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.
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.
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.