Book of Ecclesiastes

UASV 2005

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  • Author: Solomon
  • Place Written: Jerusalem
  • When Written: shortly before 931 B.C.E.


Everything Is Futile

1 The words of the Proclaimer,[1] the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Futility of futilities, says the Proclaimer,[2]
    futility of futilities! Everything is futile.
What does man gain by all the toil
    at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth stands forever.
Also, the sun rises, and the sun sets;
    and returns panting[3] to the place where it rises.
The wind goes to the south
    and goes around to the north;
The wind continues turning along,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.
All rivers go[4] into the sea,
    yet the sea is not full;
to the place where the rivers go,
    there they go again.
All things are full of weariness;
    a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    nor the ear filled with hearing.
That which has been is that which shall be,
    and that which has been done is that which shall be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one may say,
    “See, this is new”?
It already existed from long ago
    in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former generations,
    nor will there be any remembrance
of later generations yet to be
    nor among those who shall come after.

The Vanity of Human Wisdom

12 I the Proclaimer[5] have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I set my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. It is a miserable task that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with. 14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and look, everything is futile and a striving after wind.

15 What is crooked cannot be made straight,
    and what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, more than all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.

18 For in much wisdom is much frustration,
    and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.


The Futility of Self-Indulgence

2 I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But look, this also was futility. I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine, my heart still guiding me with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven[6] during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more so than all those who were before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I gathered singers, both men and women, and many concubines,[7] great pleasure to the sons of men.

So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. And my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any sort of pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. 11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor that I had toiled to do; and look, everything was futile and a striving after wind, and there was no profit under the sun.

The Futility of Living Wisely

12 And I turned myself to consider wisdom, and madness, and folly. For what can the man do that comes after the king? Only what has already been done. 13 Then I saw that there is an advantage to wisdom over folly, just as there is an advantage to light over darkness. 14 The wise man has his eyes in his head; but the stupid one walks in darkness. And yet I realized that there is one event that befalls all of them. 15 Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the stupid one will happen to me also. Why then have I been so incredibly wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is futility. 16 For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise man dies just like the stupid one! 17 So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for everything is futile and a striving after wind.

The Vanity of Hard Work

18 I hated all my labor in which I labored under the sun, seeing that I 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 take control over all for which I labored and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is futility. 20 So I turned about to cause my heart to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun. 21 For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, and with knowledge, and with skill, but he must hand over his portion to a man who did not labor for it. This also is futility and a great evil. 22 What has a man from all his labor and striving of heart with which he labored under the sun? 23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a frustration. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is futility.

24 There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink and cause his soul to see good in his labor. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him[8] who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the man who pleases him God gives wisdom, and knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner he gives the struggle to gather and to collect, that he may give to him that pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.


A Time for Everything

3 There is an appointed time for everything, a time for every activity under the heavens:

a time to give birth and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear apart, and a time to sew together;
a time to be silent and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

The God-Given Task

What does the worker gain from all his labors? 10 I have seen the task that God has given to the sons of men to keep them occupied. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man cannot find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good as long as they live. 13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy good in all his labor, is the gift of God.

14 I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever: nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; and God has done it, that men should fear before him. 15 That which is has been long ago; and that which is to be has long ago been: and God seeks what has passed away.

From Dust to Dust

16 And moreover, I saw under the sun, in the place of justice, that wickedness was there; and in the place of righteousness, that wickedness was there. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. 18 I said in my heart, it is because of the sons of men, that God may test[9] them, and that they may see that they themselves are but as beasts. 19 For that which happens to the sons of men happens to the beasts; even one thing happens to them: as the one dies, so dies the other; indeed, they all have one spirit; and man has no advantage over the beasts: for all is futile. 20 All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. 21 Who knows the spirit of man, whether it goes upward, and the spirit of the beast, whether it goes downward to the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?


Evil Under the Sun

4 Then I returned and saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and look, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no comforter, and on the side of their oppressors there was power, but they had no comforter. Therefore, I praised the dead that has been long dead more than the living that are yet alive. But better than both of them is the one who has not yet been born, who has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

Then I saw all labor and every skillful work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbor. This also is futility and a striving after wind.

The stupid one folds his hands and eats his own flesh.

Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.

Again, I saw futility under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his labor, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I laboring and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is futility and an unhappy business.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another[10] to lift him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, they can keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.

13 Better is a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king, who does not know how to receive admonition anymore. 14 For out of prison, he came forth to be king, even though in his kingdom he was born poor. 15 I saw all the living who walk about under the sun, along with the youth, who stands up in his place. 16 There was no end of all the people, all of whom he led. Yet, those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely, this also is futility and a striving after wind.


