10 As dead flies cause even a bottle of perfume to stink,
so a little foolishness spoils great wisdom and honor.
2 A wise person chooses the right road;
a fool takes the wrong one.
3 You can identify fools
just by the way they walk down the street!
4 If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit!
A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes.
The Ironies of Life
5 There is another evil I have seen under the sun. Kings and rulers make a grave mistake 6 when they give great authority to foolish people and low positions to people of proven worth. 7 I have even seen servants riding horseback like princes—and princes walking like servants!
8 When you dig a well,
you might fall in.
When you demolish an old wall,
you could be bitten by a snake.
9 When you work in a quarry,
stones might fall and crush you.
When you chop wood,
there is danger with each stroke of your ax.
10 Using a dull ax requires great strength,
so sharpen the blade.
That’s the value of wisdom;
it helps you succeed.
11 If a snake bites before you charm it,
what’s the use of being a snake charmer?
12 Wise words bring approval,
but fools are destroyed by their own words.
13 Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions,
so their conclusions will be wicked madness;
14 they chatter on and on.
No one really knows what is going to happen;
no one can predict the future.
15 Fools are so exhausted by a little work
that they can’t even find their way home.
16 What sorrow for the land ruled by a servant,[a]
the land whose leaders feast in the morning.
17 Happy is the land whose king is a noble leader
and whose leaders feast at the proper time
to gain strength for their work, not to get drunk.
18 Laziness leads to a sagging roof;
idleness leads to a leaky house.
19 A party gives laughter,
wine gives happiness,
and money gives everything!
20 Never make light of the king, even in your thoughts.
And don’t make fun of the powerful, even in your own bedroom.
For a little bird might deliver your message
and tell them what you said.
The Uncertainties of Life
11 Send your grain across the seas,
and in time, profits will flow back to you.[b]
2 But divide your investments among many places,[c]
for you do not know what risks might lie ahead.
3 When clouds are heavy, the rains come down.
Whether a tree falls north or south, it stays where it falls.
4 Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.
If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.
5 Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb,[d] so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.
6 Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.
Advice for Young and Old
7 Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning.
8 When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. But let them also remember there will be many dark days. Everything still to come is meaningless.
9 Young people,[e] it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. 10 So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless.
12 Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” 2 Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky. 3 Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble; and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop. Remember him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding; and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly.
4 Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades. Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint.
5 Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire. Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral.
6 Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. 7 For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
Concluding Thoughts about the Teacher
8 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.”
9 Keep this in mind: The Teacher was considered wise, and he taught the people everything he knew. He listened carefully to many proverbs, studying and classifying them. 10 The Teacher sought to find just the right words to express truths clearly.[f]
11 The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd[g] drives the sheep.
12 But, my child,[h] let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out.
13 That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. 14 God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.
10:16 Or a child.
11:1 Or Give generously, / for your gifts will return to you later. Hebrew reads Throw your bread on the waters, / for after many days you will find it again.
11:2 Hebrew among seven or even eight.
11:5 Some manuscripts read Just as you cannot understand how breath comes to a tiny baby in its mother’s womb.
11:9 Hebrew Young man.
12:10 Or sought to write what was upright and true.
12:11 Or one shepherd.
12:12 Hebrew my son.
A psalm[a] of David, regarding his experience in the cave. A prayer.
1 I cry out to the Lord;
I plead for the Lord’s mercy.
2 I pour out my complaints before him
and tell him all my troubles.
3 When I am overwhelmed,
you alone know the way I should turn.
Wherever I go,
my enemies have set traps for me.
4 I look for someone to come and help me,
but no one gives me a passing thought!
No one will help me;
no one cares a bit what happens to me.
5 Then I pray to you, O Lord.
I say, “You are my place of refuge.
You are all I really want in life.
6 Hear my cry,
for I am very low.
Rescue me from my persecutors,
for they are too strong for me.
7 Bring me out of prison
so I can thank you.
The godly will crowd around me,
for you are good to me.”
142:Title Hebrew maskil. This may be a literary or musical term.
We Harvest What We Plant
6 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer[a] is overcome by some sin, you who are godly[b] should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
4 Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. 5 For we are each responsible for our own conduct.
6 Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them.
7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
Paul’s Final Advice
11 Notice what large letters i use as i write these closing words in my own handwriting.
12 Those who are trying to force you to be circumcised want to look good to others. They don’t want to be persecuted for teaching that the cross of Christ alone can save. 13 And even those who advocate circumcision don’t keep the whole law themselves. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast about it and claim you as their disciples.
14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross,[c] my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.[d]
17 From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.
18 Dear brothers and sisters,[e] may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
6:1a Greek Brothers, if a man.
6:1b Greek spiritual.
6:14 Or Because of him.
6:16 Greek this principle, and upon the Israel of God.
6:18 Greek Brothers.
17 Yet they kept on sinning against him,
rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18 They stubbornly tested God in their hearts,
demanding the foods they craved.
19 They even spoke against God himself, saying,
“God can’t give us food in the wilderness.
20 Yes, he can strike a rock so water gushes out,
but he can’t give his people bread and meat.”
21 When the Lord heard them, he was furious.
The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob.
Yes, his anger rose against Israel,
22 for they did not believe God
or trust him to care for them.
23 But he commanded the skies to open;
he opened the doors of heaven.
24 He rained down manna for them to eat;
he gave them bread from heaven.
25 They ate the food of angels!
God gave them all they could hold.
26 He released the east wind in the heavens
and guided the south wind by his mighty power.
27 He rained down meat as thick as dust—
birds as plentiful as the sand on the seashore!
28 He caused the birds to fall within their camp
and all around their tents.
29 The people ate their fill.
He gave them what they craved.
30 But before they satisfied their craving,
while the meat was yet in their mouths,
31 the anger of God rose against them,
and he killed their strongest men.
He struck down the finest of Israel’s young men.
32 But in spite of this, the people kept sinning.
Despite his wonders, they refused to trust him.
33 So he ended their lives in failure,
their years in terror.