Ecclesiastes 4 commentary

ECCLESIASTES 4 COMMETARY EDITED BY GLE PEASE Oppression, Toil, Friendlessness 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. BARES, “So I returned, and considered - Rather, And I returned and saw. He turns to look upon other phenomena, and to test his previous conclusion by them. Oppressed - See the introduction to Ecclesiastes. CLARKE, “Considered all the oppressions - עשקיםashukim signifies any kind of injury which a man can receive in his person, his property, or his good fame. On the side of their oppressors there was power - And, therefore, neither protection nor comfort for the oppressed. GILL, “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun,.... The wise man, according to Aben Ezra, returned from the thought, which he had expressed in the latter part of the preceding chapter, that it was good for a man to rejoice in his works, and called it in; since he could not rejoice, when he considered the oppression and violence that were in the world; but it does not appear that he did call it in, for he afterwards repeats it: or rather he returns to his former subject, the abuse of power and authority, mentioned Ecc_3:16 ; and from whence he had digressed a little by the above observation; and takes a review of all kinds of oppressions which are done, and of all sorts of "oppressed" (x) ones, as some render it, which become so, under the sun; subjects by their prince; the stranger, widow, and fatherless, by unjust judges; the poor by the rich; servants and labourers by their masters; and the like. Moreover, he saw by the Holy Ghost, as Jarchi paraphrases it, all oppressions by a spirit of prophecy; he foresaw all the oppressions that would be done under the sun; as all the injuries done to the people of Israel in their several captivities; so to the church of

Transcript of Ecclesiastes 4 commentary


Oppression, Toil, Friendlessness

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.

BAR�ES, “So I returned, and considered - Rather, And I returned and saw. He turns to look upon other phenomena, and to test his previous conclusion by them.Oppressed - See the introduction to Ecclesiastes.

CLARKE, “Considered all the oppressions - עשקים ashukim signifies any kind of injury

which a man can receive in his person, his property, or his good fame.On the side of their oppressors there was power - And, therefore, neither protection

nor comfort for the oppressed.

GILL, “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun,.... The wise man, according to Aben Ezra, returned from the thought, which he had expressed in the latter part of the preceding chapter, that it was good for a man to rejoice in his works, and called it in; since he could not rejoice, when he considered the oppression and violence that were in the world; but it does not appear that he did call it in, for he afterwards repeats it: or rather he returns to his former subject, the abuse of power and authority, mentioned Ecc_3:16; and from whence he had digressed a little by the above observation; and takes a review of all kinds of oppressions which are done, and of all sorts of "oppressed" (x) ones, as some render it, which become so, under the sun; subjects by their prince; the stranger, widow, and fatherless, by unjust judges; the poor by the rich; servants and labourers by their masters; and the like. Moreover, he saw by the Holy Ghost, as Jarchi paraphrases it, all oppressions by a spirit of prophecy; he foresaw all the oppressions that would be done under the sun; as all the injuries done to the people of Israel in their several captivities; so to the church of

Christ in Gospel times; all the persecutions of Rome Pagan, and also of Rome Papal; all that has or will be done by antichrist, the man of the earth, who before long will oppress no more, Psa_10:18; the Targum restrains these oppressions to those which are done to the righteous in this world: and it is well observed by the wise man, that they are such as are under the sun, for there are none above it, nor any beyond the grave, Job_3:17;

and behold the tears of such as were oppressed; which their eyes poured out, and which ran down their cheeks, and were all they could do, having no power to help themselves: it is in the singular number, "and behold the tear" (y); as if it was one continued stream of tears, which, like a torrent, flowed from them; or as if they had so exhausted the source of nature by weeping, that the fountain of tears was dried up, and scarce another could drop; or it was as much as could be, that another should drop from them: and this the wise man could not well behold, without weeping himself; it being the property of a good man to weep with them that weep, especially with good men oppressed;

and they had no comforter; to speak a comfortable word to them; not so much as to do that which would be some alleviation of their sorrow, much less to help them, no human comforter; and this is a very deplorable condition, Lam_1:2; indeed, when this is the case, good men under their oppressions have a divine Comforter; God comforts them under all their tribulations; one of the names of the Messiah is "the Consolation of Israel", Luk_2:25; and the Spirit of God is "another Comforter", Joh_14:16; and such are well off, when all other comforters are miserable ones, or other men have none;

and on the side of their oppressors there was power; to crush them and keep them under, or to hinder others from helping or comforting them: or there was no "power to deliver them out of the hand of their oppressors" (z); so some render and supply the words; with which sense agrees the Targum,

"and there is none to redeem them out of the hand of their oppressors, by strength of hand and by power.''

It may be rendered, "out of the hand of their oppressors comes power", or violence; such as the oppressed are not able to withstand; so the Arabic version;

but they had no comforter: which is repeated, not so much for confirmation, as to excite attention and pity, and to express the affliction of the oppressed, and the cruelty of others; and this following on the other clause, leads to observe, that the power of the oppressor is what hinders and deters others from comforting. Jarchi interprets this whole verse of the damned in hell, punished for their evil works, weeping for their souls oppressed by the destroying angels; and so, he says, it is, explained in an ancient book of theirs, called Siphri.

HE�RY, “Solomon had a large soul (1Ki_4:29) and it appeared by this, among other things, that he had a very tender concern for the miserable part of mankind and took cognizance of the afflictions of the afflicted. He had taken the oppressors to task (Ecc_3:16, Ecc_3:17) and put them in mind of the judgment to come, to be a curb to their insolence; now here he observes the oppressed. This he did, no doubt, as a prince, to do them justice and avenge them of their adversaries, for he both feared God and regarded men; but here he does it as a preacher, and shows,

I. The troubles of their condition (Ecc_4:1); of these he speaks very feelingly and with compassion. It grieved him, 1. To see might prevailing against right, to see so much oppression done under the sun, to see servants, and labourers, and poor workmen, oppressed by their

masters, who take advantage of their necessity to impose what terms they please upon them, debtors oppressed by cruel creditors and creditors too by fraudulent debtors, tenants oppressed by hard landlords and orphans by treacherous guardians, and, worst of all, subjects oppressed by arbitrary princes and unjust judges. Such oppressions are done under the sun; above the sun righteousness reigns for ever. Wise men will consider these oppressions, and contrive to do something for the relief of those that are oppressed. Blessed is he that considers the poor. 2. To see how those that were wronged laid to heart the wrongs that were done them. He beheld the tears of such as were oppressed, and perhaps could not forbear weeping with them. The world is a place of weepers; look which way we will, we have a melancholy scene presented to us, the tears of those that are oppressed with one trouble or other. They find it is to no purpose to complain, and therefore mourn in secret (as Job, Job_16:20; Job_30:28); but Blessed are those that mourn. 3. To see how unable they were to help themselves: On the side of their oppressors there was power, when they had done wrong, to stand to it and make good what they had done, so that the poor were borne down with a strong hand and had no way to obtain redress. It is sad to see power misplaced, and that which was given men to enable them to do good perverted to support them in doing wrong. 4. To see how they and their calamities were slighted by all about them. They wept and needed comfort, but there was none to do that friendly office: They had no comforter; their oppressors were powerful and threatening, and therefore they had no comforter; those that should have comforted them durst not, for fear of displeasing the oppressors and being made their companions for offering to be their comforters. It is sad to see so little humanity among men.

JAMISO�, “returned — namely, to the thought set forth (Ecc_3:16; Job_35:9).power — Maurer, not so well, “violence.”

no comforter — twice said to express continued suffering without any to give comfort (Isa_53:7).

KRETZMAN, “1. So I returned and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun, turning his reflections from the vanity of human life to the violence practiced by many men; and behold the tears of

such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter, no one to dry their tears by healing their injuries; and on the side of their oppressors there was power, that being the way of tyrants everywhere, but they had no comforter, the repetition of this phrase emphasizing the desperate and hopeless condition of the poor and downtrodden.

PULPIT, “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun. This is equivalent to, "again I saw," as Ecc_4:7, with a reference to the wickedness in the place of judgment which he had noticed in Ecc_3:16. Ashukim, "oppressions," is found in Job_35:9 and Amo_3:9, and, being properly a participle passive, denotes oppressed persons or things, and so abstractedly "oppressions." Τὰς συκοφαντίας ; calumnias (Vulgate). The verb is used of high-handed injustice, of offensive selfishness, of the hindrances to his neighbor's well-being caused by a man's careless disregard of aught but his own interests. Beheld the tears of such as were oppressed; τῶν συκοφαντουµένων ; innocentium (Vulgate). He notes now not merely the fact of wrong being done, but its effect on the victim, and intimates his own pity for the sorrow. And they had no comforter. A sad refrain, echoed again at the end of the verse with touching pathos.Οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῖς παρακαλῶν ; they had no earthly friends to visit them in their affliction, and they as yet knew not the soothing of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter ( Παράκλητος ). There was no one to wipe away their tears (Isa_25:8) or to redress their wrongs. The point is the powerlessness of man in the face of these disorders, his inability to right himself, the incompetence of others to aid him. On the side of their oppressors there was power (koach), in a bad sense, like the Greek βία equivalent to "violence." Thus the ungodly say, in the Book of Wisdom Amo_2:11, "Let our strength be the law of justice." Vulgate, Nec posse resistere eorun violentiae, cunctorum auxilio

destitutes. It is difficult to suppose that the state of things revealed by this verse existed in the days of King Solomon, or that so powerful a monarch, and one admired for "judgment and justice" (1Ki_10:9), would be content with complaining of such disorders instead of checking them. There is no token of remorse for past unprofitableness or anguish of heart at the thought of failure in duty. If we take the words as the utterance of the real Solomon, we do violence to history, and must correct the existing chronicles of his reign. The picture here presented is one of later times, and it may be of other countries. Persian rule, or the tyranny of the Ptolemies, might afford an original from which it might be taken.

BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR, “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun.The nature and wickedness of oppression

There is scarce any sin against which more is said in the Word of God, or which is more reproachful to a man and to a Christian, or more mischievous to society, than oppression. Yet I fear it is a sin which more persons are guilty of, and more suffer by, than is generally known.

I. Consider what oppression is, and the most striking instances in which men are guilty of it.

1. It is dealing unjustly or unkindly by a person over whose time, goods, trade, or business the oppressor hath power. It is principally the vice of rich men and superiors, who have power over their workmen, servants, tenants, and other inferiors. But it is not confined to them. The poor often meet with very bad, if not the worst, treatment from those who in station and fortune are very little above them. It is oppression, when men impose what terms they please upon others in commerce and dealings, without regarding what is just and right; when they oblige others to sell their goods under their real value, because they are in necessity; or to give more for a commodity than it is worth, because they cannot do without it. Selling bad and damaged goods to persons who dare not refuse to take them, and yet must lose by them, or not sell them again for a reasonable profit, is another instance of this vice. If a person makes a relation, a neighbour, or dependant, pay dearer for what he buys than his other customers, because he is under particular obligations to buy of him, he is an oppressor. Taking exorbitant interest for money lent, or exchange of bills and cash, on account of men’s necessities, is extortion and oppression. Where a person, or a combination of persons, engross the whole of any commodity which is to be sold, in order to make an excessive gain of it, or to injure other tradesmen in the same way of business, this is oppression. Again, to be rigorous in exacting debts or other rights to the very utmost farthing, where poverty, sickness, losses, dear seasons, or a large family render men incapable of paying what they owe; to allow them no time to satisfy their creditors; or to strip them of their all; this is cruelly oppressive. Obliging persons, over whom men have power, to vote or act against their consciences; persecuting, reviling, or even bantering, men for their religious sentiments and worship, is dreadful oppression. In the black list of oppressors must likewise be ranged parents, masters and mistresses of families and schools, who behave cruelly and severely to their children, servants, and scholars. There is likewise great oppression in a haughty, insolent, overbearing way of speaking to inferiors, which is very grating and hurtful to any sensible mind.

II. The great evil and wickedness of it.

1. It proceeds from a very bad disposition of mind. The principal source of it is covetousness; an inordinate love of the world (Jer_22:17). In some persons the practice of this sin proceeds from pride; to show their authority over others, and to keep them in awe. Hence they treat their inferiors as if they were of a lower species, and not worthy of common justice. This chows a base, ignoble mind (Psa_63:6-8). In some, it is owing to luxury and extravagance. They are dressed with the spoils of the poor; and their fine houses, equipages, and

entertainments are supported by the properties and comforts of others. It is sometimes owing to sloth; because, like drones in the hive, they will not work, they prey upon the labours of the industrious. It is very often owing to resentment, malice, and ill-nature.

2. Oppression is a high ingratitude and affront to the righteous God. It is ingratitude to Him, because He giveth men all their wealth and power over others, and He doth this, not that they may oppress, but protect, relieve, and serve others, and be a blessing to them. It must, therefore, be horrid ingratitude to abuse and pervert these favours to their injury. But what renders it worse is, that He hath bestowed upon men spiritual blessings and Christian privileges, and, therefore, to oppress and injure them must be proportionably wicked. Further, He hath placed men in different circumstances in life; “made both the rich and the poor.” He hath allotted to men such conditions here that they need one another’s assistance. The rich want the labour of the poor, as the poor want the money of the rich; and God expects that they should help one another, and so contribute to the general happiness. To oppress the poor, then, is defeating the wise and kind design of God’s providence.

3. It is detestable inhumanity and cruelty to the oppressed. “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast.” What then must we think of those who are oppressive and cruel to their fellow-men, but that they are utterly void of justice, goodness, and humanity, that they are monsters and not men?

4. It is directly contrary to the design of the Gospel; which is to promote righteousness, love, peace, and happiness upon earth, as well as to secure the eternal salvation of mankind.

5. It will sink men into everlasting ruin. God is a just and righteous Being, and at the judgment-day “He will render to every one according to his works.” The Lord seeth and remembereth all the oppression that is done under the sun, and He will at length reckon with those who have done it.


1. I shall address oppressors; those whose consciences tell them, as in the sight of God, that they have been guilty of this sin in the instances above mentioned or any other. I exhort you, sirs, to hearken to the voice of conscience as the voice of God; to submit to its reproofs; and to be humbled deeply before God for your injustice and cruelty to men.

