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Ecclesiastes Contemporary English Version (CEV)

Chapter 1


Nothing Makes Sense
1When
the son of David was king in Jerusalem, he was known to be very wise, and he said: 2Nothing makes sense! Everything is nonsense. I have seen it all-- nothing makes sense! 3What is there to show for all of our hard work here on this earth? 4People come, and people go, but still the world never changes. 5The sun comes up, the sun goes down; it hurries right back to where it started from. 6The wind blows south, the wind blows north; round and round it blows over and over again. 7All rivers empty into the sea, but it never spills over; one by one the rivers return to their source. 8All of life is far more boring than words could ever say. Our eyes and our ears are never satisfied with what we see and hear. 9Everything that happens has happened before; nothing is new, nothing under the sun. 10Someone might say, "Here is something new!" But it happened before, long before we were born. 11No one who lived in the past is remembered anymore, and everyone yet to be born will be forgotten too.
It Is Senseless To Be Wise
12I said these things when I lived in Jerusalem as king of Israel. 13With all my wisdom I tried to understand everything that happens here on earth. And God has made this so hard for us humans to do. 14I have seen it all, and everything is just as senseless as chasing the wind. 15If something is crooked, it can't
be made straight; if something isn't there, it can't be counted. 16I said to myself, "You are by far the wisest person who has ever lived in Jerusalem. You are eager to learn, and you have learned a lot." 17Then I decided to find out all I could about wisdom and foolishness. Soon I realized that this too was as senseless as chasing the wind. 18The more you know, the more you hurt; the more you understand, the more you suffer.

Chapter 2

It Is Senseless To Be Selfish
1I said to myself, "Have fun and enjoy yourself!" But this didn't make sense. 2Laughing and having fun is crazy. What good does it do? 3I wanted to find out what was best for us during the short time we have on this earth. So I decided to make myself happy with wine and find out what it means to be foolish, without really being foolish myself.
4I did some great things. I built houses
and planted vineyards. 5I had flower gardens and orchards full of fruit trees. 6And I had pools where I could get water for the trees. 7I owned slaves, and their sons and daughters became my slaves. I had more sheep and goats than anyone who had ever lived in Jerusalem. 8Foreign rulers brought me silver, gold, and precious treasures. Men and women sang for me, and I had many wives who gave me great pleasure. 9I was the most famous person who had ever lived in Jerusalem, and I was very wise. 10I got whatever I wanted and did whatever made me happy. But most of all, I enjoyed my work. 11Then I thought about everything I had done, including the hard work, and it was simply chasing the wind. Nothing on earth is worth the trouble.

Wisdom Makes Sense
12I asked myself, "What can the next king do that I haven't done?" Then I decided to compare wisdom with foolishness and stupidity. 13And I discovered that wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. 14Wisdom is like having two good eyes; foolishness leaves you in the dark. But wise or foolish, we all end up the same. 15Finally, I said to myself, "Being wise got me nowhere! The same thing will happen to me that happens to fools. Nothing makes sense. 16Wise or foolish, we all die and are soon forgotten." 17This made me hate life. Everything we do is painful; it's just as senseless as chasing the wind. 18Suddenly I realized that others would someday get everything I had worked for so hard, then I started hating it all. 19Who knows if those people will be sensible or stupid? Either way, they will own everything I have earned by hard work and wisdom. It doesn't make sense. 20I thought about all my hard work, and I felt depressed. 21When we use our wisdom, knowledge, and skill to get what we own, why do we have to leave it to someone who didn't work for it? This is senseless and wrong. 22What do we really gain from all of our hard work? 23Our bodies ache during the day, and work is torture. Then at night our thoughts are troubled. It just doesn't make sense. 24The best thing we can do is to enjoy eating, drinking, and working. I believe these are God's gifts to us, 25and no one enjoys eating and living more than I do. 26If we please God, he will make us wise
, understanding, and happy. But if we sin, God will make us struggle for a living, then he will give all we own to someone who pleases him. This makes no more sense than chasing the wind.

