A first encounter
What right do I have?
Representing Hebrew and Sanskrit
Vanity of vanities
1:1–11: All is vanity
What profit does a man have?
“Under the sun”
Generation after generation
All things are weary
Nothing is new
1:12–18: The pursuit of wisdom
“I spoke with my heart”
Chasing after wind
2:1–11: The experiment with pleasure
“Come now, let me make you try pleasure”
The path of karma
2:12–16: Wisdom, folly, and fate
For the fool and the wise, the same fate
2:17–23: Working for nothing
Pleasure turns bitter
What is left but despair?
2:24–26: Nothing better than enjoyment?
Eat, drink, and enjoy
Strange notions, but so what?
Qohelet in the modern world
3:1–8: A time for every purpose
Why is there time at all?
How much is predetermined, and how much are we free?
A time to seek and a time to lose
A time to rend and a time to sew
A time for war and a time for peace
3:9–11: Working for God knows what
“Times” in context. Alas!
“I have seen”
3:12–13: Eat, drink, and have a good time toiling away
Here to enjoy
3:14–15: Nothing added, nothing subtracted, nothing new
Keeping us in fear
What is and what will be: no more than what has already been
3:16–22: One fate for all
Justice where and justice when?
All have the same breath
The nature of the self
The “cheery gospel of work”
4:1–3: The tears of the oppressed
“No one to comfort them!”
Qohelet and the Buddha
The Buddha and the Gita
The oppressed and the Vedic way
4:4–6: Toil and envy
Excelling for nothing. Or doing nothing. Or a handful of quietness.
4:7–8: The lone miser
“For whom do I labor?”
4:9–12: Strength in numbers
A threefold cord
4:13–16: The coming and going of kings
5:1–7: Watch your step when you deal with God
The superiority of hearing
Do not be rash
Pay what you vow
Beyond fear of God
Why is God here at all?
5:8–9: For oppression, high officials; for prosperity, simple fields
Hands of oppression and injustice
A plowed field
5:10–11: Vainly watch your money grow
The love of wealth
The rich can’t sleep
5:13–17: Working for nothing, eating in the dark
5:18–20: Eat, drink, and enjoy
What’s good? Not much.
6:1–6: Better born dead
Back to what’s bad
Better a moment of full awareness
6:7–9: Vain desires
Working for the mouth
The wandering of desire
6:10–12: Who can know? Who can tell?
Known long before, determined long ago
It is known what we are
Who knows what is good?
7:1–6: Much wisdom in a few words
Better is the day of death
Better than laughter and song
7:7–10: More proverbs
Better patience than pride
7:11–12: The advantage of wisdom
The ultimate refuge
7:13–14: Crooked, joyful, adverse, and bewildering
The crooked world
Prosperity and adversity
7:15–22: “I have seen everything”
Justice violated again
Virtue and wisdom
7:23–24: I said, “I will be wise.”
Wisdom: deep and distant
7:25: To know, to search out, and to seek
To seek wisdom and to know folly
7:26–29: “This is what I found”
More bitter than death
Finding and not finding
8:1: Who is like the wise man?
Known by his words of wisdom
Knowing the future
8:2–4: The king does what he pleases
The power of the king
8:5–9: When one man has power over another
Knowing the time and way
The limits of power
Rogues in command
To his hurt
8:10: I saw the wicked buried
A problematic text
8:11–14: The righteous and the wicked in an unjust world
Justice delayed. . .
8:15: Eat, drink, and be merry
Recommending what doesn’t work
8:16–17: Seek and you shall not find
No one can understand it
9:1–3: Finally, to the dead!
In the hand of God?
The same fate for all
9:4–6: Better a living dog than a dead lion
Death snuffs out everything
9:7–10: Enjoy your useless life
Enjoyment already approved
White garments, fine oil
Enjoy with the woman you love
Not all the days of your life
Where you are going
9:11–12: Time and chance
Not to the swift
The evil time
9:13–16: The poor man’s wisdom
How wisdom is treated, what wisdom may accomplish
9:17–18: Wisdom among fools
Quiet words of wisdom; shouting words among fools
10:1-3: The weight of folly
The way of the fool
10:4–7: Folly in high places
Social order turned topsy-turvy
10:8–11: Danger at every step
Skill and wisdom and their limits
10:12–15: The talk and the labor of fools
10:16–17: The land in trouble and the happy land
When your king is a lackey
10:18–19: Sagging rafters, leaky house, and feasting, wine, and money
The mode of ignorance
Laughter, wine, and money
10:20: “A little bird told me”
“The walls have ears”
11:1–2: Bread upon the waters
You shall find it after many days
11:3–6: Certainty and uncertainty
Inevitable, but not always predictable
Watching the wind and gazing at the clouds
We do not know
Even amidst uncertainty, we must act
11:7–8: Sweet is the light, and many are the days of darkness
Just to be alive
Rejoice in them all
The days of darkness
Enjoy and remember
11:9–10: While young, rejoice! Rejoice! Vainly rejoice!
What sort of advice?
Enjoy for yourself
The highest aim
Prospects of heaven
Nothingness and oneness
One last, deeper look at enjoyment
The advice I received
12:1–7: The ending of life
A dark poem
Remember your creator—but why?
What we think of at death. . .
What is happening?
The lights grow dark, the clouds return
People in fear and grief
More signs of disaster
Metaphors of death
12:8-10: The epilogue begins
The frame narrator returns
12:11-12: The words of the wise, the weary endlessness of books
Book knowledge and realized knowledge
12:13-14: Closing words
Guide to Hebrew pronunciation
Guide to Sanskrit pronunciation
Traditional authorities cited: a brief guide about the Hebrew text and its English rendering
Ecclesiastes: The full English text