English Standard Version

All Is Vanity

1 The words of the Preacher,1 the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 Vanity2 of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3 What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens3 to the place where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns.
7 All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.
8 All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,4 nor will there be any remembrance of later things5 yet to be among those who come after.

The Vanity of Wisdom

12 I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13 And I applied my heart6 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.
14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity7 and a striving after wind.8
15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I 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.”
17 And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.
18 For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
1 Or Convener, or Collector; Hebrew Qoheleth (so throughout Ecclesiastes)
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
3 Or and returns panting
4 Or former people
5 Or later people
6 The Hebrew term denotes the center of one’s inner life, including mind, will, and emotions
7 The Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath” (see note on 1:2)
8 Or a feeding on wind; compare Hosea 12:1 (also in Ecclesiastes 1:17; 2:11, 17, 26; 4:4, 6, 16; 6:9)
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