The Teacher’s Words

About Ecclesiastes

We do not know the name of the person who wrote Ecclesiastes. But we know that he was a son of David. And we know that the writer was a king. So, many students think that King Solomon wrote it. Its writer was certainly a very wise man. He calls himself ‘the Teacher’. The Teacher said some strange things. This is the reason. Many people do not know about God. So they try to find reasons for all the things that happen. But they cannot find reasons. The Teacher tells us what these people think. Sometimes people do things that have no purpose. He tells us what this is like. It is like somebody who tries to catch the wind. He means that it is very silly. The Teacher tells us how these people think. He does this when he uses the words ‘on the earth’. These people find that life on the earth has no purpose.

The Teacher uses the words wise and wisdom many times. In the Word List, you can read what these words mean. Often people who do not know God try to be wise. But if you want to be really wise, you need to know God. The Teacher wants us to know God. And he wants us to believe God. Also, he wants us to obey God. He wants us to enjoy the good things that God has given to us. We will still have questions about our life on the earth. Some of them are questions that nobody can answer. But God will be with us during our lives. At some future time, each of us will die. The Teacher is not sure what will happen then. He says, ‘Our spirits will return to God’ (Ecclesiastes 12:7). In the New Testament, we learn what else will happen.

Chapter 1

1 These are the Teacher’s words. The Teacher was David’s son. The Teacher was a king. He lived in a city that was called Jerusalem. There he ruled his country.

2 ‘Nothing has a purpose’, he said.

            ‘None of the things that happen has a purpose.’

3 People work for their whole lives.

            But they get nothing for the work that they do here on the earth.

4 People are born and they live on the earth. At the end of their lives, they die.

            But the earth continues as it has always continued.

5 The sun still rises in the morning and it goes down in the evening.

            And it does the same thing each day.

6 The wind blows to the south and it turns to the north.

            It blows round and round, but it always returns.

7 All rivers go to the sea, but they never fill the sea.

            In the end, the water returns. It returns to where it came from.

8 Life makes us tired. It makes us so tired that we could not tell anyone about it.

            Nothing that we see can ever make us happy.

Nothing that we hear will ever cause true pleasure for us.

            9 Future events will be the same as past events were.

What people have done, they will do again.

            There is nothing that is new anywhere on the earth.

10 We can say, ‘Look! Here is something new.’

            But it is not true! It was here already, many years ago.

It was here before we were born.

            We soon forget people who have died.

11 We do not remember what they did many years ago.

            It will be the same in future years.

People will remember things that they have seen during their lives.

            But many events happened before they were born. They will not remember those events.

12 I said these things when I was the king of my country, Israel. I lived in the city called Jerusalem. There I ruled my country. 13 I also studied a lot and I was very wise. I thought about the things that happen here on the earth. And I tried to understand them. But God has made this very difficult for us to do. 14 I have seen all the things that happen on the earth. There is no reason for any of them. It is like somebody who tries to catch the wind.

15 People may do things that are wrong.

            This is like something that you have bent.

When you have bent it, you cannot make it straight again.

            Neither can you count things that are not there.

16 ‘I have become a really great man’, I told myself. ‘There have been other kings who have ruled in Jerusalem. But I am more wise than any of them’, I thought. 17 I wanted to learn all that I could learn about wisdom. I also wanted to know how a fool thinks. But this, too, was like somebody who tries to catch the wind.

18 If I learn to be very wise, I will be very sad.

            If I learn a lot about many things, that will be very painful for me.

The Teacher is very honest. He does not say that life is good. He knows that it is not always good. Without God’s wisdom, he cannot understand the things that happen on the earth.

Chapter 2

1 ‘I will enjoy my life’, I thought. ‘I will make myself happy. That will be good.’ But it was not good. I enjoyed myself, but my life was not worth anything. 2 It was silly to laugh all the time. I could look for things to make me happy. But they would not make my life worth anything. 3 So I decided to drink wine to make myself happy. I wanted to understand how a fool thinks. But I did not want to be a fool myself. We only live for a short time on the earth. And I wanted to know the best way to use that time.

4 I made some great things. I built houses for myself and I planted many vines. 5 I made gardens and parks. I planted many fruit trees in the gardens and parks. 6 I made large pools to give water for the trees. 7 I bought male slaves and female slaves. Their sons and their daughters became my slaves too. Many people lived in Jerusalem before I did. And many of them had animals. But I had more cows and sheep than anyone else had. 8 I ruled many countries. And I got silver and gold for myself from their kings. Men and women sang for me. I got many wives to make me happy. These are all things that people enjoy. 9 I was the most famous person who had ever lived in Jerusalem. And I was very wise.

