New English Translation
Evil Oppression on Earth
1 So I again considered all the oppression that continually occurs on earth. This is what I saw: The oppressed were in tears, but no one was comforting them; no one delivers them from the power of their oppressors.
2 So I considered those who are dead and gone more fortunate than those who are still alive.
3 But better than both is the one who has not been born and has not seen the evil things that are done on earth.
Labor Motivated by Envy
4 Then I considered all the skillful work that is done: Surely it is nothing more than competition between one person and another. This also is profitless - like chasing the wind.
5 The fool folds his hands and does no work, so he has nothing to eat but his own flesh.
6 Better is one handful with some rest than two hands full of toil and chasing the wind.
Labor Motivated by Greed
7 So I again considered another futile thing on earth:
8 A man who is all alone with no companion, he has no children nor siblings; yet there is no end to all his toil, and he is never satisfied with riches. He laments, "For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?" This also is futile and a burdensome task!
Labor is Beneficial When Its Rewards Are Shared
9 Two people are better than one, because they can reap more benefit from their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will help his companion up, but pity the person who falls down and has no one to help him up.
11 Furthermore, if two lie down together, they can keep each other warm, but how can one person keep warm by himself?
12 Although an assailant may overpower one person, two can withstand him. Moreover, a three-stranded cord is not quickly broken.
Labor Motivated by Prestige-Seeking
13 A poor but wise youth is better than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive advice.
14 For he came out of prison to become king, even though he had been born poor in what would become his kingdom.
15 I considered all the living who walk on earth, as well as the successor who would arise in his place.
16 There is no end to all the people nor to the past generations, yet future generations will not rejoice in him. This also is profitless and like chasing the wind.
King James Version
1 So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.
2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.
3 Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
4 ¶ Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.
6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.
7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.
8 There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.
9 ¶ Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
13 ¶ Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.
14 For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.
15 I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead.
16 There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit.