1The words of the Teacher,#Hebrew “Qohelet” the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2“Vanity of vanities!” says the Teacher,#Hebrew “Qohelet”
“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!”
All Toil is Profitless and Repetitious
3What does a person gain in all his toil
with which he toils under the sun?
4A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth stands forever.
5The sun rises, and the sun goes down;
to its place it hurries,#The MT reads “it gasps for breath,” which is supported by LXX “to draw breath”; the BHS editors suggest “it returns again” and there it rises again.
6The wind goes to the south and goes around to the north;
around and around it goes, and on its circuit the wind returns.
7All the streams flow to the sea,
but the sea is never full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they continue to flow.
8All things toil continuously;#Or “are wearisome”
no one can ever finish describing this.#The MT reads “no one is able to speak.” The BHS editors suggest “no one can finish speaking.” On the basis of internal evidence, the latter is adopted in the translation, since it makes better sense in the light of the immediate context
The eye is never#Or “not” satisfied with seeing,
and the ear is never#Or “not” filled with hearing.
9What has been—it is what will be;
what has been done—it is what will be done;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10There is a thing of which it is said, “Look at this! This is new!”
But it already existed in ages past before us.
11There is neither remembrance of former generations,
nor will there be remembrance of future generations.
Qohelet Introduces His Quest
12I, the Teacher,#Hebrew “Qohelet” was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13I applied my mind to seek and to search by wisdom all that is done under the heavens.#MT reads “under the heavens,” which is supported by LXX; however, several versions (Syriac Peshitta, Aramaic Targum, Latin Vulgate) as well as the Cairo Geniza manuscript read, “under the sun,” cf. 1:3, 9, etc. It is a grievous task God has given to humans.#Literally “the sons of the man” 14I saw all the works that are done under the sun. Look! Everything is vanity and chasing wind.
15What is twisted cannot be straightened,#The MT reads the active “to be straight”; however, the BHS editors suggest the passive “to be straightened,” which is supported by LXX, which reflects a passive form
and what is lacking cannot be counted.#The MT reads “to be numbered”; however, the BHS editors suggest “to be supplied,” comparing 1:15b with similar wording in the Babylonian Talmud: “May the Almighty replenish your loss” (b. Berachot 16b)
16I said to myself,#Literally “I myself said to my heart” “Look! I have become great and have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has preceded#Literally “before me” me over Jerusalem. I have acquired a great deal of wisdom and knowledge.”#Literally “And my mind has seen much wisdom and knowledge” 17So I dedicated myself#Literally “So I gave my heart” to learn about wisdom and to learn about delusion and folly. However, I discovered#Or “I knew” that this also is chasing wind.
18For in much wisdom is much frustration,#Or “vexation”
and whoever increases knowledge increases sorrow.