Now we will begin Chapter 4 of Ecclesiastes
4:1 “Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed-and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors and they have no comforter.”
- Here Solomon looks at what is happening in the world, innocent people are being oppressed. No one feels bad for them or comforts them because they were afraid of the oppressors. People didn’t want to get involved because people with power could oppress them also.
4:2-3 “ And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.”
- Someone who has never been born is better off than the one living in this evil world. What he says here is that the one who has not been born, is better off than the living and dead, because the unborn never lived through the suffering. But Jesus came to save us from the evil, after all he has overcome the world. John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
4:4 “And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
- Solomon doesn’t say here, that toil and achievements are meaningless. If he were trying to say that, than the work we do for God is meaningless. But what he points out is toiling and trying to succeed at something, purely based on jealousy is meaningless. We should not want what others have, nor try to be something because somebody else is. But God’s work does not spring from jealousy, it comes from your own desire to be part of God’s kingdom.
4:5-6 “Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves. Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.
- In the Hebrew tongue, to “fold hands” means to not be doing work. If fools don’t work they have no food or place to live, that’s how they ruin themselves. It is also better to have little of something as long as your life is calm, than to always be working and gaining a lot. We need to be content with what we have.
4:7-8 “Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless— a miserable business!”
- This is a story about a man who works hard and is not happy with all the wealth he has. He is this way because he realizes he has no family left to give his wealth to. Let’s enjoy the things we have here, they are a gift from God.
4:9-10 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
- These verses follow those of the lonely man. Solomon realizes the advantage of having two people rather than one. ‘Pity’ here does not mean to laugh, or mock those who have no one to help them. Instead have compassion on them and do anything you can to help. In Matthew 15:32, Jesus had compassion on his followers because they had nothing to eat. He didn’t just leave them hoping that someone else would feed them. He fed them with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish.
4:11 “Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”
- Another verse describing how two people is better than one. When it is cold, two may sleep close to keep warm.
4:12 “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
- 3 is a very powerful number in the bible. Jesus’ closest friends, were Peter, James, and John. It also stands for the Trinity- Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Two can defend each other, and a third person is there for both, it only makes them stronger.
4:13 “Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning.”
- It doesn’t matter the age, or wealth, wisdom is always better. As long as a person is wise, they will prevail.
4:14 “The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom.”
- Solomon points out that no matter what his past was, the wise youth is better off than the king, even though he doesn’t have the riches a king would.
4:15 “I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor.”
- We can start to see a glimpse of what King Solomon is talking about here. As we will see clearer in the next verse, popularity can overtake someone. As the king’s successor, you would be the most popular person in the kingdom. And even as king everyone would know who you are.
4:16 “There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
- As with anything, popularity never lasts. As the children who were under the youth became older, they wanted a change in kingship. They got bored and wanted something new. This is the way popularity works, it’s here and gone, just as meaningless as chasing after the wind.