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The Wisdom of Israel

(Category 9 of 16)

Watch our Read Scripture video on the book of Ecclesiastes, which breaks down the literary design of the book and its flow of thought. There is one Read Scripture video dedicated to the book of Ecclesiastes, which aims to help you see its unique contribution to the story of Jesus, but also how it works within the Bible’s overall framework.

This book forces us to face death and random chance, and the challenges they pose to a naive belief in God’s goodness.

Explore Ecclesiastes

ECCLESIASTES: (RS)

 

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The book of

ECCLESIASTES

THE key word in Ecclesiastes is vanity, “the futile emptiness of trying to be
happy apart from God.” The Preacher (traditionally taken to be Solomon
1:1, 12—the wisest, richest, most influential king in Israel’s history) looks at life
“under the sun” (1:9) and, from the human perspective, declares it all to be empty.
Power, popularity, prestige, pleasure—nothing can fill the God-shaped void in
man’s life but God Himself! But once seen from God’s perspective, life takes on
meaning and purpose, causing Solomon to exclaim, “Eat . . . drink . . . rejoice . . .
do good . . . live joyfully . . . fear God . . . keep His commandments!” Skepticism
and despair melt away when life is viewed as a daily gift from God.
The Hebrew title Qoheleth is a rare term, found only in Ecclesiastes (1:1, 2, 12;
7:27; 12:8–10). It comes from the word qahal, “to convoke an assembly, to assemble.”
Thus, it means “One Who Addresses an Assembly,” “A Preacher.” The Septuagint
used the Greek word Ekklesiastes as its title for this book. Derived from the
word ekklesia, “assembly,” “congregation,” “church,” it simply means “Preacher.”
The Latin Ecclesiastes means “Speaker Before an Assembly.”
 
 

The Vanity of Life

1

1 THE words of the Preacher, the son of David, aking in Jerusalem.

2 “Vanitya1 of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, ball is vanity.”

3 aWhat profit has a man from all his labor In which he 1toils under the sun?
4 One generation passes away, and another generation comes; aBut the earth abides forever.
5 aThe sun also rises, and the sun goes down, And 1hastens to the place where it arose.
6 aThe wind goes toward the south, And turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, And comes again on its circuit.
7 aAll the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, There they return again.
8 All things are 1full of labor; Man cannot express it. aThe eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor the ear filled with hearing.

9 aThat which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”?

CHAPTER 1 References

1 aProv. 1:1
2 aPs. 39:5, 6;
62:9; 144:4
b[Rom. 8:20,
21] 1Or
Absurdity,
Frustration,
Futility, Nonsense;
and so
throughout
the book
3 aEccl. 2:22;
3:9 1labors
4 aPs. 104:5;
119:90
5 aPs. 19:4–6
1Is eager for,
lit. panting
6 aJohn 3:8
7 a[Jer. 5:22] 8 aProv. 27:20
1wearisome
9 aEccl. 3:15
11 aEccl. 2:16
13 a[Eccl. 7:25;
8:16, 17] bEccl. 3:10
1Or afflicted
15 aEccl. 7:13
16 a1 Kin.
3:12, 13 1Lit.
seen
17 aEccl. 2:3,
12; 7:23, 25
18 aEccl. 12:12

CHAPTER 2 References

1 aLuke 12:19
b[Eccl. 7:4;
8:15]

It has already been in ancient times before us.
11 There is ano remembrance of former things, Nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come By those who will come after.

The Grief of Wisdom

12 I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13 And I set my heart to seek and asearch out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; bthis burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be 1exercised.
14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.

15 aWhat is crooked cannot be made straight, And what is lacking cannot be numbered.

16 I communed with my heart, saying, “Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained amore wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has 1understood great wisdom and knowledge.”
17 aAnd I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind.

18 For ain much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

The Vanity of Pleasure

2

1 I said ain my heart, “Come now, I will test you with bmirth;

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ECCLESIASTES 2:2

1therefore enjoy pleasure”; but surely, cthis also was vanity.
2 I said of laughter—“Madness!”; and of mirth, “What does it accomplish?”
3 aI searched in my heart how 1to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was bgood for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives.
4 I made my works great, I built myself ahouses, and planted myself vineyards.
5 I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.
6 I made myself water pools from which to 1water the growing trees of the grove.
7 I acquired male and female servants, and had 1servants born in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me.
8 aI also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and 1musical instruments of all kinds.
9 aSo I became great and 1excelled bmore than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me.

