1:1 The words of Qoheleth[*a] son of David, king in Jerusalem.

1:2 Vanity of vanities, Qoheleth says. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity!

1:3 For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it?



1:4 A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm for ever.

1:5 The sun rises, the sun sets; then to its place it speeds and there it rises.

1:6 Southward goes the wind, then turns to the north; it turns and turns again; back then to its circling goes the wind.

1:7 Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go.

1:8 All things are wearisome. No man can say that eyes have not had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing.

1:9 What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun.

1:10 Take anything of which it may be said, ‘Look now, this is new’. Already, long before our time, it existed.

1:11 Only no memory remains of earlier times, just as in times to come next year itself will not be remembered.

The career of Solomon

1:12 I, Qoheleth, have reigned in Jerusalem over Israel.

1:13 With the help of wisdom I have been at pains to study all that is done under heaven; oh, what a weary task God has given mankind to labour at!

1:14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and what vanity it all is, what chasing of the wind!

1:15 What is twisted cannot be straightened, what is not there cannot be counted.

1:16 I thought to myself, ‘I have acquired a greater stock of wisdom than any of my predecessors in Jerusalem. I have great experience of wisdom and learning.’

1:17 Wisdom has been my careful study; stupidity, too, and folly. And now I have come to recognise that even this is chasing of the wind.

1:18 Much wisdom, much grief, the more knowledge, the more sorrow.


2:1 I thought to myself, ‘Very well, I will try pleasure and see what enjoyment has to offer’. And there it was: vanity again!

2:2 This laughter, I reflected, is a madness, this pleasure no use at all.

2:3 I resolved to have my body cheered with wine, my heart still devoted to wisdom; I resolved to embrace folly to see what made mankind happy, and what men do under heaven in the few days they have to live.

2:4 I did great things: built myself palaces, planted vineyards;

2:5 made myself gardens and orchards, planting every kind of fruit tree in them.

2:6 I had pools made for watering the plantations;

2:7 bought men slaves, women slaves; had home-born slaves as well; herds and flocks I had too, more than anyone in Jerusalem before me.

2:8 I amassed silver and gold, the treasures of kings and provinces; acquired singing men and singing women and every human luxury, chest on chest of it.

2:9 So I grew great, greater than anyone in Jerusalem before me; nor did my wisdom leave me.

2:10 I denied my eyes nothing they desired, refused my heart no pleasure, a heart that found all my hard work a pleasure; such was the return I got for all my efforts.

2:11 I then reflected on all that my hands had achieved and on all the effort I had put into its achieving. What vanity it all is, and chasing of the wind! There is nothing to be gained under the sun.

2:12 My reflections then turned to wisdom, stupidity, folly. For instance, what can the successor of a king do? What has been done already.

2:13 More is to be had from wisdom than from folly, as from light than from darkness; this, of course, I see:

2:14 The wise man sees ahead, the fool walks in the dark. No doubt! But I know, too, that one fate awaits them both.

2:15 ‘The fool’s fate’ is I thought to myself ‘will be my fate too. Of what use my wisdom, then? ‘This, too,’ I thought ‘is vanity.’

2:16 Since there is no lasting memory for wise man or for fool, and in the days to come both will be forgotten; wise man, alas, no less than fool must die.

2:17 Life I have come to hate, for what is done under the sun disgusts me, since all is vanity and, chasing of the wind.

2:18 All I have toiled for and now bequeath to my successor I have come to hate;

2:19 who knows whether he, will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will be master of all the work into which I have put my efforts and wisdom under the sun. That, too, is vanity.

2:20 And hence I have come to despair of all the efforts I have expended under the sun.

2:21 For so it is that a man who has laboured wisely, skilfully and successfully must leave what is his own to someone who has not toiled for it at all. This, too, is vanity and great injustice;

2:22 for what does he gain for all the toil and strain that he has undergone under the sun?

2:23 What of all his laborious days, his cares of office, his restless nights? This, too, is vanity.

2:24 There is no happiness for man but to eat and drink and to be content with his work. This, too, I see as something from God’s hand,

2:25 since plenty and penury both come from God;

2:26 wisdom, knowledge, joy, he gives to the man who pleases him; on the sinner lays the task of gathering and storing up for another who is pleasing to God. This, too, is vanity and chasing of the wind.



3:1 There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:

3:2 A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted.

3:3 A time for killing, a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building.

3:4 A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing.

3:5 A time for throwing stones away, a time for gathering them up; a time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing.