2. Let me address the oppressed. It may perhaps be the ease of some of you, and I would endeavour to be your comforter. Acknowledge the justice of the Lord in what you suffer from the hand of men. Though they are unrighteous, He is righteous, for you have sinned; and He may choose this method of afflicting you, to lead you to repentance, to exercise your virtues, and make your hearts better. Let me exhort you to guard against a spirit of malice and revenge. Remember that their oppressing you will be no excuse for injustice to them. That “it is no harm to bite the biter” is a very wicked maxim. It is better to suffer many wrongs than to do one. Yea, it is our duty to render good for evil.

3. I would address those who can appeal to a heart-searching God that they are guiltless of this sin. I would exhort you to guard against the love of money, which is the chief root of this evil. To prevent your becoming oppressors, go not to the utmost bounds of things lawful. Keep on the safe side. Be not only just, but honourable, generous, and charitable, and “abstain from the very appearance of evil.” Let me exhort you, likewise, to be comforters of the oppressed. (Job Orton, D. D.)

Woman’s work and overwork

It was considered honourable for women to toil in olden times. Alexander the Great stood in his palace showing garments made by his own mother. The finest tapestries at Bayeux were made by the queen of William the Conqueror. Augustus, the Emperor, would not wear any garments except those that were fashioned by some member of his royal family. So let the toilers everywhere be respected! The greatest blessing that could have happened to our first parents was being turned out of Eden after they had done wrong. Ashbel Green, at fourscore years, when asked why he kept on working, said: “I do so to keep out of mischief.” We see that a man who has a large amount of money to start with has no chance. Of the thousand prosperous and honourable men that you know, nine hundred and ninety-nine had to work vigorously at the beginning. But I am now to tell you that industry is just as important for a woman’s safety and happiness. The little girls of our families must be started with that idea. The curse of our American society is that our young women are taught that the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, tenth, fiftieth, thousandth thing in their life is to get somebody to take care of them. Instead of that, the first lesson should be how under God they may take care of themselves. Madame do Stael said: “It is not these writings that I am proud of, but the fact that I have facility in ten occupations, in any one of which I could make a livelihood.” Though you live in an elegant residence and fare sumptuously every day, let your daughters feel it is a disgrace to them not to know how to work. I denounce the idea prevalent in society that though our young women may embroider slippers and crochet and make mats for lamps to stand on without disgrace, the idea of doing anything for a livelihood is dishonourable. It is a shame for a young woman belonging to a large family to be inefficient when the father toils his life away for her support. It is a shame for a daughter to be idle while her mother toils at the wash-tub. No woman, any more than a man, has a right to occupy a place in this world unless she pays a rent for it. Society is to be reconstructed on the subject of woman’s toil. A vast majority of those who would have woman industrious shut her up to a few kinds of work. My judgment in this matter is that a woman has a right to do anything she can do well. There should be no department of merchandise, mechanism, art, or science barred against her. If Miss Hosmer has genius for sculpture, give her a chisel. If Rosa Bonheur has a fondness for delineating animals, let her make “The Horse Fair.” If Miss Mitchell will study astronomy, let her mount the starry ladder. If Lydia will be a merchant, let her sell purple. It is said, if woman is given such opportunities she will occupy places that might be taken by men. I say, if she have more skill and adaptedness for any position than a man has, let her have ill She has as much right to her bread, to her apparel, and to her home as men have. But it is said that her nature is so delicate that she is unfitted for exhausting toil. I ask in the name of all past history what toil on earth is more severe, exhausting, and tremendous than that toil of the needle to which for ages she has been subjected? Oh, the meanness, the despicability, of men who begrudge a woman the right of work anywhere in any honourable calling! I go still further and say that women should have equal compensation with men. By what principle of justice is it that women in many of our cities get only two-thirds as much pay as men and in many cases only half? Here is the gigantic injustice—that for work equally well, if not better, done, women receive far less compensation than men. Years ago one Sabbath night, in the vestibule of this church, after service, a woman fell in convulsions. The doctor said she needed medicine not so much as something to eat. As she began to revive, in her delirium she said, gaspingly: “Eight cents! Eight cents! Eight cents! I wish I could get it done, I am so tired. I wish I could get some sleep, but I must get it done. Eight cents! Eight cents! Eight cents!” We found afterwards that she was making garments for eight cents apiece, and she could make but three of them in a day. Hear it! Three times eight are twenty-four. Hear it, men and women who have comfortable homes. How are these evils to be eradicated? Some say: “Give women the ballot.” What effect such ballot might have on other questions I am not here to discuss; but what would be the effect of female suffrage on women’s wages? I do not believe that women will ever get justice by woman’s ballot. Indeed, women oppress women as much as men do. Do not women, as much as men, beat down to the lowest

figure the woman who sews for them? Woman will never get justice done her from woman’s ballot. Neither will she get it from man’s ballot. How then? God will rise up for her. God has more resources than we know of. The flaming sword that hung at Eden’s gate when woman was driven out will cleave with its terrible edge her oppressors. But there is something for women to do. Let young people prepare to excel in spheres of work, and they will be able after a while to get larger wages. If it be shown that a woman can, in a store, sell more goods in a year than a man, she will soon be able not only to ask, but to demand more wages, and to demand them successfully. Unskilled and incompetent labour must take what is given; skilled and competent labour will eventually make its own standard. (T. DeWilt Talmage.)

They had no comforter.

No comforter

It is the glory of the Gospel that it is not only a religion of conversion, but a religion of consolation. It ministers peace, and makes even the human side of life capable of deep and abiding joy. The promise has been fulfilled, and the soul bears witness that He is true who says, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

I. The latent pain. This pain does not leap forth at once. It is a kind of hidden fire: a sort of slumbering force. Students of life should think deeply on this, that pain lies hidden in pleasure. The strangest fact in life is that the measure of joy is often the measure of sorrow. The height of gain is the length of the shadow of loss. The keener our affection, the more bitter our anguish when bereavement comes. The more ardent our pursuit, the more depressing the disappointment in missing the goal. In Jesus Christ our Lord He has offered us a renewed nature and a restful heart. He has given us a Saviour and a Comforter. We need no more. If the latent pain leaps forth, we have an anodyne for sorrow, a perfect absolution for sin, a balm for broken hearts, a brother born for adversity, and beyond the present the glories of immortal life. At our peril we put Christ away. Out in the wide fields of human search we come upon no footprints of another Saviour.

II. The charlatan comforters. Yes! there are comforters. We find that men will put the poppy in the pillow when there is no peace in the heart. They seek comfort. Sometimes in quiet retreats, where the scenes of the city life do not haunt them, Nature’s floral groves and woodland shadows constitute a veil to hide the weird forms of guilt and shame and sorrow to be met with in crowded centres of life. But past life will there come back to memory, and unforgiven sin will there send its sharp dagger to the heart. Or it may be that freedom from necessity brings comfort, and that superfluity has made the old days of care and struggle only a memory! Now at all events there are no sleepless nights, no battles amid daily anxiety for daily bread, and we sit under the restful shadow of trees planted long ago! Then, too, much looks like comfort, which comes from ease of circumstance, when the couch is of down, and no spectre of anxiety crosses the earthly threshold. But even then there are deep necessities of the soul, if we are dead to things divine.

III. The fulness of Christ. I do not mean merely Divine perfectness in the quantity of sympathy, but, if I may say so, in the quality of it. Nothing is more wonderful than the way in which the weary soul finds sympathy in the Saviour. There is a revelation of grace in Christ which makes Him the complement of each man’s nature. Sorrows differ; doubts differ; needs differ; tastes differ; and even the wounds inflicted by bereavement differ. But Christ searches us, and knows us all. And what sweet response comes from hearts that have trusted in Him, as they unite in testifying, “His grace is sufficient for us!” How patiently Christians suffer! How trustfully they rest! How cheerfully they live! How hopefully they die!

IV. The missing good. No comforter! Then who will show us any good? For we cannot unmake ourselves. There is the connection of comfort with conscience. Divine redemption still, as of old, is a necessity of the human heart. Then there is the connection of comfort with character. We are made new creatures in Christ Jesus. We have new motives, new aims, new desires, new sympathies, new relationship to God. Our life is hid with Christ in God—the blessed God: and then peace flows like a river through the heart. This is life eternal. Then there is the connection of comfort with influence. That man has no comforter who realizes that the influence of his life is an infection of evil, an impulse to the lower life. Even if he possess genius, it may be but an added force for harm. But the Christian has this comfort, though no minstrel sings the story of his chivalry, though no sculptured marble tells the tale of his renown—yet he liveth to the Lord, he dieth to the Lord. The world of holy influence will be the richer for his being! (W. M. Statham.)

EBC, “Thus, after rising in the first fifteen verses of this Third Chapter, to an almost Christian height of patience, and resignation, and holy trust in the providence of God, Coheleth is smitten by the injustice and oppressions of man into the depths of a pessimistic materialism.But now a new question arises. The Preacher’s survey of human life has shaken his faith even in the conclusion which he has announced from the first, viz., that there is nothing better for a man than a quiet content, a busy cheerfulness, a tranquil enjoyment of the fruit of his toils. This at least he has supposed to be possible: but is it? All the activities, industries, tranquillities of life are jeopardised, now by the inflexible ordinances of Heaven, and again by the capricious tyranny of man. To this tyranny his fellow countrymen are now exposed. They groan under its heaviest oppressions. As he turns and once more reflects (Ecc_4:1) on their unalleviated and unfriended misery, he doubts whether content, or even resignation, can be expected of them. With a tender sympathy that lingers on the details of their unhappy lot, and deepens into a passionate and despairing melancholy, he witnesses their sufferings and "counts the tears" of the oppressed. With the emphasis of a Hebrew and an Oriental, he marks and emphasises the fact that "they had no comforter," that though "their oppressors were violent, yet they had no comforter." For throughout the East, and among the Jews to this day, the manifestation of sympathy with those who suffer is far more common and ceremonious than it is with us. Neighbours and acquaintances are expected to pay long visits of condolence; friends and kinsfolk will travel long distances to pay them. Their respective places and duties in the house of mourning, their dress, words, bearing, precedence, are regulated by an ancient and elaborate etiquette. And, strange as it may seem to us, these visits are regarded not only as gratifying tokens of respect to the dead, but as a singular relief and comfort to the living. To the Preacher and his fellow captives, therefore, it would be a bitter aggravation of their grief that, while suffering under the most cruel oppressions of misfortune, they were compelled to forego the solace of these customary tokens of respect and sympathy. As be pondered their sad and unfriended condition, Coheleth-like Job, when his comforters failed him-is moved to curse his day. The dead, he affirms, are happier than the living, -even the dead who died so long ago that the fate most dreaded in the East had befallen them, and the very memory of them had perished from the earth: while happier than either the dead, who have had to suffer in their time, or than the living, whose doom had still to be borne, were those who had never seen the light, never been born into a world all disordered and out of course (Ecc_4:2-3).


Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

"Then I returned and saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and, behold, the tears of

such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Wherefore I praised the dead that have been long dead more than the living who are yet alive; yea, better than them both did I esteem him that hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun."

"On the side of the oppressors there was power" (Ecclesiastes 4:1). "The point here is not merely that there is power, but that power corrupts."[1]On the basis of what is said here, we may conclude that there was at least someDEGREE of sympathy on Solomon's part for the oppressed; yet he himself had oppressed hundreds of thousands of the residual Canaanites, making slaves of them. Here he views all the suffering; and, "Although he might have had some feeling for them, he did not move a muscle to change their lot."[2] He just stood by, a picture of indifference and unconcern. How different is this attitude from that of the great prophets who so vigorously and effectively shouted the anathemas of God against the oppressors; and indeed what a contrast there is here with the Christ who had compassion on the multitudes, fed them when they were hungry, healed all their diseases and thundered the message, "Blessed are ye poor, forYOURS is the kingdom of heaven" (Luke 6:20). "Behold a Greater than Solomon"! (Matthew 12:42); and incredibly pathetic is the blind folly of Israel who rejected Christ because he was not another Solomon!

HAWKER, “The Preacher is still prosecuting the same subject, of the insufficiency of all things here below to give comfort. And the whole chapter is but one and the same train of reasoning on this important point.Ecc_4:1

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

It is impossible not to be struck with the strength of argument which the Preacher makes use of, in order to enforce the doctrine of human vanity. In whatever way he directs his attention, and whatever object meets his eye, he seems to raise sermons from everything to lead to the same conclusion. And it is yet more remarkable, that what Solomon saw and observed in his day, every reflecting mind may equally behold, and draw the same conclusions now in our day: human life is not changed, but vanity is still marked upon all. Oh! how blessed it is, in confirmation of the vast and infinite importance of the gospel of Christ! Where shall we look for happiness, but to Jesus? We may well say, as the Apostle did, Lord, to whom shall we go, thou hast the words of eternal life. Joh_6:68.

SBC, “It is a great principle, and not to be lost sight of, the weakness of oppression, the terrible strength of the oppressed. And though Solomon felt so perturbed by the prosperous cruelty he witnessed, had he bent his eye a little longer in the direction where it eventually rested, he would have found a Comforter for the oppressed, and would have seen the impotence of the oppressor. On the side of the oppressed is Omnipotence, and the most deathless of foes is a victim. Still liberty, or exemption from man’s oppression, is a priceless blessing; and it may be worth while to ask, What can Christians do for its culture and diffusion?I. Yourselves be free. Seek freedom from fierce passions and dark prejudices. If you are led captive by the devil at his will, you are sure to become an oppressor.

II. Beware of confounding liberty with licence. One of the greatest blessings in a State or in a Christian Church is good government; but, from mistaken notions of independence, it is the delight of some to "speak evil of dignities." The man who is magnanimous in obeying is likely to be mighty in command.

III. Cultivate a humane and gentle spirit. Here it is that the mollifying religion of Jesus comes in as the great promoter of freedom and the great opponent of oppression. By infusing a benevolent spirit into the bosom of the Christian, it makes him the natural guardian of weakness and the natural friend of innocence.

J. Hamilton, The Royal Preacher, Lecture IX.

Ecclesiastes 4:1-5:7

I. In the fourth chapter Koheleth comes to the conclusion that life is essentially and irretrievably wretched—wretched not because (as he had formerly thought) it would so soon be over, but wretched because it lasted too long. All that pleasure did for him was thus to increase his gloom. There was one thing he had forgotten in making out his programme: he had forgotten the miseries of other people. The prosperity he secured for himself did not remove their adversity, but only brought it out into more startling relief. He was infected by their wretchedness, for in the midst of all his dissipation he had preserved a kindly heart. "I considered," he says, "the tears of those who are oppressed, and who have no comforter." The oppression of the poor by the rich was one of the most characteristic phases of Oriental society. To be poor was to be weak, and to be weak was to be reduced more or less into the condition of a slave.

