1 A good reputation is better than precious perfume;
likewise, the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.
2 It is better to go to a funeral
than a feast.
For death is the destiny of every person,
and the living should take this to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
because sober reflection is good for the heart.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of merrymaking.
Frivolous Living Versus Wisdom
5 It is better for a person to receive a rebuke from those who are wise
than to listen to the song of fools.
6 For like the crackling of quick-burning thorns under a cooking pot,
so is the laughter of the fool.
This kind of folly also is useless.
Human Wisdom Overturned by Adversity
7 Surely oppression can turn a wise person into a fool;
likewise, a bribe corrupts the heart.
8 The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
likewise, patience is better than pride.
9 Do not let yourself be quickly provoked,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.
10 Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these days?”
for it is not wise to ask that.
Wisdom Can Lengthen One’s Life
11 Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing;
it benefits those who see the light of day.
12 For wisdom provides protection,
just as money provides protection.
But the advantage of knowledge is this:
Wisdom preserves the life of its owner.
Wisdom Acknowledges God’s Orchestration of Life
13 Consider the work of God:
For who can make straight what he has bent?
14 In times of prosperity be joyful,
but in times of adversity consider this:
God has made one as well as the other,
so that no one can discover what the future holds.
Exceptions to the Law of Retribution
15 During the days of my fleeting life I have seen both of these things:
Sometimes a righteous person dies prematurely in spite of his righteousness,
and sometimes a wicked person lives long in spite of his evil deeds.
16 So do not be excessively righteous or excessively wise;
otherwise you might be disappointed.
17 Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool;
otherwise you might die before your time.
18 It is best to take hold of one warning without letting go of the other warning;
for the one who fears God will follow both warnings.
Wisdom Needed Because No One is Truly Righteous
19 Wisdom gives a wise person more protection
than ten rulers in a city.
20 For there is not one truly righteous person on the earth
who continually does good and never sins.
21 Also, do not pay attention to everything that people say;
otherwise, you might even hear your servant cursing you.
22 For you know in your own heart
that you also have cursed others many times.
Human Wisdom is Limited
23 I have examined all this by wisdom;
I said, “I am determined to comprehend this” – but it was beyond my grasp.
24 Whatever has happened is beyond human understanding;
it is far deeper than anyone can fathom.
True Righteousness and Wisdom are Virtually Nonexistent
25 I tried to understand, examine, and comprehend
the role of wisdom in the scheme of things,
and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the insanity of folly.
26 I discovered this:
More bitter than death is the kind of woman who is like a hunter’s snare;
her heart is like a hunter’s net and her hands are like prison chains.
The man who pleases God escapes her,
but the sinner is captured by her.
27 The Teacher says:
I discovered this while trying to discover the scheme of things, item by item.
28 What I have continually sought, I have not found;
I have found only one upright man among a thousand,
but I have not found one upright woman among all of them.
29 This alone have I discovered: God made humankind upright,
but they have sought many evil schemes.