Chapter 3


Everything Has Its Time
1Everything on earth has its own time and its own season. 2There
is a time for birth and death, planting and reaping, 3for killing and healing, destroying and building, 4for crying and laughing, weeping and dancing, 5for throwing stones and gathering stones, embracing and parting. 6There is a time for finding and losing, keeping and giving, 7for tearing and sewing, listening and speaking. 8There is also a time for love and hate, for war and peace.
What God Has Given Us To Do
9What do we gain by all of our hard work? 10I have seen what difficult things God demands of us. 11God makes everything happen at the right time. Yet none of us can ever fully understand all he has done, and he puts questions in our minds about the past and the future. 12I know the best thing we can do is to always enjoy life, 13because God's gift to us is the happiness we get from our food and drink and from the work we do. 14Everything God has done will last forever; nothing he does can ever be changed. God has done all this, so that we will worship him. 15Everything that happens has happened before, and all that will be has already been-- God does everything over and over again.
The Future Is Known Only to God
16Everywhere on earth I saw violence and injustice instead of fairness and justice. 17So I told myself that God has set a time and a place for everything. He will judge everyone, both the wicked and the good. 18I know that God is testing us to show us that we are merely animals. 19Like animals we breathe and die, and we are no better off than they are. It just doesn't make sense. 20All living creatures go to the same place. We are made from earth, and we return to the earth. 21Who really knows if our spirits go up and the spirits of animals go
down into the earth? 22We were meant to enjoy our work, and that's the best thing we can do. We can never know the future.

Chapter 4
1I looked again and saw people being mistreated everywhere on earth. They were crying, but no one was there to offer comfort, and those who mistreated them were powerful. 2I said to myself, "The dead are better off than the living. 3But those who have never been born are better off than anyone else, because they have never seen the terrible things that happen on this earth."
4Then I realized that we work and do wonderful things just because we are jealous of others. This makes no more sense than chasing the wind. 5Fools will fold their hands and starve to death. 6Yet a very little food eaten in peace is better than twice as much earned from overwork and chasing the wind. 7Once again I saw that nothing on earth makes sense. 8For example, some people don't have friends or family. But they are never
satisfied with what they own, and they never stop working to get more. They should ask themselves, "Why am I always working to have more? Who will get what I leave behind?" What a senseless and miserable life!

It Is Better To Have a Friend
9You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone, because then you will get more enjoyment out of what you earn. 10If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble. 11If you sleep alone, you won't have anyone to keep you warm on a cold night. 12Someone might be able to beat up one of you, but not both of you. As the saying goes, "A rope made from three strands of cord is hard to break."
13You may be poor and young. But if you are wise, you are better off than a foolish old king who won't listen to advice. 14Even if you were not born into the royal family and have been a prisoner and poor, you can still be king. 15I once saw everyone in the world follow a young leader who came to power after the king was gone. 16His followers could not even be counted. But years from now, no one will praise him--this makes no more sense than chasing the wind.


