Ecclesiastes 2:12
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king's successor do than what has already been done?

New Living Translation
So I decided to compare wisdom with foolishness and madness (for who can do this better than I, the king?).

English Standard Version
So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done.

New American Standard Bible
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?

King James Bible
And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Then I turned to consider wisdom, madness, and folly, for what will the man be like who comes after the king? He will do what has already been done.

International Standard Version
Next I turned to examine wisdom, insanity, and foolishness, because what can a person do who succeeds the king except what has already been accomplished?

NET Bible
Next, I decided to consider wisdom, as well as foolish behavior and ideas. For what more can the king's successor do than what the king has already done?

New Heart English Bible
I turned myself to consider wisdom, madness, and folly. For what can the man who comes after the king do? Just that which he has already done.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Then I turned [my attention] to experience wisdom, madness, and foolishness. For instance, what can the man who replaces the king do? Only what has already been done.

JPS Tanakh 1917
And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness and folly; for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.

New American Standard 1977
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?

Jubilee Bible 2000
And I turned myself to behold wisdom and those who are mad, and folly; for what can the man do that comes after the king? even that which has already been done.

King James 2000 Bible
And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can a man do that comes after the king? even that which has been already done.

American King James Version
And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that comes after the king? even that which has been already done.

American Standard Version
And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been done long ago.

Douay-Rheims Bible
I passed further to behold wisdom, and errors and folly, (What is man, said I, that he can follow the King his maker?)

Darby Bible Translation
And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly; for what shall the man [do] that cometh after the king? -- that which hath already been done.

English Revised Version
And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness and folly; for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.

Webster's Bible Translation
And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.

World English Bible
I turned myself to consider wisdom, madness, and folly: for what can the king's successor do? Just that which has been done long ago.

Young's Literal Translation
And I turned to see wisdom, and madness, and folly, but what is the man who cometh after the king? that which is already -- they have done it!
Study Bible
The Wise and the Foolish
11Thus 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. 12So 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? 13And I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.…
Cross References
Ecclesiastes 1:9
That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:10
Is there anything of which one might say, "See this, it is new "? Already it has existed for ages Which were before us.

Ecclesiastes 1:17
And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 3:15
That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.
Treasury of Scripture

And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that comes after the king? even that which has been already done.

i turned

Ecclesiastes 1:17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: …

Ecclesiastes 7:25 I applied my heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, …

even that which hath already been done

Ecclesiastes 2:25 For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I?

(12) This verse presents some difficulties of translation which need not be discussed here. The Authorised Version gives the following very good sense: If the king has failed in his experiment, what likelihood is there that a private person should be more successful? Yet bearing in mind that in Ecclesiastes 5:18 the "man that cometh after the king" means his successor, and also that the theme of the whole section is that in human affairs there is no progress, it is more simple to understand this verse: the king's successor can do no more than run the same round that has been trodden by his predecessor.

Verses 12-26. - Section 3. Vanity of wisdom, in view of the fate that awaits the wise man equally with the fool, and the uncertainty of the future of his labors, especially as man is not master of his own fate. Verse 12. - And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly (Ecclesiastes 1:17). He studied the three in their mutual connection and relation, comparing them in their results and effects on man's nature and life, and deducing thence their real value. On one side he set wisdom, on the other the action, and habits which he rightly terms "madness and folly," and examined them calmly and critically. For what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done. Both the Authorized Version and Revised Version render the passage thus, though the latter, in the margin, gives two alternative renderings of the second clause, viz. even him whom they made king long ago, and, as in the Authorized Version margin, in those things which have been already done. The LXX., following a different reading, gives, "For what man is there who will follow after counsel in whatsoever things he employed it?" Vulgate, "What is man, said I, that he should be able to follow the King, his Maker?" Wright, Delitzsch, Nowack, etc., "For what is the man that is to come after the king whom they made so long ago?" i.e. who can have greater experience than Solomon made king in old time amid universal acclamation (1 Chronicles 29:22)? or, who can hope to equal his fame? - which does not seem quite suitable, as it is the abnormal opportunities of investigation given by his unique position which would be the point of the query. The Authorized Version gives a fairly satisfactory (and grammatically unobjectionable) meaning - What can any one effect who tries the same experiment as the king did? He could not do so under more favorable conditions, and will only repeat the same process and reach the same result. But the passage is obscure, and every interpretation has its own difficulty. If the ki with which the second portion of the passage begins ("for what," etc.) assigns the reason or motive of the first portion, shows what was the design of Koheleth in contrasting wisdom and folly, the rendering of the Authorized Version is not inappropriate. Many critics consider that Solomon is here speaking of his successor, asking what kind of man he will be who comes after him - the man whom some have already chosen? And certainly there is some ground for this interpretation in vers. 18, 19, where the complaint is that all the king's greatness and glory will be left to an unworthy successor. But this view requires the Solomonic authorship of the book, and makes him to refer to Rehoboam or some illegitimate usurper. The wording of the text is too general to admit of this explanation; nor does it exactly suit the immediate context, or duly connect the two clauses of the verse. It seems best to take the successor, not as one who comes to the kingdom, but as one who pursues similar investigations, repeats Koheleth's experiments. And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly,.... Being disappointed in his pursuit of pleasure, and not finding satisfaction and happiness in that, he turns from it, and reassumes his study of natural wisdom and knowledge, to make a fresh trial, and see whether there might be some things he had overlooked in his former inquiries; and whether upon a revise of what he had looked into he might not find more satisfaction than before; being convinced however that the pursuit of pleasure was less satisfying than the study of wisdom, and therefore relinquished the one for the sake of the other: and in order, if possible, to gain more satisfaction in this point, he determined to look more narrowly, and penetrate into the secrets of wisdom, and find out the nature of it, and examine its contraries; that by setting them in a contrast, and comparing them together, he might be the better able to form a judgment of them. Jarchi interprets "wisdom" of the law, and "madness" and "folly" of the punishment of transgression. Alshech also by "wisdom" understands the wisdom of the law, and by madness external wisdom, or the knowledge of outward things. But Aben Ezra understands by "madness" wine, with which men being intoxicated become mad; and by "folly" building houses, and getting riches;

