Fear God and Keep His Commandments
Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.
Proverbs of the Teacher
Surely oppression drives the wise into madness,
and a bribe corrupts the heart.
Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,
and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.
Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
an advantage to those who see the sun.
For the protection of wisdom
is like the protection of money,
and the advantage of knowledge is that
wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
Wisdom gives strength to the wise man
more than ten rulers who are in a city.
Surely there is not a righteous man on earth
who does good and never sins.
Do not take to heart all the things that people say,
lest you hear your servant cursing you.
Your heart knows
that many times you have yourself cursed others.
All this I have tested by wisdom. I said,
“I will be wise,”
but it was far from me.
That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep;
who can find it out?
I turned my heart to know
and to search out and to seek wisdom
and the scheme of things,
and to know the wickedness of folly
and the foolishness that is madness.
And I find something more bitter than death:
the woman whose heart
is snares and nets,
and whose hands are fetters.
He who pleases God escapes her,
but the sinner is taken by her.
10:1 - 11:6
Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench;
so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right,
but a fool’s heart to the left.
Even when the fool walks on the road,
he lacks sense,
and he says to everyone that he is a fool.
If the anger of the ruler rises against you,
do not leave your place,
for calmness will lay great offenses to rest.
There is an evil that I have seen under the sun,
as it were an error proceeding from the ruler:
folly is set in many high places,
and the rich sit in a low place.
I have seen slaves on horses,
and princes walking on the ground like slaves.
He who digs a pit will fall into it,
and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall.
He who quarries stones is hurt by them,
and he who splits logs is endangered by them.
If the iron is blunt,
and one does not sharpen the edge,
he must use more strength,
but wisdom helps one to succeed.
If the serpent bites before it is charmed,
there is no advantage to the charmer.
The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor,
but the lips of a fool consume him.
The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness,
and the end of his talk is evil madness.
A fool multiplies words,
though no man knows what is to be,
and who can tell him what will be after him?
The toil of a fool wearies him,
for he does not know the way to the city.
Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
and your princes feast in the morning!
Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility,
and your princes feast at the proper time,
for strength, and not for drunkenness!
Through sloth the roof sinks in,
and through indolence the house leaks.
Bread is made for laughter,
and wine gladdens life,
and money answers everything.
Even in your thought, do not curse the king,
nor in your bedroom curse the rich,
for a bird of the air will carry your voice,
or some winged creature tell the matter.
Cast Your Bread upon the Waters
Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.
Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
for you know not what disaster
may happen on earth.
If the clouds are full of rain,
they empty themselves on the earth,
and if a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
He who observes the wind will not sow,
and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know the way the spirit
comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child,
so you do not know the work of God
who makes everything.
In the morning sow your seed,
and at evening withhold not your hand,
for you do not know which will prosper,
this or that,
or whether both alike will be good.
The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these.
Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
The Contrast of Wisdom and Folly
A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
than to hear the song of fools.
For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
so is the laughter of the fools;
this also is vanity.
In my vain life I have seen everything.
There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness,
and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.
Be not overly righteous,
and do not make yourself too wise.
Why should you destroy yourself?
Be not overly wicked,
neither be a fool.
Why should you die before your time?
It is good that you should take hold of this,
and from that withhold not your hand,
for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.
Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher,
while adding one thing to another
to find the scheme of things—
which my soul has sought repeatedly,
but I have not found.
One man among a thousand I found,
but a woman among all these I have not found.
See, this alone I found,
that God made man upright,
but they have sought out many schemes.
Keep the King’s Command
Who is like the wise?
And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
A man’s wisdom makes his face shine,
and the hardness of his face is changed.
Holy Bible, English Standard Version,
as arranged in chronological order by F. Legard Smith