Reverential Fear of God

5 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. It is better to draw near to listen than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.[11]  Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in the heavens but you are on the earth. Therefore, let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and the voice of the stupid one comes with many words.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he finds no pleasure in fools. What you vow, pay. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin,[12] and do not say before the angel[13] that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For in many dreams and in many words, there is futility. But fear God.

The Vanity of Wealth and Honor

If you see any oppression of the poor and a violation of justice and righteousness in your province, do not be astonished about the matter. For that high official is watched by one who is higher than he is, and there are others who are higher than they are. The profit of the land is divided among them all; the king himself is served by the field.

10 He who loves silver will never be satisfied with silver, nor he who loves wealth with income. This too is futility. 11 When good things increase, those consuming them increase. So what advantage is it to the owner, except to look at them with his eyes? 12 The sleep of the laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep.

13 There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being kept by their owner to his hurt. 14 And those riches perish by bad venture; and if he has fathered a son, there is nothing in his hand. 15 As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his labor that he may carry away in his hand. 16 This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what profit is there to him who labors for the wind? 17 Also, all his days he eats in darkness, with a great deal of frustration and sickness and anger.

18 Look, what I have seen to be good, and fitting is to eat and drink and find joy in all the labor with which one labors under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his reward. 19 Every man also to whom God has given riches and wealth, and has given him power to enjoy them, he should take his portion and rejoice in his labor. This is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.


Possessions without Satisfaction

6 There is a tragedy[14] which I have seen under the sun, and it is heavy upon men.[15] A man to whom God gives riches, wealth, and honor, so that he lacks nothing for his soul of all that he desires, yet God does not enable him to eat from them, although a stranger may enjoy them. This is futility and a severe affliction. If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For it comes in futility and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. Even the sun he has not seen, nor known it. This one has more rest rather than he. Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good, do not all go to the one place?

Enjoy What You Have Now

All the labor of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. For what advantage has the wise man over the stupid one? And what does the poor man have who knows how to walk before the living? Better is the sight of the eyes than the walking about of the soul: this also is futility and a striving after wind.

10 Whatever has been, the name was given long ago; and it is known what man is; and he is not able to contend with the one more powerful than he. 11 The more words, the more futility; what advantage does a man have? 12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his futile life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?


The Contrast of Wisdom and Folly

7 A good name[16] is better than good oil,[17]
    and the day of death than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all men,
    and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
    for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
    than to hear the song of fools.
For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
    so is the laughter of the fool;
    this also is futility.
Surely oppression drives the wise man into madness,
    and a bribe corrupts the heart.
Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,
    and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Be not hurry in your spirit to become angry,
    for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
10 Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
    an advantage to those who see the sun.
12 For wisdom is a protection[18] just as money is a protection,
    but the advantage of knowledge is this: wisdom preserves the life of its owner.

Good days and bad days

13 Consider the work of God:
    who can make straight what he has made crooked?

14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man cannot find out anything that will be after him.

15 In my futile life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. 

Avoid Extremes

16 Be not overly righteous, nor show yourself excessively wise. Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Do not be excessively wicked, neither be foolish. Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you should take hold of the one, but from the other also do not withdraw your hand, for he that fears God shall come out from both of them.

19 Wisdom strengthens the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.

20 For there is no righteous man on earth who always does good and never sins.

21 Do not give your heart to all the words that are spoken, lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.

23 All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. 24 That which is far off and exceedingly deep; who can find it out?

Observations by the Teacher

25 I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness. 26 And I find more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are chains. The one who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is captured by her. 27 Look, this is what I found, says the Proclaimer,[19] by adding one thing to another to find out the explanation, 28 which my soul has continuously sought, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found. 29 Look, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.


Imperfect Human Rule

8 Who is like the wise?
    And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
A man’s wisdom makes his face shine,
    and the hardness of his face is changed.

I say, Keep the command of the king because of the oath before God. Be not hasty to go from his presence. Do not take a stand for anything evil, for he does whatever pleases him. For the word of the king is authoritative, and who may say to him, “What are you doing?” The one who keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the right time and procedure.[20] For every matter there is a time and procedure,[21] because the troubles of man are weighty upon him. For no one knows what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be? No man has power over the spirit to restrain the spirit,[22] so no one has power over the day of death; and there is no discharge in the time of war, and evil will not deliver those who practice it. All this I observed while applying my heart to all that is done under the sun, when man had dominated man to his harm.

Those Who Have a Reverential Fear God Will Do Well

10 So I saw the wicked buried, those who used to go in and out of the holy place, but they were soon forgotten[23] in the city where they had done such things. This too is futility. 11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the sons of man is fully set to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.

