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Ecclesiastes 1 - Reflections of a Royal Philosopher

The words of the Teacher,[a] the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,[b] vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south, and goes around to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they continue to flow. All things[c] are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has already been, in the ages before us. 11 The people of long ago are not remembered, nor will there be any remembrance of people yet to come by those who come after them.

The Futility of Seeking Wisdom

12 I, the Teacher,[d] when king over Israel in Jerusalem, 13 applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. 14 I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.[e]

15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said to myself, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.[f]

18 For in much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.


a. Ecclesiastes 1:1 Heb Qoheleth, traditionally rendered Preacher

b. Ecclesiastes 1:2 Heb Qoheleth, traditionally rendered Preacher

c. Ecclesiastes 1:8 Or words

d. Ecclesiastes 1:12 Heb Qoheleth, traditionally rendered Preacher

e. Ecclesiastes 1:14 Or a feeding on wind. See Hos 12.1

f. Ecclesiastes 1:17 Or a feeding on wind. See Hos 12.1

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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