10 If I wanted to have something, I took it.

            If I wanted to do something, I did it.

And I enjoyed my work.

            I liked what I got from it.

11 Then I thought about the things that I had done.

            I thought about all my difficult work.

But, in the end, I still saw that nothing had a purpose.

            It was like somebody who tries to catch the wind.

None of the things that I had done had any value.

12 Then I decided to think about how a wise person lives.

            I wanted to think also about how a fool lives.

I said to myself, ‘The next king will not do any more than I have done.’

            13 I know that light is better than the dark.

And I saw that it is better to be wise.

            To be a fool is worse.

14 A wise man looks where he is going.

            A fool shuts his eyes when he walks.

But at the end of their lives, they both die.

            15 Then I thought to myself, ‘Like the fool, I will die.

So, if I am wise, there is no value in it.’

            I said to myself, ‘This too means nothing.’

16 People do not remember wise men or fools.

That is because people will forget everything at some future time.

            Even wise men, like fools, must die in the end!

17 So I was not happy with my life. And my work on the earth does not make me happy now. All of my work was worth nothing. It was like somebody who tries to catch the wind. 18 I will die in the end. Then some other person will enjoy the things that I have made. 19 That person may be a wise man or he may be a fool. But he will have all the things that I have worked for on the earth. This, too, is not good. The fact that I was wise means nothing. 20 So I became sad about all my work on the earth. 21 A man may know how to do his job well. He may do his work well and after that, he dies. Then all that he had will become another man’s things. And that man will not have worked for it. This too means nothing and it is very sad. 22 People have to do a lot of work on this earth. But they get nothing that they can keep. 23 Every day, their work disappoints them and it makes them sad. Even at night, their minds do not rest. All their work means nothing.

The Teacher was very rich, but that did not make him happy. If nobody lives again after death, a wise man and a fool are the same. It is not better to be a wise man than it is to be a fool.

24 We should eat and we should drink. And we should enjoy our work. There is nothing better that we can do than those things. I believe that these are gifts from God. 25 Without God’s help, nobody can have enough food to eat. And nobody can be happy. 26 If we obey God, he will help us. He will make us wise. He will make us clever. And he will help us to enjoy our life. But if we do not obey God, our lives will be difficult. He will give what is ours to another person. This, too, is not good. It is like somebody who tries to catch the wind.

The Teacher wants us to enjoy the good things that God gives to us. So he wants us to believe what God says. Look at verse 26. There the Teacher tells us about the two ways for us to live. The best thing that we can say is, ‘Ask God for his help. Then do what he says.’

Chapter 3

1 There is a right time for everything that we do under the sun.

2 There is a time to be born. And there is a time to die.

            There is a time to plant seeds. Then the seeds will grow and they will become plants. And there is a time to pick the plants.

3 There is a time to kill. And there is a time to make people well.

            There is a time to destroy something. And there is a time to build it again.

4 There is a time to weep. And there is a time to laugh.

            There is a time to be sad. And there is a time to dance.

5 There is a time to throw stones away. And there is a time to pick them up.

            There is a time to kiss. And there is a time to say goodbye.

6 There is a time to look for something. You look for something that you have lost.

            And there is a time to stop looking for it.

There is a time to keep things.

            And there is a time to throw them away.

7 There is a time to tear something down. And there is a time to mend it.

            There is a time to be quiet. And there is a time to speak.

8 There is a time to love. And there is a time to hate.

            There is a time to fight. And there is a time not to fight.

9 People get nothing for all the work that they do. 10 Their work is very difficult. And God has caused it to be like that. 11 But he also causes all things to happen at the right time. He puts questions in our minds. We want to know what happens after our death. We cannot understand all the things that God has done. 12 We should enjoy our lives. There is nothing better that we can do than that. We should also do good things during our lives. 13 We should get pleasure from what we eat. We should enjoy what we drink. And we should be happy when we are doing our work. These are all gifts from God.

14 Everything that God does will be for all time. We cannot do anything more than what God has done. We cannot take anything away from what he has done. God wants us to worship him. That is the reason for all that he does.

