Pleasure is meaningless. Construction projects are meaningless. Materialism is meaningless. Reflecting on death. Work is meaningless. Enjoy what you have.
enjoy pleasure. The author experimented with pleasure to see if it was a worthy purpose for his life.
this also was vanity. The author found that pleasure was not a sufficient purpose for life. In fact, it was meaningless.
VERSE 2. I said of laughter, “It is foolishness;” and of mirth, “What does it accomplish?”
VERSE 3. I searched in my heart how to cheer my flesh with wine, my heart yet guiding me with wisdom, and how to lay hold of folly, until I might see what it was good for the sons of men that they should do under heaven all the days of their lives.
cheer my flesh with wine. The author experimented with sensual indulgence to see if it was a worthy purpose for living.
VERSE 4. I made myself great works. I built myself houses. I planted myself vineyards.
built myself houses. The author experimented with construction projects to see if they were a worthy purpose for living.
VERSE 5. I made myself gardens and parks, and I planted trees in them of all kinds of fruit.
VERSE 6. I made myself pools of water, to water from it the forest where trees were reared.
VERSE 7. I bought male servants and female servants, and had servants born in my house. I also had great possessions of herds and flocks, above all who were before me in Jerusalem;
I bought … servants. The author experimented with owning human slaves to see if that was a worthy purpose for living.
herds and flocks. The author experimented with owning herds to see if that was a worthy purpose for living.
VERSE 8. I also gathered silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and of the provinces. I got myself male and female singers, and the delights of the sons of men—musical instruments, and that of all sorts.
silver and gold. The author experimented with owning vast wealth to see if that was a worthy purpose for living.
2 Chronicles 1:11-12. God said to Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor yet have you asked for long life; but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge my people, over whom I have made you king, 12 therefore wisdom and knowledge is granted to you. I will give you riches, wealth, and honor, such as none of the kings have had who have been before you had, and none after you will have.”
male and female singers. The author experimented with listening to music to see if that was a worthy purpose for living.
VERSE 9. So I was great, and increased more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also remained with me.
more than all who were before me. The author was the richest person in the history of the city.
VERSE 10. Whatever my eyes desired, I didn’t keep from them. I didn’t withhold my heart from any joy, for my heart rejoiced because of all my labor, and this was my portion from all my labor.
VERSE 11. Then I looked at all the works that my hands had worked, and at the labor that I had labored to do; and behold, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was no profit under the sun.
VERSE 12. 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.
what can the king’s successor do. That is, who can do more than the author?
VERSE 13. Then I saw that wisdom excels folly, as far as light excels darkness.
VERSE 14. The wise man’s eyes are in his head, and the fool walks in darkness—and yet I perceived that one event happens to them all.
eyes are in his head. A wise person has the foresight to avoid danger.
VERSE 15. Then I said in my heart, “As it happens to the fool, so will it happen even to me; and why was I then more wise?” Then I said in my heart that this also is vanity.
so will it happen even to me. Whether wise or a fool, everyone dies.
VERSE 16. For of the wise man, even as of the fool, there is no memory forever, since in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. Indeed, the wise man must die just like the fool!
no memory forever. After we die, we will eventually be forgotten.
VERSE 17. So I hated life, because the work that is worked under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a chasing after wind.
grievous. The Hebrew word is ra. It is the opposite of good or worthwhile.
VERSE 18. I hated all my labor in which I labored under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who comes after me.
VERSE 19. Who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have rule over all of my labor in which I have labored, and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity.
wise man or a fool. After you die, your inheritance will go to someone else. That person might be a fool.
VERSE 20. Therefore I began to cause my heart to despair concerning all the labor in which I had labored under the sun.
VERSE 21. For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, with knowledge, and with skillfulness; yet he shall leave it for his portion to a man who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.
VERSE 22. For what has a man of all his labor, and of the striving of his heart, in which he labors under the sun?
VERSE 23. For all his days are sorrows, and his travail is grief; yes, even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity.
VERSE 24. There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it is from the hand of God.
NAB translation: There is nothing better for man than to eat and drink and provide himself with good things by his labors.
eat … drink … good things. These simple joys are not condemned.
VERSE 25. For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, more than I?
VERSE 26. For to the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner he gives travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.