3:6 A time for searching, a time for losing; a time for keeping, a time for throwing away.

3:7 A time for tearing, a time for sewing; a time for keeping silent, a time for speaking.

3:8 A time for loving, a time for hating; a time for war, a time for peace.

3:9 What does a man gain for the efforts that he makes? .

3:10 I contemplate the task that God gives mankind to labour at.

3:11 All that he does is apt for its time; but though he has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.

3:12 I know there is no happiness for man except in pleasure and enjoyment while he lives.

3:13 And when man eats and drinks and finds happiness in his work, this is a gift from God.

3:14 I know that what God does he does consistently. To this nothing can be added, from this nothing taken away; yet God sees to it that men fear him.

3:15 What is, already was; what is to be, has been already; yet God cares for the persecuted.

3:16 But I still observe that under the sun crime is where law should be, the criminal where the good should be.

3:17 ‘God’ I thought to myself ‘will judge both virtuous and criminal, because there is a time here for all that is purposed or done.’

3:18 I also thought that mankind behaves like this so that God may show them up for what they are, and expose them for the brute beasts they are to each other.

3:19 Indeed, the fate of man and beast is identical; one dies, the other too, and both have the selfsame breath; man has no advantage over the beast, for all is vanity.

3:20 Both go to the same place; both originate from the dust and to the dust both return.

3:21 Who knows if the spirit of man mounts upward or if the spirit of the beast goes down to the earth?

3:22 I see there is no happiness for man but to be happy in his work, for this is the lot assigned him. Who then can bring him to see what is to happen after his time?



4:1 I Come again to contemplate all the oppression that is committed under sun. Take for instance the tears of the oppressed, with no one to protect them; the power their oppressors wield. No one to protect them!

4:2 So, rather than the living who still have lives to live, I salute the dead who have already met death;

4:3 happier than both of these is he who is yet unborn and has not seen the evil things that are done under the sun.

4:4 I see that all effort and all achievement spring from men’s mutual jealousy. This, too, is vanity and chasing of the wind.

4:5 The fool folds his arms and eats his own flesh away.

4:6 Better one handful of repose than two hands full of effort in chasing the wind.

4:7 And I observe another vanity under the sun:

4:8 a man is quite alone – no son, no brother; and yet there is no end to his efforts, his eyes can never have their fill of riches. For whom, then, do I work so hard and grudge myself pleasure? This, too, is vanity, a sorry business.

4:9 Better two than one by himself, since thus their work is really profitable.

4:10 If one should fall, the other helps him up; but woe to the man by himself with no one to help him up when he falls down.

4:11 Again: they keep warm who sleep two together, but how can a man keep warm alone?

4:12 Where one alone would be overcome, two will put up resistance; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

4:13 Better a lad beggarly yet wise, than a king old yet foolish who will no longer take advice.

4:14 The lad may well step from prison to the throne, or have been born a beggar in the kingdom he now owns.

4:15 I observe that all who live and move under the sun side with that lad, the usurper who has succeeded.

4:16 He takes his place at the head of innumerable subjects; sad, if later no one has cause to be glad of him. This too, most certainly, is vanity and chasing of the wind.

4:17 When you go to the Temple, be on your guard. Go near so that you can hear; the sacrifice is more valuable than the offering of fools, even if they are unaware of doing wrong.


5:1 Be in no hurry to speak; do not hastily declare yourself before God; for God is in heaven, you on earth. Be sparing, then, of speech:

5:2 Dreaming comes from much worrying; foolish talk from a multiplicity of words.

5:3 If you make a vow to God, discharge it without delay, for God has no love for fools. Discharge your vow.

5:4 Better a vow unmade than made and not discharged.

5:5 Do not allow your own words to bring guilt on you, nor tell your angel afterwards it was unintentional. Why should a word of yours give God occasion to be angry, and destroy what your hands have worked for?

5:6 For every dream, a vanity to match; too many words, a chasing of the wind. Therefore, fear God.

5:7 If in a province you see the poor oppressed, right and justice violated, do not be surprised. You will be told that officials are under the supervision of superiors, who are supervised in turn;

5:8 you will hear talk of ‘the common good’ and ‘the service of the king’.


5:9 He who loves money never has money enough, he who loves wealth never has enough profit; this, too is vanity.

5:10 Where goods abound, parasites abound; and what is the good of them to their owner? That he can feast his eyes on them.

