לַכֹּל זְמָן וְעֵת לְכָל־חֵפֶץ תַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם׃ 3:1
Eccl. 3:1 To everything a season,
and to every desire under the heavens a time:
עֵת לָלֶדֶת וְעֵת לָמוּת עֵת לָטַעַת וְעֵת לַעֲקֹור נָטוּעַ׃ 3:2
Eccl. 3:2 a time to be born
and a time to die,
a time to plant
and a time to pluck up what was planted,
עֵת לַהֲרֹוג וְעֵת לִרְפֹּוא עֵת לִפְרֹוץ וְעֵת לִבְנֹות׃ 3:3
Eccl. 3:3 a time to kill
and a time to heal,
a time to break down
and a time to build up,
עֵת לִבְכֹּות וְעֵת לִשְׂחֹוק עֵת סְפֹוד וְעֵת רְקֹוד׃ 3:4
Eccl. 3:4 a time to weep
and a time to laugh,
a time of mourning
and a time of dancing,
עֵת לְהַשְׁלִיךְ אֲבָנִים וְעֵת כְּנֹוס אֲבָנִים עֵת לַחֲבֹוק וְעֵת לִרְחֹק מֵחַבֵּק׃ 3:5
Eccl. 3:5 a time for casting away stones
and a time of gathering stones,
a time for embracing
and a time to avoid embracing,
עֵת לְבַקֵּשׁ וְעֵת לְאַבֵּד עֵת לִשְׁמֹור וְעֵת לְהַשְׁלִיךְ׃ 3:6
Eccl. 3:6 a time to seek
and a time to give up,
a time for keeping
and a time for throwing away,
עֵת לִקְרֹועַ וְעֵת לִתְפֹּור עֵת לַחֲשֹׁות וְעֵת לְדַבֵּר׃ 3:7
Eccl. 3:7 a time to tear
and a time to sew together,
a time to be silent
and a time to speak,
עֵת לֶאֱהֹב וְעֵת לִשְׂנֹא עֵת מִלְחָמָה וְעֵת שָׁלֹום׃ 3:8
Eccl. 3:8 a time to love
and a time to hate,
a time of war
and a time of peace.
מַה־יִּתְרֹון הָעֹושֶׂה בַּאֲשֶׁר הוּא עָמֵל׃ 3:9
Eccl. 3:9 What is the profit of the doing with which one is toiling?
This is not a rhetorical question. The author seeks to answer it below.
רָאִיתִי אֶת־הָעִנְיָן אֲשֶׁר נָתַן אֱלֹהִים לִבְנֵי הָאָדָם לַעֲנֹות בֹּו׃ 3:10
Eccl. 3:10 I have considered the task which God gives to the children of humanity to be occupied with.
Is our man of wisdom implying that there is but one task? Is it revealed in the next verse?
אֶת־הַכֹּל עָשָׂה יָפֶה בְעִתֹּו גַּם אֶת־הָעֹלָם נָתַן בְּלִבָּם מִבְּלִי אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יִמְצָא הָאָדָם אֶת־הַמַּעֲשֶׂה 3:11
אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹהִים מֵרֹאשׁ וְעַד־סֹוף׃
Eccl. 3:11 He has made every thing appropriate in its time. He has also set the world in their heart without which humankind could not find out the work that God does from beginning and even to end.
Whether or not this verse is intended to provide the answer to the question above, there’s a rather remarkable twist to it. If you would examine almost every popular English bible, you would find that they say the opposite of this translation. All but one that I have examined (Young’s Literal Translation is the sole exception) say that humanity cannot find out the work that God does. In those translations, the translators have ignored the fact that there are two negatives in the verse. The first is the word מִבְּלִי and the second is the word לֹא. I translate the first as without and the second as not (in could not). The majority of bibles ignore the first word altogether. As I see it, therefore, this is at least a partial answer to the question. God has given us the task to learn all the ramifications and consequences of His works.
יָדַעְתִּי כִּי אֵין טֹוב בָּם כִּי אִם־לִשְׂמֹוחַ וְלַעֲשֹׂות טֹוב בְּחַיָּיו׃ 3:12
Eccl. 3:12 I know that there is nothing better to them than rejoicing and producing good in one's life.
וְגַם כָּל־הָאָדָם שֶׁיֹּאכַל וְשָׁתָה וְרָאָה טֹוב בְּכָל־עֲמָלֹו מַתַּת אֱלֹהִים הִיא׃ 3:13
Eccl. 3:13 And also every one of humanity, that he should eat and drink and see happiness because of all his labor. It is a gift of God.
