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Ecclesiastes 7 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

A. No One Can Find Out the Best Way of Acting

Chapter 7

Critique of Sages on the Day of Adversity

A good name is better than good ointment,[a]
    and the day of death than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to the house of feasting,
For that is the end of every mortal,
    and the living should take it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter;
    when the face is sad, the heart grows wise.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of merriment.
It is better to listen to the rebuke of the wise
    than to listen to the song of fools;
For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
    so is the fool’s laughter.
This also is vanity.
Extortion can make a fool out of the wise,
    and a bribe corrupts the heart.
Better is the end of a thing than its beginning;
    better is a patient spirit than a lofty one.
Do not let anger upset your spirit,
    for anger lodges in the bosom of a fool.

10 Do not say: How is it that former times were better than these? For it is not out of wisdom that you ask about this.

11 Wisdom is as good as an inheritance
    and profitable to those who see the sun.

12 [b]For the protection of wisdom is as the protection of money; and knowledge is profitable because wisdom gives life to those who possess it.

13 Consider the work of God. Who can make straight what God has made crooked? 14 On a good day enjoy good things, and on an evil day consider: Both the one and the other God has made, so that no one may find the least fault with him.

Critique of Sages on Justice and Wickedness. 15 [c]I have seen all manner of things in my vain days: the just perishing in their justice, and the wicked living long in their wickedness. 16 “Be not just to excess, and be not overwise. Why work your own ruin? 17 Be not wicked to excess, and be not foolish. Why should you die before your time?” 18 It is good to hold to this rule, and not to let that one go; but the one who fears God will succeed with both.

19 Wisdom is a better defense for the wise than ten princes in the city, 20 yet there is no one on earth so just as to do good and never sin. 21 Do not give your heart to every word that is spoken; you may hear your servant cursing you, 22 for your heart knows that you have many times cursed others.

23 All these things I probed in wisdom. I said, “I will acquire wisdom”; but it was far beyond me. 24 What exists is far-reaching; it is deep, very deep:[d] Who can find it out? 25 [e]I turned my heart toward knowledge; I sought and pursued wisdom and its design, and I recognized that wickedness is foolishness and folly is madness.

Critique of Advice on Women. 26 More bitter than death I find the woman[f] who is a hunter’s trap, whose heart is a snare, whose hands are prison bonds. The one who pleases God will be delivered from her, but the one who displeases will be entrapped by her. 27 See, this have I found, says Qoheleth, adding one to one to find the sum. 28 What my soul still seeks and has yet to find is this: “One man out of a thousand have I found, but a woman among them all I have not found.” 29 But this alone I have found: God made humankind honest, but they have pursued many designs.


  1. 7:1 Ointment: a good name can be affirmed only with death, when one is normally anointed. The author dialogues in this section (vv. 1–14) with traditional wisdom, alternately affirming or countering its assertions. The real value of traditional wisdom lies in its ability to provoke one to thought and reflection, and not to absolve one from such activity.
  2. 7:12 St. Jerome’s translation of v. 12b gives an edge to wisdom over money: “But learning and wisdom excel in this, that they bestow life on the one who possesses them.”
  3. 7:15–24 The author continues both to affirm and to counter traditional wisdom. He affirms a certain validity to wisdom, but challenges complacency and mindless optimism. His sense of life’s uncertainty and insecurity finds expression, for example, in the irony evident when v. 16 is read in the light of vv. 20–24: How can one be “excessively” just or wise, when justice and wisdom may be out of reach to begin with? The only sure thing is to “fear God” (v. 18).
  4. 7:24 Far-reaching…deep: the spatial metaphor here emphasizes wisdom’s inaccessibility, a frequent theme in wisdom literature; cf. Jb 28; Prv 30:1–4; Sir 24:28–29; Bar 3:14–23.
  5. 7:25–29 The emphasis is on the devious designs of human beings in general, reflecting the viewpoint of Genesis.
  6. 7:26 More bitter than death…the woman: warnings against the scheming, adulterous woman are common in ancient wisdom (e.g., Prv 2:16–19, etc.).
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Ecclesiastes 7 New International Version (NIV)


A good name is better than fine perfume,
    and the day of death better than the day of birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
    than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
    because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person
    than to listen to the song of fools.
Like the crackling of thorns under the pot,
    so is the laughter of fools.
    This too is meaningless.

Extortion turns a wise person into a fool,
    and a bribe corrupts the heart.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
    and patience is better than pride.
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
    for anger resides in the lap of fools.

10 Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
    For it is not wise to ask such questions.

11 Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing
    and benefits those who see the sun.
12 Wisdom is a shelter
    as money is a shelter,
but the advantage of knowledge is this:
    Wisdom preserves those who have it.

13 Consider what God has done:

Who can straighten
    what he has made crooked?
14 When times are good, be happy;
    but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
    as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover
    anything about their future.

15 In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:

the righteous perishing in their righteousness,
    and the wicked living long in their wickedness.
16 Do not be overrighteous,
    neither be overwise—
    why destroy yourself?
17 Do not be overwicked,
    and do not be a fool—
    why die before your time?
18 It is good to grasp the one
    and not let go of the other.
    Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.[a]

19 Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful
    than ten rulers in a city.

20 Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
    no one who does what is right and never sins.

21 Do not pay attention to every word people say,
    or you may hear your servant cursing you—
22 for you know in your heart
    that many times you yourself have cursed others.

23 All this I tested by wisdom and I said,

“I am determined to be wise”
    but this was beyond me.
24 Whatever exists is far off and most profound—
    who can discover it?
25 So I turned my mind to understand,
    to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things
and to understand the stupidity of wickedness
    and the madness of folly.

26 I find more bitter than death
    the woman who is a snare,
whose heart is a trap
    and whose hands are chains.
The man who pleases God will escape her,
    but the sinner she will ensnare.

27 “Look,” says the Teacher,[b] “this is what I have discovered:

“Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things—
28     while I was still searching
    but not finding—
I found one upright man among a thousand,
    but not one upright woman among them all.
29 This only have I found:
    God created mankind upright,
    but they have gone in search of many schemes.”


  1. Ecclesiastes 7:18 Or will follow them both
  2. Ecclesiastes 7:27 Or the leader of the assembly
New International Version (NIV)

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