Ecclesiastes 1
English Standard Version

All Is Vanity

1The words of the Preacher,a the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

2Vanityb of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
5The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastensc to the place where it rises.
6The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
7All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
8All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
9What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
10Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
11There is no remembrance of former things,d
nor will there be any remembrance
of later thingse yet to be
among those who come after.

The Vanity of Wisdom

12I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13And I applied my heartf to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 14I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanityg and a striving after wind.h

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

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

18For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.


Footnotes:
a 1 Or Convener, or Collector; Hebrew Qoheleth (so throughout Ecclesiastes)
b 2 The Hebrew term hebel, translated vanity or vain, refers concretely to a “mist,” “vapor,” or “mere breath,” and metaphorically to something that is fleeting or elusive (with different nuances depending on the context). It appears five times in this verse and in 29 other verses in Ecclesiastes
c 5 Or and returns panting
d 11 Or former people
e 11 Or later people
f 13 The Hebrew term denotes the center of one’s inner life, including mind, will, and emotions
g 14 The Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath” (see note on 1:2)
h 14 Or a feeding on wind; compare Hosea 12:1 (also in Ecclesiastes 1:17; 2:11, 17, 26; 4:4, 6, 16; 6:9)
ESV® Text Edition: 2011.

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The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) is adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. All rights reserved.

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