15We leave this world just as we entered it — with nothing. In spite of all our work there is nothing we can take with us. 16It isn't right! We go just as we came. We labour, trying to catch the wind, and what do we get? 17We have to live our lives in darkness and grief, worried, angry, and sick.
18This is what I have found out: the best thing anyone can do is to eat and drink and enjoy what he has worked for during the short life that God has given him; this is man's fate. 19If God gives a man wealth and property and lets him enjoy them, he should be grateful and enjoy what he has worked for. It is a gift from God. 20Since God has allowed him to be happy, he will not worry too much about how short life is.
1I have noticed that in this world a serious injustice is done. 2God will give someone wealth, honour, and property, yes, everything he wants, but then will not let him enjoy it. Some stranger will enjoy it instead. It is useless, and it's all wrong. 3A person may have a hundred children and live a long time, but no matter how long he lives, if he does not get his share of happiness and does not receive a decent burial, then I say that a baby born dead is better off. 4It does that baby no good to be born; it disappears into darkness, where it is forgotten. 5It never sees the light of day or knows what life is like, but at least it has found rest — 6more so than the man who never enjoys life, though he may live 2,000 years. After all, both of them are going to the same place.
7People do all their work just to get something to eat, but they never have enough. 8How are the wise better off than fools? What good does it do the poor to know how to face life? 9It is useless; it is like chasing the wind. It is better to be satisfied with what you have than to be always wanting something else.
10Everything that happens was already determined long ago, and we all know that you cannot argue with someone who is stronger than you are. 11The longer you argue, the more useless it is, and you are no better off. 12How can anyone know what is best for us in this short, useless life of ours — a life that passes like a shadow? How can we know what will happen in the world after we die?
Thoughts about Life
1A good reputation is better than expensive perfume; and the day you die is better than the day you are born.
2It is better to go to a home where there is mourning than to one where there is a party, because the living should always remind themselves that death is waiting for us all.
3Sorrow is better than laughter; it may sadden your face, but it sharpens your understanding.
4Someone who is always thinking about happiness is a fool. A wise person thinks about death.
5It is better to have wise people reprimand you than to have stupid people sing your praises.
6When a fool laughs, it is like thorns crackling in a fire. It doesn't mean a thing.
7You may be wise, but if you cheat someone, you are acting like a fool. If you take a bribe, you ruin your character.
8The end of anything is better than its beginning.
Patience is better than pride.
9Keep your temper under control; it is foolish to harbour a grudge.
10Never ask, “Oh, why were things so much better in the old days?” It's not an intelligent question.
11Everyone who lives ought to be wise; it is as good as receiving an inheritance 12and will give you as much security as money can. Wisdom keeps you safe — this is the advantage of knowledge.
13Think about what God has done. How can anyone straighten out what God has made crooked? 14When things are going well for you, be glad, and when trouble comes, just remember: God sends both happiness and trouble; you never know what is going to happen next.
15My life has been useless, but in it I have seen everything. Some good people may die while others live on, even though they are evil. 16So don't be too good or too wise — why kill yourself? 17But don't be too wicked or too foolish, either — why die before you have to? 18Avoid both extremes. If you have reverence for God, you will be successful anyway.
19Wisdom does more for a person than ten rulers can do for a city.
20There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake.
21Don't pay attention to everything people say — you may hear your servant insulting you, 22and you know yourself that you have insulted other people many times.
23I used my wisdom to test all of this. I was determined to be wise, but it was beyond me. 24How can anyone discover what life means? It is too deep for us, too hard to understand. 25But I devoted myself to knowledge and study; I was determined to find wisdom and the answers to my questions, and to learn how wicked and foolish stupidity is.
26I found something more bitter than death — the woman who is like a trap. The love she offers you will catch you like a net; and her arms round you will hold you like a chain. A man who pleases God can get away, but she will catch the sinner. 27Yes, said the Philosopher, I found this out little by little while I was looking for answers. 28I have looked for other answers but have found none. I found one man in a thousand that I could respect, but not one woman. 29This is all that I have learnt: God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated.
1Only the wise know what things really mean. Wisdom makes them smile and makes their frowns disappear.
Obey the King
2Do what the king says, 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.
The Wicked and the Righteous
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.
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.