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The Wisdom of Israel

(Category 9 of 16)

In this book we hear the skeptical voice of “the teacher.” He observes that living by the book of Proverbs doesn’t always bring positive results. Sometimes life is hard and defies neat explanations. How do you live with that tension, and still strive for wisdom? Ecclesiastes is the second of the three biblical wisdom books.

Explore Ecclesiastes



page 586

Fear God, Keep Your Vows


1 Walk aprudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather bthan to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.

2 Do not be arash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words bbe few.
3 For a dream comes through much activity, And aa fool’s voice is known by his many words.

4 aWhen you make a vow to God, do not delay to bpay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed—
5 aBetter not to vow than to vow and not pay.

6 Do not let your amouth cause your flesh to sin, bnor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your 1excuse and destroy the work of your hands?

CHAPTER 5 References

1 aEx. 3:5; Is.
1:12 b[1 Sam.
15:22]; Ps.
50:8; Prov.
15:8; 21:27;
[Hos. 6:6] 2 aProv. 20:25
bProv. 10:19;
Matt. 6:7
3 aProv. 10:19
4 aNum. 30:2;
23:21–23; Ps.
50:14; 76:11
bPs. 66:13, 14
5 aProv. 20:25;
Acts 5:4
6 aProv. 6:2
b1 Cor. 11:10
1Lit. voice
7 a[Eccl. 12:13] 8 aEccl. 3:16
b[Ps. 12:5;
58:11; 82:1] 1wresting
13 aEccl. 6:1, 2
14 1Lit. bad
15 aJob 1:21;
Ps. 49:17;
1 Tim. 6:7
16 aEccl. 1:3
bProv. 11:29
17 aPs. 127:2
18 aEccl. 2:24;
3:12, 13;
[1 Tim. 6:17] bEccl. 2:10;
3:22 1Lit. portion
19 a[Eccl. 6:2] bEccl. 2:24;
3:13 1Lit. portion

7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But afear God.

The Vanity of Gain and Honor

8 If you asee the oppression of the poor, and the violent 1perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for bhigh official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them.
9 Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field.

10 He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity.

11 When goods increase, They increase who eat them; So what profit have the owners Except to see them with their eyes?

12 The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, Whether he eats little or much; But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.

13 aThere is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun: Riches kept for their owner to his hurt.
14 But those riches perish through 1misfortune; When he begets a son, there is nothing in his hand.
15 aAs he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, To go as he came; And he shall take nothing from his labor Which he may carry away in his hand.

16 And this also is a severe evil— Just exactly as he came, so shall he go. And awhat profit has he bwho has labored for the wind?
17 All his days ahe also eats in darkness, And he has much sorrow and sickness and anger.

18 Here is what I have seen: aIt is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; bfor it is his 1heritage.
19 As for aevery man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his 1heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the bgift of God.
20 For he will not dwell unduly on

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the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.


1 Therea is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men:
2 A man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, aso that he lacks nothing for himself of all he desires; byet God does not give him power to eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it. This is vanity, and it is an evil 1affliction.
3 If a man begets a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with goodness, or aindeed he has no burial, I say that ba 1stillborn child is better than he—
4 for it comes in vanity and departs in darkness, and its name is covered with darkness.
5 Though it has not seen the sun or known anything, this has more rest than that man,
6 even if he lives a thousand years twice—but has not seen goodness. Do not all go to one aplace?

7 aAll the labor of man is for his mouth, And yet the soul is not satisfied.
8 For what more has the wise man than the fool? What does the poor man have, Who knows how to walk before the living?
9 Better is 1the asight of the eyes than the wandering of 2desire. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.

10 Whatever one is, he has been named aalready, For it is known that he is man; bAnd he cannot contend with Him who is mightier than he.
11 Since there are many things that increase vanity, How is man the better?

12 For who knows what is good for man in life, 1all the days of his 2vain life which he passes like aa shadow? bWho can tell a man what will happen after him under the sun?

The Value of Practical Wisdom


1 A agood name is better than precious ointment, And the day of death than the day of one’s bbirth;
2 Better to go to the house of mourning Than to go to the house of feasting, For that is the end of all men; And the living will take it to aheart.
3 1Sorrow is better than laughter, aFor by a sad countenance the heart is made 2better.