for what can the man do that cometh after the king? meaning himself; what can a man do that comes after such a king as he was, who had such natural parts to search into and acquire all sorts of knowledge; who was possessed of such immense riches, that he could procure everything that was necessary to assist him in his pursuit of knowledge; and who wanted not industry, diligence, and application, and who succeeded above any before or after him? wherefore what can any common man do, or anyone that comes after such a person, and succeeds him in his studies, and treads in his steps, and follows his example and plan, what can he do more than is done already? or can he expect to outdo such a prince, or find out that which he could not? nay, it is as if he should say, it is not only a vain thing for another man to come after me in the search of knowledge, in hopes of finding more than I have done; but it is a fruitless attempt in me to take up this affair again; for, after all that I have done, what can I do more? so that these words are not a reason for his pursuit of wisdom, but a correction of himself for it; I think the words may be rendered, "but what can that man do that comes after the king?" so the particle is sometimes used (t); meaning himself, or his successor, or any other person; since it was only going over the same thing again, running round the circle of knowledge again, without any new improvement, or fresh satisfaction, according to the following answer;

even that which hath been already done; it is only doing the same thing over again. The Targum and Jarchi interpret it of the vain attempt of a man to supplicate a king after a decree is passed and executed. The Midrash by the king understands God himself, and interprets it of the folly of men not being content with their condition, or as made by him. So Gussetius renders it, "who made him" (u); that is, the king; even God, the three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Spirit; the word being plural.

(t) Vid. Noldii Concordant. Partic. Ebr. p. 404, (u) "qui fecerunt euum", vid. Ebr. Comment. p. 605. 12. He had tried (worldly) wisdom (Ec 1:12-18) and folly (foolish pleasure) (Ec 2:1-11); he now compares them (Ec 2:12) and finds that while (worldly)

wisdom excelleth folly (Ec 2:13, 14), yet the one event, death, befalls both (Ec 2:14-16), and that thus the wealth acquired by the wise man's "labor" may descend to a "fool" that hath not labored (Ec 2:18, 19, 21); therefore all his labor is vanity (Ec 2:22, 23).

what can the man do … already done—(Ec 1:9). Parenthetical. A future investigator can strike nothing out "new," so as to draw a different conclusion from what I draw by comparing "wisdom and madness." Holden, with less ellipsis, translates, "What, O man, shall come after the king?" etc. Better, Grotius, "What man can come after (compete with) the king in the things which are done?" None ever can have the same means of testing what all earthly things can do towards satisfying the soul; namely, worldly wisdom, science, riches, power, longevity, all combined.2:12-17 Solomon found that knowledge and prudence were preferable to ignorance and folly, though human wisdom and knowledge will not make a man happy. The most learned of men, who dies a stranger to Christ Jesus, will perish equally with the most ignorant; and what good can commendations on earth do to the body in the grave, or the soul in hell? And the spirits of just men made perfect cannot want them. So that if this were all, we might be led to hate our life, as it is all vanity and vexation of spirit.
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Alphabetical: after already also and been can come consider do done except folly for has I king king's madness man more my So successor than the Then thoughts to turned What who will wisdom

OT Poetry: Ecclesiastes 2:12 I turned myself to consider wisdom madness (Ecclesiast. Ec Ecc Eccles.) Christian Bible Study Resources, Dictionary, Concordance and Search Tools
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