1 The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem:
Introduction: Utter Futility
2 “Futile! Futile!” laments the Teacher,
“Absolutely futile! Everything is futile!”
Futility Illustrated from Nature
3 What benefit do people get from all the effort
which they expend on earth?
4 A generation comes and a generation goes,
but the earth remains the same through the ages.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets;
it hurries away to a place from which it rises again.
6 The wind goes to the south and circles around to the north;
round and round the wind goes and on its rounds it returns.
7 All the streams flow into the sea, but the sea is not full,
and to the place where the streams flow, there they will flow again.
8 All this monotony is tiresome; no one can bear to describe it:
The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear ever content with hearing.
9 What exists now is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
there is nothing truly new on earth.
10 Is there anything about which someone can say, “Look at this! It is new!”?
It was already done long ago, before our time.
11 No one remembers the former events,
nor will anyone remember the events that are yet to happen;
they will not be remembered by the future generations.
Futility of Secular Accomplishment
12 I, the Teacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13 I decided to carefully and thoroughly examine
all that has been accomplished on earth.
I concluded: God has given people a burdensome task
that keeps them occupied.
14 I reflected on everything that is accomplished by man on earth,
and I concluded: Everything he has accomplished is futile – like chasing the wind!
15 What is bent cannot be straightened,
and what is missing cannot be supplied.
Futility of Secular Wisdom
16 I thought to myself,
“I have become much wiser than any of my predecessors who ruled over Jerusalem;
I have acquired much wisdom and knowledge.”
17 So I decided to discern the benefit of wisdom and knowledge over foolish behaviour and ideas;
however, I concluded that even this endeavour is like trying to chase the wind!
18 For with great wisdom comes great frustration;
whoever increases his knowledge merely increases his heartache.