II. In Ecc_5:4 Koheleth makes a new departure. He remarks that greed is at the bottom of a good deal of human misery. All work, he says, and all dexterity in work, is due to envy, to a jealous determination to outstrip our neighbours, to what Mallock calls the "desire for inequality." In contrast to the career of selfish isolation, Koheleth describes the advantages of sympathetic co-operation with one’s fellow-men. We should not, he says, strive against one another, each for his own good; we should strive with one another, each for the good of the whole. Co-operation is preferable to competition.

III. It now occurs to Koheleth that we may perhaps find some help in religious observances. He has already pointed out to us how we are hemmed in on all sides by limitations and restrictions. It must evidently be important what attitude we assume towards the Power which thus checks and thwarts us. Take care, he says, how you go into the house of God, how you perform your sacrifices, and prayers, and vows. He teaches us, as wise men have always taught, that obedience is better than sacrifice. Again, the value of prayer depends not on its length, but on its sincerity. Speak only out of the fulness of your heart. God is not to be trifled with. He cannot be deluded into mistaking for worship what is mere idle talk.

A. W. Momerie, Agnosticism, p. 204.

PULPIT 1-3, “Two pessimistic fallacies; or, the glory of being born.

I. THE FIRST FALLACY. That the dead are happier than the living.

1. Even on the assumption of no hereafter, this is not evident. The already dead are not praised because

they enjoyed better times on earth than the now living have. But

(1) if they had better times when living, they have these no more, having ceased to be; while

(2) if their times on earth were not superior to those of their successors, they have still only escaped these

by subsiding into cold annihilation, and it has yet to be proved that "a living dog" is not "better than a dead

lion" (Ecc_9:4). Besides,

(3) it is not certain there is no hereafter, which makes them pause and hesitate to jump the life to come.

When they discuss with themselves the question—

"Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them?"

they generally come to Hamlet's conclusion, that it is better to

"Bear the ills we have,

Than fly to others that we know not of."

2. On the assumption that there is a hereafter, it is less certain that the dead are more to be praised than the

living. It depends on who the dead are, and what the kind of existence is into which they have departed.

(1) If they have lived unrighteously on earth, it will not be safe, even on grounds of natural reason, to

conclude that their condition in the unseen land into which they have vanished is better than that of the living

who are yet alive, even should these also be wicked; since for these there are still time and place for

repentance, which cannot be affirmed of the ungodly dead.

(2) If their lives on earth have been pious—e.g; if as Christians they have fallen asleep in Jesus—it need

hardly be doubted that their condition is better even than that of the godly living, who are still dwellers in this

vale of tears, subject to imperfections, exposed to temptations, and liable to sin.

II. THE SECOND FALLACY. That better than both the living and the dead are the not yet born.

1. On the assumption that this life is all, it is notUNIVERSALLY true that not to have been

born would have been a preferable lot to having been born and being dead. No doubt it is sad that one born

into this world is sure, while on his pilgrimage to the tomb, to witness spectacles of oppression such as the

Preacher describes; and sadder that many before they die will be the victims of such oppressions; while of

all things, perhaps the saddest is that a man may even live to become the perpetrator of such cruelties; yet

no one can truly affirm that human life generally contains nothing but oppression on the one side and tears

upon the other, or that in any individual's life naught exists but wretchedness and woe, or that in

the experiences of most the joys do not nearly counterbalance, if not actually outweigh, the griefs, while in

that of not a few the pleasures far exceed the pains.

2. On the assumption of a hereafter, only one case or class of cases can be pointed to in which it would

have been decidedly better not to have been born, viz. that in which one who has been born, on departing

from this world, passes into an undone eternity. Christ instanced one such case (Mat_26:24); and if there be

truth in the representations given by Christ and his apostles of the ultimate doom of those who die in

unbelief and sin (Mat_11:22; Mat_13:41, Mat_13:42; Mat_22:13; Mat_24:51; Joh_5:29; 2Th_1:9; Rev_21:8),

it will not be difficult to see that in their case also the words of the Preacher will be true.

3. In every other instance, but chiefly in that of the good, who does not see how immeasurably more

blessed it is to have been born? For consider what this means. It means to have been made in the Divine

image, endowed with an intellect and a heart capable of holding fellowship with and serving God. And if it

also signifies to have been born into a state of sin and misery in consequence of our first parents' fall, it

should not be forgotten that it signifies, in addition, to have been born into a sphere and condition of

existence in which God's grace has been before one, and is waiting to lift one up, completely and for ever,

out of that sin and misery if one will. No one accepting that grace will ever afterwards deem it a misfortune

that he was born. Thomas Halyburton, the Scottish theologian, did not so regard his introduction to this

lower world, with all its vicissitudes and woes. "Oh, blessed be God that I was born!" were his dying words. "I

have a father and a mother, and ten brothers and sisters, in heaven, and I shall be the eleventh. Oh, blessed

be the day that ever I was born!"


1. The existence of sin and suffering no proof that life is an evil thing.

2. The wickedness of undervaluing existence under the sun.

3. The folly of over-praising the dead and underrating the living.

4. A worse thing than seeing "evil work" beneath the sun is doing it.

PULPIT, “The oppressed and the oppressor.

Liberty has ever been the object of human desire and aspiration. Yet how seldom and how partially has this

boon been secured during the long period of human history! Especially in the East freedom has been but

little known. Despotism has been and is very general, and there have seldom been states of society in which

there has been no room for reflections such as those recorded in this verse.


1. This implies power, which may arise from physical strength, from hereditary authority, from rank and

wealth, or from civil and political position and dignity. Power will always exist in human society; drive it out at

one door, and it will re-enter by another. It may be checked and restrained; but it is inseparable from our

nature and state.

2. It implies the misuse of power. It may be good to have a giant's strength, but "tyrannous to use it like a

giant." The great and powerful use their strength and influence aright when they protect and care for those

who are beneath them. But our experience of human nature leads us to believe that where there is power

there is likely to be abuse. Delight in the exercise of power is too generally found to lead to the contempt of

the rights of others; hence the prevalence of oppression.


1. The sense of oppression creates grief and distress, depicted in the tears of those suffering from wrong.

Pain is one thing; wrong is another and a bitterer thing. A man will endure patiently the ills which nature or

his own conduct brings upon him, whilst he frets or even rages under the evil wrought by his neighbor's


2. The absence of consolation adds to the trouble. Twice it is said of the oppressed, "They had no

comforter." The oppressors are indisposed, and fellow-sufferers are unable, to succor and relieve them.

3. The consequence is the slow formation of the habit of dejection, which may deepen into despondency.


1. No right-minded person can look upon instances of oppression without discerning the prevalence and

lamenting the pernicious effects of sin. 'To oppress a fellow-man is to do despite to the image of God


2. The mind is often perplexed when it looks, and looks in vain, for the interposition of the just Governor of

all, who defers to intervene for the rectification of human wrongs. "How long, O Lord!" is the exclamation of

many a pious believer in Divine providence, who looks upon the injustice of the haughty and contemptuous,

and upon the woes of the helpless who are smitten and afflicted.

3. Yet there is reason patiently to wait for the great deliverance. He who has effected a glorious salvation on

man's behalf, who has "visited and redeemed his people," will in due time humble the selfish tyrant, break

the bonds of the captive, and let the oppressed go free.—T.


upon the Preacher's observations gleaned from his search for the purpose of life under the sun 2)

To consider the vanity of skillful work, isolation, and popularity 3) To appreciate the value of

friendship and working together SUMMARY The Preacher continues to share his observations

gleaned during the course of his search for the purpose of life under the sun. Earlier he related

the injustice he saw (cf. 3:16). Now we are told how he considered those who were oppressed

with no comforter. In such a state, he concluded the dead were better than the living, and better

than both was to never be born (1-4). The Preacher then describes what he saw as the vanity of

toil and skillful work, especially when one is alone. While one who does nothing is a fool and

consumes his own flesh, it is better to have a little with quietness than a lot with much toil. A

grave misfortune is the person with no companion, son, nor brother, who labors endlessly for

riches that do not satisfy and does not consider who will receive that for which he deprives

himself of much good in life. On the other hand, the Preacher saw great value in friendship. He

illustrates the principle of synergy in their work and how they can help one another in times of

need (5-12). The chapter closes with an illustration of the vanity of popularity. While a young

and wise man who becomes king may be popular at first, with the passing of time he is not

appreciated by those who come along later (13-16). OUTLI�E I. THE OPPRESSIO� OF

ME� (4:1-3) A. WHAT THE PREACHER REVIEWED (1) 1. He considered the oppression

done under the sun 2. He saw the tears of the oppressed, who had no comforter 3. He observed

power on the side of the oppressors B. WHAT THE PREACHER REASO�ED (2-3) 1. He

praised the dead more than the living 2. Better than both is the person who: a. Has never existed

b. Has not seen the evil work done under the sun II. THE VA�ITY OF TOIL A�D SKILLFUL

WORK (4:4-6) A. IT BREEDS E�VY I� OTHERS (4) 1. He saw that toil and skillful labor is

envied by others 2. This too is vanity and grasping for wind B. TWO WAYS TO REACT TO

THIS VA�ITY (5-6) 1. The fool does nothing, and consumes his own flesh 2. It is better to have

a little with quietness III. THE VA�ITY OF ISOLATIO� (4:7-12) A. THE VA�ITY OF

BEI�G ALO�E (7-8) 1. He saw more vanity under the sun 2. A person who was alone, without

companion, son, or brother a. With no end to his labors, with no satisfaction with his riches b.

Who does not consider for whom he labors and deprives himself of good 3. This was vanity and

a grave misfortune B. THE VALUE OF FRIE�DS (9-12) 1. Two are better than one, for they

have good reward for their labor 2. If one falls, the other can lift him up 3. Their combined body

heat can keep them warm 4. They can withstand one who would seek to overpower them 5. A

threefold cord is not quickly broken IV. THE VA�ITY OF POPULARITY (4:13-16) A. A

TALE OF TWO ME� (13-15) 1. It is better to be a poor and wise youth, than an old and

foolish king who will not accept criticism 2. For the young man, though born poor, comes out of

prison to become king and the living were with him B. YET POPULARITY IS SHORT-

LIVED (16) 1. The young king might rule over a populous nation 2. But another generation will

arise that will not rejoice in him REVIEW QUESTIO�S FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are

the main points of this chapter? - The oppression of men (1-3) - The vanity of toil and skillful

work (4-6) - The vanity of isolation (7-12) - The vanity of popularity (13-16) 2) What did the

Preacher observe regarding oppression? (1) - Power was on the side of the oppressor, the

oppressed had no comforter 3) What did this observation prompt the Preacher to do? (2-3) -

Praise the dead more than the living - Reason that better than both was never to be born 4) What

did he observe about toil and skillful work? (4) - It prompted envy from one's neighbor - It too

was vanity and grasping for the wind 5) How does he describe the fool who doesn't work? (5)

- As one who folds his hands and consumes his own flesh 6) What is better than both hands

full, but with toil and grasping for the wind? (6) - A handful with quietness 7) What is

described as vanity and a grave misfortune? (7-8) - One who is alone, who labors endlessly

for riches that do not satisfy - Who never considers for whom he is toiling and depriving himself

of much good 8) How does the Preacher illustrate the value of friendship? (9-12) - Two

working together accomplish more (the principle of synergy) - Having someone to help you if

you fall - Surviving a cold night by sharing body heat - Two can withstand one - A threefold cord

is not easily broken 9) How does the Preacher illustrate the vanity of popularity? (13-16) -

With the example of a youth who becomes king, but as he gets older he is not appreciated by the

people who come afterward

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:1 So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of [such as were] oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors [there was] power; but they had no comforter.Ver. 1. So I returned, and considered.] Here is a second instance of corruption in civil state, added to that of Ecclesiastes 3:16, to fill up the nest of vanities.

And behold the tears of such, &c.] Heb., Tear; as if they had wept their utmost, et vix unicam lachrymulam extorquere possent, and could hardly squeeze out one poor tear more for their own ease. For as "hinds by calving," so men by weeping "cast out their sorrows." [Job 39:3] (a) Now tears are of many sorts: Lachrymas angustiae exprimit crux; lachrymas poenitentiae, peccatum; lachrymas sympathiae, affectus; lachrymas letitiae, excellentia gaudii; denique lachrymas nequitiae, vel hypocrisis, vel vindictae, cupiditas. (b) Oppression draws tears of grief; sin, tears of repentance; affection, tears of compassion; good success, tears of joy; hypocrisy or spite, tears of wickedness.

And they had no comforter.] This was Job’s doleful case, and David’s, [Psalms 69:21] and the Church’s in the Lamentations. [Lamentations 1:2]Affert solarium lugentibus suspiriorum societas, saith Basil Pity allays misery; but incompassionateness of others increaseth it. This was one of Sodom’s sins, [Ezekiel 16:49] and of those epicures in Amos. [Amos 6:6] The king and Haman sat drinking in the gate; but the whole city of Shushan was in heaviness. [Esther 3:15]

And on the side of their oppressors, &c.] The oppressed Romans sighed out to Pompey, Nostra miseria tu es magnus. You, our misery, is great. The world hath almost as many wild beasts and monsters as it hath landlords in various places. It is a woeful thing, surely, to see how great ones quaff the tears of the oppressed, and to hear them make music of shrieks.

LANGE, “Among the examples in proof of the imperfection and inconstancy of earthly happiness, which the Preacher communicates in the above section from the rich treasures of his own experience, we find the relation of an ascending grade from lower to higher and more brilliant conditions of happiness. From the sad lot of victims innocently suffering from tyrannical persecution and oppression (1–3), the description proceeds directly to the more lucky but not more innocent condition of persons consumed with envy, dissatisfaction and jealousy, and who with toilsome efforts chase after the treasures of this earth, looking with jealous envy on the successful rivals of their struggles, and with scorn on those less fortunate, who are contented with a more modest lot (4–6). Then follow reflections regarding the happiness of such persons as have risen through the abundance of their goods to a distinguished and influential position in human society, but who, in consequence of this very wealth, run the risk of falling into a helpless, joyless, and isolated condition, destitute of friends and adherents (Ecc_7:12). The illustration hereby induced of the value of closer social connection of men, and harmonious co-operation of their powers to one end (9–12) leads to the closing reflection; this is devoted to the distress and disaster of the highest circles of human society, acknowledging

the fate even of the most favored pets of fortune, such as the occupants of princely or kingly thrones, to be uncertain and liable to a reverse, and thus showing that the sentence against the vanity of all earthly things necessarily extends even to the greatest and most powerful of earth (13–16).

