2 Everything is so meaningless. The Teacher says that it is all a waste of time![a] 3 Do people really gain anything from all the hard work they do in this life[b]?
Things Never Change
4 People live and people die, but the earth continues forever. 5 The sun rises and the sun goes down, and then it hurries to rise again in the same place.
6 The wind blows to the south, and the wind blows to the north. The wind blows around and around. Then it turns and blows back to the place it began.
7 All rivers flow again and again to the same place. They all flow to the sea, but the sea never becomes full.
8 Words cannot fully explain things,[c] but people continue speaking.[d] Words come again and again to our ears, but our ears don’t become full. And our eyes don’t become full of what we see.
Nothing Is New
9 All things continue the way they have been since the beginning. The same things will be done that have always been done. There is nothing new in this life.
10 Someone might say, “Look, this is new,” but that thing has always been here. It was here before we were.
11 People don’t remember what happened long ago. In the future, they will not remember what is happening now. And later, other people will not remember what the people before them did.
Does Wisdom Bring Happiness?
12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I decided to study and to use my wisdom to learn about everything that is done in this life. I learned that it is a very hard thing that God has given us to do. 14 I looked at everything done on earth, and I saw that it is all a waste of time. It is like trying to catch the wind.[e] 15 If something is crooked, you cannot say it is straight. And if something is missing, you cannot say it is there.
16 I said to myself, “I am very wise. I am wiser than all the kings who ruled Jerusalem before me. I know what wisdom and knowledge really are.”
17 I decided to learn how wisdom and knowledge are better than thinking foolish thoughts. But I learned that trying to become wise is like trying to catch the wind. 18 With much wisdom comes frustration. The one who gains more wisdom also gains more sorrow.
- Ecclesiastes 1:2 meaningless … a waste of time The Hebrew word means “vapor or breath” or “something that is useless, meaningless, empty, wrong, or a waste of time.”
- Ecclesiastes 1:3 in this life Literally, “under the sun.” Also in verses 9, 13.
- Ecclesiastes 1:8 Words cannot fully explain things Literally, “All words are weak.”
- Ecclesiastes 1:8 but people continue speaking The Hebrew could also be translated, “People cannot speak.”
- Ecclesiastes 1:14 trying to catch the wind Or “It is very troubling to the spirit.” The word for “troubling” can also mean “craving,” and the word for “spirit” can also mean “wind.” Also in verse 17.