1I 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. The same fate comes to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the bad, 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.
Thoughts on Wisdom and Foolishness
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.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.
1Dead 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.
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.
8If 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.
What a Wise Person Does
1Invest your money in foreign trade, and one of these days you will make a profit. 2Put your investments in several places — many places, in fact — because you never know what kind of bad luck you are going to have in this world.
3No matter in which direction a tree falls, it will lie where it fell. When the clouds are full, it rains. 4If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right, you will never sow anything and never harvest anything. 5God made everything, and you can no more understand what he does than you understand how new life begins in the womb of a pregnant woman. 6Do your sowing in the morning and in the evening, too. You never know whether it will all grow well or whether one sowing will do better than the other.
7It is good to be able to enjoy the pleasant light of day. 8Be grateful for every year you live. No matter how long you live, remember that you will be dead much longer. There is nothing at all to look forward to.
Advice to Young People
9Young people, enjoy your youth. Be happy while you are still young. Do what you want to do, and follow your heart's desire. But remember that God is going to judge you for whatever you do.
10Don't let anything worry you or cause you pain. You aren't going to be young very long.
1So remember your Creator while you are still young, before those dismal days and years come when you will say, “I don't enjoy life.” 2That is when the light of the sun, the moon, and the stars will grow dim for you, and the rain clouds will never pass away. 3Then your arms, that have protected you, will tremble, and your legs, now strong, will grow weak. Your teeth will be too few to chew your food, and your eyes too dim to see clearly. 4Your ears will be deaf to the noise of the street. You will barely be able to hear the mill as it grinds or music as it plays, but even the song of a bird will wake you from sleep. 5You will be afraid of high places, and walking will be dangerous. Your hair will turn white; you will hardly be able to drag yourself along, and all desire will have gone.
We are going to our final resting place, and then there will be mourning in the streets. 6The silver chain will snap, and the golden lamp will fall and break; the rope at the well will break, and the water jar will be shattered. 7Our bodies will return to the dust of the earth, and the breath of life will go back to God, who gave it to us.
8Useless, useless, said the Philosopher. It is all useless.
The Summing Up
9But because the Philosopher was wise, he kept on teaching the people what he knew. He studied proverbs and honestly tested their truth. 10The Philosopher tried to find comforting words, but the words he wrote were honest. 11The sayings of the wise are like the sharp sticks that shepherds use to guide sheep, and collected proverbs are as lasting as firmly driven nails. They have been given by God, the one Shepherd of us all.
12My child, there is something else to watch out for. There is no end to the writing of books, and too much study will wear you out.
13After all this, there is only one thing to say: have reverence for God, and obey his commands, because this is all that human beings were created for. 14God is going to judge everything we do, whether good or bad, even things done in secret.