Ecclesiastes 2 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Futility of Self-Indulgence
2 I said to myself, “Come now, I will make a test of pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But again, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” 3 I searched with my mind how to cheer my body with wine—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, until I might see what was good for mortals to do under heaven during the few days of their life. 4 I made great works; I built houses and planted vineyards for myself; 5 I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house; I also had great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. 8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and of the provinces; I got singers, both men and women, and delights of the flesh, and many concubines.[a]
9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me. 10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind,[b] and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
Wisdom and Joy Given to One Who Pleases God
12 So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly; for what can the one do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. 13 Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their head,
Yet I perceived that the same fate befalls all of them. 15 Then I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also; why then have I been so very wise?” And I said to myself that this also is vanity. 16 For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How can the wise die just like fools? 17 So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a chasing after wind.[c]
18 I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me 19 —and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23 For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.
24 There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; 25 for apart from him[d] who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.[e]
Ecclesiastes 2 New Living Translation (NLT)
The Futility of Pleasure
2 I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. 2 So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” 3 After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.
4 I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. 7 I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. 8 I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!
9 So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. 10 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.
The Wise and the Foolish
12 So I decided to compare wisdom with foolishness and madness (for who can do this better than I, the king?[a]). 13 I thought, “Wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. 14 For the wise can see where they are going, but fools walk in the dark.” Yet I saw that the wise and the foolish share the same fate. 15 Both will die. So I said to myself, “Since I will end up the same as the fool, what’s the value of all my wisdom? This is all so meaningless!” 16 For the wise and the foolish both die. The wise will not be remembered any longer than the fool. In the days to come, both will be forgotten.
17 So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind.
The Futility of Work
18 I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. 19 And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless! 20 So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world.
21 Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy. 22 So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? 23 Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.
24 So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?[b] 26 God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him. This, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.
Ecclesiastes 2 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
2 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test myself with pleasure and enjoying good things”; but this too was pointless. 2 Of laughter I said, “This is stupid,” and of pleasure, “What’s the use of it?”
3 I searched my mind for how to gratify my body with wine and, with my mind still guiding me with wisdom, how to pursue foolishness; my object was to find out what was the best thing for people to do during the short time they have under heaven to live. 4 I worked on a grand scale — I built myself palaces, planted myself vineyards, 5 and made myself gardens and parks; in them I planted all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I made myself pools from which to water the trees springing up in the forest. 7 I bought male and female slaves, and I had my home-born slaves as well. I also had growing herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, more than anyone before me in Yerushalayim. 8 I amassed silver and gold, the wealth of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, things that provide sensual delight, and a good many concubines. 9 So I grew great, surpassing all who preceded me in Yerushalayim; my wisdom, too, stayed with me. 10 I denied my eyes nothing they wanted. I withheld no pleasure from myself; for I took pleasure in all my work, and this was my reward for all my work. 11 Then I looked at all that my hands had accomplished and at the work I had toiled at; and I saw that it was all meaningless and feeding on wind, and that there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
12 So I decided to look more carefully at wisdom, stupidity and foolishness; for what can the man who succeeds the king do, except what has already been done? 13 I saw that wisdom is more useful than foolishness, just as light is more useful than darkness.
14 The wise man has eyes in his head,
15 So I said to myself, “If the same thing happens to the fool as to me, then what did I gain by being wise?” and I thought to myself, “This too is pointless. 16 For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered, inasmuch as in the times to come, everything will long ago have been forgotten. The wise man, no less than the fool, must die.”
17 So I came to hate life, because the activities done under the sun were loathesome to me, since everything is meaningless and feeding on wind. 18 I hated all the things for which I had worked under the sun, because I saw that I would have to leave them to the man who will come after me. 19 Who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the things I worked for and which demonstrated how wise I am under the sun. This too is pointless. 20 Thus I came to despair over all the things I had worked for under the sun. 21 Here is a man whose work is done with wisdom, knowledge and skill; yet he has to leave it to someone who has put no work into it. This is not only pointless, but a great evil. 22 For what does a person get from all his efforts and ambitions permeating the work he does under the sun? 23 His whole life is one of pain, and his work is full of stress; even at night his mind gets no rest. This too is pointless. 24 So there is nothing better for a man to do than eat, drink and and let himself enjoy the good that results from his work. I also realized that this is from God’s hand. 25 For who will eat and who will enjoy except me? 26 For to the man who is good from [God’s] viewpoint he gives wisdom, knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the task of collecting and accumulating things to leave to him who is good from God’s viewpoint. This too is pointless and feeding on wind.
Ecclesiastes 2 New King James Version (NKJV)
The Vanity of Pleasure
2 I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with mirth; [a]therefore enjoy pleasure”; but surely, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter—“Madness!”; and of mirth, “What does it accomplish?” 3 I searched in my heart how [b]to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives.
4 I made my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. 5 I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made myself water pools from which to [c]water the growing trees of the grove. 7 I acquired male and female servants, and had [d]servants born in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me. 8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and [e]musical instruments of all kinds.
9 So I became great and [f]excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me.
10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.
The End of the Wise and the Fool
12 Then I turned myself to consider wisdom and madness and folly;
15 So I said in my heart,
17 Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.
18 Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun. 21 For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his [h]heritage to a man who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 For what has man for all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun? 23 For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity.
24 Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, [i]more than I? 26 For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.