15 Future events will be the same as past events were.

            God causes the same things to happen again and again.

The Teacher is telling us when something is right. It is only right if we do it at the right time. And it is God who says this. He says whether it is right. We think that ‘under the sun’ (verse 1) means ‘here on the earth’. Also, God causes things to happen at the right time (verse 11). It is important to understand this. There is a reason for all the things that God does. And he wants us to worship him.

16 I saw something else about the people who live in this world.

People should say if something is wrong. But they say that it is right.

            They should be fair to each other but they are not fair.

17 ‘God will be the judge of all good people and of all bad people’, I told myself.

            Everything will happen at the right time.

18 ‘Perhaps God wants us to know that we are like animals’, I thought. 19 Like animals, we live and then we die. We really are the same as animals. So our life means nothing for us or for them. 20 People and animals go to the same place. God made animals and people from the same dry material on the ground. And when they die, they both become dry material on the ground again. 21 We need to know what happens after our death. We think that the spirit of a man goes up. And we think that the spirit of an animal goes down towards the ground. But nobody really knows. 22 So we should enjoy our work. That is the best thing that we can do. That is what God wants us to do. But we do not know what there is after death.

The Teacher tells us what happens after our death. In verse 20, he repeats what is in Genesis 3:19. When animals and people die, their dead bodies become like the dry material on the ground. So we should enjoy what God has given to us now. God sees all that we do. But the Teacher believes that we have a different ‘spirit’ (verse 21). It is different from an animal’s ‘spirit’. The Teacher wrote this book in the Hebrew language (the language that the readers spoke at that time). The Hebrew word for ‘spirit’ can mean several things. It can mean ‘breath’. (Breath is the air that goes into the nose. And then it goes out of it.) Or it can mean ‘spirit’ (look at the word list). It can also mean ‘our thoughts’. The Teacher says more about this in 12:7.

Chapter 4

In chapters 4-10 the Teacher says many wise things. Some things cause us to think that our lives here on the earth have no reason. Sometimes the Teacher talks about these things. At other times, he says that we should enjoy good things. We should enjoy the good things that God gives to us.

1 In every place on the earth, I saw cruel people.

Some people were crying because the cruel people were hurting them.

            There was nobody to help them.

They were too weak to help themselves.

            2 ‘It is better to be dead. That is better than to be alive’, I said to myself.

3 ‘The most happy people are those who have not been born.

            They do not see the bad things that happen on the earth.’

4 We do not like other people to have more than we have. That is why we work for many hours each day. That is why we try to do very many things. This, too, is like somebody who tries to catch the wind.

5 Fools refuse to work.

            They die because they have no food.

6 It is better to be happy with a little food.

            Some people work for more food than they need. But that is not right.

It is like somebody who tries to catch the wind.

7 Again, on the earth I saw something else that has no purpose.

8 Some people live alone.

            They cannot give things to friends or to children,

because they have no friends or children.

            They are not happy with the things that they have.

But they continue to work so that they can get more.

            They should ask themselves, ‘Whom are we working for?’

They should ask themselves why they do not enjoy their life more.

            After their death, all that they have will not be theirs any longer. All those things will be another person’s things.

Their lives will have meant nothing. This is like sad work.

9 It is good to have a friend.

            You can enjoy the work that you and your friend do together.

10 If you fall, a friend can help you.

            You may fall when you are alone.

If you do that, you really are in trouble.

            11 If two people sleep together, they keep each other warm.

If you sleep alone, you will be cold in the night.

            12 A strong person might hurt you.

But if you have a friend, your friend can help you. And you can fight so that the strong person will not hurt you.

            Somebody has said, ‘A rope can have three parts rather than one part. If it has three parts, it is difficult to break it.’

13 You may be poor and you may be young. But anyway it is a good thing to be wise. A king will not always listen when people speak to him. If you are wise, you are better. You are better than that kind of king. He is a fool. 14 You may have been in a prison and you may be very poor. Your father may not be a king, but you could become a king. 15 I once knew a young person. That young person became a powerful king after another king had died. 16 Many people thought that he was a good king. Nobody could even count the people who thought that. But in future years, nobody will remember him. This, too, is like somebody who tries to catch the wind.

The Teacher tells us that people are not fair to each other. Instead, they are cruel. Some people work too much. Other people are too lazy. Some people have no friends. Other people become famous and they have many friends. But it does not seem to matter who we are. It does not seem to matter what we do. The things that happen in our lives seem to have no reason.