5:11 The labourer’s sleep is sweet, whether he has eaten little or much; but the rich man’s wealth will not let him sleep at all.

5:12 There is a great injustice that I observe under the sun: riches stored and turning to loss for their owner.

5:13 One unlucky venture, and those riches are lost; a son is born to him, and he has nothing to leave him.

5:14 Naked from his mother’s womb he came, as naked as he came he will depart again; nothing to take with him after all his efforts.

5:15 This is a grievous wrong, that as he came, so must he go; what profit can he show after toiling to earn the wind,

5:16 as he spends the rest of his days in darkness, grief, worry, sickness and resentment?

5:17 This, then, is my conclusion: the right happiness for man is to eat and drink and be content with all the work he has to do under the sun, during the few days God has given him to live, since this is the lot assigned him.

5:18 And whenever God gives a man riches and property, with the ability to enjoy them and to find contentment in his work, this is a gift from God.

5:19 He will not need to brood, at least, over the duration of his life so long as God keeps his heart occupied with joy.


6:1 There is an evil I observe under the sun, that weighs men down:

6:2 suppose has received from God riches, property, honours – nothing at all left him to wish for. Yet God does not give him the chance to enjoy them, but some stranger enjoys them. There is vanity here, and grievous suffering.

6:3 Or perhaps a man has had a hundred sons and as many daughters and lived for many years, and then derives no benefit from his estate, not even a tomb to call his own. Why then I say, better the untimely-born than he:

6:4 In darkness arriving, in darkness departing; even his name is wrapped in darkness.

6:5 Never seeing the sun, never knowing rest; the one no more than the other.

6:6 Even if the man had lived a thousand years twice over, without deriving profit from his estate, do not both alike go to the same place?

6:7 Man toils but to eat, yet his belly is never filled.

6:8 What advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what about the pauper who keeps up appearances before his fellow men?

6:9 Do appearances count more than the condition of the belly? This, too, is vanity and chasing of the wind.

6:10 What has been already has a name; and what man is, is known; he cannot dispute with one stronger than himself.

6:11 The more words, the greater the vanity of it all; and what does man get from it?

6:12 Who knows what is good for man in his lifetime, in those few days he lives so vainly, days that like a shadow he spends? Who can tell a man what will happen under the sun after his time?




7:1 Better a good name than costly oil, the day of death than the day of birth.

7:2 Better go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting; for to this end all men come, let the living take this to heart.

7:3 Better sadness than laughter, a severe face confers some benefit.

7:4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, the heart of fools in the house of gaiety.

7:5 Better attend to a wise man’s reprimand than listen to a song sung by a fool.

7:6 For like the crackling of thorns under the cauldron is the laughter of fools: this is vanity, too.

7:7 For laughter makes a fool of the wise man and merriment corrupts the heart.


7:8 Better the end of a matter than its beginning, better patience than pride.

7:9 Do not be hasty with your resentment, for resentment is found in the heart of fools.

7:10 Do not ask why earlier days were better than these, for that is not a question prompted by wisdom.

7:11 Wisdom is a precious legacy, a boon for those on whom the sun shines.

7:12 For as money gives protection, so does wisdom; and the good that knowledge imparts is this: its possessor finds that wisdom keeps him safe.

7:13 Consider the work of God; who can set straight what he has made crooked?

7:14 When times are prosperous, enjoy your happiness; when times are bad, consider this: the one is God’s doing, as is the other, in order that man may know nothing of his destiny.

7:15 In this fleeting life of mine I have seen so much: the virtuous man perishing for all his virtue, for all his godlessness the godless living on.

7:16 Do not be over-virtuous nor play too much the sage; why drive yourself too hard?

7:17 Do not be wicked to excess, and do not be a fool; why die before your time?

7:18 The best thing is to hold the one and not let go the other, for both of these will happen to the God-fearing man.

7:19 Wisdom lends more strength to the wise than ten rulers in a city.

7:20 There is no virtuous man on earth who, doing good, is ever free of sin.

7:21 Another thing: pay no attention to telltales; you may hear that your servant has reviled you;

7:22 your own heart knows how often you have reviled others.

7:23 I have put all this to the test by wisdom, claiming to be wise; but wisdom has been beyond my reach.

7:24 Reality lies beyond my grasp; and deep; so deep, who can discover it?

7:25 Once again I was at pains to study wisdom and retribution, to see wickedness as folly, and foolishness as madness.

