New English Translation
1 The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem:
Introduction: Utter Futility
2 "Futile! Futile!" laments the Teacher, "Absolutely futile! Everything is futile!"
Futility Illustrated from Nature
3 What benefit do people get from all the effort which they expend on earth?
4 A generation comes and a generation goes, but the earth remains the same through the ages.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets; it hurries away to a place from which it rises again.
6 The wind goes to the south and circles around to the north; round and round the wind goes and on its rounds it returns.
7 All the streams flow into the sea, but the sea is not full, and to the place where the streams flow, there they will flow again.
8 All this monotony is tiresome; no one can bear to describe it: The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear ever content with hearing.
9 What exists now is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing truly new on earth.
10 Is there anything about which someone can say, "Look at this! It is new!"? It was already done long ago, before our time.
11 No one remembers the former events, nor will anyone remember the events that are yet to happen; they will not be remembered by the future generations.
Futility of Secular Accomplishment
12 I, the Teacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13 I decided to carefully and thoroughly examine all that has been accomplished on earth. I concluded: God has given people a burdensome task that keeps them occupied.
14 I reflected on everything that is accomplished by man on earth, and I concluded: Everything he has accomplished is futile - like chasing the wind!
15 What is bent cannot be straightened, and what is missing cannot be supplied.
Futility of Secular Wisdom
16 I thought to myself, "I have become much wiser than any of my predecessors who ruled over Jerusalem; I have acquired much wisdom and knowledge."
17 So I decided to discern the benefit of wisdom and knowledge over foolish behavior and ideas; however, I concluded that even this endeavor is like trying to chase the wind!
18 For with great wisdom comes great frustration; whoever increases his knowledge merely increases his heartache.
King James Version
1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.
12 ¶ I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.
14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.
16 I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.
17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.
18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.