Chapter 5

1 Be careful about anything that you do in the temple. Listen well when you worship God. Some fools go to the temple and they give sacrifices to God. But they do it for the wrong reasons. They do not know that they have done a wrong thing!

2 You should think before you speak.

            You should think before you promise something to God.

God is in heaven and he knows you well.

            You are here on the earth.

And you do not see as much as God sees.

            Do not say to God more than you have to say.

3 If you think about your troubles too much, you will dream about bad things.

            If you talk too much, you will say silly things.

4 You should do what you have promised to God. You should do it when you can. You should not wait before you do it. Only a fool would not do what he had promised to God. 5 Do not promise to do something that you might not do. It would be better not to promise anything. 6 Only say things that are true. You should not say to the priest, ‘The promise that I said was a mistake.’ That would make God angry. God might destroy the things that you have worked for. 7 It is silly to dream all the time. Remember that. It is also silly to talk all the time. But you should obey God because he is a great God.

8 The poor people who live in your country may be hungry. But the government does not help them, and the government is not fair to them. Do not be surprised about that. The government’s officers do not decide what to do. Other more important people tell them what they must do. The king is the most important person in the country. 9 When people pay money to the government, the king receives a lot of it.

10 You may love money.

            But you will never have enough money.

You may like to have valuable things.

            But you will always want to have more of them. This is silly.

11 If you have a lot of money, other people will want some of it.

            You will not enjoy the money that you have.

Other people will spend it for you.

12 A man who has worked all day will sleep well at night.

            This is true even if he did not eat very much food.

But the rich man cannot sleep well because he has eaten too much.

13 I have seen something else that is not fair on the earth.

            People may get a lot of money.

But, if they try to keep it,

            it will be bad for them.

14 At a future time, they may discover that they have lost all their money.

            Then, after they die, there will be no money for their children.

15 They were born with nothing.

            When they die, they will have nothing.

They cannot take anything with them when they leave this earth.

            They will have nothing for all their work.

16 That is not fair.

            People leave this earth, as they came into it, with nothing.

They live as if they were trying to catch the wind.

            But after all their work, they have nothing.

17 During their lives, they are always sad, angry and sick.

18 God has given to us a short life on this earth. I think that we should enjoy our lives. We should eat and drink. And we should do our work well. That is what God wants us to do. 19 If you are rich, you will have many things. You should enjoy those things. You should enjoy your work, too. This is a gift from God to you. 20 God will keep you busy and he will make you happy. You will be too busy to think about your troubles each day.

Here the Teacher says that we should be honest. We should be honest when we worship God. The things that some people say may not be true. But God will know if they are not being honest. The Teacher tells us something else. Even if we have a lot of money, we may not be happy. But we should enjoy the things that God has given to us. And we should thank God for those things.

Chapter 6

1 On this earth, there is something else that is not fair. 2 God may give to you all the things that you want. He may give riches to you. And he may give to you money to spend. He may give to you a house to live in. But he may not let you enjoy those things. Somebody that you do not even know may get them all. That is not fair and it will confuse you a lot. 3 You may live for a long time and you may have many children. But you may not enjoy your life. When you die, people may not bury you properly. A child that is dead at its birth does not have a good life. But your life is worse than that. 4 A child like that will never live to see the sun. 5 It will not even have a name. It will leave this earth and it will go to a dark place. But that child will have more peace than you do. 6 You may live for a very long time, but you may not enjoy your life. We all go to the same place after we die. This is what will happen. Remember that.

7 We work so that we will have food.

            But we never have enough food.

8 Our lives have not been more happy because we have been wise.

            A fool would be as happy as we have been.

We may try to live in the right way.

            But that does not make us happier if we are still poor.

9 It is not good always to want more things.

            We should enjoy the things that we have. That is better.

Somebody who wants more things all the time is silly.

            He is like somebody who tries to catch the wind.

10 God decided a long time ago what we should be like.

            We cannot argue with God about that. He is very much stronger than we are.

11 If we talk too much, we will say silly things.

            It is better not to talk a lot.

12 We live for only a few years and our lives mean nothing. Our lives are like shadows that pass over the earth. We do not know the best way to live. We do not know what will happen after our death.

When the Teacher speaks, he is very honest. Some people will be poor and their lives will be difficult. And it will not be possible for them to change things. So we should enjoy the things that we have. This is what God has given to us.