Man Cannot Know God’s Ways

14 There is a futility which is done on the earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is futility. 15 And I commend rejoicing, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and rejoice, for this will go with him in his labor through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night does one see sleep with his eyes, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. Even though man may labor in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he will not be able to find it out.


All Have the Same Outcome – Death

9 But all this I considered in my heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. All have the same outcome, the righteous and the wicked, the good and[24] the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner; and he who swears, is as he who fears an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the sons of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

Enjoy Life In the Face of Death

But he who is joined[25] with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.

Enjoy Life with the One You Love

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already accepted your works.

Let your garments be always white and let not oil be lacking on your head.

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your futile life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, where you are going.

Wisdom Better than Folly

11 Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and unexpected events happen to them all. 12 For man does not know his time. Just as fish are caught in an evil net and birds are caught in a trap, so the sons of men are ensnared in a time of evil, when it suddenly falls upon them.

13 I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. 14 There was a little city with few men in it, and a mighty king came against it and surrounded it, building great siegeworks against it. 15 But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16 But I say that wisdom is better than strength, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.

17 The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.


10 Dead flies make the perfumer’s oil give off a stench;
    so a little foolishness outweighs wisdom and honor.

The Perils of Stupidity

The heart of the wise man is at his right hand,[26]
    but the heart of the stupid one at his left hand.[27]
Even when the fool walks on the road, his heart is lacking,[28]
    and he says to everyone that he is a fool.
If the anger[29] of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place,
    for calmness will allay great offenses.

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as it were an error that proceeds from the ruler: foolishness is put in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. I have seen slaves on horses but princes walking on the ground just like slaves.

The one who digs a pit may fall into it,
    and the one who breaks through a wall may be bitten by a serpent.
The one who quarries stones may be hurt by them,
    and the one who splits logs may be endangered by them.
10 If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen its edge,
    he must use more strength,
    but wisdom helps one to achieve success.
11 If the serpent bites before it is charmed,
    then there is no advantage to the charmer.

The Heartbreaking Life of the Foolish

12 The words of a wise man’s mouth bring favor,
    but the lips of the stupid one consume him.
13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness,
    and the end of his talk is evil madness.
14 A fool multiplies words,
    though no man knows what will be,
    and what will be after him, who can tell him?
15 The labor of the stupid one makes him weary,
    for he does not know how to go to the city.

Foolishness Among Rulers

16 Woe to you, O land, when your king is a boy,
    and your princes feast in the morning!
17 Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles,
    and your princes feast at the proper time,
    for strength, and not for drunkenness!
18 Through sloth the roof sinks in,
    and through idleness of hands the house leaks.
19 Bread is made for laughter,
    and wine makes life enjoyable,
    but money answers everything.
20 Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king,
    and do not curse the rich in your bedroom,
for a bird of the air may carry your voice,
    or a creature with wings may tell the matter.


Seize the Opportunity

11 Send[30] out your bread on the waters,
    for in many days you will find it.
Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
    for you do not know what disaster may happen on earth.
If the clouds are full of rain,
    they empty themselves on the earth,
and if a tree falls to the south or to the north,
    in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
He who watches the wind will not sow,
    and he who watches the clouds will not reap.

As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether they will both be good.

Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.

So if a man lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is futility.

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

10 Remove sorrow from your heart, and put away pain from your flesh, for youth and the dawn of life are futility.


Remember Your Creator in Your Youth

12 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop over, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows see dark, and the doors on the street are shut when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low. Men are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and the caper berry is ineffective. For man goes to his eternal home while the mourners go around in the street. Before the silver cord is snapped,[31] or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Futility of futilities says the Proclaimer;[32] all is futile.

Fear God and Keep His Commandments

In addition to being a wise man, the Proclaimer[33] also taught the people knowledge, and he pondered and made a thorough search in order to arrange many proverbs. 10 The Proclaimer[34] sought to find delightful words and to record accurate words of truth.

11 The words of the wise are like ox goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 My son, be warned of anything beyond these. The making of many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

13 The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole obligation of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

[1] The name of the book used in our English Bibles is taken from the translation of Qoheleth in the Greek Septuagint, namely, (ἐκκλησιαστής) Ecclesiastes, meaning “a member of an assembly.” The meaning of the Hebrew (קֹהֶלֶת Qoheleth) here is difficult to accomplish in one word. Preacher (NASB, ESV, ASV) conveys the sense of leadership in a congregation, Teacher (LEB, CSB, NRSV, NIV) conveys instruction, but the book is more, Speaker (MFT, NEB, REB) overlooks the facts that this a written document, Spokesman (Knox) has the sense of a person who makes statements on behalf of a group or individual. All of these are fraught with difficulties. The best would be a three-word hyphenated expression: Seeker-Teacher-Proclaimer. The general sense here is that of a man who is sharing what he has learned from his search for the meaning of life. We have chosen to render Qoheleth as Proclaimer, for it avoids many of the difficulties mentioned above.