CHAPTER 6 References

1 aEccl. 5:13
2 aJob 21:10;
Ps. 17:14; 73:7
bLuke 12:20
3 a2 Kin. 9:35;
Is. 14:19, 20;
Jer. 22:19 bJob
3:16; Ps. 58:8;
Eccl. 4:3 1Or
6 aEccl. 2:14,
7 aProv. 16:26
9 aEccl. 11:9
1What the
eyes see 2Lit.
10 aEccl. 1:9;
3:15 bJob 9:32;
Is. 45:9; Jer.
12 aPs. 102:11;
James 4:14
bPs. 39:6;
Eccl. 3:22 1Lit.
the number of
the days

CHAPTER 7 References

1 aProv. 22:1
bEccl. 4:2
2 a[Ps. 90:12] 3 a[2 Cor. 7:10] 1Vexation or
Grief 2well or
5 aPs. 141:5;
[Prov. 13:18;
15:31, 32] 1listen to
6 aEccl. 2:2
1Lit. sound
7 aEx. 23:8;
Deut. 16:19;
[Prov. 17:8,
23] 1destroys
8 aProv. 14:29;
Gal. 5:22;
Eph. 4:2
9 aProv. 14:17;
James 1:19
11 aEccl. 11:7
12 aEccl. 9:18
bProv. 3:18 1A
shade, lit.
shadow 2advantage
13 aJob 12:14
14 aDeut. 28:47
15 aEccl.
16 aProv.
25:16; Phil. 3:6
bRom. 12:3
17 aJob 15:32;
Ps. 55:23


4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

5 aIt is better to 1hear the rebuke of the wise Than for a man to hear the song of fools.
6 aFor like the 1crackling of thorns under a pot, So is the laughter of the fool. This also is vanity.
7 Surely oppression destroys a wise man’s reason, aAnd a bribe 1debases the heart.

8 The end of a thing is better than its beginning; aThe patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
9 aDo not hasten in your spirit to be angry, For anger rests in the bosom of fools.
10 Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?” For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.

11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance, And profitable ato those who see the sun.
12 For wisdom is 1a adefense as money is a defense, But the 2excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives blife to those who have it.

13 Consider the work of God; For awho can make straight what He has made crooked?
14 aIn the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one 1as well as the other, So that man can find out nothing that will come after him.

15 I have seen everything in my days of vanity: aThere is a just man who perishes in his righteousness, And there is a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness.

16 aDo not be overly righteous, bNor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself?
17 Do not be overly wicked, Nor be foolish: aWhy should you die before your time?
18 It is good that you grasp this,

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And also not remove your hand from the other; For he who afears God will 1escape them all.

19 aWisdom strengthens the wise More than ten rulers of the city.

20 aFor there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin.

21 Also do not take to heart everything people say, Lest you hear your servant cursing you.
22 For many times, also, your own heart has known That even you have cursed others.

23 All this I have 1proved by wisdom. aI said, “I will be wise”; But it was far from me.
24 aAs for that which is far off and bexceedingly deep, Who can find it out?
25 aI applied my heart to know, To search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things, To know the wickedness of folly, Even of foolishness and madness.
26 aAnd I find more bitter than death The woman whose heart is snares and nets, Whose hands are fetters. 1He who pleases God shall escape from her, But the sinner shall be trapped by her.

27 “Here is what I have found,” says athe Preacher, “Adding one thing to the other to find out the reason,
28 Which my soul still seeks but I cannot find: aOne man among a thousand I have found, But a woman among all these I have not found.
29 Truly, this only I have found: aThat God made man upright, But bthey have sought out many schemes.”


1 Who is like a wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? aA man’s wisdom makes his face shine, And bthe 1sternness of his face is changed.

Obey Authorities for God’s Sake

2 I say, “Keep the king’s commandment afor the sake of your oath to God.
3 a“Do not be hasty to go from his

18 aEccl. 3:14;
5:7; 8:12, 13
1Lit. come
forth from all
of them
19 aProv.
21:22; Eccl.
20 a1 Kin. 8:46;
2 Chr. 6:36;
Prov. 20:9;
Rom. 3:23;
1 John 1:8
23 aRom. 1:22
24 aJob 28:12;
1 Tim. 6:16
bRom. 11:33
25 aEccl. 1:17
26 aProv. 5:3, 4
1Lit. He who
is good before
27 aEccl. 1:1, 2
28 aJob 33:23
29 aGen. 1:27
bGen. 3:6, 7