Chapter 7

1 You may be a nice person.

            So it is good if people know that.

There was a day when you were born. But the day when you die will be better.

            2 You may enjoy a party.

But it is better for you if you go to a funeral.

            There, you will think about the day when you will die.

We will all die in the end. It is good to remember that.

            3 It is better to be sad than it is to be happy.

We learn more about ourselves when we are sad.

            4 A wise person thinks about death.

A fool thinks about how to enjoy his life.

            5 You can listen to a fool who is singing songs.

But it is better to listen to a wise friend.

            He can tell you if you do a wrong thing.

6 Some sharp, hard plants make a lot of noise when they burn. But they do not make much heat.

Fools make a lot of noise when they laugh. But they never do anything good.

7 Wise people become fools if they are not fair to other people.

            It is wrong to receive a bribe.

8 It is good when you start to do some new work.

            But it is better to finish that work.

Do your work well even if you have to do it slowly.

            Some people may be proud. But it is better to do your work well.

9 Do not get angry quickly. That is what fools do.

            Try to forget the bad things that people may have done to you.

10 You may think that your life is difficult.

            You may think that it was easier before now.

It is not wise to think like that.

            So do not think like that.

            11 It is as good to be wise as it is to receive a lot of money.

12 Money can keep you safe. And wisdom can keep you safe.

            But if you are wise, you will know the best way to live.

13 Think about the things that God has done.

            If God has bent something, you cannot make it straight.

14 If your life is good, you should be happy.

            But bad things may happen to you.

God causes good things to happen and he also causes bad things to happen. Remember that.

            You do not know what will happen next.

15 I do not know why I am alive.

            But I have seen two things during my life.

I have seen that good people have died. They died when they were young.

            They always did the right thing but they died like everyone else.

I have seen that some bad people live for many years.

            16 Be careful that you do not kill yourself.

That might happen if you try to be too good or too wise.

            17 Be careful that you do not die too soon.

That might happen if you are a fool or a bad person.

            18 Try to live your life in a way that is in the middle.

You can do that if you try to love God. And you can do it if you try to obey him.

19 A wise man can do greater things than ten leaders in a city can do.

            20 But even good men do not always do what is right.

Sometimes they make mistakes.

21 Do not listen to all the things that people say about you.

            Even your servant may say bad things about you.

22 Do not forget that you, too, have said bad things.

23 I wanted to be wise.

            Many things have happened to me during my life.

And I wanted to discover the reason for them.

            24 But I could not discover a good reason.

It was too difficult for me.

            25 So I decided to learn many things.

I wanted to become wise.

            And I wanted to get answers to all my questions.

I believed that it was silly to be a fool.

            I wanted to discover if this was true.

26 I learned that it is dangerous to meet a bad woman.

She is a worse thing than death itself.

            She says that she loves you.

But if you listen to her, you will do wrong things.

            Do what God wants people to do. If you do that, a woman like that will not catch you.

But that bad woman will catch the man who does not obey God’s rules.

            27 I used all my wisdom. And I looked for answers to my questions.

28 But I have failed.

            I do know that there is one good man in every thousand men.

But I have not found a good woman.

            29 I did learn one thing.

God made us to be good people.

            But we have become bad people.

Chapter 8

1 A person’s wisdom will cause his face to be like a happy man’s face.

            It will do that, even when things have made him sad.

But only a few people are wise.

And only a few people really understand things.

The Teacher has tried to understand the things that have happened during his life. He cannot discover a reason for them. But he says that we should obey God. We should do that even if things are difficult to understand.

2 Perhaps you promised to God that you would obey the king. You should do what you promised to do. 3 If you are with the king, do not leave too quickly. The king can do anything that he wants to do. So do not join a group of people who do not want to obey him. 4 Do not argue with the king because he is very powerful. Nobody can tell him that he must not do something.

5 Everyone who obeys the king will be safe.

            And a wise man knows what he should do.

            And he knows when he should do it

            And he knows how to do it.

6 You may have a difficult life.

            But there is a right time for things to happen.

There is a right way to do things.

            7 Nobody can tell what will happen in future days or years.

8 We do not know the day when we will die.

            And we can do nothing to change that day.

We may fight against death, but we cannot win that fight.

            Not even a bad person can do that.

