made pools of water to irrigate the groves of trees.
I bought slaves, male and female, who had children, giving me even more slaves; then I acquired large herds and flocks, larger than any before me in Jerusalem.
I piled up silver and gold, loot from kings and kingdoms. I gathered a chorus of singers to entertain me with song, and - most exquisite of all pleasures - voluptuous maidens for my bed.
Oh, how I prospered! I left all my predecessors in Jerusalem far behind, left them behind in the dust. What's more, I kept a clear head through it all.
Everything I wanted I took - I never said no to myself. I gave in to every impulse, held back nothing. I sucked the marrow of pleasure out of every task - my reward to myself for a hard day's work!
Then I took a good look at everything I'd done, looked at all the sweat and hard work. But when I looked, I saw nothing but smoke. Smoke and spitting into the wind. There was nothing to any of it. Nothing.
And then I took a hard look at what's smart and what's stupid. What's left to do after you've been king? That's a hard act to follow. You just do what you can, and that's it.
But I did see that it's better to be smart than stupid, just as light is better than darkness.
Even so, though the smart ones see where they're going and the stupid ones grope in the dark, they're all the same in the end. One fate for all - and that's it.
When I realized that my fate's the same as the fool's, I had to ask myself, "So why bother being wise?" It's all smoke, nothing but smoke.
The smart and the stupid both disappear out of sight. In a day or two they're both forgotten. Yes, both the smart and the stupid die, and that's it.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)