Chapter 5

Be Careful How You Worship
1Be careful what you do when you enter
the house of God. Some fools go there to offer sacrifices, even though they haven't sinned. But it's best just to listen when you go to worship. 2Don't talk before you think or make promises to God without thinking them through. God is in heaven, and you are on earth, so don't talk too much. 3If you keep thinking about something, you will dream about it. If you talk too much, you will say the wrong thing.
4God doesn't like fools. So don't be slow to keep your promises to God. 5It's better not to make a promise at all than to make one and not keep it. 6Don't let your mouth get you in trouble! And don't say to the worship leader, "I didn't mean what I said." God can destroy everything you have worked for, so don't say something that makes God angry. 7Respect and obey God! Daydreaming leads to a lot of senseless talk. 8Don't be surprised if the poor of your country are abused, and injustice takes the place of justice. After all, the lower officials must do what the higher ones order them to do. 9And since the king is the highest official, he benefits most from the taxes paid on the land. 10If you love money and wealth, you
will never be satisfied with what you have. This doesn't make sense either. 11The more you have, the more everyone expects from you. Your money won't do you any good--others will just spend it for you. 12If you have to work hard for a living, you can rest well at night, even if you don't have much to eat. But if you are rich, you can't even sleep.
13I have seen something terribly unfair. People get rich, but it does them no good. 14Suddenly they lose everything in a bad business deal, then have nothing to leave for their children. 15They came into this world naked, and when they die, they will be just as naked. They can't take anything with them, and they won't have anything to show for all their work. 16That's terribly unfair. They leave the world just as they came into it. They gained nothing from running after the wind. 17Besides all this, they are always gloomy at mealtime, and they are troubled, sick, and bitter. 18What is the best thing to do in the short life that God has given us? I think we should enjoy eating, drinking, and working hard. This is what God intends for us to do. 19Suppose you are very rich and able to enjoy everything you own. Then go ahead and enjoy working hard--this is God's gift to you. 20God will keep you so happy that you won't have time to worry about each day.


Chapter 6


Don't Depend on Wealth
1There is something else terribly unfair, and it troubles everyone on earth. 2God may give you everything you want--money, property, and wealth. Then God doesn't let you enjoy it, and someone you don't even know gets it all. That's senseless and terribly unfair!
3You may live a long time and have a
hundred children. But a child born dead is better off than you, unless you enjoy life and have a decent burial. 4-5That child will never live to see the sun or to have a name, and it will go straight to the world of darkness. But it will still find more rest than you, 6even if you live two thousand years and don't enjoy life. As you know, we all end up in the same place.
7We struggle just to have enough to eat, but we are never satisfied. 8We may be sensible, yet we are no better off than a fool. And if we are poor, it still doesn't do us any good to try to live right. 9It's better to enjoy what we have than to always want something else, because that makes no more sense than chasing the wind. 10Everything that happens was decided long ago. We humans know what we are like, and we can't argue with God, because he is too strong for us. 11The more we talk, the less sense we make, so what good does it do to talk? 12Life is short and meaningless, and it fades away like a shadow. Who knows what is best for us? Who knows what will happen after we are gone?

Chapter 7


The Best in Life
1A good reputation at the time
of death is better than loving care at the time of birth. 2It's better to go to a funeral than to attend a feast; funerals remind us that we all must die. 3Choose sorrow over laughter
because a sad face may hide a happy heart.
4A sensible person mourns, but fools always laugh. 5Harsh correction
is better than the songs of a fool. 6Foolish laughter is stupid. It sounds like thorns crackling in a fire. 7Corruption makes fools of sensible people, and bribes can ruin you. 8Something completed is better than something just begun; patience is better than too much pride. 9Only fools get angry quickly and hold a grudge. 10It isn't wise to ask, "Why is everything worse than it used to be?" 11Having wisdom is better than an inheritance. 12Wisdom will protect you just like money; knowledge with good sense will lead you to life. 13Think of what God has done! If God makes something crooked, can you make it straight? 14When times are good, you should be cheerful; when times are bad, think what it means. God makes them both to keep us from knowing what will happen next.
Some of Life's Questions
15I have seen everything during this senseless life of mine. I have seen good citizens die for doing the right thing, and I have seen criminals live to a ripe old age. 16So don't destroy yourself by being too good or acting too smart! 17Don't die before your time by being too evil or acting like a fool. 18Keep to the middle of the road. You can do this if you truly respect God.
19Wisdom will make you stronger than the ten most powerful leaders in your city.
20No one in this world always does right. 21Don't listen to everything that everyone says, or you might hear your servant cursing you. 22Haven't you cursed many others? 23I told myself that I would be smart and try to understand all of this, but it was too much for me. 24The truth is beyond us. It's far too deep. 25So I decided to learn everything I could and become wise enough to discover what life is all about. At the same time, I wanted to understand why it's stupid and senseless to be an evil fool. 26Here is what I discovered: A bad woman is worse than death. She is a trap, reaching out with body and soul to catch you. But if you obey God, you can escape. If you don't obey, you are done for. 27With all my wisdom I have tried to find out how everything fits together, 28but so far I have not been able to. I do know there is one good man in a thousand, but never have I found a good woman. 29I did learn one thing: We were completely honest when God created us, but now we have twisted minds.

