Futility of Self-Indulgent Pleasure
2:1 I thought to myself,1
“Come now,2 I will try3 self-indulgent pleasure4 to see5 if it is worthwhile.”6
But I found7 that it also is futile.8
2:2 I said of partying,9 “It is folly,”
and of self-indulgent pleasure,10 “It accomplishes nothing!”11
2:3 I thought deeply12 about the effects of13 indulging14 myself15 with wine
(all the while16 my mind was guiding me17 with wisdom)18
and the effects of19 behaving foolishly,20
so that21 I might discover what is profitable22
for people23 to do on earth24 during the few days25 of their lives.
Futility of Materialism
2:4 I increased my possessions:26
I built houses for myself;27
I planted vineyards for myself.
2:5 I designed28 royal gardens29 and parks30 for myself,
and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.
2:6 I constructed pools of water for myself,
to irrigate my grove31 of flourishing trees.
2:7 I purchased male and female slaves,
and I owned slaves who were born in my house;32
I also possessed more livestock – both herds and flocks –
than any of my predecessors in Jerusalem.33
2:8 I also amassed silver and gold for myself,
as well as valuable treasures34 taken from kingdoms and provinces.35
I acquired male singers and female singers for myself,
and what gives a man sensual delight36 – a harem of beautiful concubines!37
2:9 So38 I was far wealthier39 than all my predecessors in Jerusalem,
yet I maintained my objectivity:40
2:10 I did not restrain myself from getting whatever I wanted;41
I did not deny myself anything that would bring me pleasure.42
So all my accomplishments gave me joy;43
this was my reward for all my effort.44
2:11 Yet when I reflected on everything I had accomplished45
and on all the effort that I had expended to accomplish it,46
I concluded:47 “All these48 achievements and possessions49 are ultimately50 profitless51 –
like chasing the wind!
There is nothing gained52 from them53 on earth.”54
Wisdom is Better than Folly
2:12 Next, I decided to consider55 wisdom, as well as foolish behavior and ideas.56
For what more can the king’s successor do than what the king57 has already done?
2:13 I realized that wisdom is preferable to folly,58
just as light is preferable to darkness:
2:14 The wise man can see where he is going,59 but the fool walks in darkness.
Yet I also realized that the same fate60 happens to them both.61
2:15 So I thought to myself, “The fate of the fool will happen even to me!62
Then what did I gain by becoming so excessively63 wise?”64
So I lamented to myself,65
“The benefits of wisdom66 are ultimately67 meaningless!”
2:16 For the wise man, like68 the fool, will not be remembered for very long,69
because70 in the days to come, both will already have been forgotten.71
Alas,72 the wise man dies – just like73 the fool!
2:17 So I loathed74 life75 because what
happens76 on earth77 seems awful to me;
for all the benefits of wisdom78 are futile – like chasing the wind.
Futility of Being a Workaholic
2:18 So I loathed all the fruit of79 my effort,80
for which I worked so hard81 on earth,82
because83 I must leave it84 behind85 in the hands of my successor.86
2:19 Who knows if he will be a wise man or a fool?
Yet87 he will be master over all the fruit of88 my labor89
for which I worked so wisely90 on earth!91
This also is futile!
2:20 So I began to despair92 about all the fruit of93 my labor94
for which I worked so hard95 on earth.96
2:21 For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge, and skill;
however, he must hand over97 the fruit of his labor98 as an inheritance99
to someone else who did not work for it.
This also is futile, and an awful injustice!100
Painful Days and Restless Nights
2:22 What does a man acquire from all his labor
and from the anxiety that accompanies his toil on earth?101
2:23 For all day long102 his work produces pain and frustration,103
and even at night his mind cannot relax!104
This also is futile!
Enjoy Work and its Benefits
2:24 There is nothing better for105 people106 than107 to eat and drink,
and to find enjoyment108 in their109 work.
I also perceived that this ability to find enjoyment110 comes from God.111
2:25 For no one112 can eat and drink113
or experience joy114 apart from him.115
2:26 For to the one who pleases him,116 God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy,
but to the sinner, he gives the task of amassing117 wealth118 –
only to give119 it120 to the one who pleases God.
This121 task of the wicked122 is futile – like chasing the wind!