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Everything has its own timea time for all that happens here:*
A time of birth, and a time of death. A time of planting, and a time of harvest.
A time of killing, and a time of healing. A time of tearing down, and a time of building up.
A time of crying, and a time of laughing. A time of mourning, and a time of dancing.
A time of throwing away stones, and a time of gathering up stones. A time of embracing, and a time of avoiding embracing.
A time of searching, and a time of giving up searching. A time of keeping, and a time of throwing away.
A time of tearing, and a time of mending. A time of keeping quiet, a time of speaking up.
A time of loving, and a time of hating. A time of warfare, and a time of peace.
So what do you get for all your hard work? 10 I have examined what God gives us to do. 11 Everything God does is beautifully timed, and even though he has also placed the idea of eternity in our minds, we can't fully understand what God does from beginning to end. 12 I concluded that there's nothing better than being happy and looking for the good in life. 13 In addition everyone should eat and drink and enjoy their workthis is God's gift to us.
14 I also concluded that everything God does lasts forever: nothing can be added to it or taken away from it. God acts in this way so that people may stand in awe of him. 15 Whatever was, is; and whatever will be, has been, and God examines the whole of time.§
16 I also observed that here on earth there was evil even in the place where there was supposed to be justice; even where things were meant to be right, there was evil. 17 But then I thought to myself, “Ultimately God will judge both those who do right and those who do wrong, and every deed and action, at the appointed time.”
18 I also thought to myself, “Regarding what happens to human beingsGod proves to us that we're no better than animals.”* 19 For what happens to human beings is the same as what happens to animalsin the same way one dies, the other dies too. They all have the breath of lifeso regarding any advantage human beings have over animals, there is none. Definitely this is very hard to understand! 20 They all end up in the same placethey all came from dust, and they all return to dust. 21 Who really knows whether the breath of life of human beings goes up above, and the breath of life of animals goes down below to the earth? 22 So I concluded that there's nothing better than for people to enjoy their work. This is what we are meant to do. For who can bring anyone back from the dead to show them what will happen after they die?
* 3:1 This is the Teachers observation, not his instruction. For this reason the verb participle is used, rather than the infinitive, since the infinitive might suggest that this is what should happen, e.g. “a time of killing” (i.e. when it happens) rather than “a time to kill” (when it ought to happen). 3:5 This mention of stones and its meaning is debated. Jewish tradition indicates it is a euphemism for making love. 3:11 “Eternity”: the word used here has the meaning of ages past and ages future, “continuation to the most distant time.” § 3:15 Literally, “God seeks what has been chased away.” This phrase has been variously interpreted, but perhaps the best in the context is that time is open to God—things forgotten by human beings (“chased away”) are still accessible to him and are what he examines (“seeks”). * 3:18 This thought is in reaction to the realization that wickedness takes the place of justice, mentioned in 3:16. 3:19 In addition, since this follows a discussion of “breath” (that can also be translated “spirit”), this can be linked to the continued theme of “transience” and “difficult to understand” which as mentioned before comes from the word for vapor or breath. 3:21 “Breath of life”: or “spirit.”