Wisdom and Folly Contrasted
1A good name is better than precious perfume,
And the day of one’s death better than the day of one’s birth.
2It is better to go to the house of mourning
Than to go to the house of feasting,
For that [day of death] is the end of every man,
And the living will take it to heart and solemnly ponder its meaning.
3Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when a face is sad (deep in thought) the heart may be happy [because it is growing in wisdom].
4The heart of the wise [learns when it] is in the house of mourning,
But the heart of fools is [senseless] in the house of pleasure.
5It is better to listen to the rebuke of the wise man and pursue wisdom
Than for one to listen to the song of fools and pursue stupidity.
6For like the crackling of [burning] thorn bushes under a pot,
So is the laughter of the fool;
And this too is vanity (futility).
7For oppression makes a wise man foolish,
And a bribe corrupts the [good judgment of the] heart.
8The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit (pride).
9Do not be eager in your heart to be angry,
For anger dwells in the heart of fools.
10Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.
11Wisdom along with an inheritance is good
And an [excellent] advantage for those who see the sun.
12For wisdom is a protection even as money is a protection,
But the [excellent] advantage of knowledge is that wisdom shields and preserves the lives of its possessors.
13Consider the work of God:
Who can make straight what He has bent?
14In the day of prosperity be joyful,
But in the day of adversity consider that
God has made the one as well as the other,
So that man will not find out anything that will be after him.
15I have seen everything during my [fleeting] days of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in [spite of] his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who lives a long life in [spite of] his wickedness. 16Do not be excessively righteous [like those given to self-conceit], and do not be overly wise (pretentious)—why should you bring yourself to ruin? 17Do not be excessively or willfully wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time? 18It is good that you take hold of one thing (righteousness) and also not let go of the other (wisdom); for the one who fears and worships God [with awe-filled reverence] will come forth with both of them.
19Wisdom strengthens the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city. 20Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who always does good and who never sins. 21Also, do not take seriously everything that is said, so that you will not hear your servant cursing you, 22for you also know that you too have cursed others many times.
23I have tested all this with wisdom. I said, “I will be wise [independently of God],” but true wisdom was far from me. 24Whatever has been is far off, deeply remote and exceedingly mysterious. Who can discover it [for it is beyond the grasp of man]? 25I turned around and directed my heart to know, to investigate and to seek [skillful and godly] wisdom and the reason for things, and to know that wickedness is folly and that foolishness is madness [leading to stupidity and recklessness]. 26And I discovered that [of all irrational sins none has been so destructive in beguiling one away from God as immoral women for] more bitter than death is the woman whose heart is [composed of] snares and nets, and whose hands are chains. Whoever pleases God will escape from her, but the sinner will be taken captive by her [evil].
27“Behold, I have discovered this,” says the Preacher, “while adding one thing to another to find an explanation, 28which I am still seeking but have not found. I have found one man among a thousand [who pleases God], but I have not found [such] a woman among all these [a thousand in my harem]. 29Behold, I have found only this [as a reason]: God made man upright and uncorrupted, but they [both men and women] have sought out many devices [for evil].”