“There is no complete and lasting happiness here below, neither among the lofty nor the lowly,” or: “Every thing is vanity on earth, the life of the poor as of the rich, of the slave as of the lord, of the subject as of the king;”—this would be about the formula of a theme for a comprehensive consideration of this section. The effort of Hengstenberg to restrict the historical references of this section to the sufferings of the children of Israel mourning under the yoke of Persian dominion, is quite as unnecessary as the corresponding position in the preceding chapter; yet still the most of the concrete examples for the truth of the descriptions given, may be drawn from the history of post-exile Israel, which are therefore thus to be chosen and arranged in the homiletical treatment.

SERMON BIBLE, “It is a great principle, and not to be lost sight of, the weakness of oppression,

the terrible strength of the oppressed. And though Solomon felt so perturbed by the prosperous

cruelty he witnessed, had he bent his eye a little longer in the direction where it eventually

rested, he would have found a Comforter for the oppressed, and would have seen the impotence

of the oppressor. On the side of the oppressed is Omnipotence, and the most deathless of foes is a

victim. Still liberty, or exemption from man's oppression, is a priceless blessing; and it may be

worth while to ask, What can Christians do for its culture and diffusion?I. Yourselves beFREE . Seek freedom from fierce passions and dark prejudices. If you are led captive by the devil at his will, you are sure to become an oppressor.II. Beware of confounding liberty with licence. One of the greatest blessings in a State or in a Christian Church is good government; but, from mistaken notions of independence, it is the delight of some to "speak evil of dignities." The man who is magnanimous in obeying is likely to be mighty in command.

III. Cultivate a humane and gentle spirit. Here it is that the mollifying religion of Jesus comes in as the greatPROMOTER of freedom and the great opponent of oppression. By infusing a benevolent spirit into the bosom of the Christian, it makes him the natural guardian of weakness and the natural friend of innocence.J. Hamilton, The Royal Preacher, Lecture IX.

Ecclesiastes 4:1-5:7

I. In the fourth chapter Koheleth comes to the conclusion that life is essentially and irretrievably wretched—wretched not because (as he had formerly thought) it would so soon be over, but wretched because it lasted too long. All that pleasure did for him was thus to increase his gloom. There was one thing he had forgotten in making out his programme: he had forgotten the miseries of other people. The prosperity heSECURED

for himself did not remove their adversity, but only brought it out into more startling relief. He was infected by their wretchedness, for in the midst of all his dissipation he had preserved a kindly heart. "I considered," he says, "the tears of those who are oppressed, and who have no comforter." The oppression of the poor by the rich was one of the most characteristic phases of Oriental society. To be poor was to be weak, and to be weak was to be reduced more or less into the condition of a slave.II. In Ecclesiastes 5:4 Koheleth makes a new departure. He remarks that greed is at the bottom of a good deal of human misery. All work, he says, and all dexterity in work, is due to envy, to a jealous determination to outstrip our neighbours, to what Mallock calls the "desire for inequality." In contrast to theCAREER of selfish isolation, Koheleth describes the advantages of sympathetic co-operation with one's fellow-men. We should not, he says, strive against one another, each for his own good; we should strivewith one another, each for the good of the whole. Co-operation is preferable to competition.III. It now occurs to Koheleth that we may perhaps find some help in religious observances. He has already pointed out to us how we are hemmed in on all sides by limitations and restrictions. It must evidently be important what attitude we assume towards the Power which thusCHECKS and thwarts us. Take care, he says, how you go into the house of God, how you perform your sacrifices, and prayers, and vows. He teaches us, as wise men have always taught, that obedience is better than sacrifice. Again, the value of prayer depends not on its length, but on its sincerity. Speak only out of the fulness of your heart. God is not to be trifled with. He cannot be deluded into mistaking for worship what is mere idle talk.

A. W. Momerie, Agnosticism, p. 204.

2 And I declared that the dead,

who had already died,

are happier than the living,

who are still alive.

CLARKE, “Wherefore I praised the dead - I considered those happy who had escaped from the pilgrimage of life to the place where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest.

GILL, “Wherefore I praised the dead, which are already dead,.... Truly and properly so; not in a figurative sense, as dead sinners, men dead in trespasses and sins; nor carnal professors, that have a name to live, and are dead; nor in a civil sense, such as are in calamity and distress, as the Jews in captivity, or in any affliction, which is sometimes called death: but such who are dead in a literal and natural sense, really and thoroughly dead; not who may and will certainly die, but who are dead already and in their graves, and not all these; not the wicked dead, who are in hell, in everlasting torments; but the righteous dead, who are taken away from the evil to come, and are free from all the oppressions of their enemies, sin, Satan, and the world. The Targum is,

"I praised those that lie down or are asleep, who, behold, are now dead;''

a figure by which death is often expressed, both in the Old and New Testament; sleep being, as the poet (a) says, the image of death; and a great likeness there is between them; Homer (b) calls sleep and death twins. The same paraphrase adds,

"and see not the vengeance which comes upon the world after their death;''

see Isa_57:1. The wise man did not make panegyrics or encomiums on those persons, but he pronounced them happy; he judged them in his own mind to be so; and to be much

more happy

than the living which are yet alive: that live under the oppression of others; that live in this world in trouble until now, as the Targum; of whom it is as much as it can be said that they are alive; they are just alive, and that is all; they are as it were between life and death. This is generally understood as spoken according to human sense, and the judgment of the flesh,

without any regard to the glory and happiness of the future state; that the dead must be preferred to the living, when the quiet of the one, and the misery of the other, are observed; and which sense receives confirmation from Ecc_4:3, otherwise it is a great truth, that the righteous dead, who die in Christ and are with him, are much more happy than living saints; since they are freed from sin; are out of the reach of Satan's temptations; are no more liable to darkness and desertions; are freed from all doubts and fears; cease from all their labours, toil, and trouble; and are delivered from all afflictions, persecutions, and oppressions; which is not the case of living saints: and besides, the joys which they possess, the company they are always in, and the work they are employed about, give them infinitely the preference to all on earth; see Rev_14:13.

HE�RY, “The temptations of their condition. Being thus hardly used, they are tempted to hate and despise life, and to envy those that are dead and in their graves, and to wish they had never been born (Ecc_4:2, Ecc_4:3); and Solomon is ready to agree with them, for it serves to prove that all is vanity and vexation, since life itself is often so; and if we disregard it, in comparison with the favour and fruition of God (as St. Paul, Act_20:24, Phi_1:23), it is our praise, but, if (as here) only for the sake of the miseries that attend it, it is our infirmity, and we judge therein after the flesh, as Job and Elijah did. 1. He here thinks those happy who have ended this miserable life, have done their part and quitted the stage; “I praised the dead that are already dead, slain outright, or that had a speedy passage through the world, made a short cut over the ocean of life, dead already, before they had well begun to live; I was pleased with their lot, and, had it been in their own choice, should have praised their wisdom for but looking into the world and then retiring, as not liking it. I concluded that it is better with them than with the living that are yet alive and that is all, dragging the long and heavy chain of life, and wearing out its tedious minutes.” This may be compared not with Job_3:20, Job_3:21, but with Rev_14:13, where, in times of persecution (and such Solomon is here describing), it is not the passion of man, but the Spirit of God, that says, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth. Note, The condition of the saints that are dead, and gone to rest with God, is upon many accounts better and more desirable than the condition of living saints that are yet continued in their work and warfare. 2. He thinks those happy who never began this miserable life; nay, they are happiest of all: He that has not been is happier than both they. Better never to have been born than be born to see the evil work that is done under the sun, to see so much wickedness committed, so much wrong done, and not only to be in no capacity to mend the matter, but to suffer ill for doing well. A good man, how calamitous a condition soever he is in in this world, cannot have cause to wish he had never been born, since he is glorifying the Lord even in the fires, and will be happy at last, for ever happy. Nor ought any to wish so while they are alive, for while there is life there is hope; a man is never undone till he is in hell.

JAMISO�, “A profane sentiment if severed from its connection; but just in its bearing on Solomon’s scope. If religion were not taken into account (Ecc_3:17, Ecc_3:19), 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 (Ecc_7:1). Job (Job_3:12; Job_21:7), David (Psa_73:3, etc.), 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” (Psa_73:17; Hab_2:20; Hab_3:17, Hab_3:18). Then they saw the need of delay, before completely punishing the wicked, to give space for repentance, or else for accumulation of wrath (Rom_2:15); and before completely

rewarding the godly, to give room for faith and perseverance in tribulation (Psa_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.

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:2 Wherefore I praised the dead which areALREADY dead more than the living which are yet alive.VER 2. Wherefore I praised the dead.] Because they are out of the reach of wrong doers; and if dead in the Lord, they have ENTERED into peace, they do rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness." [Isaiah 57:2] But if otherwise, men had better do anything, suffer anything here than die; since by death, as by a trap door, they enter into those terrors and torments that shall never either mend or end. Men, like silly fishes, see one another caught and jerked out of the pond of life but they see not, alas! the fire and pan into the which they are cast that die in their sins. Oh it had been better, surely, for such if they had never been born, as Christ said of Judas, than thus to be "brought forth to the murderer" [Hosea 9:14] - to the old manslayer - to be hurled into hell, there to suffer such things as they shall never be able to avoid or abide.

PULPIT, “In view of these patent wrongs Koheleth loses all enjoyment of life. Wherefore (and) I praised

the dead which areALREADY dead; or, who died long ago, and thus have escaped the

miseries which they would have had to endure. It must,INDEED , have been a bitter experience which elicited such an avowal. To die and be forgotten an Oriental would look upon as the most calamitous of destinies. More than the living which are yet alive. For these have before them the prospect of a long endurance of oppression and suffering (comp. Ecc_7:1; Job_3:13, etc.). The Greek gnome says—

Κρεῖσσον τὸ µὴ ζῇν ἐστὶν ἢ ζῇν ἀθλίως

"Better to die than lead a wretched life."

The Septuagint version is scarcely a rendering of our present text: "Above the living, as many as are living until now."

PULPIT, “Pessimism.

It would be a mistake to regard this language as expressing the deliberate and final conviction of the author

of Ecclesiastes. It represents a mood of his mind, and indeed of many a mind, oppressed by the sorrows,

the wrongs, and the perplexities of human life. Pessimism is at the root a philosophy; but its manifestation is

in a habit or tendency of the mind, such as may be recognized in many who are altogether strange to

speculative thinking. The pessimism of the East anticipated that of modern Europe. Though there is no

reason for connecting the morbid state of mind recorded in this Book of Ecclesiastes with the Buddhism of

India, both alike bear witness to the despondency which is naturally produced in the mental habit of not a

few who are perplexed and discouraged by the untoward circumstances of human life.


1. The unsatisfying nature of the pleasures of life. Men set their hearts upon the attainment of enjoyments,

wealth, greatness, etc. When they gain what they seek, the satisfaction expected does not follow. The eye is

not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing. Disappointed and unhappy, the votary of pleasure is

"soured" with life itself, and asks, "Who will show us any good?"

2. The brevity, uncertainty, and transitoriness of life. Men find that there is no time for the acquirements, the

pursuits, the aims, which seem to them essential to their earthly well-being. In many cases life is cut short;

but even when it is prolonged, it passes like the swift ships. It excites visions and hopes which in the nature

of things cannot be realized.

3. The actual disappointment of plans and the failure of efforts. Men learn the limitations of their powers;

they find circumstances too strong for them; all that seemed desirable proves to be beyond their reach.


1. It comes to be a steady conviction that life is not worth living. Is life a boon at ally why should it be

prolonged, when it is ever proving itself insufficient for human wants, unsatisfying to human aspirations? The

young and hopeful may take a different view, but their illusions will speedily be dispelled. There is nothing so

unworthy of appreciation and desire as life.

2. The dead are regarded as more fortunate than the living; and, indeed, it is a misfortune to be born, to

come into this earthly life at all. "The sooner it's over, the sooner asleep." Consciousness is grief and misery;

they only are blest who are at rest in the painless Nirvana of eternity.


1. It is assumed that pleasure is the chief good. A great living philosopher deliberately takes it for granted

that the question—Is life worth living? is to be decided by the question—Does life yield a surplus of

agreeable feeling? This being so, it is natural that the disappointed and unhappy should drift into pessimism.

But, as a matter of fact, the test is one altogether unjust, and can only be justified, upon the supposition that

man is merely a creature that feels. It is the hedonist who is disappointed that becomes the pessimist.

2. There is a higher end for man than pleasure, viz. spiritual cultivation and progress. It is better to grow in

the elements of a noble character than to be filled with all manner of delights. Man was made in the likeness

of God, and his discipline on earth is to recover and to perfect that likeness. 3. This higher end may in some

cases be attained by the hard process of distress and disappointment. This seems to have been lost sight of

in the mood which found expression in the language of these verses. Yet experience and reflection alike

concur to assure us that it may be good for us to be afflicted. It not infrequently happens that

"The soul

Gives up a part to take to it the whole."

APPLICATION . As there are times and circumstances in all persons lives which are naturally

conducive to pessimistic habits, it behooves us to be, at such times and in such circumstances, especially

upon our guard lest we half consciously fall into habits so destructive of real spiritual well-being and

usefulness. The conviction that Infinite Wisdom and Righteousness are at the heart of the universe, and not

blind unconscious fate and force, is the one preservative; and to this it is the Christian's privilege to add an

affectionate faith in God as the Father of the spirits of all flesh, and the benevolent Author of life and

immortal salvation to all who receive his gospel and confide in the mediation of his blessed Son.—T.

as in Ecc_9:11, and in 1Ch_5:20 (comp. Berth, on this passage, and also Ewald, § 851 c).—More than the

living which are yet alive.— ò◌ã◌ð◌◌ä contracted from ò◌ã ä◌ï , ò◌ãÎä◌ð◌◌ä adhuc, yet. For the

sentence comp.Ecc_7:1 f.; also Herodotus 1:31: ἄìåéíïí ἀíèñþðῳ ôåèíÜíáé ìÜëëïí ἢ æþåéí , as

also Ecc_4:6 of Menander: Æùῆò ðïíçñᾶò èÜíáôïò áἰñåôþôåñïò .

