Evil Oppression on Earth
4 So 1 I again considered 2 all the oppression 3 that continually occurs 4 on earth. 5
This is what I saw: 6
The oppressed 7 were in tears, 8 but no one was comforting them;
no one delivers 9 them from the power of their oppressors. 10
2 So I considered 11 those who are dead and gone 12
more fortunate than those who are still alive. 13
3 But better than both is the one who has not been born 14
and has not seen the evil things that are done on earth. 15
Labor Motivated by Envy
4 Then I considered 16 all the skillful work 17 that is done:
Surely it is nothing more than 18 competition 19 between one person and another. 20
This also is profitless – like 21 chasing the wind.
5 The fool folds his hands and does no work, 22
so he has nothing to eat but his own flesh. 23
6 Better is one handful with some rest
than two hands full of toil 24 and chasing the wind.
Labor Motivated by Greed
7 So 25 I again considered 26 another 27 futile thing on earth: 28
8 A man who is all alone with no companion, 29
he has no children nor siblings; 30
yet there is no end to all his toil,
and he 31 is never satisfied with riches.
He laments, 32 “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself 33 of pleasure?” 34
This also is futile and a burdensome task! 35
Labor is Beneficial When Its Rewards Are Shared
9 Two people are better than one,
because they can reap 36 more benefit 37 from their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will help his companion up,
but pity 38 the person who falls down and has no one to help him up.
11 Furthermore, if two lie down together, they can keep each other warm,
but how can one person keep warm by himself?
12 Although an assailant may overpower 39 one person,
two can withstand him.
Moreover, a three-stranded cord is not quickly broken.
Labor Motivated by Prestige-Seeking
13 A poor but wise youth is better than an old and foolish king
who no longer knows how to receive advice.
14 For he came out of prison 40 to become king,
even though he had been born poor in what would become his 41 kingdom.
15 I considered all the living who walk on earth, 42
as well as the successor 43 who would arise 44 in his place.
16 There is no end to all the people 45 nor to the past generations, 46
yet future generations 47 will not rejoice in him.
This also is profitless and like 48 chasing the wind.
5 Be careful what you do 2 when you go to the temple 3 of God;
draw near to listen 4 rather than to offer a sacrifice 5 like fools, 6
for they do not realize that they are doing wrong.
2 Do not be rash with your mouth or hasty in your heart to bring up a matter before God,
for God is in heaven and you are on earth!
Therefore, let your words be few.
3 Just as dreams come when there are many cares, 7
so 8 the rash vow 9 of a fool occurs 10 when there are many words.
4 When you make a vow 11 to God, do not delay in paying it. 12
For God 13 takes no pleasure in fools:
Pay what you vow!
5 It is better for you not to vow
than to vow and not pay it. 14
6 Do not let your mouth cause you 15 to sin,
and do not tell the priest, 16 “It was a mistake!” 17
Why make God angry at you 18
so that he would destroy the work of your hands?”
7 Just as there is futility in many dreams,
so also in many words. 19
Therefore, fear God!
8 If you see the extortion 20 of the poor,
or the perversion 21 of justice and fairness in the government, 22
do not be astonished by the matter.
For the high official is watched by a higher official, 23
and there are higher ones over them! 24
9 The produce of the land is seized 25 by all of them,
even the king is served 26 by the fields. 27
10 The one who loves money 28 will never be satisfied with money, 29
he who loves wealth 30 will never be satisfied 31 with his 32 income.
This also is futile.
11 When someone’s 33 prosperity 34 increases, those who consume it also increase;
so what does its owner 35 gain, except that he gets to see it with his eyes? 36
12 The sleep of the laborer is pleasant – whether he eats little or much –
but the wealth of the rich will not allow him to sleep.
Materialism Thwarts Enjoyment of Life
13 Here is 37 a misfortune 38 on earth 39 that I have seen:
Wealth hoarded by its owner to his own misery.
14 Then that wealth was lost through bad luck; 40
although he fathered a son, he has nothing left to give him. 41
15 Just as he came forth from his mother's womb, naked will he return as he came,
and he will take nothing in his hand that he may carry away from his toil.
16 This is another misfortune: 42
Just as he came, so will he go.
What did he gain from toiling for the wind?
17 Surely, he ate in darkness every day of his life, 43
and he suffered greatly with sickness and anger.
Enjoy the Fruit of Your Labor
18 I have seen personally what is the only beneficial and appropriate course of action for people: 44
to eat and drink, 45 and find enjoyment in all their 46 hard work 47 on earth 48
during the few days of their life which God has given them,
for this is their reward. 49
19 To every man whom God has given wealth, and possessions,
he has also given him the ability 50
to eat from them, to receive his reward and to find enjoyment in his toil;
these things 51 are the gift of God.
20 For he does not think 52 much about the fleeting 53 days of his life
because God keeps him preoccupied 54 with the joy he derives from his activity. 55
Not Everyone Enjoys Life
6 Here is 1 another misfortune 2 that I have seen on earth, 3
and it weighs 4 heavily on people: 5
2 God gives a man riches, property, and wealth
so that he lacks nothing that his heart 6 desires, 7
yet God does not enable 8 him to enjoy 9 the fruit of his labor 10 –
instead, someone else 11 enjoys 12 it! 13
This is fruitless and a grave misfortune. 14
3 Even if a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years –
even if he lives a long, long time, 15 but cannot enjoy his prosperity –
even if he were to live forever 16 –
I would say, “A stillborn child 17 is better off than he is!” 18
4 Though the stillborn child 19 came into the world 20 for no reason 21 and departed into darkness,
though its name is shrouded in darkness, 22
5 though it never saw the light of day 23 nor knew anything, 24
yet it has more rest 25 than that man –
6 if he should live a thousand years twice, yet does not enjoy his prosperity.
For both of them die! 26
7 All of man’s labor is for nothing more than 27 to fill his stomach 28 –
yet his appetite 29 is never satisfied!
8 So what advantage does a wise man have over a fool? 30
And what advantage 31 does a pauper gain by knowing how to survive? 32
9 It is better to be content with 33 what the eyes can see 34
than for one’s heart always to crave more. 35
This continual longing 36 is futile – like 37 chasing the wind.
The Futile Way Life Works
10 Whatever has happened was foreordained, 38
and what happens to a person 39 was also foreknown.
It is useless for him to argue with God about his fate
because God is more powerful than he is. 40
11 The more one argues with words, the less he accomplishes. 41
How does that benefit him? 42
12 For no one knows what is best for a person during his life 43 –
during the few days of his fleeting life –
for 44 they pass away 45 like a shadow.
Nor can anyone tell him what the future will hold for him on earth. 46