9 I saw all these things and I thought about them a lot. I thought about the things that happen on the earth. I saw people who had power. They used that power to hurt people. 10 I saw people bury the dead bodies of bad men. Those bad men had gone in and out of the holy place. The people in their city forgot all the bad things that those men had done. There is no good reason for any of this.

11 When bad people do wrong things, the judges should punish them. This should happen very fast. If it does not happen fast, other people will do wrong things. 12 A man may do many bad things and that bad man may live to a very old age. But I believe that God is fair. If you obey God, you will have a good life. 13 If you do not obey God, you will not have a long life. Your life will be short, like a shadow. 14 Here is something else that is not right. The judges should not punish good people. But sometimes they do that. And the judges do not punish the bad people that they should punish. I have not discovered any good reason for this.

15 So we should enjoy our lives as much as possible. The best thing that we can do is to enjoy everything. We should enjoy what we eat. And we should enjoy what we drink. We should all try to be happy. There are no other good things on this earth. God has given us each day in our life. We will have easier lives if we enjoy ourselves.

16 I have tried to understand the things that happen on this earth. I thought about those things all day and all night. I did not go to sleep. 17 Then I saw all the things that God has done. Nobody can really understand the things that happen on the earth. That is what I discovered. We may be very wise. We may try many times to learn more and more. We may learn many things. But there will still be things that we will not understand.

The Teacher tells us several things in these verses. There are many things in our life that are difficult to understand. Bad people seem to have a better life than good people do. So we should try to enjoy the good things that we have. There will always be things that we cannot understand. But the Teacher believes that God will be fair in the end.

Chapter 9

1 I thought about all these things. I saw that God is very powerful. He decides what our lives will be like. That is true even if we are wise. It is true even if we live in the right way. We do not know the things that will happen during our lives. So we never know if we will be happy or sad. We may live in the right way and we may obey God. Or we may do wrong things. 2 But what happens to us in the end will be the same. We may give sacrifices to God or we may not do that.

We may be good or we may be bad.

            When we have promised something to God, we may do that thing. Or we may not do it.

What happens to us in the end will be the same, anyway.

3 After our death, the same thing will happen to us. There will be no difference in that. That is not fair. So people decide to live like fools. They do not try to be good. And then they die. 4 It is not very good to be a dead lion. It is better to be a dog that is alive. A person that is alive can hope to have a good life.

5 We know that we will all die in the end.

            But dead people do not know anything.

And when they are dead, they cannot enjoy their life.

6 Dead people have gone from the earth and people do not remember them.

            Nobody that is dead can love another person.

Nobody that is dead can hate another person.

            Dead people cannot change the things that happen on the earth.

7 It is good to be happy. It is good to enjoy what you eat. And it is good to enjoy what you drink. God has pleasure in what you do. 8 You should put on your best clothes and you should comb your hair well. 9 Your life will be short and it will be difficult. But you love your wife, so enjoy your life together. That is the way to live on the earth. 10 And do your work well. You will soon leave the earth. Then it will not be possible for you to work. You will not think about future events. You will not know anything.

11 I saw another thing that happens on the earth.

The runner who can run most quickly does not always finish first.

            The strongest soldier may not win the war.

People will not always feed you because you are wise.

            If you are clever, good things will not always happen to you.

You may not become rich even if you do your work well.

            Good things and bad things happen to us all.

            12 Bad things can happen to all of us.

A fish does not know when somebody will catch it.

            A bird does not know when somebody will catch it.

That is like us. We do not know when something bad will happen.

Things do not always happen as we want them to happen.

13 I saw another example of wisdom. 14 There was a city that only a few people lived in. A foreign king attacked that city. His army was ready to knock down the walls round the city. 15 But a poor man, who was very wise, lived in the city. And he knew how to save the city. He saved it, but people soon forgot him. 16 So, it may be good to be strong. But it is better to be wise. That is what I thought about it. But if you are poor, nobody listens to you. It does not matter how wise you are. People will not listen to you, anyway.

17 A wise man will speak quietly.

            When he speaks quietly, it is good to listen to him.

The loud words of a king that is a fool do not mean a lot. The quiet words of a wise man mean more.

18 A wise person can do more than a soldier can do.

You may be wise. But one bad person can destroy all the good things that you have done.

There is only one thing that a person can be sure about. He or she will die in the end. But while we are alive, we cannot change things. Our life does not seem very fair. It may be difficult, even for a wise man.

