The Futility of Pleasure
I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy what is good!”
But it proved to be futile.
I said of laughter, “It is folly,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?”
I sought to cheer my body with wine and to embrace follymy mind still guiding me with wisdomuntil I could see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.
I expanded my pursuits. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself, where I planted all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to water my groves of flourishing trees.
I acquired menservants and maidservants, and servants were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me, and I accumulated for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I gathered to myself male and female singers, and the delights of the sons of menmany concubines.
So I became great and surpassed all in Jerusalem who had preceded me; and my wisdom remained with me. 10 Anything my eyes desired, I did not deny myself. I refused my heart no pleasure. For my heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor.
11 Yet when I considered all the works that my hands had accomplished and what I had toiled to achieve, I found everything to be futile, a pursuit of the wind; there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
The Wise and the Foolish
12 Then I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly; for what more can the king’s successor do than what has already been accomplished? 13 And I saw that wisdom exceeds folly, just as light exceeds darkness:
14 The wise man has eyes in his head,
but the fool walks in darkness.
Yet I also came to realize that one fate overcomes them both. 15 So I said to myself, “The fate of the fool will also befall me. What then have I gained by being wise?”
And I said to myself that this too is futile.
16 For there is no lasting remembrance of the wise, just as with the fool, seeing that both will be forgotten in the days to come. Alas, the wise man will die just like the fool! 17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. For everything is futile and a pursuit of the wind.
The Futility of Work
18 I hated all for which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that man will be wise or foolish? Yet he will take over all the labor at which I have worked skillfully under the sun. This too is futile.
20 So my heart began to despair over all the labor that I had done under the sun. 21 When there is a man who has labored with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, and he must give his portion to a man who has not worked for it, this too is futile and a great evil. 22 For what does a man get for all the toil and striving with which he labors under the sun? 23 Indeed, all his days are filled with grief, and his task is sorrowful; even at night, his mind does not rest. This too is futile.
24 Nothing is better for a man than to eat and drink and enjoy his work. I have also seen that this is from the hand of God. 25 For apart from Him,* who can eat and who can find enjoyment? 26 To the man who is pleasing in His sight, He gives wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner He assigns the task of gathering and accumulating that which he will hand over to one who pleases God. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind.
* 2:25 Some Hebrew manuscripts, LXX, Syriac; most Hebrew manuscripts apart from me or more than I