12I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13And 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.
14I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity7 and a striving after wind.8
15What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.
16I 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.”
17And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.
18For 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)