Chapter 8
1Who is smart enough to explain everything? Wisdom makes you cheerful and gives you a smile.
Obey the King
2If you promised God that you would be loyal to the king, I advise you to keep that promise. 3Don't quickly oppose the king or argue when he has already made up his mind. 4The king's word is law. No one can ask him, "Why are you doing this?" 5If you obey the king, you will stay out of trouble. So be smart and learn what to do and when to do it. 6Life is hard, but there is a time and a place for everything, 7though no one can tell the future. 8We cannot control the wind or determine the day of our death. There is no escape in time of war, and no one can hide behind evil. 9I noticed all this and thought seriously about what goes on in the world. Why does one person have the power to hurt another?

Who Can Understand the Ways of God?
10I saw the wicked buried with honor, but God's people had to leave the holy city and were forgotten. None of this makes sense. 11When we see criminals commit crime after crime without being punished, it makes us want to start a life of crime. 12They commit hundreds of crimes and live to a ripe old age, in spite of the saying: Everyone who lives right
and respects God will prosper,
13but no one who sins and rejects God will prosper or live very long. 14There is something else that doesn't make sense to me. Good citizens are treated as criminals, while criminals are honored
as though they were good citizens. 15So I think we should get as much out of life as we possibly can. There is nothing better than to enjoy our food and drink and to have a good time. Then we can make it through this troublesome life that God has given us here on earth. 16Day and night I went without sleep, trying to understand what goes on in this world. 17I saw everything God does, and I realized that no one can really understand what happens. We may be very wise, but no matter how much we try or how much we claim to know, we cannot understand it all.

Chapter 9


One Day at a Time
1I thought about these things. Then I understood that God has power over everyone, even those of us who are wise and live right. Anything can happen to any of us, and so we never know if life will be good or bad. 2But exactly the same thing will finally happen to all of us, whether we live right and respect God or sin and don't respect God. Yes, the same thing will happen if we offer sacrifices to God or if we don't, if we keep our promises or break them. 3It's terribly unfair for the same thing to happen to each of us. We are mean and foolish while we live, and then we die. 4As long as we are alive, we still have hope, just as a live dog is better off
than a dead lion. 5We know that we will die, but the dead don't know a thing. Nothing good will happen to them--they are gone and forgotten. 6Their loves, their hates, and their jealous feelings have all disappeared with them. They will never again take part in anything that happens on this earth. 7Be happy and enjoy eating and drinking! God decided long ago that this is what you should do. 8Dress up, comb your hair, and look your best. 9Life is short, and you love your wife, so enjoy being with her. This is what you are supposed to do as you struggle through life on this earth. 10Work hard at whatever you do. You will soon go to the world of the dead, where no one works or thinks or reasons or knows anything. 11Here is something else I have learned: The fastest runners and the greatest heroes don't always win races and battles. Wisdom, intelligence, and skill don't always make you healthy, rich, or popular. We each have our share of bad luck. 12None of us know when we might fall victim to a sudden disaster and find ourselves like fish in a net or birds in a trap.
Better To Be Wise than Foolish
13Once I saw what people really think of wisdom. 14It happened when a powerful ruler surrounded and attacked a small city where only a few people lived. The enemy army was getting ready to break through the city walls. 15But the city was saved by the wisdom of a poor person who was soon forgotten. 16So I decided that wisdom
is better than strength. Yet if you are poor, no one pays any attention to you, no matter how smart you are. 17Words of wisdom spoken softly make much more sense than the shouts of a ruler to a crowd of fools. 18Wisdom is more powerful than weapons, yet one mistake can destroy all the good you have done.