Ecc_4:3. Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not been.—For this intensifying of the previous

thought, comp. Ecc_6:3-5; Ecc_7:1; Job_3:13 ff.; Jer_20:18, and Theognis, Gnom., v. 425 ss.:

ÐÜíôùí ìὲí ìὴ öῦíáé ἐðé÷èïíßïéóéí ἄñéóôïí ,

Ìçä ’ ἐóéäåῖí áὐãὰò ὀîÝïò ἡåëßïõ ,

Öýíôá ä ’, ὅðùò ὤêéóôá ðýëáò ’ Áúäáï ðåñῆóáé ,

Êáὶ êåῖóèáé ðïëëὴí ãῆí ἐðáìçóÜìåíïí .

Other parallels will be found in the classic authors, as Sophocles (Œd. Col., 1143 s.), Euritides.

(Cresphontes fragm.13) Chalcidamus, Posidipp., Philemon, Val. Maxim. Ecc_2:6; Solinus (polyhist,

e. 10), etc. Examine also Knobel on this passage, and Hengstenberg, p. 160 f. The difference between such

complaints in heathen authors, and the same in the mouth of our own, is found in the fact that the latter, like

Job and Jeremiah, does not stop at the gloomy reflections expressed in the lamentation, but, by proceeding

to expressions of a more cheerful nature,announces that the truth found in them is incomplete, and only


BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR, “Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the

living which are yet alive.The applause of the dead regulated, vindicated and improved

Scripture itself sets us an example of applauding the virtues of the departed; but I think that in our funeral sermons, in our obituaries and on our sepulchres, there is much which needs to be


I. It must be qualified.

1. We are not to praise the dead with indiscriminate eulogy; for there is such a thing as confounding moral distinctions, as smiling alike on vice and virtue.

2. We are not to praise the dead with exaggerated panegyric. For it should never be forgotten, that however the grace of God has formed the subject of it to excellence, he was still the possessor of remaining moral infirmities.

3. We are not to praise the dead in a spirit of discontent with life.

4. We are not to praise the dead in the exercise of gratified envy.

5. We ought not to praise the dead in the spirit of relative pride.

6. In one word—we should not praise the dead without a humble and grateful recollection that all their gifts and virtues proceeded from God. Let the survivor not glory in the erudition, in the riches, in the wealth or virtue of the deceased, but let him glory only in the Lord.

II. This eulogy is to be justified. It may be so by a variety of reasons.

1. There is that of Scripture precedent. It speaks, in high terms, of the distinguished faith of Abraham, the patience of Job, the meekness of Moses, the devotion of the man after God’s own heart, the wisdom of a Solomon, the magnanimity of a Daniel, the fortitude of a Stephen, the humanity of a Dorcas.

2. This procedure may also be sanctioned on the ground of utility. How often does the perusal of the memoirs of eminent persons excite desires in the hearts of survivors to imbibe their sentiments, to catch their spirit, and to imitate their example.

3. The principal grounds on which we are justified in praising the pious dead are connected with themselves, as—

(1) The blessedness of their condition on which they have at once entered.

(2) The developed excellences of their character.

(3) The usefulness of their course.

For much of this as may have been apparent while they were yet alive, much more is very often discerned after their decease. Then are discerned in their diaries and records what were the sacred principles on which they acted, and how they were constrained by the love of Christ to live not unto themselves, but to Him who died for them and rose again. Not till the crisis of death, too, has much of the usefulness of the Christian minister been made apparent.

III. The sentiment in the text is to be improved. If the question be asked—in what way shall I praise departed ministers? I answer—

1. By repenting of the treatment you often showed them while they were alive.

2. By recalling to serious reflection the important subjects of their ministry.

3. By an imitation of the excellencies with which they were clothed.

4. By meditating on your joint responsibility with them at the bar of God.

5. By a devout application to the great Head of the Church to raise up men of similar and surpassing qualifications to carry on the interests of religion in the Church and in the world. (J. Clayton.)

Praising the dead more than the living

I. It is common. We see it in the political, ecclesiastical, and domestic sphere. So it has become a proverb, that the best men must die ever to have their virtues recognized. Why is this?

1. The dead are no longer competitors.

2. Social love buries their defects. In all, the great Father of Love has put a deep fountain of sympathy. Death unseals it, melts it, and causes it to flow forth in such copious streams as drown all the imperfections of the departed.

II. It is immoral.

1. It is not right. Virtue should be recognized and honoured wherever seen; and more so in the duties and struggles of life than in the reminiscenees of departed worth.

2. It is not generous. That husband is mean and despicable who ignores the virtues of a noble wife while living.

3. It is unreal. To praise virtues in a man when dead, which were ever unnoticed when living, is hypocritical. (Homilist.)

HAWKER, “Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are

yet alive.Solomon was not singular in this opinion: a voice from heaven proclaimed the same, Rev_14:13. But, Reader! it is blessed to live, or die; provided we live, or die, in the Lord. Paul’s situation was the desirable one: Php_1:21.

3 But better than both

is he who has not yet been,

who has not seen the evil

that is done under the sun.

CLARKE, “Which hath not yet been - Better never to have been born into the world, than to have seen and suffered so many miseries.

GILL, “Yea, better is he than both they which hath not yet been,.... That is, an unborn person; who is preferred both to the dead that have seen oppression, and to the living that are under it; see Job_3:10. This supposes a person to be that never was, a mere nonentity; and the judgment made is according to sense, and regards the dead purely as such, and so as free from

evils and sorrows, without any respect to their future state and condition; for otherwise an unborn person is not happier than the dead that die in Christ, and live with him: and it can only be true of those that perish, of whom indeed it might be said, that it would have been better for them if they had never been born, according to those words of Christ, Mat_26:24; and is opposed to the maxim of some philosophers, that a miserable being is better than none at all. The Jews, from this passage, endeavour to prove the pre-existence of human souls, and suppose that such an one is here meant, which, though created, was not yet sent into this world in a body, and so had never seen evil and sorrow; and this way some Christian writers have gone. It has been interpreted also of the Messiah, who in Solomon's time had not yet been a man, and never known sorrow, which he was to do, and has, and so more happy than the dead or living. But these are senses that will not bear; the first is best; and the design is to show the great unhappiness of mortals, that even a nonentity is preferred to them;

who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun? the evil works of oppressors, and the sorrows of the oppressed.

HE�RY, “He thinks those happy who never began this miserable life; nay, they are happiest of all: He that has not been is happier than both they. Better never to have been born than be born to see the evil work that is done under the sun, to see so much wickedness committed, so much wrong done, and not only to be in no capacity to mend the matter, but to suffer ill for doing well. A good man, how calamitous a condition soever he is in in this world, cannot have cause to wish he had never been born, since he is glorifying the Lord even in the fires, and will be happy at last, for ever happy. Nor ought any to wish so while they are alive, for while there is life there is hope; a man is never undone till he is in hell.

HAWKER 3-6, “Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun. (4) Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit. (5) The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh. (6) Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.If we read these verses, as they refer to the carnal, graceless, and ungodly, how striking they are. What is life, in all its highest attainments out of Christ? But if we read them in reference to a soul in grace, the handful only with Jesus, yea, the cup of cold water which Jesus gives, is blessed. This is what the apostle calls, having nothing, and yet possessing all things. 2Co_6:10.

PULPIT, “Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been. Thus we have Job's passionate appeal (Job_3:11), "Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came forth," etc.? And in the Greek poets the sentiment of the text is re-echoed. Thus Theognis, 'Paroen.,' 425—

Πάντων µὲν µὴ φῦναι ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἄριστον

Μηδ ἐσιδεῖν αὐγὰς ὀξέος ἠελίου

Φύντα δ ὅπως ὤκιστα πύλας Ἀιδαο περῆσαι

Καὶ κεῖσθαι πολλὴν γῆν ἐπαµησάµενον

"'Tis best for mortals never to be born,

Nor ever see the swift sun's burning rays;

Next best, when born, to pass the gates of death

Right speedily, and rest beneath the earth."

Cicero, 'Tusc. Disp.,' 1.48, renders some lines from a lost play of Euripides to the same effect—

"Nam nos decebat, caetus celebrantes, domum

Lugere, ubi esset aliquis in lucern editus,

Humanae vitae varia reputantes mala;

At qui labores metre finisset graves,

Hunc omni amicos lauds et laetitia exsequi."

Herodotus (5. 4) relates how some of the Thracians had a custom of bemoaning a birth and rejoicing at a death. In our own Burial Service we thank God for delivering the departed "out of the miseries of this sinful world." Keble alludes to this barbarian custom in his poem on' The Third Sunday after Easter.' Speaking of a Christian mother's joy at a child's birth, he says—

"No need for her to weep

Like Thracian wives of yore,

Save when in rapture still and deep

Her thankful heart runs o'er.

They mourned to trust their treasure on the main,

Sure of the storm, unknowing of their guide:

Welcome to her the peril and the pain,

For well she knows the home where they may safely hide."

, sqq.; 'Gorgias,' p. 512, A.) The Buddhist religion does not recommend suicide as an escape from the evils

of life. It indeed regards man asMASTER OF his own life; but it considers suicide foolish, as it merely transfers a man's position, the thread of life having to be taken up again under less favorable circumstances. See 'A Buddhist Catechism,' by Subhadra Bhikshu.Who hath not seen the evil work that

is done under the sun. He repeats the words, "under the sun," from verse 1, in order to show that he is speaking of facts that came under his own regard—outward phenomena which any thoughtful observer might notice (so again verse 7).

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:3 Yea, better [is he] than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the

evil work that is done under the sun.Ver. 3. Yea, better is he than both they.] The heathen could say, Optimum non nasci: proximum mori.Life is certainly a blessing of God, though never so calamitous. Why is living man sorrowful? saith the prophet: [Lamentations 3:39] and it is as if he should say, Man, if alive, hath some cause of comfort amidst all his miseries; if he may escape though but "with the skin of his teeth," [Job 19:20] and have his life for a prey, he should see matter of thankfulness , and say, "It is the Lord’s mercy that I am not consumed" [Lamentations 3:22] - that I am yet on this side hell. But those that have set their hearts upon earthly things, if ever they lose them, they are filled almost with unmedicineable sorrows; so as they will praise the dead above the living, and wish they had never been born. These are they whom Solomon in this sentence is by some thought to personate.

STEDMAN Oppression almost invariably preys on the helpless, the weak and the infirm, the

people who cannot defend themselves. The Searcher knows this. Notice how he records the

anguish, the misery that it causes. He speaks of "the tears of the oppressed," the weeping, the

sorrow and the brokenness which the oppressed feel over something they can do nothing about.

Then he twice categorizes the awful sense of helplessness that is evoked by oppression. There is

"no one to comfort" the oppressed of a world filled with this kind of thing. The hopeless and the

helpless ask, "Who can we turn to? Where can we go for deliverance?" They feel that death

would be preferable to what they are going through; they even come to the point where they wish

they had never been born. Job felt that way. "Let the day perish wherein I was born" {Job 3:3},

he said. "Why did I not die at birth?" (Job 3)

LANGE, “Ecc_4:3-16. That fortune often shows itself deceptive and unreliable enough in civil life, and in the highest spheres of human society, is illustrated by the double example of an old incapable king whom a younger person pushes aside, and that of his successor, an aspirant from a lower class, who, in spite of his transitory popularity, nevertheless falls into forgetfulness, like so many others. Like the fact alluded to in Ecc_9:13-16, this example seems to be taken from the immediate contemporary experiences of the author, but can only, with great difficulty, be more nearly defined on its historical basis. Only the first clause of 4:18 suits the history of Joseph, and, at most, Ecc_4:13 contains an allusion to David as the successor of

Saul; Ecc_4:15 may allude to Rehoboam as successor of Solomon, and Ecc_4:14 perhaps to Jeroboam. But other features again destroy these partial resemblances every time, and demonstrate the impossibility of discovering any one of these persons in the “poor but wise youth.” Thus, too, the remaining hypotheses that have been presented concerning the enigmatical fact (e.g., the references to Amaziah and Joash, and to Nimrod and Abraham), can only be sustained by the most arbitrary applications. This is especially true of Hitzig’s supposition that the old and foolish king is the Onias mentioned by Josephus (Antiquities Ecc_12:4) as High Priest and ðñïóôÜôçò ôïῦ ëáïῦ , and that the youth supplanting him was his sister’s son, Joseph, who, if he did not succeed in robbing him of the priestly office (which his son Simon inherited) [see Sir_50:1 ff.], at least wrested from him the ðñïóôáóßá i.e., the lucrative office of a farmer of the Syrian

revenues that he had then exercised twenty-two years, notINDEED to the satisfaction of the people, but in a very selfish and tyrannical manner. This hypothesis does all honor to the learned acumen of its originator, but has so many weak points as to forbid its acceptance. For in the first place the ruler of a realm is portrayed in Ecc_4:15-16, and not a rich Judaic-Syrian revenue collector; secondly Onias was high-priest and not king, and lost only a part of his functions and power by that Joseph; thirdly, the assumption that the author exaggerates petty circumstances and occurrences in a manner not historical, is destitute of the necessary proof; fourthly, the supposition forming the base of the entire hypothesis of an authorship of Koheleth towards the end of the third century B.C. is quite as arbitrary and bare of proof; comp. Int., § 4, Obs, 3. We must, therefore, refrain from specially defining the event to which these verses allude; in which case the two following suppositions remain possible: either the author feigns an example, or, in other words,

has presented the contents of Ecc_4:13-16 as a possible ease (thus think Elster, Hengstenberg, Vaihinger, el al.), or he refers to an event in the history of the nation or State, at his period, not sufficiently known to us (the- opinion of Umbreit, Ewald, Bleek, etc.). In the latter case, we could hardly think of a change of succession in the series of Persian monarchs; for the history of the rise of the eunuch Bagoas about the year 339 B.C. harmonizes too little with the present description to be identified with it, but we would sooner think of such a change in some one of the States subject to Persia, as Phenicia or Egypt.—Better is a poor and wise child, etc.—Clearly a general sentence for the introduction of the following illustration: “better” not here said of moral excellence, but “happier,” “better off,” just as èåá in Ecc_4:3; Ecc_4:9.“Wise” here is equivalent, to “adroit, cunning,” comp. Job_5:13; 2Sa_13:3.—

Who will no more be admonished.— é◌ã◌ò ì◌ with the infinitive,

as Ecc_5:1; Ecc_6:8; Ecc_10:16; Exo_17:16.