7:26 I find woman more bitter than death; she is a snare, her heart a net, her arms are chains; He who is pleasing to God eludes her, but the sinner is her captive.

7:27 This then you must know, says Qoheleth, is the sum of my investigation, putting this and that together.

7:28 I have made other researches too, without result. One man in a thousand I may find, but never a woman better than the rest.

7:29 This, however, you must know: I find that God made man simple; man’s complex problems are of his own devising.


8:1 Who is like the sage? Who else can solve a problem? The wisdom of a man lends brightness to his face; his face, once grim, is altered.

8:2 This I say: Obey the command of the king, for the sake of the oath of God;

8:3 do not rashly transgress it; do not be stubborn when the cause is not a good one, since he acts as he thinks fit;

8:4 for the word of the king is paramount, and who dare say to him, ‘Why do that?’

8:5 He who obeys the command will come to no harm, and the wise man knows there will be a time of judgement.

8:6 For there is a time of judgement for everything; and man runs grave risks,

8:7 since he does not know what is going to happen; and who can tell him when it will happen?

8:8 No man can master the wind so as to hold it back, nor control the day of death. There is no discharge in time of war; no more can wickedness set its author free.

8:9 All this I observe as I consider all that is done under the sun, whenever man tyrannises over man to his hurt.

8:10 And then I see the wicked brought to burial and people come from the Temple to honour them in the city for having been the men they were. This, too, is vanity.

8:11 Since the sentence on wrong-doing is not carried out at once, men’s inmost hearts are intent on doing wrong.

8:12 The sinner who does wrong a hundred. times survives even so. I know very well that happiness is reserved for those who fear God, because they fear him;

8:13 that there will be no happiness for the wicked man and that lie will only eke out his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God.

8:14 But there is a vanity found on earth; the good, I mean, receive the treatment the wicked deserve; and the wicked the treatment the good deserve. This, too, I say, is vanity.

8:15 Joy, then, is the object of my praise, since under the sun there is no happiness for man except in eating, drinking and pleasure. This is his standby in his toil through the days of life God has given him under the sun.


8:16 Wisdom having been my careful study, I came to observe the business that goes on here on earth. And certainly the eyes of man never rest, day and night.

8:17 And I look at all the work of God: plainly no one can discover what the work is that goes on under the sun or explain why man should toil to seek yet never discover. Not even a sage can discover it, though he may claim to know.


9:1 For I have, reflected on all this and come to understand that the virtuous and the wise with all they do are in the hand of God. Man does not know what love is, or hate, and both of these in his eyes

9:2 are vanity. Just as one fate comes to all, to virtuous as to wicked, to clean and unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice, so it is with the good man and the sinner, with him who takes an oath and him who shrinks from it.

9:3 This is the evil that inheres in all that is done under the sun: that one fate comes to all; further, that the hearts of men should be full of malice; that they should practise

9:4 such extravagances towards the living in their lifetime and the dead thereafter. For anyone who is linked with all that live still has some hope, a live dog being s better than a dead lion.

9:5 The living know at least that they will die, the dead know nothing; no more reward for them; their memory has passed out of mind.

9:6 Their loves, their hates, their jealousies, these all have perished, nor will they ever again take part in whatever is done under the sun.

9:7 Go, eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with a glad heart; for what you do God has approved beforehand.

9:8 Wear white all the time, do not stint your head of oil.

9:9 Spend your life with the woman you love, through all the fleeting days of the life that God has given you under the sun; for this is the lot assigned to you in life and in the efforts you exert under the sun.

9:10 Whatever work you propose to do, do it while you can, for there is neither achievement, nor planning, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in Sheol where you are going.


9:11 I see this too under the sun: the race does not go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; there is no bread for the wise, wealth for the intelligent, nor favour for the learned; all are subject to time and mischance.

9:12 Man does not know his hour; like fish caught in the treacherous net, like birds taken in the snare, so is man overtaken by misfortune suddenly falling on him.

9:13 I observe another evil under the sun, to me a grave one.

9:14 There was a small town, with only a few inhabitants; a mighty king marched against it, laid siege to it and built great siege-works round it.

9:15 But a poverty-stricken sage confronted him and by his wisdom saved the town. No one remembered this poor man afterwards.

9:16 Now I say: wisdom is better than strength, but a poor man’s wisdom is never valued and his words are disregarded.

9:17 The gentle words of the wise are heard above the shouts of a king of fools.

9:18 Better wisdom than warlike weapons, but one mistake undoes a deal of good.