Chapter 10
1A few dead flies in perfume make all of it stink, and a little foolishness outweighs a lot of wisdom. 2Sensible thoughts lead you to do right; foolish thoughts lead you to do wrong. 3Fools show their stupidity
by the way they live; it's easy to see they have no sense.
4Don't give up your job when your boss gets angry. If you stay calm, you'll be forgiven. 5Some things rulers do are terribly unfair: 6They honor fools, but dishonor the rich; 7they let slaves ride on horses, but force slave owners to walk. 8If you dig a pit, you might fall in; if you break down a wall, a snake might bite you. 9You could even get hurt by chiseling a stone or chopping a log. 10If you don't sharpen your ax, it will be harder to use; if you are smart, you'll know what to do. 11The power to charm a snake does you no good if it bites you anyway. 12If you talk sensibly, you will have friends; if you talk foolishly, you will destroy yourself. 13Fools begin with nonsense, and their stupid chatter ends with disaster. 14They never tire of talking, but none of us really know what the future will bring. 15Fools wear themselves out-- they don't know enough to find their way home. 16A country is in for trouble when its ruler is childish, and its leaders party all day long. 17But a nation will prosper when its ruler is mature, and its leaders don't party too much. 18Some people are too lazy to fix a leaky roof-- then the house falls in. 19Eating and drinking make you feel happy, and bribes can buy everything you need. 20Don't even think about cursing the king; don't curse the rich, not even in secret. A little bird might hear and tell everything.

Chapter 11

It Pays To Work Hard
1Be generous, and someday you will be rewarded. 2Share what you have with seven or eight others, because you never know when disaster may strike. 3Rain clouds always bring rain; trees always stay wherever they fall. 4If you worry about the weather and don't plant seeds, you won't harvest a crop. 5No one can explain how a baby breathes before it is born. So how can anyone explain what God does? After all, he created everything. 6Plant your seeds early
in the morning and keep working in the field until dark. Who knows? Your work might pay off, and your seeds might produce.
Youth and Old Age
7Nothing on earth is more beautiful than the morning sun. 8Even if you live to a ripe old age, you should try to enjoy each day, because darkness will come and will last a long time. Nothing makes sense. 9Be cheerful and enjoy life while you are young! Do what you want and find pleasure in what you see. But don't forget that God will judge you for everything you do.
10Rid yourself of all worry and pain, because the wonderful moments of youth quickly disappear.


Chapter 12
1Keep your Creator in mind while you are young! In years to come, you will be burdened down with troubles and say, "I don't enjoy life anymore." 2Someday the light of the sun and the moon and the stars will all seem dim to you. Rain clouds will remain over your head. 3Your body will grow feeble, your teeth will decay, and your eyesight fail. 4The noisy grinding of grain will be shut out by your deaf ears, but even the song of a bird will keep you awake. 5You will be afraid to climb up a hill or walk down a road. Your hair will turn as white as almond blossoms. You will feel lifeless and drag along like an old grasshopper. We each go to our eternal home, and the streets are filled with those who mourn. 6The silver cord snaps, the golden bowl breaks; the water pitcher is smashed, and the pulley at the well is shattered. 7So our bodies return to the earth, and the life-giving breath returns to God.
8Nothing makes sense. I have seen it all-- nothing makes sense.
Respect and Obey God
9I was a wise teacher with much understanding, and I collected a number of proverbs that I had carefully studied. 10Then I tried to explain these things in the best and most accurate way.
11Words of wisdom are like the stick a farmer uses to make animals move. These sayings come from God, our only shepherd, and they are like nails that fasten things together. 12My child, I warn you to stay away from any teachings except these. There is no end to books, and too much study will wear you out. 13Everything you were taught can be put into a few words: Respect and obey God! This is what life is all about. 14God will judge everything we do, even what is done in secret, whether good or bad.