Chapter 10

1 A jar of perfume soon has a bad smell if there are even a few dead flies in it.

            So one silly thing can destroy the good things that a wise man has done.

2 If you are wise, you can do the right thing. You will know what is right. That is why you can do the right thing.

            If you think like a fool, you will do wrong things.

3 We know that fools are silly.

            It is easy to recognise a fool.

You have only to watch what he does.

            Then you will see that he is a fool.

4 Do not leave your job when your master gets angry.

            Be quiet and say nothing to him.

Your master will forget that you have made him angry.

            He will still let you work for him.

5 I have seen something on the earth that is very bad.

I saw a ruler who did the wrong thing.

            6 Rulers give power to fools. But they do not give it to rich people.

7 Rulers let slaves ride on horses.

            But the masters of those slaves have to walk.

8 If you dig a deep hole, you will fall into it.

            If you knock down a wall, a snake will come out. And it will bite you.

9 You will hurt yourself when you are getting stones from under the ground.

            If you are cutting wood, a piece of it might hurt you.

10 If your axe is not sharp, it will be difficult to use.

            If you are wise, you can do the right thing. You will know what is right. That is why you can do the right thing.

11 You may know how to cause a snake to do what you want it to do.

            But that will not help you if the snake bites you first.

12 People like a wise man because of the things that he says.

            But a fool’s own words can hurt the fool badly.

13 Fools do not think before they speak.

            They say things and then those things cause problems for them. And those things cause problems for other people, too.

14 And fools always talk a lot.

            They talk about things that may happen.

But none of us really knows what future things will be like.

15 When a fool does some work, it soon makes him tired.

            He is so tired that he forgets the way to town.

16 Sometimes a country will have a very young king.

            If he rules like a child, there will be bad problems in that country.

And the leaders of the country might go to parties all the time. And then the problems will be worse.

            17 But a country will become rich if its ruler is wise.

It will become rich if its leaders do not go to parties all the time.

18 A man may be too lazy to do repairs to the roof on his house.

            If he does not do the repairs, water will get into the house. And the house will fall down.

19 Eat good food and drink good wine. If you do that, you will be happy.

            When you have a lot of money, you can buy anything. You can buy anything that you want.

20 Do not say bad things about the king.

            Do not say bad things about rich people.

Do not even think that you might do that.

            A little bird may hear you. And it might tell people what you said.

This chapter includes several proverbs about people who are wise or not wise. The Teacher has seen the things that happen in our lives. He wants us to understand what he has seen. He shows that somebody may be a fool. But it is certainly better to be wise.

Chapter 11

1 Give money to anybody who needs it.

            At some future time, you may be poor and other people will then give money to you.

2 You do not know when you will need help.

            So, if seven or eight people need money, give it to them.

3 When clouds are full of water, there will be rain on the earth.

            If there is too much wind, a tree will fall. Wherever the tree falls, there it will lie.

4 If you are always thinking about the wind, you will not plant seeds.

            If you are always watching the clouds, you will never pick any plants.

5 Before a baby is born, it grows inside its mother.

            Nobody can explain how that happens.

Nobody can explain the things that God does.

            So do not be surprised about that.

Remember that God made the world.

            And he made everything that is in the world.

6 Plant your seeds early in the morning.

            You should plant seeds all day, until the evening.

Some of the seeds may grow.

            Perhaps all the seeds will grow.

7 Light is good.

            So people are happy when they see the sun.

8 You should enjoy the things that you do each day.

            You should do that even if you live to a very old age.

You may live for many years but, in the end, you will die.

            And you will be dead for a very long time.

There is nothing that means anything after that.

            9 Enjoy your life while you are young.

Do the things that you want to do.

            The things that you see will give you pleasure, too.

But God watches the things that you do. You should remember that.

            He will want to know why you did those things.

10 Do not think about the good things that you do not have.

            And do not do things that cause pain in your body.

            You cannot always be young.

We all become old.

We can do things that will help us to enjoy our life. We should be kind to other people. We should enjoy each new day. We should remember that God made us. And he made the world that we live in, too.

Chapter 12

1 While you are young, you should worship God.

            In future years, you will say, ‘I do not enjoy my life longer.’

2 In the end, you will not see the light that comes from the sun.

            And will you not see the moon or the stars.

There will always be black clouds in the sky.

            3 Your arms will move from one side to the other side when you do not want them to move.

Your legs will become weak.

            You will have only a few teeth.