4 And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from

man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a

chasing after the wind.

BAR�ES, “Every right work - Rather, every success in work.For this ... - i. e., “This successful work makes the worker an object of envy.” Some

understand the meaning to be, “this work is the effect of the rivalry of man with his neighbor.”

CLARKE, “For this a man is envied - It is not by injustice and wrong only that men suffer, but through envy also. For if a man act uprightly and properly in the world, he soon becomes the object of his neighbor’s envy and calumny too. Therefore the encouragement to do good, to act an upright part, is very little. This constitutes a part of the vain and empty system of human life.

GILL, “Again I considered all travail, and every right work,.... The pains that men take to do right works. Some apply themselves, with great diligence and industry, to the study of the liberal arts and sciences; and to attain the knowledge of languages; and to writing books, for the improvement of those things, and the good of mankind: and others employ themselves in mechanic arts, and excel in them, and bring their works to great perfection and accuracy; when they might expect to be praised and commended, and have thanks given them by men. But instead thereof, so it is,

that for this a man is envied of his neighbour; who will be sure to find fault with what he has done, speak contemptibly of him and his work, and traduce him among men. This is also true of moral works; which are right, when done from a right principle, from love to God, in faith, and with a view to the glory of God; and which when done, and ever so well done, draw upon a man the envy of the wicked, as may be observed in the case of Cain and Abel, 1Jo_3:12; though some understand this, not passively, of the envy which is brought upon a man, and he

endures, for the sake of the good he excels in; but actively, of the spirit of emulation with which he does it; though the work he does, as to the matter of it, is right; yet the manner of doing it, and the spirit with which he does it, are wrong; he does not do it with any good affection to the thing itself, nor with any good design, only from a spirit of emulation to outdo his neighbour: so the Targum paraphrases it,

"this is the emulation that a man emulates his neighbour, to do as he; if he emulates him to do good, the heavenly Word does good to him; but if he emulates him to do evil, the heavenly Word does evil to him;''

and to this sense Jarchi; compare with this, Phi_1:15.

This is also vanity, and vexation of spirit; whether it be understood in the one sense or the other; how dissatisfying and vexatious is it, when a man has taken a great deal of pains to do right works for public good, instead of having thanks and praise, is reproached and calumniated for it? and if he does a right thing, and yet has not right ends and views in it, it stands for nothing; it has only the appearance of good, but is not truly so, and yields no solid peace and comfort.

HE�RY, “Here Solomon returns to the observation and consideration of the vanity and vexation of spirit that attend the business of this world, which he had spoken of before, Ecc_2:11.

I. If a man be acute, and dexterous, and successful in his business, he gets the ill-will of his neighbours, Ecc_4:4. Though he takes a great deal of pains, and goes through all travail, does not get his estate easily, but it costs him a great deal of hard labour, nor does he get it dishonestly, he wrongs no man, defrauds no man, but by every right work, by applying himself to his own proper business, and managing it by all the rules of equity and fair dealing, yet for this he is envied of his neighbour, and the more for the reputation he has got by his honesty. This shows, 1. What little conscience most men have, that they will bear a grudge to a neighbour, give him an ill word and do him an ill turn, only because he is more ingenious and industrious than themselves, and has more of the blessing of heaven. Cain envied Abel, Esau Jacob, and Saul David, and all for their right works. This is downright diabolism. 2. What little comfort wise and useful men must expect to have in this world. Let them behave themselves ever so cautiously, they cannot escape being envied; and who can stand before envy? Pro_27:4. Those that excel in virtue will always be an eye-sore to those that exceed in vice, which should not discourage us from any right work, but drive us to expect the praise of it, not from men, but from God, and not to count upon satisfaction and happiness in the creature; for, if right works prove vanity and vexation of spirit, no works under the sun can prove otherwise. But for every right work a man shall be accepted of his God, and then he needs not mind though he be envied of his neighbour, only it may make him love the world the less.

JAMISO�, “right — rather, “prosperous” (see on Ecc_2:21). Prosperity, which men so much covet, is the very source of provoking oppression (Ecc_4:1) and “envy,” so far is it from constituting the chief good.

ELLICOTT, “4. A man is envied — Jealousy is here a more fitting term than envy, for envy relates to what is now in possession, jealousy to what is now inPROCESS of acquirement. But the remark here is ofACTIVITY and skill now at work, so that jealousy is the true word. Assuming, as Koheleth does in this discussion, from Ecclesiastes 3:22, that there is no future life, he is prepared to suggest that jealousy of one another is the main cause of men’s efforts in life. The margin gives here the true sense, or at least the better, This springs from a man’s jealousy towards his neighbour.

COFFMAN, “THE WORTHLESSNESS OF LABOR"Then I saw all labor, and every skillful work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbor. This also is a vanity and a striving after wind. The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh. Better is a handful with quietness, than two handfuls and striving after wind."

"For this a man is envied of his neighbor" (Ecclesiastes 4:4). "Some understand the meaning of this verse as a description of work which is the effect of rivalry with a neighbor."[3] This rendition carries that implication: "I saw that all a man's toil and skill is expended through the desire to surpass his neighbor; this, too, is an empty thing and a clutching at the wind."[4]

In this paragraph the author returns to the question that he asked in Ecclesiastes 1:3, "What does man have to show for all his trouble"? In all such statements as this, Solomon's viewpoint is centered absolutely upon the present world, taking intoACCOUNT no thought whatever of God.Waddey's comment on this paragraph: "In a godless world, sinners envy and resent another's success, rather than rejoicing in it; and in contrast he mentions the lazy fool who, rather than work, `foldeth his hands together' in rest, and `eateth his own flesh,' he consumes his inheritance."[5] Another view of the fool mentioned here is that he represents the envious man. "The envious man is here exhibited in the attitude of the sluggard (Proverbs 6:10)."[6] In this understanding of it, the fool's eating his own flesh would mean the same as the common saying that, "He was eating his heart out with envy."

"Better is a handful with quietness" (Ecclesiastes 4:6). Here again we find thoughts that are identifiable with Solomon, as in Proverbs 15:16-17; 17:1 and in Proverbs 16:8:


"These two paragraphs on labor view it from different perspectives; first, from the perspective of envy, and secondly, from the perspective of solitariness."[7] Also in this second paragraph, aNUMBER of illustrations are given to illuminate the real point.

PULPIT, “Again, I considered all travail, and every right work. The word rendered "right" is kishron (see on Ecc_2:21), and means rather "dexterity," "success." Kohe-leth says that he reflected upon the industry that men exhibit, and the skill and dexterity with which they ply their incessant toil. There is no reference to moral rectitude in the reflection, and the allusion to the ostracism of Aristides for being called "Just" overshoots the mark (see Wordsworth, in loc.). Septuagint, σύµπασαν ἀνρίαν τοῦ ποιήµατος , "all manliness

of his work." That for this a man is envied of his neighbor. Kinah may mean either "object of envy" or

"envious rivalry;" i.e. the clause may be translated as above, or, as in the Revised Version margin, "it cometh

of a man's rivalry with his neighbor." The Septuagint is ambiguous, Ὅτι αὐτὸ ζῆλος ἀνδρὸς ἀπὸ τοῦ ἑταίρου

αὐτοῦ , "That this is a man's envy from his comrade;" Vulgate, Industrias animadverti patere invidiae proximi,"Lay open to a neighbor's envy." In the first case the thought is that unusual skill and success expose a man to envy and ill will, which rob labor of all enjoyment. In the second case the writer says that this superiority and dexterity arise from a mean motive, an envious desire to outstrip a neighbor, and, based on such low ground, can lead to nothing but vanity and vexation of spirit, a striving after wind. The former explanation seems more in accordance with Koheleth's gloomy view. Success itself is no guarantee of happiness; the malice and ill feeling which it invariably occasions are necessarily a source of pain and distress.


‘Vanity and vexation of spirit.’


Among the examples in proof of the imperfection and inconstancy of earthly happiness which the Preacher

communicates in the above section from the rich treasures of his own experience we find the relation of an

ascending grade from lower to higher and more brilliant conditions of happiness.

I. From the sad lot of victims innocently suffering from tyrannical persecution and oppression (1–3),

the descriptionPROCEEDS directly to the more lucky but not more innocent condition of

persons consumed with envy, dissatisfaction, and jealousy, and who with toilsome efforts chase after the

treasures of this earth.

II. Looking with jealous envy on the successful rivals of their struggles, and with scorn on those less

fortunate, who are contented with a more modest lot (4–6).—Then follow reflections regarding the

happiness of such persons as have risen through the abundance of their goods to a distinguished and

influentialPOSITION in human society, but

III. Who, in consequence of this very wealth, run the risk of falling into a helpless, joyless, and

isolated condition, destitute of friends and adherents (7, 8).

IV. The illustration hereby induced of the value of closer socialCONNECTION of men

and harmonious co-operation of their powers to one end (9–12) leads to the closing reflection; this is

devoted to the distress and disaster of the highest circles of human society, acknowledging the fate even of

the most favoured pets of fortune, such as the occupants of princely or kingly thrones, to be uncertain and

liable to a reverse, and thus showing that

V. The sentence against the vanity of all earthly things necessarily extends even to the greatest and

most powerful of earth (13–16).

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:4 Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied

of his neighbour. This [is] also vanity and vexation of spirit.Ver. 4. That for this a man is envied of his neighbour.] This is another piece of life’s vanity; that, as greater men will lie heavy upon you and oppress you, so meaner men will be envying at you and oppose you: as Cain did Abel, Saul’s courtiers did David; the peers of Persia, Daniel; the Scribes and Pharisees, our Saviour. Every Zopyrus shall be sure to have his Zoilus. The garment of righteousness, parti-coloured with all variety of graces, is a great eyesore to the wicked, and makes the saints maligned. See Proverbs 27:4. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 27:4"}

STEDMAN “How accurately this records what is happening in human history! People really do

not want things, they want to be admired for the things they have. What they want is not the new

car itself, but to hear their neighbors say, "How lucky you are to have such a beautiful car!" That

is what people want -- to be the center, the focus of attention.

1.I clipped from Newsweek magazine last week an article by a reporter on life in Washington,

D.C. Here is what she says drives people in the nation's capital:

Ambition is the raving and insatiable beast that most often demands to be fed in this town. The setting is

less likely to be some posh restaurant or glitzy nightclub than a wholly unremarkable glass office building,

or an inner sanctum somewhere in the federal complex. The reward in the transaction is frequently not

currency at all, but power, perquisites, and ego massage. For this, the whole agglomeration of

psychological payoffs, there are people who will sell out almost anything, including their self-respect, if

any, and the well being of thousands of others.

That is saying exactly what this ancient Searcher is saying. The drive to be admired is the true

objective of life. But, he says, this too "is vanity and a striving after wind."

Sometimes, however, when people become aware of this they flip over to the opposite extreme:

they drop out of society, they get out of the rat race, they go on relief and let the government

support them. We saw a lot of that kind of reaction here in California ten years ago. Young

people, particularly, were then saying, "We don't want to be a part of the rat race any more; we

don't want to strive to be admired. We'll drop out of society." But that is not the answer either, the

Searcher says. Verse 5:

The fool folds his hands, and eats his own flesh. {Eccl 4:5 RSV}

Many young people who were part of the youth revolution, the counter culture society of a few

years ago, have found this to be true: that when you sit in idleness you devour yourself, your

resources disappear, your self respect vanishes. They had to learn the painful lesson that the only

way to maintain themselves, even physically, let alone psychologically, was to go to work and

stop devouring themselves.

It would be much better, says the Searcher, to lower your expectations and choose a less

ambitious lifestyle. Verse 6:

Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. {Eccl 4:6 RSV}

Yet, he says, so powerful is ambition and the desire to be envied that men actually keep working

and toiling even when they have no one to leave their riches to

Eric Hoffer, “When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.”

Cardinal De Retz said, “The greatest of all secrets is knowing how to reduce the force of envy.

All work and effort is out of a spirit of rivalry and personal ambition. All values men produce is

out of this evil motive, and so all is vanity. Success leads to pride and failure leads to bitterness.

Much may be for higher motives, but the fact is, one of the main reasons for the hard work and

labor of men is the craving to out do and out shine the other guy. Get people competing and they

often do a better job for they want to look better than the next guy. Envy does excite to success.

Cassius sided with Pompey against Julius Caesar, but Caesar conquered Pompey in battle, but he

pardoned Cassius and even made him a powerful leader. But he continued to hate his benefactor

who spared his life and gave him honor. He wanted what Caesar had and so he plotted for the

death of Caesar. His ambition and envy made him forget all mercy and loyalty. Anthony also

spoke of justice and pity and seems the champion of the people, but it is all a front so he can get

people to revolt and put him in power. Men will do much good if it can help them attain their

evil goal.

PULPIT 4-8, “Three sketches from life.


1. The success that attends his toil. Every enterprise to which he puts his hand prospers, and in this sense

is a "right" work. Never an undertaking started by him fails. Whatever he touches turns into gold. He is one

of those children of fortune upon whom the sun always shines—a man of large capacity and untiring energy,

who keeps plodding on, doing the right thing to pay, and doing it at the right time, and so building up for

himself a vast store of wealth.

2. The drawbacks that wait on his success. The Preacher does not hint that his work has been wrong; only

that success such as his has its drawbacks.

(1) It can only be attained by hard work. By Heaven's decree it is the fruit of toil; and sometimes he who

finds it must sweat and labor for it, tugging away at the oar of industry like a very galley-slave, depriving his

soul of good, and condemning his body to the meanest drudgery.

(2) It often springs from unworthy motives in the worker, as e.g. from ambition, or a desire to outstrip his

competitors in the race for wealth; from covetousness, or a hungry longing for other people's gold; or from

avarice, which means a sordid thirst for possession.

(3) It commonly leads to envy in beholders, especially in those to whom success has been denied. That it

ought not to do so may be conceded; that it will not do so in those who consider that success, like every

other thing, comes from God (Psa_75:6, Psa_75:7), and that a man can receive nothing except it be given

him from above (Joh_3:27) is certain; that it does so, nevertheless, is apparent. In every department of life

success incites some who witness it to depreciation, censoriousness, and even to backbiting and slander.

"Envy spies out blemishes, that she may lower another by defeat," and when she cannot find, seldom wants

the wit to invent them. Detraction is the shadow that waits upon the sun of prosperity.