10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, For my heart rejoiced in all my labor; And athis was my 1reward from all my labor.
11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done And on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was avanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.

The End of the Wise and the Fool

12 Then I turned myself to consider wisdom aand madness and folly; For what can the man do who succeeds the king?— Only what he has already bdone.
13 Then I saw that wisdom aexcels folly As light excels darkness.
14 aThe wise man’s eyes are in his head, But the fool walks in darkness. Yet I myself perceived That bthe same event happens to them all.

1 cEccl. 1:2
1gladness
3 aEccl. 1:17
b[Eccl. 3:12,
13; 5:18; 6:12] 1Lit. to draw
my flesh
4 a1 Kin.
7:1–12
6 1irrigate
7 1Lit. sons of
my house
8 a1 Kin. 9:28;
10:10, 14, 21
1Exact meaning
unknown
9 aEccl. 1:16
b2 Chr. 9:22
1Lit. increased
10 aEccl. 3:22;
5:18; 9:9 1Lit.
portion
11 aEccl. 1:3,
14
12 aEccl. 1:17;
7:25 bEccl. 1:9
13 aEccl. 7:11,
14, 19; 9:18;
10:10
14 aProv.
17:24; Eccl.
8:1 bPs. 49:10;
Eccl. 9:2, 3, 11
16 aEccl. 1:11;
4:16
18 aPs. 49:10
21 1Lit. portion
22 aEccl. 1:3;
3:9
23 aJob 5:7;
14:1
24 aEccl. 3:12,
13, 22; Is.
56:12; Luke
12:19; 1 Cor.
15:32; [1 Tim.
6:17] 25 1So with
MT, Tg.,Vg.;
some Heb.
mss., LXX,
Syr. without
Him
26 aJob 32:8;
Prov. 2:6;
James 1:5
bJob 27:16, 17;
Prov. 28:8

CHAPTER 3 References

1 aEccl. 3:17;
8:6
2 aJob 14:5;
Heb. 9:27 1Lit.
to bear

15 So I said in my heart, “As it happens to the fool, It also happens to me, And why was I then more wise?” Then I said in my heart, “This also is vanity.”
16 For there is ano more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever, Since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come. And how does a wise man die? As the fool!

17 Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.
18 Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because aI must leave it to the man who will come after me.
19 And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity.
20 Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun.
21 For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his 1heritage to a man who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.
22 aFor what has man for all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun?
23 For all his days are asorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity.
24 aNothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.
25 For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, 1more than I?
26 For God gives awisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that bhe may give to him who is good before God. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.

Everything Has Its Time

3

1 To everything there is a season, A atime for every purpose under heaven:

2 A time 1to be born, And aa time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
3 A time to kill, And a time to heal;

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A time to break down, And a time to build up;
4 A time to aweep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; aA time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear, And a time to sew; aA time to keep silence, And a time to bspeak;
8 A time to love, And a time to ahate; A time of war, And a time of peace.

The God-Given Task

9 aWhat profit has the worker from that in which he labors?
10 aI have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied.
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that ano one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
12 I know that nothing is abetter for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives,
13 and also that aevery man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.

14 I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. aNothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him.
15 aThat which is has already been, And what is to be has already been; And God 1requires an account of 2what is past.

Injustice Seems to Prevail

16 Moreover aI saw under the sun:

In the place of 1judgment, Wickedness was there; And in the place of righteousness, 2Iniquity was there.

17 I said in my heart,

a“God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, For there is a time there for every 1purpose and for every work.”