Your eyes will not see well.

            4 Your ears will not hear well.

You will not hear the noise of people at their work.

            At night, you will not sleep well.

But you will hear the birds when they sing. Then you will wake up because of that.

            5 You will be afraid to climb up a hill.

You will be afraid to walk along a road.

            Your hair will become white.

It will be like white flowers on a bush.

            You will feel very tired all the time.

And you will not want to have sex any longer.

            We will all die in the end.

When we die, people will be sad.

            Many of them will be on the streets.

And they will cry because we have died.

6 In the end, the valuable jar will break.

            The water pot will break. The rope at the well will break.

You will not get water from the well any longer.

            7 So, in the end, we will all die.

People will bury our dead bodies under the ground.

            Our spirits will return to God.

8 Nothing on the earth has a purpose.

            I have seen all the things that happen on the earth.

None of them has a purpose.

9 I was a wise teacher and I saw many things. I wrote down all the proverbs that I had studied. 10 I saw all the things that happen on the earth. I tried to explain them. My words are all true. 11 A farmer uses a stick when he wants his animals to move. Proverbs are like the stick that the farmer uses. Proverbs come from God. He is like a guide because he shows us the way to live. He uses proverbs to do that.

12 You are my son. So listen to what I say. Do not listen when people teach you other things. There are many books. If you study them all, you will be very tired.

13 With a few words, I can describe everything that you must know. You should worship God. He says to you what you should do. And you should do what he says. That is our duty. 14 We may do good things. Sometimes we do wrong things. We think that nobody sees us. But God sees the things that we do. And he will ask us to explain the answer to this question: ‘What have we done with our lives here on the earth?’

In the first part of this chapter, the writer describes old age and death. We should know that God sees us. And we should remember that when we do things in our lives. We should worship God. Also, God says to us what we should do. And we should do what he says. We may not understand why things happen anyway. But on a future day, God will ask us to explain how we have lived here on the earth.

Word List

money that someone gives to you because you do a wrong thing.
a man who loved God and a king of the Jews.
not to remember wrong things that a person has done; to choose not to punish someone for wrong things that the person has done. God forgives us for the wrong things that we have done. He chooses to do this, but we must change our minds. We must ask him to come into our lives.
when people meet together after somebody has died. Usually, the dead person’s family and friends bury him or her under the ground. They are sad and they try to give help to each other.
small fruits from a vine. People can use them to make wine.
to strongly or completely not like something or someone; it is the opposite of when you love something or someone.
the place where God and Jesus are. Some people really know God and Jesus. And those people will go to heaven after they die.
Israel’s capital city. The temple of God was there.
people who were born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.
a person with authority to say that someone has done right things or wrong things; he may punish people who have done wrong things; he may give good things to good people.
a wild animal like a very big cat. It can kill a man.
New Testament
the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after Jesus lived on earth.
when we have no trouble in our minds.
material like oil that usually has a nice smell. People put it on their bodies.
a man who brought the people’s gifts to God; he burned animals as a sacrifice to God.
a proud person thinks that he or she is better than other people.
people remember the things that wise people say. If many people remember those things, they call them proverbs.
to hurt someone for the wrong things that they have done. For example, a person who has robbed another person must go to a prison.
a long, thin piece of strong material that people use to tie things together.
a gift that people gave to God. They were asking him to forgive the wrong things that they had done.
a white metal; it shines and it is very valuable.
the part of us that lives even after our body dies.
a special building where people went to meet God. And they went there to talk to him.
a plant that climbs. Its fruits are called grapes.
a drink that people make from grapes. It contains alcohol.
when a person always knows the best thing to do.
when people are wise, they understand God’s word. They know what God wants them to do. They do what is good and right.
to give thanks to God; to tell God that he is great; and to tell him that we love him very much.

Book List

Derek Kidner ~ The Message of Ecclesiastes ~ Inter-Varsity Press

Deryck Sheriffs ~ The Friendship of the Lord: An Old Testament Spirituality ~ Paternoster

The New Bible Commentary Revised ~ Eerdmans

Gordon J. Keddie ~ The Guide - Ecclesiastes ~ Evangelical Press

Michael A. Eaton ~ Ecclesiastes ~ Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries ~ Inter-Varsity Press

The Bible ~ CEV; NIV; Good News Bible; New Living Translation


© Wycliffe Associates (UK), 1997-2010

This version published August 2010

The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.