Ecclesiastes 5

The Word Made Fresh

1Be on your guard when you go to God’s house. It is better to simply draw near to listen than to make the sacrifice of fools who don’t know how to avoid doing evil. 2Never speak rashly there, or even allow your heart to be quick to say a word before God, for God is in heaven while you are on earth; so, let your words be few. 3Dreams come with many concerns, and a fool’s voice comes with many words.

4When you make a promise to God, don’t hesitate to carry it out, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Do what you promise. 5It is better not to make a promise than to promise and not do it. 6Don’t let your mouth lead you into mistakes nor tell the messenger you made a mistake. Why make God angry with your words so that the work of your hands be destroyed?

7Dreams come with vanities and many words; simply fear God.

8If you see the poor being oppressed in a province and justice being violated, don’t be surprised. The high official is under the eye of even higher ones. 9Considering everything, though, this is an advantage for a country – the king himself profits from a field that is prepared.

10Those who love money are never satisfied with money. Those who love wealth are never satisfied with gain. This, too, is nothing but vanity.

11When possessions increase, those who partake of them also increase, but their owner gains nothing but to see them.

12The sleep of those who perform the work is sweet, whether they have much or little to eat, but the overabundance of the rich keeps them awake.

13This is a terrible problem I have seen; wealth was gathered by its owners to their hurt, 14and their riches were lost in a bad business venture so that, even though they have children they have nothing to give them. 15So, as they came naked from their mother’s womb they shall go, carrying away nothing for their work. 16This, too, is a terrible ill. They go just as they came, with no gain to show for working in the wind. 17On top of it all they will eat in darkness all their lives, with many problems and illnesses and much resentment.

18So, this is what I have seen to be good: to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the work with which one toils under the sun during those few days of life God gives us. This is our fate. 19So, too, everyone to whom God gives wealth and belongings, and all whom God enables to enjoy these things by accepting their portion found in their work; this is God’s gift. 20And they will not be troubled over their days, because God keeps them occupied with the things in which they take joy.


1-7: Much of Chapters 5, 6 and 7 read like the Book of Proverbs. Indeed, these 7 verses are proverbs having to do with speech, and particularly the way we speak in God’s presence. Our friend the fool is back, his habits to be avoided at all costs. When it comes to talking with God, watch your mouth!

8-9: The remainder of the chapter addresses issues surrounding wealth and poverty. It is no surprise that oppressing the poor goes hand in hand with a general corruption of justice that reaches up the ladder all the way to the king. Verse 9 is difficult to translate but seems to convey the idea that in a corrupt country the king profits all the way down the scale to the level of the fields that are plowed to produce the crops.

10-12: Those who love money are never really satisfied. Perhaps that is why the love of money is the root of all evil. Common laborers at least have the peace of a good night’s sleep, but the rich lose sleep over the very thing they crave.

13-17: When rich people lose everything they don’t know how to cope, and they and their families suffer. Besides, everybody leaves this life just as they came, naked and empty-handed.

18-20: But if you find work you love you can enjoy life regardless of how wealthy or poor you may be.


Not even the rich are sheltered from failure. The lesson seems to be that it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, the good life consists of finding work you enjoy.