(1) I said to myself, “Come now, let’s give pleasure a try. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. (2) “It is silly to be laughing all the time,” I said. “What good does it do to seek only pleasure?” (3) After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. While still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I hoped to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world. (4) I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. (5) I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. (6) I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. (7) I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned great herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who lived in Jerusalem before me. (8) I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire! (9) So I became greater than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me. And with it all, I remained clear-eyed so that I could evaluate all these things. (10) Anything I wanted, I took. I did not restrain myself from any joy. I even found great pleasure in hard work, an additional reward for all my labors. (11) But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless. It was like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.
(12) So I decided to compare wisdom and folly, and anyone else would come to the same conclusions I did. (13) Wisdom is of more value than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. (14) For the wise person sees, while the fool is blind. Yet I saw that wise and foolish people share the same fate. (15) Both of them die. Just as the fool will die, so will I. So of what value is all my wisdom? Then I said to myself, “This is all so meaningless!” (16) For the wise person and the fool both die, and in the days to come, both will be forgotten.
(17) So now I hate life because everything done here under the sun is so irrational. Everything is meaningless, like chasing the wind. (18) I am disgusted that I must leave the fruits of my hard work to others. (19) And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? And yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work. How meaningless! (20) So I turned in despair from hard work. It was not the answer to my search for satisfaction in this life. (21) For though I do my work with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, I must leave everything I gain to people who haven’t worked to earn it. This is not only foolish but highly unfair. (22) So what do people get for all their hard work? (23) Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night they cannot rest. It is all utterly meaningless. (24) So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that this pleasure is from the hand of God. (25) For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? (26) God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him. Even this, however, is meaningless, like chasing the wind.