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 4

Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power—with no one to comfort them. 2And I thought the dead, who have already died, more fortunate than the living, who are still alive; 3but better than both is the one who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

4 Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from one person’s envy of another. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.

5

Fools fold their hands

and consume their own flesh.

6

Better is a handful with quiet

than two handfuls with toil,

and a chasing after wind.

7 Again, I saw vanity under the sun: 8the case of solitary individuals, without sons or brothers; yet there is no end to all their toil, and their eyes are never satisfied with riches. “For whom am I toiling,” they ask, “and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business.

The Value of a Friend

9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. 11Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? 12And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.

13 Better is a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king, who will no longer take advice. 14One can indeed come out of prison to reign, even though born poor in the kingdom. 15I saw all the living who, moving about under the sun, follow that youth who replaced the king; 16there was no end to all those people whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a chasing after wind.


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Ec 4:1-16.

1. returned—namely, to the thought set forth (Ec 3:16; Job 35:9).

powerMaurer, not so well, "violence."

no comforter—twice said to express continued suffering without any to give comfort (Isa 53:7).

2. A profane sentiment if severed from its connection; but just in its bearing on Solomon's scope. If religion were not taken into account (Ec 3:17, 19), to die as soon as possible would be desirable, so as not to suffer or witness "oppressions"; and still more so, not to be born at all (Ec 7:1). Job (Job 3:12; 21:7), David (Ps 73:3, &c.), Jeremiah (Jer 12:1), Habakkuk (Hab 1:13), all passed through the same perplexity, until they went into the sanctuary, and looked beyond the present to the "judgment" (Ps 73:17; Hab 2:20; 3:17, 18). Then they saw the need of delay, before completely punishing the wicked, to give space for repentance, or else for accumulation of wrath (Ro 2:15); and before completely rewarding the godly, to give room for faith and perseverance in tribulation (Ps 92:7-12). Earnests, however, are often even now given, by partial judgments of the future, to assure us, in spite of difficulties, that God governs the earth.

3. not seen—nor experienced.

4. right—rather, "prosperous" (see on Ec 2:21). Prosperity, which men so much covet, is the very source of provoking oppression (Ec 4:1) and "envy," so far is it from constituting the chief good.

5. Still the

fool (the wicked oppressor) is not to be envied even in this life, who "folds his hands together" in idleness (Pr 6:10; 24:33), living on the means he wrongfully wrests from others; for such a one

eateth his own flesh—that is, is a self-tormentor, never satisfied, his spirit preying on itself (Isa 9:20; 49:26).

6. Hebrew; "One open hand (palm) full of quietness, than both closed hands full of travail." "Quietness" (mental tranquillity flowing from honest labor), opposed to "eating one's own flesh" (Ec 4:5), also opposed to anxious labor to gain (Ec 4:8; Pr 15:16, 17; 16:8).

7. A vanity described in Ec 4:8.

8. not a second—no partner.

child—"son or brother," put for any heir (De 25:5-10).

eye—(Ec 1:8). The miser would not be able to give an account of his infatuation.

9. Two—opposed to "one" (Ec 4:8). Ties of union, marriage, friendship, religious communion, are better than the selfish solitariness of the miser (Ge 2:18).

reward—Advantage accrues from their efforts being conjoined. The Talmud says, "A man without a companion is like a left hand without the right.

10. if they fall—if the one or other fall, as may happen to both, namely, into any distress of body, mind, or soul.

11. (See on 1Ki 1:1). The image is taken from man and wife, but applies universally to the warm sympathy derived from social ties. So Christian ties (Lu 24:32; Ac 28:15).

12. one—enemy.

threefold cord—proverbial for a combination of many—for example, husband, wife, and children (Pr 11:14); so Christians (Lu 10:1; Col 2:2, 19). Untwist the cord, and the separate threads are easily "broken."

13. The "threefold cord" [Ec 4:12] of social ties suggests the subject of civil government. In this case too, he concludes that kingly power confers no lasting happiness. The "wise" child, though a supposed case of Solomon, answers, in the event foreseen by the Holy Ghost, to Jeroboam, then a poor but valiant youth, once a "servant" of Solomon, and (1Ki 11:26-40) appointed by God through the prophet Ahijah to be heir of the kingdom of the ten tribes about to be rent from Rehoboam. The "old and foolish king" answers to Solomon himself, who had lost his wisdom, when, in defiance of two warnings of God (1Ki 3:14; 9:2-9), he forsook God.

will no more be admonished—knows not yet how to take warning (see Margin) God had by Ahijah already intimated the judgment coming on Solomon (1Ki 11:11-13).

14. out of prison—Solomon uses this phrase of a supposed case; for example, Joseph raised from a dungeon to be lord of Egypt. His words are at the same time so framed by the Holy Ghost that they answer virtually to Jeroboam, who fled to escape a "prison" and death from Solomon, to Shishak of Egypt (1Ki 11:40). This unconscious presaging of his own doom, and that of Rehoboam, constitutes the irony. David's elevation from poverty and exile, under Saul (which may have been before Solomon's mind), had so far their counterpart in that of Jeroboam.

whereas … becometh poor—rather, "though he (the youth) was born poor in his kingdom" (in the land where afterwards he was to reign).

15. "I considered all the living," the present generation, in relation to ("with") the "second youth" (the "legitimate successor" of the "old king," as opposed to the "poor youth," the one first spoken of, about to be raised from poverty to a throne), that is, Rehoboam.

in his stead—the old king's.

16. Notwithstanding their now worshipping the rising sun, the heir-apparent, I reflected that "there were no bounds, no stability (2Sa 15:6; 20:1), no check on the love of innovation, of all that have been before them," that is, the past generation; so

also they that come after—that is, the next generation,

shall not rejoice in him—namely, Rehoboam. The parallel, "shall not rejoice," fixes the sense of "no bounds," no permanent adherence, though now men rejoice in him.




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