(4) It is usually attended by anxiety. The man to whom success is given is often one to whom success can

be of small account, being "one that is alone and hath not a second," without wife or child, brother or friend,

to whom to leave his wealth, so that as this increases his perplexity augments as to what he shall do with it.


1. The folly he exhibits. Not indisposed to partake of the successful man's wealth, he is yet disinclined to the

labor by which alone wealth can be secured, lie is one on whom the spirit of indolence has seized. Averse to

exertion, like the sluggard, he is slumberous and slothful (Pro_6:10; Pro_24:33); and when he does awake,

finds that other men's day is half through. If one must not depreciate the value of sleep, which God gives to

his beloved (Psa_127:2), or pronounce all fools who have evinced a capacity for the same, since according

to Thomson ('Castle of Indolence')—

"Great men have ever loved repose,"

one may recognize the folly of expecting to succeed in life while devoting one's day to indolence or slumber.

2. The wretchedness that springs from his folly. That the habitual idler should "eat his own flesh"—not have

a pleasant time of it, in spite of his indolence, attain to the fruition of his desires without work (Ginsburg,

Plumptre), but reduce himself to poverty and starvation, and consume himself with envy and vexation

(Delitzsch, Hengstenberg, Wright)—is according to the fitness of things, as well as the teachings of Scripture

(Pro_13:4; Pro_23:21; Ecc_10:18; 2Th_3:10). "Idleness is the bane of body and mind, theNURSE

of naughtiness, the chief author of all misery, one of the seven deadly sins, the cushion upon

which the devil chiefly reposes, and a great cause not only of melancholy, but of many other diseases"



1. His character defined. Neither of the two former, he is a happy mean between both. If he toils not like him

who always succeeds, he loafs not about like the fool who never works. If he amasses not wealth, he

equally escapes poverty. He works in moderation, and is contented with a competence.

2. His wisdom extolled. If he attains not to riches, he avoids the sore travail requisite to procure riches, and

the vexation of spirit, or "feeding upon wind," which riches bring. If he succeeds in gathering only one fistful

of the goods of earth, he has at least the priceless pearl of quietness, including ease of mind as well as

comfort of body.


1. Industry and contentment two Christian virtues (Rom_12:11; Eph_4:28; 1Ti_6:8; Heb_13:5).

2. Idleness and sloth two destructive sins (Pro_12:24; Ecc_10:8).

LANGE, “Ecc_4:4. Again—I considered all travail and every rightWORK .— ë◌◌ù◌ ◌øåï ,

as in Ecc_2:21, not of the successful result of work, but of its excellence in kind and manner; the Septuagint

is correct: ἀíäñåßá , and mainly so the Vulgate: industriee. But it is clear that the author is thinking mainly of

such excellent and industrious people whose exertions are crowned with success, so that they can become

objects of envy or jealousy. He is therefore now no longer regarding simply the unhappy and the suffering,

as in Ecc_4:1-3, but also the relatively happy.—That for this a man is envied of his neighbor.— ÷◌ð◌à◌ú

à◌éù◌ î◌ø◌ò◌äå◌ ] i.e., jealous endeavor to anticipate another in available effort and corresponding

success; consequently envious disposition and action,invidia (comp. Ecc_9:6, where ÷◌ð◌à◌ä has the same

meaning, and also Isa_11:13, etc.).—This is also vanity.—Because in the uncertainty of all earthly

circumstances, it is of no true profit to surpass one’s neighbor in diligence and skill.

BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR, “Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a

man is envied of his neighbour.An old portrait of modern men

Here is a portrait, drawn by a man who lived thousands of years ago, of three distinct types of character that you find everywhere about you.

I. Here is a man working for the good of society (Ecc_4:4). Thank God! there have ever been such men—generous, disinterested, broad-hearted, God-inspired men—men who are doing the “right work.” They are the “salt” of the State; remove them, and all is putrescence. How are these men treated by society? Here is the answer. “For this a man is envied of his neighbour.” It has ever been so. Cain envied Abel, Korah envied Moses, Saul envied David, the Sanhedrim envied Christ, the Judaic teachers envied Paul. To see society envying such men is a sore “vexation” to all true hearts. What do the existence and treatment of these men show?

1. The great kindness of Heaven in sending such men into every age. What would become of an age without such men in it? The ignorant would have no schools, the afflicted no hospitals, the indigent no poor-laws and charities, the people no righteous laws and no temples for worship.

2. The rightful acknowledgments of most useful services are not to be expected on earth. How did the world treat Moses, Jeremiah, the apostles, and the Holy Christ? Yonder, not here, is the reward for truly right labour.

3. The moral state of society is both unwise and unrighteous. How unwise to treat men who do the “right work” amongst them with envy I For its own good it should cheer them on in their philanthropic efforts. How unrighteous too! These men have a claim to its gratitude, sympathy, and co-operation.

II. Here is a man utterly worthless in society (verses 5, 6).

1. He exhausts his own property. The indolent man evermore “eats his own flesh”: that is, exhausts his own personal strength, mental, moral, physical, for the want of proper exertion.

2. He wrongly estimates his own happiness. “Better is an handful with quietness than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.” In one sense this is true (Pro_15:16). But this is not the sense in which the lazy man regards it. By quietness he meant quiescence, non-exertion, lounging, folding the hands, and sleeping life away. Now, this character abounds in our age and land. These characters are not only a curse to themselves, dying with ennui, but a curse to society; they are clogs upon the wheel of industry; they are social thieves; they eat what others have produced.

III. Here is a man avariciously making use of society (verse 8).

1. The man he sketches worked entirely for himself. Selfgratification, self-aggrandizement, self the centre and circumference of all his activities.

2. The man he sketches worked unremittingly for himself. “Yet is there no end of all his

labour.” Always at it—morning, noon, and night; it was the one thing he did.

3. The man he sketches worked insatiably for himself. “Neither is his eye satisfied with riches.” The passion of avarice has been called the great sepulchre of all the passions. Unlike other tombs, however, it is enlarged by repletion and strengthened by age. An avaricious man is like Tantalus, up to the chin in water, yet always thirsty. Avarice seems to me to be the ruling passion of the age. (Homilist.)


Here Solomon discloses to us one of the most remarkable among the many sources of human misery; remarkable, because it springs not out of failure, but out of success; and so it is one which lies deeper than any of the ills wrought by the uncertainty of life, or by the caprice of fortune. It is a true and striking instance of the vanity of human affairs, when a man spends a lifetime in the pursuit of wealth, and meets only with poverty and ruin; or dies as soon as he has obtained it, and “leaves his riches to other.” The same reflection is forced upon us when the student, who has denied himself everything for years in the pursuit of science, is struck down by death just as he is about to reap the reward of his labours, and all his knowledge rendered useless. But there is one deep aggravation of human misery which does not lie thus upon the surface. With all these failures, a few do succeed, and for these there is a special burden which they must inevitably bear; there is one adversity born of their prosperity; one calamity to which their very happiness subjects them: and that is—Envy. Not only the envy of the world, but the envy of their neighbours, and the alienation of their friends, is often the portion of the successful; and isolation of soul is the doom of the great. This Solomon declares to be the lot of all travail, and justly adds: “This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.” But not only does this venomous principle, one of the blackest traits in our fallen nature, come in to poison the enjoyment of every fortune made, and every position gained among men: there is a more truly Satanic development of the passion than even this: viz. envy at the success of goodness; a malicious displeasure when one who has shown long, unwearied industry in an honourable calling, and lived a life of devotion to the glory of God, and the good of man, obtains the just fruit of his labours; the promise of godliness in the life that now is. “Again, I considered all travail, and every ‘right work,’ that for this a man is envied of his neighbour.” And yet this is what we see in every department of life. We see it, for example, in the venomed spite with which low natures regard a good man, just because he is better than themselves; disliking him because, whenever they are in his presence, they feel their own vileness and worthlessness as they never feel it at any other time. The life of the true Christian is one unflagging reproach to the world. His ingenuous truthfulness and sincerity witnesses against the world’s falsehood and hollowness; the Christian’s noble self-devotedness against its self-love; his steadfast adherence to the cause of righteousness, against the cowardly looseness of the world’s principles; the Christian’s high hopes and lofty aspirations against the worldling’s low desires and grovelling aims. “For every right work,” he is “envied of his neighbour.” No age, nor position, nor character, is exempt from the poisoned shafts of envy. Is there a godly school-boy? Such a one will generally be a mark for the ridicule, and the petty persecution, of the lower-minded of his playmates. They will watch him, as Satan observed Job, for some little fault which they may exaggerate and rejoice over. They will place temptations in his path, and strive, in every way, to bring him down to the same level with themselves. And that is but the prophecy of what awaits him in after life. The godly servant or workman, who regards the interest of his employer as his own, and serves “not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but with singleness of heart, fearing God,” will always be exposed to the envy, the detraction, and the slander of his idle and unprincipled fellows, whose sole aim is, by mutual agreement, to do the smallest possible amount of work for the largest possible amount of pay. And the same evil principle besets the

Christian everywhere, extending upwards through all the strata of society. (H. E. Nolloth, B. D.)

How the success of others should affect us

Instead of the success of others being a matter of envy, it should be used as an example of promise to us, inducing us to go and do likewise. The life of the great man teaches us that we also, being brother to him, may become, in a measure, great. There is wealth, too, to be had, without robbing any man of what he has. It is always to be found in economy and work. For long enough this doctrine was hid, even from the wise and prudent. Even yet we try to find it anywhere but in honest labour—in gold mines, or in speculation, or in gambling—and we may chance to find it laid up in some of these; but it has all come from industry originally, and, in most places, it can be got there in a fair measure still. At any rate, it cannot be got in idleness. We may cherish envy of him who has succeeded, and fold our hands till it eats into the very marrow of our bones, but we shall be no nearer the attainment of fortune than when we commenced the operation. (J. Bonnet.)

EBC, “Ecclesiastes 4:4-8

It is rendered hopeless by the base origin of Human Industries.

This stinging sense of the miserable estate of his race has, however, diverted the Preacher from the conduct of the main argument he had in hand: to that he now returns (Ecc_4:4). And now he argues: You cannot hope to get good fruit from a bad root. But the several industries in which you are tempted to seek "the chief good and market of your time" have a most base and evil origin; they "spring from man’s jealous rivalry with his neighbour" Every man tries to outdo and to outsell his neighbours; to secure a larger business, to surround himself with a more profuse luxury, or to amass an ampler hoard of gold. This business life of yours is utterly selfish, and therefore utterly base. You are not content with a sufficient provision for simple wants. You do not seek your neighbour’s good. You have no noble or patriotic aim. Your ruling intention is to enrich yourselves at the expense of neighbours who, in their turn, are your rivals rather than your neighbours, and who try to get the better of you just as you try to get the better of them. Can you hope to find the true Good in a life whose aims are so sordid, whose motives so selfish? The very sluggard who folds his hands in indolence so long as he has bread to eat is a wiser man than you; for he has at least his "handful of quiet," and knows some little enjoyment of life; while you, driven on by jealous competition and the eager cravings of insatiate desire, have neither leisure nor appetite for enjoyment: both your hands are full, indeed, but there is no quiet in them, only labour, labour, labour, with vexation of spirit (Ecc_4:5-6).

So intense and selfish was this rivalry, increase of appetite growing by what it fed upon, so keen grew the desire to amass, that the Preacher paints a portrait, for which no doubt many a Hebrew might have sat, of a man-nay, rather, of a miser-who, though solitary and kinless, with not even a son or a brother to inherit his wealth, nevertheless hoards up riches to the close of his life; there is no end to his labours; he never can be rich enough to allow himself any enjoyment of his gains (Ecc_4:7-8).

5 The fool folds his hands

and ruins himself.

BAR�ES, “Foldeth his hands - The envious man is here exhibited in the attitude of the sluggard (marginal references).Eateth his own flesh - i. e., “Destroys himself:” compare a similar expression in Isa_49:26;

Psa_27:2; Mic_3:3.

CLARKE, “The fool foldeth his hands - After all, without labor and industry no man can get any comfort in life; and he who gives way to idleness is the veriest of fools.

GILL, “The fool foldeth his hands together,.... In order to get more sleep, or as unwilling to work; so the Targum adds,

"he folds his hands in summer, and will not labour;''

see Pro_6:10. Some persons, to escape the envy which diligence and industry bring on men, will not work at all, or do any right work, and think to sleep in a whole skin; this is great folly and madness indeed:

and eateth his own flesh; such a man is starved and famished for want of food, so that his flesh is wasted away; or he is so hungry bitten, that he is ready to eat his own flesh; or he hereby brings to ruin his family, his wife, and children, which are his own flesh, Isa_58:7. The Targum is,

"in winter he eats all he has, even the covering of the skin of his flesh.''

Some understand this of the envious man, who is a fool, traduces the diligent and industrious, and will not work himself; and not only whose idleness brings want and poverty on him as an armed man, but whose envy eats up his spirit, and is rottenness in his bones, Pro_6:11. Jarchi, out of a book of theirs called Siphri, interprets this of a wicked man in hell, when he sees the righteous in glory, and he himself judged and condemned.

HE�RY, “If a man be stupid, and dull, and blundering in his business, he does ill for himself (Ecc_4:5): The fool that goes about his work as if his hands were muffled and folded together, that does every thing awkwardly, the sluggard (for he is a fool) that loves his ease and folds his hands together to keep them warm, because they refuse to labour, he eats his own flesh, is a cannibal to himself, brings himself into such a poor condition that he has nothing to eat but his own flesh, into such a desperate condition that he is ready to eat his own flesh for vexation. He has a dog's life - hunger and ease. Because he sees active men that thrive in the world envied, he runs into the other extreme; and, lest he should be envied for his right works, he does every thing wrong, and does not deserve to be

pitied. Note, Idleness is a sin that is its own punishment.

JAMISO�, “Still thefool (the wicked oppressor) is not to be envied even in this life, who “folds his hands

together” in idleness (Pro_6:10; Pro_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; Isa_49:26).

COKE, “Ecclesiastes 4:5-6. The fool foldeth his hands, &c.— The fool, folding his hands together, and eating his own flesh, saith, Better is the palm of one hand full of rest, than both the hands full of work, and

easily understood, when you compare therewith the context: thus the expression, eating his own flesh,does not immediately raise in the mind the distinct idea of any particular passion; but when you see envy mentioned just before, and consider the thread of the argument, there can scarcely remain any doubt but

describing Envy, says, Suppliciumque suum est, "She is her own torment;" and in some lines ascribed to Virgil it is said of her, that "She drinks up the whole blood while devouring the limbs;" totum bibit artubus cruorem; which he explains afterwards, by saying, that the more envy a man has in his heart, the greater torment he is to himself: Sibi poena semper ipse est.

