Ecclesiastes 1:17
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

New Living Translation
So I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind.

English Standard Version
And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.

New American Standard Bible
And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind.

King James Bible
And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly; I learned that this too is a pursuit of the wind.

International Standard Version
So I dedicated myself to learn about wisdom and knowledge, and about insanity and foolishness. And I discovered that this is also like chasing after the wind.

NET Bible
So I decided to discern the benefit of wisdom and knowledge over foolish behavior and ideas; however, I concluded that even this endeavor is like trying to chase the wind!

New Heart English Bible
I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also was a chasing after wind.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
I've used my mind to understand wisdom and knowledge as well as madness and stupidity. [Now] I know that this is [like] trying to catch the wind.

JPS Tanakh 1917
And I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly--I perceived that this also was a striving after wind.

New American Standard 1977
And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind.

Jubilee Bible 2000
And I gave my heart to know wisdom and knowledge and to know folly and those who are mad; I learned in the end that this also is vexation of spirit.

King James 2000 Bible
And I set my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is like grasping the wind.

American King James Version
And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.

American Standard Version
And I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also was a striving after wind.

Douay-Rheims Bible
And I have given my heart to know prudence, and learning, and errors, and folly: and I have perceived that in these also there was labour, and vexation of spirit,

Darby Bible Translation
And I applied my heart to the knowledge of wisdom, and to the knowledge of madness and folly: I perceived that this also is a striving after the wind.

English Revised Version
And I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also was a striving after wind.

Webster's Bible Translation
And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.

World English Bible
I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also was a chasing after wind.

Young's Literal Translation
And I give my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I have known that even this is vexation of spirit;
Study Bible
With Wisdom Comes Sorrow
16I said to myself, "Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge." 17And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind. 18Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.…
Cross References
Ecclesiastes 1:13
And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with.

Ecclesiastes 1:14
I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 2:11
Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:12
So I turned to consider wisdom, madness and folly; for what will the man do who will come after the king except what has already been done?

Ecclesiastes 2:17
So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:4
I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:6
One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 6:9
What the eyes see is better than what the soul desires. This too is futility and a striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 7:25
I directed my mind to know, to investigate and to seek wisdom and an explanation, and to know the evil of folly and the foolishness of madness.

Ecclesiastes 9:3
This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one fate for all men. Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead.
Treasury of Scripture

And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.

i gave

Ecclesiastes 1:13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all …

Ecclesiastes 2:3,12 I sought in my heart to give myself to wine, yet acquainting my heart …

Ecclesiastes 7:23-25 All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it …

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

i perceived

Ecclesiastes 2:10,11 And whatever my eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not …

(17) Madness and folly are words we should not expect to find in this context, and accordingly some interpreters have attempted by variations of reading to substitute for them words of the same nature as "wisdom and knowledge," but see Ecclesiastes 2:12; Ecclesiastes 7:25. Taking the text as it stands, it means to know wisdom and knowledge fully by a study of their contraries. The word for "madness" is peculiar to this book, but the corresponding verb occurs frequently in other books.

Verse 17. - And I gave my heart. He reiterates the expression in order to emphasize his earnestness and energy in the pursuit of wisdom. And knowing, as St. Jerome says, that "contrariis contraria inteiliguntur," he studies the opposite of wisdom, and learns the truth by contrasting it with error. And to know madness and folly (Ecclesiastes 2:12). The former word, holeloth (intensive plural), by its etymology points to a confusion of thought, i.e. an unwisdom which deranges all ideas of order and propriety; and folly (hero sikluth), throughout the sapiential books, is identified with vice and wickedness, the contradictory of practical godliness. The LXX. has παραβολὰς καὶ ἐπιστήμην, "parables and knowledge," and some editors have altered the Hebrew text in accordance with this version, which they consider more suitable to the context. But Koheleth's standpoint is quite consistent. To use the words of St. Jerome in his 'Commentary,' "AEqualis studii fuit Salomoni, scire sapientiam et scientiam, et e regione errores et stultitiam, ut in aliis appetendis et aliis declinandis vera ejus sapientia probaretur." On the other hand, Den-Sirs gives a much-needed warning against touching pitch (Ecclus. 13:1), and argues expressly that "the knowledge of wickedness is not wisdom" (Ecclus. 19:22). Plumptre unnecessarily sees in the use of the term" madness 'an echo of the teaching of the Stoics, who regarded men's weaknesses as forms of insanity. The moralist had no need to travel beyond his own experience in order to learn that sin was the acme of unwisdom, a declension from reason which might well be called madness. The subject is handled by Cicero, 'Tusc. Disput.,' 3:4, 5. We are reminded of Horace's expression ('Carm.,' 2:7. 27) -

"Recepto Dulce mihi furere est amico." And Anacreon's (31.), Θέλω θέλω μανῆναι. Thus far we have had Koheleth's secret thoughts - what he communed with his own heart (ver. 16). The result of his studies was most unsatisfying I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit; or, a striving after wind, as ver. 14 Though the word is somewhat different. As such labor is wasted, for man cannot control issues. And I gave my heart to know wisdom,.... Which is repeated, for the confirmation of it, from Ecclesiastes 1:13, and that it might be taken notice of how assiduous and diligent he had been in acquiring it; a circumstance not to be overlooked;

and to know madness and folly: that he might the better know wisdom, and learn the difference between the one and the other, since opposites illustrate each other; and that he might shun madness and folly, and the ways thereof, and expose the actions of mad and foolish men: so Plato (s) says, ignorance is a disease, of which there are two kinds, madness and folly. The Targum, Septuagint, and all the Oriental versions, interpret the last word, translated "folly", by understanding, knowledge, and prudence; which seems to be right, since Solomon speaks of nothing afterwards, as vexation and grief to him, but wisdom and knowledge: and I would therefore read the clause in connection with the preceding, thus, "and the knowledge of things boasted of", vain glorious knowledge; "and prudence", or what may be called craftiness and cunning; or what the apostle calls "science falsely so called", 1 Timothy 6:20; see Proverbs 12:8;

I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit; See Gill on Ecclesiastes 1:14; the reason follows.

(s) In Timaeo, p. 1084. 17. wisdom … madness—that is, their effects, the works of human wisdom and folly respectively. "Madness," literally, "vaunting extravagance"; Ec 2:12; 7:25, etc., support English Version rather than Dathe, "splendid matters." "Folly" is read by English Version with some manuscripts, instead of the present Hebrew text, "prudence." If Hebrew be retained, understand "prudence," falsely so called (1Ti 6:20), "craft" (Da 8:25).1:12-18 Solomon tried all things, and found them vanity. He found his searches after knowledge weariness, not only to the flesh, but to the mind. The more he saw of the works done under the sun, the more he saw their vanity; and the sight often vexed his spirit. He could neither gain that satisfaction to himself, nor do that good to others, which he expected. Even the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom discovered man's wickedness and misery; so that the more he knew, the more he saw cause to lament and mourn. Let us learn to hate and fear sin, the cause of all this vanity and misery; to value Christ; to seek rest in the knowledge, love, and service of the Saviour.
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