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The Wisdom of the Wise

The books of Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiates are considered the wisdom books of the Bible. These books are focused on the meaning of life. They are in many ways the philosophy books of the Bible . 

Ecclesiastes 1

 1 These are the words of the Teacher,[a] King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem.

Everything Is Meaningless
 2 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”

 3 What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? 4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. 6 The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. 7 Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. 8 Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.

 9 History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. 10 Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. 11 We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.

The Teacher Speaks: The Futility of Wisdom
 12 I, the Teacher, was king of Israel, and I lived in Jerusalem. 13 I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. 14 I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.

 15 What is wrong cannot be made right.
      What is missing cannot be recovered.

 16 I said to myself, “Look, I am wiser than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me. I have greater wisdom and knowledge than any of them.” 17 So I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind.

 18 The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief.
      To increase knowledge only increases sorrow.
14 And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. 15 What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.

Wisdom for Life


 1 A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume.
      And the day you die is better than the day you are born.
 2 Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties.
      After all, everyone dies—
      so the living should take this to heart.
 3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
      for sadness has a refining influence on us.
 4 A wise person thinks a lot about death,
      while a fool thinks only about having a good time.

 5 Better to be criticized by a wise person
      than to be praised by a fool.
 6 A fool’s laughter is quickly gone,
      like thorns crackling in a fire.
      This also is meaningless.

 7 Extortion turns wise people into fools,
      and bribes corrupt the heart.

 8 Finishing is better than starting.
      Patience is better than pride.

 9 Control your temper,
      for anger labels you a fool.

 10 Don’t long for “the good old days.”
      This is not wise.

 11 Wisdom is even better when you have money.
      Both are a benefit as you go through life.
 12 Wisdom and money can get you almost anything,
      but only wisdom can save your life.

 13 Accept the way God does things,
      for who can straighten what he has made crooked?
 14 Enjoy prosperity while you can,
      but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God.
      Remember that nothing is certain in this life.

The Limits of Human Wisdom

 15 I have seen everything in this meaningless life, including the death of good young people and the long life of wicked people. 16 So don’t be too good or too wise! Why destroy yourself? 17 On the other hand, don’t be too wicked either. Don’t be a fool! Why die before your time? 18 Pay attention to these instructions, for anyone who fears God will avoid both extremes.[a]

 19 One wise person is stronger than ten leading citizens of a town!

 20 Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.

 21 Don’t eavesdrop on others—you may hear your servant curse you. 22 For you know how often you yourself have cursed others.

 23 I have always tried my best to let wisdom guide my thoughts and actions. I said to myself, “I am determined to be wise.” But it didn’t work. 24 Wisdom is always distant and difficult to find. 25 I searched everywhere, determined to find wisdom and to understand the reason for things. I was determined to prove to myself that wickedness is stupid and that foolishness is madness.

 26 I discovered that a seductive woman[b] is a trap more bitter than death. Her passion is a snare, and her soft hands are chains. Those who are pleasing to God will escape her, but sinners will be caught in her snare.

 27 “This is my conclusion,” says the Teacher. “I discovered this after looking at the matter from every possible angle. 28 Though I have searched repeatedly, I have not found what I was looking for. Only one out of a thousand men is virtuous, but not one woman! 29 But I did find this: God created people to be virtuous, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path

 1 How wonderful to be wise,
      to analyze and interpret things.
   Wisdom lights up a person’s face,
      softening its harshness.

Obedience to the King

 2 Obey the king since you vowed to God that you would. 3 Don’t try to avoid doing your duty, and don’t stand with those who plot evil, for the king can do whatever he wants. 4 His command is backed by great power. No one can resist or question it. 5 Those who obey him will not be punished. Those who are wise will find a time and a way to do what is right, 6 for there is a time and a way for everything, even when a person is in trouble.

 7 Indeed, how can people avoid what they don’t know is going to happen? 8 None of us can hold back our spirit from departing. None of us has the power to prevent the day of our death. There is no escaping that obligation, that dark battle. And in the face of death, wickedness will certainly not rescue the wicked.

The Wicked and the Righteous

 9 I have thought deeply about all that goes on here under the sun, where people have the power to hurt each other. 10 I have seen wicked people buried with honor. Yet they were the very ones who frequented the Temple and are now praised[a] in the same city where they committed their crimes! This, too, is meaningless. 11 When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong. 12 But even though a person sins a hundred times and still lives a long time, I know that those who fear God will be better off. 13 The wicked will not prosper, for they do not fear God. Their days will never grow long like the evening shadows.

 14 And this is not all that is meaningless in our world. In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless!

 15 So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.

 16 In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. 17 I realized that no one can discover everything God is doing under the sun. Not even the wisest people discover everything, no matter what they claim.

Death Comes to All

 1 This, too, I carefully explored: Even though the actions of godly and wise people are in God’s hands, no one knows whether God will show them favor. 2 The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad,[a] ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who make promises to God are treated like people who don’t.

 3 It seems so tragic that everyone under the sun suffers the same fate. That is why people are not more careful to be good. Instead, they choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway. 4 There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!”

 5 The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. 6 Whatever they did in their lifetime—loving, hating, envying—is all long gone. They no longer play a part in anything here on earth. 7 So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! 8 Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne!

 9 Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil. 10 Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave,[b] there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.

 11 I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.

 12 People can never predict when hard times might come. Like fish in a net or birds in a trap, people are caught by sudden tragedy.

Thoughts on Wisdom and Folly

 13 Here is another bit of wisdom that has impressed me as I have watched the way our world works. 14 There was a small town with only a few people, and a great king came with his army and besieged it. 15 A poor, wise man knew how to save the town, and so it was rescued. But afterward no one thought to thank him. 16 So even though wisdom is better than strength, those who are wise will be despised if they are poor. What they say will not be appreciated for long.

 17 Better to hear the quiet words of a wise person
      than the shouts of a foolish king.
 18 Better to have wisdom than weapons of war,

 1 Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” 2 Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky. 3 Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble; and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop. Remember him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding; and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly.

 4 Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades. Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint.

 5 Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire. Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral.

 6 Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. 7 For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.

Concluding Thoughts about the Teacher

 8 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.”

 9 Keep this in mind: The Teacher was considered wise, and he taught the people everything he knew. He listened carefully to many proverbs, studying and classifying them. 10 The Teacher sought to find just the right words to express truths clearly.[a]

 11 The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd[b] drives the sheep.

 12 But, my child,[c] let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out.

 13 That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. 14 God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.

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