18 I said in my heart, “Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God

4 aRom. 12:15
5 aJoel 2:16;
1 Cor. 7:5
7 aAmos 5:13
bProv. 25:11
8 aProv. 13:5;
Luke 14:26
9 aEccl. 1:3
10 aEccl. 1:13
11 aJob 5:9;
Eccl. 7:23;
8:17; Rom.
11:33
12 aEccl. 2:3,
24
13 aEccl. 2:24
14 aJames 1:17
15 aEccl. 1:9
1Lit. seeks
2what is pursued
16 aEccl. 5:8
1justice
2Wickedness
17 aGen. 18:25;
Ps. 96:13;
Eccl. 11:9;
[Matt. 16:27;
Rom. 2:6–10;
2 Cor. 5:10;
2 Thess.
1:6–9] 1desire
19 aPs. 49:12,
20; 73:22;
[Eccl. 2:16] 20 aGen. 3:19;
Ps. 103:14
21 aEccl. 12:7
1LXX, Syr.,
Tg.,Vg. Who
knows
whether the
spirit . . . goes
upward, and
whether . . .
goes downward
to the
earth?
22 aEccl. 2:24;
5:18 bEccl.
2:10 cEccl.
6:12; 8:7 1portion
or lot

CHAPTER 4 References

1 aJob 35:9;
Ps. 12:5; Eccl.
3:16; 5:8; Is.
5:7 1Lit. At
the hand
2 aJob 3:17, 18
3 aJob 3:11–22;
Eccl. 6:3;
Luke 23:29
5 aProv. 6:10;
24:33
6 aProv. 15:16,
17; 16:8
8 aProv. 27:20;
Eccl. 5:10;
[1 John 2:16] bPs. 39:6
cEccl. 2:18–21
1Lit. a second
2Lit. evil task

ECCLESIASTES 4:9

they themselves are like animals.”
19 aFor what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity.
20 All go to one place: aall are from the dust, and all return to dust.
21 aWho1 knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?
22 aSo I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for bthat is his 1heritage. cFor who can bring him to see what will happen after him?

4

1 Then I returned and considered all the aoppression that is done under the sun:

And look! The tears of the oppressed, But they have no comforter— 1On the side of their oppressors there is power, But they have no comforter.
2 aTherefore I praised the dead who were already dead, More than the living who are still alive.
3 aYet, better than both is he who has never existed, Who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.

The Vanity of Selfish Toil

4 Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.

5 aThe fool folds his hands And consumes his own flesh.
6 aBetter a handful with quietness Than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind.

7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun:

8 There is one alone, without 1companion: He has neither son nor brother. Yet there is no end to all his labors, Nor is his aeye satisfied with riches. But bhe never asks, “For whom do I toil and deprive myself of cgood?” This also is vanity and a 2grave misfortune.

The Value of a Friend

9 Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor.

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ECCLESIASTES 4:10

10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Popularity Passes Away

13 Better a poor and wise youth Than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more.
14 For he comes out of prison to be king, Although 1he was born poor in his kingdom.
15 I saw all the living who walk under the sun; They were with the second youth who stands in his place.
16 There was no end of all the people 1over whom he was made king; Yet those who come afterward will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and grasping for the wind.

14 1The youth
16 1Lit. to all
before whom
he was to be

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PSALM 8

The Glory of the LORD in Creation

To the Chief Musician. 1On the instrument of Gath. A Psalm of David.

1 O LORD, our Lord, How aexcellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have bset Your glory above the heavens!

2 aOut of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have 1ordained strength, Because of Your enemies, That You may silence bthe enemy and the avenger.

3 When I aconsider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,

PSALM 8 References

title 1Heb. Al
Gittith
1 aPs. 148:13
bPs. 113:4
2 aMatt. 21:16;
[1 Cor. 1:27] bPs. 44:16 1established
3 aPs. 111:2
4 aJob 7:17,
18; [Heb.
2:6–8] b[Job
10:12] 1give
attention to
or care for
5 1Heb. Elohim,
God;
LXX, Syr.,
Tg., Jewish
tradition angels
6 a[Gen. 1:26,
28] b[1 Cor.
15:27; Eph.
1:22; Heb. 2:8] 9 aPs. 8:1

4 aWhat is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You bvisit1 him?
5 For You have made him a little lower than 1the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

6 aYou have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; bYou have put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen— Even the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea That pass through the paths of the seas.

9 aO LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!

 
 

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