New International Reader's Version

Ecclesiastes 1

Everything Is Meaningless

1These are the words of the Teacher. He was the son of David. He was also the king in Jerusalem.

“Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Everything is completely meaningless!
    Nothing has any meaning.”

What do people get for all their work?
    Why do they work so hard on this earth?
People come and people go.
    But the earth remains forever.
The sun rises. Then it sets.
    And then it hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south.
    Then it turns to the north.
Around and around it goes.
    It always returns to where it started.
Every stream flows into the ocean.
    But the ocean never gets full.
The streams return
    to the place they came from.
All things are tiresome.
    They are more tiresome than anyone can say.
But our eyes never see enough of anything.
    Our ears never hear enough.
Everything that has ever been will come back again.
    Everything that has ever been done will be done again.
    Nothing is new on earth.
10 There isn’t anything about which someone can say,
    “Look! Here’s something new.”
It was already here long ago.
    It was here before we were.
11 No one remembers the people of long ago.
    Even those who haven’t been born yet
won’t be remembered
    by those who will be born after them.

Wisdom Is Meaningless

12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I decided to study things carefully. I used my wisdom to check everything out. I looked into everything that is done on earth. What a heavy load God has put on human beings! 14 I’ve seen what is done on this earth. All of it is meaningless. It’s like chasing the wind.

15 People can’t straighten things that are crooked.
    They can’t count things that don’t even exist.

16 I said to myself, “Look, I’ve now grown wiser than anyone who ruled over Jerusalem in the past. I have a lot of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I used my mind to understand what it really means to be wise. And I wanted to know what foolish pleasure is all about. But I found out that it’s also like chasing the wind.

18 A lot of human wisdom leads to a lot of sorrow.
    More knowledge only brings more sadness.

The Message

Ecclesiastes 1

The Quester

1These are the words of the Quester, David’s son and king in Jerusalem

2-11 Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.]
    There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke.
What’s there to show for a lifetime of work,
    a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives,
    but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old
        planet earth.
The sun comes up and the sun goes down,
    then does it again, and again—the same old round.
The wind blows south, the wind blows north.
    Around and around and around it blows,
    blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind.
All the rivers flow into the sea,
    but the sea never fills up.
The rivers keep flowing to the same old place,
    and then start all over and do it again.
Everything’s boring, utterly boring—
    no one can find any meaning in it.
Boring to the eye,
    boring to the ear.
What was will be again,
    what happened will happen again.
There’s nothing new on this earth.
    Year after year it’s the same old thing.
Does someone call out, “Hey, this is new”?
    Don’t get excited—it’s the same old story.
Nobody remembers what happened yesterday.
    And the things that will happen tomorrow?
Nobody’ll remember them either.
    Don’t count on being remembered.

I’ve Seen It All

12-14 Call me “the Quester.” I’ve been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I looked most carefully into everything, searched out all that is done on this earth. And let me tell you, there’s not much to write home about. God hasn’t made it easy for us. I’ve seen it all and it’s nothing but smoke—smoke, and spitting into the wind.

15 Life’s a corkscrew that can’t be straightened,
A minus that won’t add up.

16-17 I said to myself, “I know more and I’m wiser than anyone before me in Jerusalem. I’ve stockpiled wisdom and knowledge.” What I’ve finally concluded is that so-called wisdom and knowledge are mindless and witless—nothing but spitting into the wind.

18 Much learning earns you much trouble.
The more you know, the more you hurt.