Sunday, September 20th, 2020

Ecclesiastes 7-12

Chapter 7

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Chapter 8

Who is a wise person? Who knows the solution to a problem?
A person’s wisdom brightens his appearance, and softens his harsh countenance.

2 Obey the king’s command,
because you took an oath before God to be loyal to him.

3 Do not rush out of the king’s presence in haste – do not delay when the matter is unpleasant,
for he can do whatever he pleases.

4 Surely the king’s authority is absolute;
no one can say to him, “What are you doing?”

5 Whoever obeys his command will not experience harm,
and a wise person knows the proper time and procedure.

6 For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
for the oppression of the king is severe upon his victim.

7 Surely no one knows the future,
and no one can tell another person what will happen.

8 Just as no one has power over the wind to restrain it,
so no one has power over the day of his death.
Just as no one can be discharged during the battle,
so wickedness cannot rescue the wicked.

9 While applying my mind to everything that happens in this world, I have seen all this:
Sometimes one person dominates other people to their harm.

10 Not only that, but I have seen the wicked approaching and entering the temple,
and as they left the holy temple, they
boasted in the city that they had done so.
This also is an enigma.

11 When a sentence is not executed at once against a crime,
the human heart is encouraged to do evil.

12 Even though a sinner might commit a hundred crimes and still live a long time,
yet I know that it will go well with God-fearing people – for they stand in fear before him.

13 But it will not go well with the wicked,
nor will they prolong their days like a shadow,
because they do not stand in fear before God.

14 Here is another enigma that occurs on earth:
Sometimes there are righteous people who get what the wicked deserve,
and sometimes there are wicked people who get what the righteous deserve.
I said, “This also is an enigma.”

15 So I recommend the enjoyment of life,
for there is nothing better on earth for a person to do except to eat, drink, and enjoy life.
So joy will accompany him in his toil
during the days of his life which God gives him on earth.

16 When I tried to gain wisdom
and to observe the activity on earth –
even though it prevents anyone from sleeping day or night –

17 then I discerned all that God has done:
No one really comprehends what happens on earth.
Despite all human efforts to discover it, no one can ever grasp it.
Even if a wise person claimed that he understood,
he would not really comprehend it.

Chapter 9

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Chapter 10

One dead fly makes the perfumer’s ointment give off a rancid stench,
so a little folly can outweigh much wisdom.

2 A wise person’s good sense protects him,
but a fool’s lack of sense leaves him vulnerable.

3 Even when a fool walks along the road he lacks sense,
and shows everyone what a fool he is.

4 If the anger of the ruler flares up against you, do not resign from your position,
for a calm response can undo great offenses.

5 I have seen another misfortune on the earth:
It is an error a ruler makes.

6 Fools are placed in many positions of authority,
while wealthy men sit in lowly positions.

7 I have seen slaves on horseback
and princes walking on foot like slaves.

8 One who digs a pit may fall into it,
and one who breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.

9 One who quarries stones may be injured by them;
one who splits logs may be endangered by them.

10 If an iron axhead is blunt and a workman does not sharpen its edge,
he must exert a great deal of effort;
so wisdom has the advantage of giving success.

11 If the snake should bite before it is charmed,
the snake charmer is in trouble.

12 The words of a wise person win him favor,
but the words of a fool are self-destructive.

13 At the beginning his words are foolish
and at the end his talk is wicked madness,

14 yet a fool keeps on babbling.
No one knows what will happen;
who can tell him what will happen in the future?

15 The toil of a stupid fool wears him out,
because he does not even know the way to the city.

16 Woe to you, O land, when your king is childish,
and your princes feast in the morning!

17 Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobility,
and your princes feast at the proper time – with self-control and not in drunkenness.

18 Because of laziness the roof caves in,
and because of idle hands the house leaks.

19 Feasts are made for laughter,
and wine makes life merry,
but money is the answer for everything.

20 Do not curse a king even in your thoughts,
and do not curse the rich while in your bedroom;
for a bird might report what you are thinking,
or some winged creature might repeat your words.

Chapter 11

Send your grain overseas,
for after many days you will get a return.

2 Divide your merchandise among seven or even eight investments,
for you do not know what calamity may happen on earth.

3 If the clouds are full of rain, they will empty themselves on the earth,
and whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, the tree will lie wherever it falls.

4 He who watches the wind will not sow,
and he who observes the clouds will not reap.

5 Just as you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the bones form in the womb of a pregnant woman,
so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.

6 Sow your seed in the morning,
and do not stop working until the evening;
for you do not know which activity will succeed –
whether this one or that one, or whether both will prosper equally.

7 Light is sweet,
and it is pleasant for a person to see the sun.

8 So, if a man lives many years, let him rejoice in them all,
but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many – all that is about to come is obscure.

9 Rejoice, young man, while you are young,
and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.
Follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes,
but know that God will judge your motives and actions.

10 Banish emotional stress from your mind.
and put away pain from your body;
for youth and the prime of life are fleeting.

Chapter 12

So remember your Creator in the days of your youth –
before the difficult days come,
and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;

2 before the sun and the light of the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds disappear after the rain;

3 when those who keep watch over the house begin to tremble,
and the virile men begin to stoop over,
and the grinders begin to cease because they grow few,
and those who look through the windows grow dim,

4 and the doors along the street are shut;
when the sound of the grinding mill grows low,
and one is awakened by the sound of a bird,
and all their songs grow faint,

5 and they are afraid of heights and the dangers in the street;
the almond blossoms grow white,
and the grasshopper drags itself along,
and the caper berry shrivels up –
because man goes to his eternal home,
and the mourners go about in the streets –

6 before the silver cord is removed,
or the golden bowl is broken,
or the pitcher is shattered at the well,
or the water wheel is broken at the cistern –

7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the life’s breath returns to God who gave it.

8 “Absolutely futile!” laments the Teacher,
“All of these things are futile!”

9 Not only was the Teacher wise,
but he also taught knowledge to the people;
he carefully evaluated and arranged many proverbs.

10 The Teacher sought to find delightful words,
and to write accurately truthful sayings.

11 The words of the sages are like prods,
and the collected sayings are like firmly fixed nails;
they are given by one shepherd.

12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.
There is no end to the making of many books,
and much study is exhausting to the body.

13 Having heard everything, I have reached this conclusion:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
because this is the whole duty of man.

14 For God will evaluate every deed,

including every secret thing, whether good or evil.