[2] See 1:1 fn.

[3] Or and hastens

[4] Or flows

[5] See 1:1 fn.

[6] LXX SYR two Heb. MS “under the sun” MT “under heaven”

[7] LXX SYR “a male butler and female cupbearers,” AT VG “a cup and vessels of wine” MT “many concubines”

[8] MT (with one letter emendation) LXX SYR “apart from him”

[9] Establish the genuineness of a person’s character.

[10] Lit there is not a second

[11] MT AT LXX SYR VG end chapter 4 here as vs 17.

[12] Or let your mouth cause you to sin

[13] Or messenger; MT AT VG “Angel” LXX SYR “God”

LXX has “do not say before God’s face” instead of “do not say before the messenger”

[14] Or calamity, misfortune

[15] Or and it lies heavy upon men, meaning that it is weighty or burdensome on men or mankind.

[16] LXX VG MT “a good name”

[17] That is, olive oil

[18] Lit in a shadow

[19] The name of the book used in our English Bibles is taken from the translation of Qoheleth in the Greek Septuagint, namely, (ἐκκλησιαστής) Ecclesiastes, meaning “a member of an assembly.” The meaning of the Hebrew (קֹהֶלֶת Qoheleth) here is difficult to accomplish in one word. Preacher (NASB, ESV, ASV) conveys the sense of leadership in a congregation, Teacher (LEB, CSB, NRSV, NIV) conveys instruction, but the book is more, Speaker (MFT, NEB, REB) overlooks the facts that this a written document, Spokesman (Knox) has the sense of a person who makes statements on behalf of a group or individual. All of these are fraught with difficulties. The best would be a three-word hyphenated expression: Seeker-Teacher-Proclaimer. The general sense here is that of a man who is sharing what he has learned from his search for the meaning of life. We have chosen to render Qoheleth as Proclaimer, for it avoids many of the difficulties mentioned above.

[20] Or judgment

[21] Or judgment

[22] Or No man has power over the wind to restrain the wind; In Hebrew the phrase reads, “There is no man who has power over the wind/spirit (rûaḥ) to restrain the wind/spirit (rûaḥ).”

[23] LXX VG some Heb. MSS have “praised” instead of “forgotten”

[24] LXXB SYR VG “the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and unclean” The Ecclesiastes in the Greek Septuagint in the Vaticanus (B) is of Aquila. The SYR and the VG also have “the good and the bad” giving us three pairs. However, being that the SYR and the VG are dependent on the Greek of Aquila, so they do not really add any extra textual weight. The two choices are that Aquila added “and the bad” to the “the good” to create the three pairs, or Aquila displays the original Hebrew where a scribe had accidental omission. Aquila was obsessed with a literal, wooden translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, not known for trying to improve the text by adding or altering it. Aquila dates to 130 C.E., which we do not have, but we do have it in the Septuagint of Codex Vaticanus, and the Leningrad Codex dates to A.D. 1008. All of this has led some translations to follow the Greek: “the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and unclean” (LEB NET RSV NASB NEB NRSV NIV NLT). Other translations follow the Hebrew: “the good and the clean and the unclean” (KJV, ASV, ESV, NASB1995/2020 CSB UASV MLB, NJPS). Aquila alone is not enough.

[25] MTmargin LXX SYR and many Heb. MSS “is joined”

[26] Or The heart of the wise man inclines to his right

[27] Or but the heart of the fool inclines to his left

[28] That is, he lacks sense

[29] Lit spirit; breath

[30] (Heb. shalach) does not mean to throw out or scatter but to “send,” to “let go.”

[31] MT ‘removed”

[32] The name of the book used in our English Bibles is taken from the translation of Qoheleth in the Greek Septuagint, namely, (ἐκκλησιαστής) Ecclesiastes, meaning “a member of an assembly.” The meaning of the Hebrew (קֹהֶלֶת Qoheleth) here is difficult to accomplish in one word. Preacher (NASB, ESV, ASV) conveys the sense of leadership in a congregation, Teacher (LEB, CSB, NRSV, NIV) conveys instruction, but the book is more, Speaker (MFT, NEB, REB) overlooks the facts that this a written document, Spokesman (Knox) has the sense of a person who makes statements on behalf of a group or individual. All of these are fraught with difficulties. The best would be a three-word hyphenated expression: Seeker-Teacher-Proclaimer. The general sense here is that of a man who is sharing what he has learned from his search for the meaning of life. We have chosen to render Qoheleth as Proclaimer, for it avoids many of the difficulties mentioned above.

[33] See 1:1 fn.

[34] See 1:1 fn.

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