1 So I reflected on all this, attempting to clear it all up.
I concluded that the righteous and the wise, as well as their works, are in the hand of God;
whether a person will be loved or hated –
no one knows what lies ahead.
2 Everyone shares the same fate –
the righteous and the wicked,
the good and the bad,
the ceremonially clean and unclean,
those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
What happens to the good person, also happens to the sinner;
what happens to those who make vows, also happens to those who are afraid to make vows.
3 This is the unfortunate fact about everything that happens on earth:
the same fate awaits everyone.
In addition to this, the hearts of all people are full of evil,
and there is folly in their hearts during their lives – then they die.
Better to Be Poor but Alive than Rich but Dead
4 But whoever is among the living has hope;
a live dog is better than a dead lion.
5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead do not know anything;
they have no further reward – and even the memory of them disappears.
6 What they loved, as well as what they hated and envied, perished long ago,
and they no longer have a part in anything that happens on earth.
Life is Brief, so Cherish its Joys
7 Go, eat your food with joy,
and drink your wine with a happy heart,
because God has already approved your works.
8 Let your clothes always be white,
and do not spare precious ointment on your head.
9 Enjoy life with your beloved wife during all the days of your fleeting life
that God has given you on earth during all your fleeting days;
for that is your reward in life and in your burdensome work on earth.
10 Whatever you find to do with your hands,
do it with all your might,
because there is neither work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave,
the place where you will eventually go.
Wisdom Cannot Protect against Seemingly Chance Events
11 Again, I observed this on the earth:
the race is not always won by the swiftest,
the battle is not always won by the strongest;
prosperity does not always belong to those who are the wisest,
wealth does not always belong to those who are the most discerning,
nor does success always come to those with the most knowledge –
for time and chance may overcome them all.
12 Surely, no one knows his appointed time!
Like fish that are caught in a deadly net, and like birds that are caught in a snare –
just like them, all people are ensnared at an unfortunate time that falls upon them suddenly.
Most People Are Not Receptive to Wise Counsel
13 This is what I also observed about wisdom on earth,
and it is a great burden to me:
14 There was once a small city with a few men in it,
and a mighty king attacked it, besieging it and building strong siege works against it.
15 However, a poor but wise man lived in the city,
and he could have delivered the city by his wisdom,
but no one listened to that poor man.
16 So I concluded that wisdom is better than might,
but a poor man’s wisdom is despised; no one ever listens to his advice.
Wisdom versus Fools, Sin, and Folly
17 The words of the wise are heard in quiet,
more than the shouting of a ruler is heard among fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one sinner can destroy much that is good.