The Word Made Fresh
1A good name is better than expensive perfume. The day of death is better than the day of birth. 2It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting, for this is everyone’s end, and the living take it to heart. 3Sorrow is better than laughter because the heart is made glad when our faces are sad. 4The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; the heart of the foolish is in the house of joy. 5The rebuke of the wise is better than the songs of fools, 6for a fool’s laughter is like thorns crackling under the pot. This is vanity as well.
7It is true that the wise are made foolish through oppression. A bribe can corrupt the heart. 8A thing’s end is better than its beginning, and those who are patient in spirit are better than those who are proud in spirit. 9Don’t be quick to anger; anger takes up its place in the hearts of fools. 10Don’t ask, “Why were the good old days better than these?” Wisdom does not compel you to ask this. 11But wisdom is as good as an inheritance, for it is an advantage for those who see the sun. 12Wisdom’s protection is like the protection of money, and knowledge is an advantage because it bestows life on the one who has it.
13So, think of God’s works; who can make straight what God has made crooked? 14In days of plenty, rejoice, and in days of adversity consider this: God has made both one and the other so that mortals might not find out anything that will follow them.
15In my vanity I have seen everything. I have seen righteous people perish in their righteousness. I have seen wicked people prolong their lives through their wicked ways. 16So, do not be too righteous, nor act too wise. Why destroy yourself? 17Do not be too evil, nor be a fool; why die before your time? 18Take hold of the one, but don’t release the other, for the one who fears God always succeeds with both.
19Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten rulers in a city. 20There is no one on earth who is so righteous that they do good without ever sinning. 21Don’t pay attention to everything people say; you may hear your own servant cursing you. 22You know in your own heart that you have cursed others many times.
23All of these things I have tested by wisdom. I said to myself, “I will be wise,” but it wasn’t in my grasp. 24Truth is far off, and very deep, so that none can find it out. 25So, I instructed my mind to know, and to seek wisdom and the great sum of things, and to know that wickedness is foolishness. 26I discovered that the woman who tries to entrap you is more harmful than death, for her heart traps and her hands grasp. One who pleases God might escape her, but the sinner is always taken by her.
27“See,” says the Preacher, adding things together to find the total, “this is what I have found. 28This is what my mind has sought repeatedly without success. Perhaps one man in a thousand I found, but no women among them. 29I found that God made human beings honestly, but they have gone off and developed many schemes.”
1-8: The Preacher was a very gloomy person. Death is better than birth, mourning is better than feasting, sorrow than laughter, rebuke than singing, the end of a thing than its beginning.
9: On anger, compare Proverbs 14:29.
10: Even back then they longed for the “good old days.”
11-12: If one is wise, the fortunes of time can do little harm.
13-14: God’s ways are inscrutable, and God’s works irreversible.
15-18: Moderation in all things seems to be the counsel here.
19: Wisdom is consistently upheld as the one thing to seek above all others.
20: Doing good deeds without sinning is the definition of righteousness, isn’t it?
21-22: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
23-29: His cynicism reaches a crescendo: wisdom is not to be found, women are not to be trusted, and people simply don’t turn out the way God intended.
The Preacher’s negative attitude is overpowering at some points, and we have to wonder, halfway through the book, what’s the point of all this negativism? Will we ever come to a positive outlook on life? We’ll just have to keep reading to find out.