10:1 Dead flies spoil a bowl of perfumed oil; a little folly is stronger than wisdom and honour.

10:2 The wise man’s heart leads him aright, the fool’s heart leads him astray.

10:3 A fool has only to walk along the road and, having no sense, he makes plain to all what a fool he is.

10:4 With the anger of the ruler mounting against you, do not leave your post; composure avoids many a fault.

10:5 There is an evil I observe under the sun, the type of misjudgement to which rulers are prone:

10:6 folly promoted to high dignities, rich men taking the lowest place.

10:7 Slaves I see on horseback, princes going on foot like slaves.

10:8 He who digs a pit may fall into it; a man saps a wall, the serpent bites him.

10:9 He who quarries stones may be hurt by them; he who chops wood takes a risk.

10:10 If for want of sharpening the axe is blunt, you have to strike very hard, but the reward given by wisdom is success.

10:11 If the snake bites before it is charmed, what is the use of the charmer?

10:12 Words from a wise man’s mouth are pleasing, but a fool’s lips procure his own ruin.

10:13 Of the words he speaks folly is the beginning, sheer madness the end.

10:14 A fool is a great spender of words; man does not know the future; so who can tell him what is to happen after his time?

10:15 Fools find hard work irksome; he who does not know the way cannot go to town.

10:16 A bad outlook for you, country with a lad for king, and where princes feast in the morning.

10:17 Happy the country whose king is nobly born, where princes eat at a respectable hour to keep themselves strong, not to make themselves drunk.

10:18 Owing to neglect the roof-tree gives way; for want of care the house lets in the rain.

10:19 But meals are made for laughter. Wine gives joy to life. Money is the answer to everything[*a].

10:20 Do not curse the king, even in thought; do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom, for a bird of the air will carry the news; indiscretion sprouts wings.


11:1 Cast your bread on the water; at long last you will find it again.

11:2 Share with seven, yes with eight, for you never know what disaster may occur on earth.

11:3 When clouds are full of rain, They empty it out on the earth. Let the tree fall south or north, where the tree falls there it lies.

11:4 Keep watching the wind and you will never sow, stare at the clouds and you will never reap.

11:5 Just as you do not know the way of the wind or the mysteries of a woman with child, no more can you know the work of God who is behind it all.

11:6 In the morning sow your seed, do not let your hands lie idle in the evening. For which will prove successful, this or that, you cannot tell; and it may be that both will turn out well together.

Old age

11:7 Light is sweet; at sight of the sun the eyes are glad.

11:8 However great the number of the years a man may live, let him enjoy them all, and yet remember that dark days will be many. All that is to come is vanity.

11:9 Rejoice in your youth, you who are young; let your heart give you joy in your young days. Follow the promptings of your heart and the desires of your eyes. But this you must know: for all these things God will bring you to judgement.

11:10 Cast worry from your heart, shield your flesh from pain. Yet youth, the age of dark hair, is vanity.


12:1 And remember your creator in the days of your youth, before evil days come and the years approach when you say, ‘These give me no pleasure’,

12:2 before sun and light and moon and stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain;

12:3 the day when those who keep the house tremble[*a] and strong men are bowed; when the women grind no longer at the mill, because day is darkening at the windows

12:4 and the street doors are shut; when the sound of the mill is faint, when the voice of the bird is silenced, and song notes are stilled,

12:5 when to go uphill is an ordeal and a walk is something to dread. Yet the almond tree is in flower, the grasshopper is heavy with food and the caper bush bears its fruit, while man goes to his everlasting home. And the mourners are already walking to and fro in the street

12:6 before the silver cord has snapped, or the golden lamp been broken, or the pitcher shattered at the spring, or the pulley cracked at the well,

12:7 Or before the dust returns to the earth as it once came from it; and the breath to God who gave it.

12:8 Vanity of vanities, Qoheleth says. All is vanity.


12:9 Besides being a sage, Qoheleth also taught his knowledge to the people, having weighed, studied and amended a great many proverbs.

12:10 Qoheleth tried to write in an attractive style and to set down truthful thoughts in a straight-forward manner.

12:11 The words of the sages are like goads, like pegs driven deep; a shepherd uses these for the good of his flocks.

12:12 One last thing, my son, be warned that writing books involves endless hard work, and that much study wearies the body.

12:13 To sum up the whole matter: fear God, and keep his commandments, since this is the whole duty of man.

12:14 For God will call all hidden deeds, good or bad, to judgement.