CHAPTER 8 References

1 aProv. 4:8, 9;
Acts 6:15
bDeut. 28:50
1Lit. strength
2 aEx. 22:11;
2 Sam. 21:7;
1 Chr. 29:24;
Ezek. 17:18;
[Rom. 13:5] 3 aEccl. 10:4
4 a1 Sam.
13:11, 13; Job
5 1Lit. knows
6 aEccl. 3:1, 17
1is great upon
7 aProv. 24:22;
Eccl. 6:12
8 aPs. 49:6, 7;
Job 14:5
bDeut. 20:5–8
10 aEccl. 2:16;
9:5 1Some
Heb. mss.,
11 aPs. 10:6;
50:21; Is.
12 aIs. 65:20;
[Rom. 2:5–7] b[Deut. 4:40;
Ps. 37:11, 18,
19; Prov. 1:32,
33; Is. 3:10;
Matt. 25:34,
41] 14 aPs. 73:14
bEccl. 2:14;
7:15; 9:1–3
15 aEccl. 2:24

presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him.”

4 Where the word of a king is, there is power; And awho may say to him, “What are you doing?”
5 He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful; And a wise man’s heart 1discerns both time and judgment,
6 Because afor every matter there is a time and judgment, Though the misery of man 1increases greatly.
7 aFor he does not know what will happen; So who can tell him when it will occur?
8 aNo one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, And no one has power in the day of death. There is bno release from that war, And wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it.

9 All this I have seen, and applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun: There is a time in which one man rules over another to his own hurt.

Death Comes to All

10 Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were aforgotten1 in the city where they had so done. This also is vanity.
11 aBecause the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
12 aThough a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that bit will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him.
13 But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God.
14 There is a vanity which occurs on earth, that there are just men to whom it ahappens according to the work of the wicked; again, there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the brighteous. I said that this also is vanity.
15 aSo I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.
16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even

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though one sees no sleep day or night,
17 then I saw all the work of God, that aa man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.

17 aJob 5:9; Ps.
73:16; Eccl.
3:11; Rom.

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Prayer and Thanksgiving for the LORD’s Righteous Judgments

To the Chief Musician. To the tune of 1“Death of the Son.” A Psalm of David.

1 I WILL praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
2 I will be glad and arejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, bO Most High.

3 When my enemies turn back, They shall fall and perish at Your presence.
4 For You have maintained my right and my cause; You sat on the throne judging in righteousness.
5 You have rebuked the 1nations, You have destroyed the wicked; You have ablotted out their name forever and ever.

6 O enemy, destructions are finished forever! And you have destroyed cities; Even their memory has aperished.
7 aBut the LORD shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment.
8 aHe shall judge the world in righteousness, And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.

9 The LORD also will be a arefuge1 for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble.

PSALM 9 References

title 1Heb.
Muth Labben
2 aPs. 5:11;
104:34 b[Ps.
83:18; 92:1] 5 aProv. 10:7
6 a[Ps. 34:16] 7 aPs. 102:12,
26; Heb. 1:11
8 a[Ps. 96:13;
98:9; Acts
17:31] 9 aPs. 32:7;
46:1; 91:2 1Lit.
secure height
10 aPs. 91:14
11 aPs. 66:16;
12 a[Gen. 9:5;
Ps. 72:14] 1afflicted
14 aPs. 13:5;
20:5; 35:9
15 aPs. 7:15, 16
16 aEx. 7:5
bPs. 92:3
1Heb. Higgaion
17 aJob 8:13;
Ps. 50:22
18 aPs. 9:12;
12:5 b[Ps.
62:5; 71:5];
Prov. 23:18
19 1Gentiles
20 1Gentiles

10 And those who aknow Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.

11 Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion! aDeclare His deeds among the people.
12 aWhen He avenges blood, He remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the 1humble.

13 Have mercy on me, O LORD! Consider my trouble from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 That I may tell of all Your praise In the gates of 1the daughter of Zion. I will arejoice in Your salvation.
15 aThe 1nations have sunk down in the pit which they made; In the net which they hid, their own foot is caught.
16 The LORD is aknown by the judgment He executes; The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. bMeditation.1 Selah

17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the 1nations athat forget God.
18 aFor the needy shall not always be forgotten; bThe expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.

19 Arise, O LORD, Do not let man prevail; Let the 1nations be judged in Your sight.
20 Put them in fear, O LORD, That the 1nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah




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