(1) This, too, I carefully explored: Even though the actions of godly and wise people are in God’s hands, no one knows whether or not God will show them favor in this life. (2) The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether they are righteous or wicked, good or bad, ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who take oaths are treated like people who don’t. (3) It seems so tragic that one fate comes to all. That is why people are not more careful to be good. Instead, they choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway.
(4) There is hope only for the living. For as they say, “It is better to be a live dog than a dead lion!” (5) The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. (6) Whatever they did in their lifetime â€“ loving, hating, envying â€“ is all long gone. They no longer have a part in anything here on earth. (7) So go ahead. Eat your food and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! (8) Wear fine clothes, with a dash of cologne! (9) Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you in this world. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil. (10) Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.
(11) I have observed something else in this world of ours. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise are often poor, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being at the right place at the right time. (12) People can never predict when hard times might come. Like fish in a net or birds in a snare, people are often caught by sudden tragedy.
(13) Here is another bit of wisdom that has impressed me as I have watched the way our world works. (14) There was a small town with only a few people living in it, and a great king came with his army and besieged it. (15) There was a poor, wise man living there who knew how to save the town, and so it was rescued. But afterward no one thought any more about him. (16) Then I realized that though wisdom is better than strength, those who are wise will be despised if they are poor. What they say will not be appreciated for long. (17) But even so, the quiet words of a wise person are better than the shouts of a foolish king. (18) A wise person can overcome weapons of war, but one sinner can destroy much that is good.