Here is the rest of the answer: Whatever we experience in this world is a gift from God. I believe this demonstrates that despite his words, the author is not pessimistic or feeling hopeless and depressed.
יָדַעְתִּי כִּי כָּל־אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה הָאֱלֹהִים הוּא יִהְיֶה לְעֹולָם עָלָיו אֵין לְהֹוסִיף וּמִמֶּנּוּ אֵין לִגְרֹעַ וְהָאֱלֹהִים 3:14
עָשָׂה שֶׁיִּרְאוּ מִלְּפָנָיו׃
Eccl. 3:14 I know that everything that God might do, it must be forever. There shall be nothing more to add to it and there shall be nothing to take away from it. And God arranged that they should be reverent because of His presence.
מַה־שֶּׁהָיָה כְּבָר הוּא וַאֲשֶׁר לִהְיֹות כְּבָר הָיָה וְהָאֱלֹהִים יְבַקֵּשׁ אֶת־נִרְדָּף׃ 3:15
Eccl. 3:15 What ever has been, it was long ago, and that which is to be, was long ago, and God can demand what follows.
וְעֹוד רָאִיתִי תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ מְקֹום הַמִּשְׁפָּט שָׁמָּה הָרֶשַׁע וּמְקֹום הַצֶּדֶק שָׁמָּה הָרָשַׁע׃ 3:16
Eccl. 3:16 And I saw more under the sun: The place of justice, there is wickedness; and the place of righteousness, there is wickedness.
Ah! Justice, righteousness and wickedness are intermingled. Maybe they can’t even be separated. Because many humans can be both just and wicked at different times. The same person!
אָמַרְתִּי אֲנִי בְּלִבִּי אֶת־הַצַּדִּיק וְאֶת־הָרָשָׁע יִשְׁפֹּט הָאֱלֹהִים כִּי־עֵת לְכָל־חֵפֶץ וְעַל כָּל־הַמַּעֲשֶׂה שָׁם׃ 3:17
Eccl. 3:17 I said in my heart, “The righteous one and the wicked one God will judge, for there is a time there for every desire and for every work.”
אָמַרְתִּי אֲנִי בְּלִבִּי עַל־דִּבְרַת בְּנֵי הָאָדָם לְבָרָם הָאֱלֹהִים וְלִרְאֹות שְׁהֶם־בְּהֵמָה הֵמָּה לָהֶם׃ 3:18
Eccl. 3:18 I said in my heart, “Because of the children of humankind, God is proving them so they themselves are seeing that they are but animal.”
The author’s reason for the observation in the previous verse seems to be so that we ultimately recognize that we are no better than the beasts.
כִּי מִקְרֶה בְנֵי־הָאָדָם וּמִקְרֶה הַבְּהֵמָה וּמִקְרֶה אֶחָד לָהֶם כְּמֹות זֶה כֵּן מֹות זֶה וְרוּחַ אֶחָד לַכֹּל 3:19
וּמֹותַר הָאָדָם מִן־הַבְּהֵמָה אָיִן כִּי הַכֹּל הָבֶל׃
Eccl. 3:19 For the fate of the children of humankind and the fate of animals, and that fate is one for them. As dies one, so dies the other, and one breath is for all. So there is no pre-eminence of humankind over the beast. Certainly it is all vanity.
Those who believe they are better than beasts have given in to vanity.
הַכֹּל הֹולֵךְ אֶל־מָקֹום אֶחָד הַכֹּל הָיָה מִן־הֶעָפָר וְהַכֹּל שָׁב אֶל־הֶעָפָר׃ 3:20
Eccl. 3:20 Every thing is going to one place; Every thing arose from the dust, and every thing returns to the dust.
מִי יֹודֵעַ רוּחַ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם הָעֹלָה הִיא לְמָעְלָה וְרוּחַ הַבְּהֵמָה הַיֹּרֶדֶת הִיא לְמַטָּה לָאָרֶץ׃ 3:21
Eccl. 3:21 Who is certain of the spirit of the children of humanity, that it climbs upward, and of the spirit of animals, that it descends downward to the earth?
וְרָאִיתִי כִּי אֵין טֹוב מֵאֲשֶׁר יִשְׂמַח הָאָדָם בְּמַעֲשָׂיו כִּי־הוּא חֶלְקֹו כִּי מִי יְבִיאֶנּוּ לִרְאֹות בְּמֶה 3:22
Eccl. 3:22 So I perceived that there is nothing better than that human should rejoice in his works. For who can bring someone to see anything that will be after him?
Now this seems to be the author’s interim conclusion about life. Despite the fact that all is vanity, we should still rejoice in what we do. Why rejoice? Because it is all from God.