ELLICOTT, “(5) Eateth his own flesh.—Interpreters have usually taken these words metaphorically, as in Psalms 27:2; Isaiah 49:26; Micah 3:3, and understood them as a condemnation of the sluggard’s conduct as suicidal. But it has been proposed, taking the verse inCO��ECTIO� with that which precedes and those which follow, to understand them literally, “eats his meat;” the sense being that, considering the emulation and envy involved in all successful exertion, one is tempted to say that the sluggard does better who eats his meat in quiet. There is, however, no exact parallel to the phrase “eats his flesh;” and I think that if the latter were the meaning intended, it would have been formally introduced in some such way as, “Wherefore I praised the sluggard.” Adopting, then, the ancient interpretation, we understand the course of conduct recommended to be the golden mean between the ruinous sloth of the fool and the vexatious toil of the ambitious man.

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.Ver. 5. The fool foldeth his hands together.] A graphical and lively description of a sluggard, fitly called a fool ( φαυλος), a naughty person. "Thou idle and evil servant." [Matthew 25:26] God puts no difference between nequaquam and nequam, a drone and a naughty pack, seem he never so "wise in his own eyes," [Proverbs 26:16] and have he never so much reason to allege for himself - as in the verse here next following; a fool he is, and so he willSOON prove himself; for "he folds up his hands and hides them in his own bosom." [Proverbs 26:15] A great many chares he is likely to do the while: {See Trapp on "Proverbs 19:24"} And as ( Neque mola, neque farina - nothing do, nothing have) "he eateth his own flesh" - he maketh many a hungry meal, he hath a dog’s life, as we say. "Ease slayeth this fool"; [Proverbs 1:32, marg.} poverty comes upon him as an armed man; grief also slays him; {Proverbs 21:25] envy consumes his flesh, and he is vexed at the plenty of painful persons, and, because he cannot come at, or rather pull out their hearts, he feeds upon his own.

PULPIT, “The connection of this verse with the preceding is this: activity, diligence, and skill indeed bring success, but success is accompanied by sad results. Should we, then, sink into apathy, relinquish work, let things slide? Nay, none but the fool (kesil), the insensate, half-brutish man, doth this. The fool foldeth his

hands together. The attitude expresses laziness and disinclination for active labor, like that of the sluggard in Pro_6:10. And eateth his own flesh. Ginsburg, Plumptre, and others take these words to mean "and yet eats his meat," i.e. gets that enjoyment from his sluggishness which is denied to active diligence. They refer, in proof of this interpretation, to Exo_16:8; Exo_21:28; Isa_22:13; Eze_39:17, in which passages, however, the phrase is never equivalent to "eating his food." The expression is really equivalent to "destroys himself," "brings ruin upon himself." Thus we have in Psa_27:2, "Evildoers came upon me to eat up my flesh;" and in Mic_3:3, "Who eat the flesh of my people" (comp. Isa_49:26). The sluggard is guilty of moral suicide; he takes no trouble to provide for his necessities, and suffers extremities in consequence. Some see in this verse and the following an objection and its answer. There is no occasion for this view, and it is not in keeping with the context; but it contains an intimation of the true exposition, which makes Mic_3:6 a proverbial statement of the sluggard's position. The verbs in the text are participial in form, so that the Vulgate rendering, which supplies a verb, is quite admissible: Stultus complicat manna suas, et comedit carnes suas, dicens: Melior est, etc.

The opposite is the fool who says you won’t catch me in that rat race, and to avoid it he

does nothing and starves. He is hardly the one with the answer to the rat race of envy. His

idleness eats away at his life and livelihood and destroys him. Idleness is self-cannibalism.

In other words, the answer to a problem is often not its opposite, for that is just another

problem. The answer may not be to change what you do but why you do it.

Laziness is often warned against-Prov. 6:10, 10:4, 13:4, 19:15, 20:13, 21:25 and 24:33.

The wise man is one who enjoys both his work and leisure.

LA�GE, “Ecc_4:5. The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.—Probably a proverb of like tendency with those of Pro_6:10; Pro_24:33, i. e., directed against idleness; it is therefore not the expression of the author, but a quotation of au envious person who endeavors to defend his zealous effort to surpass his neighbor in excellence, but which is immediately refuted inEcc_4:6. Hitzig is correct in this view (comp. also the Int., § 1, Obs. 2), whilst Luther, Geier, Oetinger, Bauer, Vaihinger, etc., see rather the jealous man designated as a fool, who folds his hands in vexation and despair, and consumes his own flesh in wild passion, and Ewald, Hengstenberg, Elster, etc., think that the author is contrasting idleness with envy as its opposite extreme, in order to warn against the former; this were manifestly to presuppose a very abrupt and obscure mode of presentation. Concerning the phrase “foldeth his hands” as a Biblical expression for idleness, comp. Pro_6:10. “Eateth his own flesh” is to exhaust one’s strength, to use one’s fortune, to ruin one’s self, as occurs on the part of the idle; comp. Isa_49:26;Psa_27:2; Mic_3:3; Num_12:12.—

6 Better one handful with tranquillity

than two handfuls with toil

and chasing after the wind.

BAR�ES, “Either the fool’s sarcasm on his successful but restless neighbor; or the comment of Solomon recommending contentment with a moderate competence. The former meaning seems preferable.

CLARKE, “Better is a handful with quietness - These may be the words of the slothful man, and spoken in vindication of his idleness; as if he had said, “Every man who labors and amasses property is the object of envy, and is marked by the oppressor as a subject for spoil; better, therefore, to act as I do; gain little, and have little, and enjoy my handful with quietness.” Or the words may contain Solomon’s reflection on the subject.

GILL, “Better is a handful with quietness,.... These are the words of the fool, according to Aben Ezra; and which is the sense of other interpreters, particularly Mr. Broughton, who connects this verse with Ecc_4:5 by adding at the end of that the word "saying"; making an excuse or an apology for himself and conduct, from the use and profitableness of his sloth; that little had with ease, and without toil and labour, is much better

than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit; than large possessions gotten with a great deal of trouble, and enjoyed with much vexation and uneasiness; in which he mistakes slothful ease for true quietness; calls honest labour and industry travail and vexation; and supposes that true contentment lies in the enjoyment of little, and cannot be had where there is much; whereas it is to be found in a good man in every state: or else these words express the true sentiments of Solomon's mind, steering between the two extremes of slothfulness, and too toilsome labour to be rich; that it is much more eligible to have a competency, though it is but small, with a good conscience, with tranquillity of mind, with the love and fear of God, and a contented heart, than to have a large estate, with great trouble and fatigue in getting and keeping it, especially with discontent and uneasiness; and this agrees with what the wise man says elsewhere, Pro_15:16. The Targum is,

"better to a man is a handful of food with quietness of soul, and without robbery and rapine, than two handfuls of food with robbery and rapine;''

or with what is gotten in an ill way.

HE�RY, “The following words (Ecc_4:6), Better is a handful with quietness than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit, may be taken either, 1. As the sluggard's argument for the excuse of himself in his idleness. He folds his hands together, and abuses and misapplies a good truth for his justification, as if, because a little with quietness is better than abundance with strife, therefore a little with idleness is better than abundance with honest labour: thus wise in his own conceit is he, Pro_26:16. But, 2. I rather take it as Solomon's advice to keep the mean between that travail which will make a man envied and that slothfulness which will make a man eat his own flesh. Let us by honest industry lay hold on the handful, that we may not want necessaries, but not grasp at both the hands full, which will but create us vexation of spirit. Moderate pains and moderate gains will do best. A man may have but a handful of the world, and yet may enjoy it and himself with a great deal of quietness, with content of mind, peace of conscience, and the love and good-will of his neighbours, while many that have both their hands full, have more than heart could wish, have a great deal of travail and vexation with it. Those that cannot live on a little, it is to be feared, would not live as they should if they had ever so much.

JAMISO�, “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” (Ecc_4:5), also opposed to anxious labor to gain (Ecc_4:8; Pro_15:16, Pro_15:17; Pro_16:8).

K&D, “The fifth verse stands in a relation of contrast to this which follows: “Better is one hand full of quietness, than both fists full of labour and windy effort.” Mendelssohn and others interpret Ecclesiastes 4:5 as the objection of the industrious, and Ecclesiastes 4:6 as the reply of the slothful. ZöcklerAGREES with Hitz., and lapses into the hypothesis of a dialogue otherwise rejected by him. As everywhere, so also

here it preserves the unity of the combination of thoughts. נחת signifies here, as little as it does anywhere

else, the rest of sloth; but rest, in contrast to such activity in labour as robs a man of himself, to the hunting after gain and honour which never has enough, to the rivalry which places its goal always higher and higher, and seeks to be before others - it is rest connected with well-being (Ecclesiastes 6:5), gentle quietness

(Ecclesiastes 9:17), resting from self-activity (Isaiah 30:15); cf. the post-bibl. נחת רוח , satisfaction,

contentment, comfort. In a word, (nahath) has not here the sense of being idle or lazy. The sequence of the thoughts is this: The fool in idleness consumes his own life-strength; but, on the other hand, a little of true

rest is better than the labour of windy effort, urged on by rivalry yielding no rest. ףכ is the open hollow

hand, and חפן (Assyr. (ḥupunnu)) the hand closed like a ball, the first. “Rest” and “labour and windy effort”

are the accusatives of that to which the designation of measure refers (Gesen. §118. 3); the accus.

connection lay here so much the nearer, as מלא is connected with the accus. of that with which anything is

full. In “and windy effort” lies the reason for the judgment pronounced. The striving of a man who laboriously seeks only himself and loses himself in restlessness, is truly a striving which has wind for its object, and has the property of wind.

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:6 Better [is] an handful [with] quietness, than both the hands full [with] travail and vexation of spirit.

VER 6. Better is an handful with quietness.] This is the sluggard’s plea, whereby he bolstereth himself up in his wickedness, and would make you believe that he did, non sine ratione insanire, not play the madman without good reason. To what end, saith he, should a man toil andTIRE out himself with hard labour to compass commodity - making a drudge and a beast of himself for a little pelf, since he knows not who shall have the spending of it, and he is sure to be either squeezed by his superiors, {asEcclesiastes 4:1} or else envied by his neighbours? {as Ecclesiastes 4:4} Is not a little with ease better? a penny by begging better than twopence by true labour? It is well observed by an interpreter, that this sentence uttered by the sluggard, is, in its true meaning, not much different from that of the wise man inProverbs 17:1, but illAPPLIED by him. Good words are not always to be trusted, from ill men especially.

PULPIT, “Better is a handful with quietness; literally, better a hand full of rest. Than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit; literally, than two hands full of travail, etc. This verse, which has been variously interpreted, is most simply regarded as the fool's defense of his indolence, either expressed in his own words or fortified by a proverbial saying. One open hand full of quietness and rest is preferable to two closed hands full of toil and vain effort. The verse must not be taken as the writer's warning against sloth, which would be out of place here, but as enunciating a maxim against discontent and that restlessACTIVITY

which is never satisfied with moderate returns.

LANGE, “Ecc_4:6. Better is a handful with quietness, than both hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.—This is plainly the answer which a defender of a contented, quiet spirit, void of envy, would give to that feverish jealousy which in Ecc_4:5 he had rebuked as foolish indolence, the disposition not to rival one’s

neighbor in skill and diligence.— î◌ìà ë◌ó , lit., “to be filled, to be full of hand.” It means “a little,” as taken in contrast with î◌ìà ç◌ô◌ð◌é◌í “both hands full,” i. e., superfluity of any thing, great abundance. “Quiet” ( ð◌ç◌ú ) and so also ò◌î◌ì “travail,” do naturally present, not only the respective dispositions and demeanors, but, at the same time, the casual circumstances connected with them, and forming their background; at one time a modest portion of worldly goods, at another a great fortune, collected with much exertion, but bringing only care and sorrow.

7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:

GILL, “Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun. Another vanity besides what he had taken notice of, and is as follows. Aben Ezra's note is,

"I turned from considering the words of this fool, and I saw another fool, the reverse of the former.''

HAWKER, “Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun. (8) There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.By vanity under the sun, surely the Holy Ghost meant to teach his people, that all above it is satisfying. So that here indirectly, the Holy Spirit is following up his gracious office in glorifying Christ. And in the instance which the Preacher hath given of a worldling, whose carnal eye is never satisfied, and whose carnal heart can never say, It is enough! he hath finely represented, though it is a mournful sight, the general character of fallen men. Reader! look round in every direction: survey the various instances in human life, and say, whether the world at large, in the endless pursuits of things of the world, is not thus employed. Oh! what a decided proof of man’s ruin by the fall! Blessed Jesus! what but thy glorious undertaking, in redemption, could have gathered thy people out of it?

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.

Ver. 7. Then I returned, and saw vanity, &c., ] i.e., Another extreme of vanity, visible wherever the sun is seen. Dum vitant stulti vitium in contraria currant: Fools while they shun the sands rush upon the rocks, - as Herod would needs prevent perjury by murder. The sluggard here, seeing those that do best to be envied of others, resolves to do just nothing. Again, the covetous miser, seeing the sluggard lie under so much infamy for doing nothing, se laboribus conficit, undoes himself with over doing. Sed nemo ita perplexus tenetur inter duo vitia, quin exitus pateat absque tertio, saith an ancient; but no man is so held hampered between two vices but that he may well get off without falling into a third. What need Eutyches fall into the other extreme of Nestorius? or Stancarus, of Osiander? or Illyricus, of Strigelius? but that they were for their pride justly given up to a spirit of giddiness.

COFFMAN, “Barton gave only one subject to this whole chapter, calling it, "Man's Inhumanity, namely, (1) man's inhumanity to men (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3), (2) the inhumanity caused by rivalry and envy (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6), and (3) man's inhumanity to himself."[8]

"No end of all his labor, neither is his eye satisfied with riches" (Ecclesiastes 4:8). This denounces avarice, especially that of the miser, who having neither partner nor heir, nevertheless pursuesMONEY as if he were starving to death. "The avaricious soul is never satisfied."[9] The picture here is that of the workaholic, the man with whom constant work has become a disease. It is strange indeed that. "A man without companion or family, will act as though there was someone to live for."[10]

"Two are better than one" (Ecclesiastes 4:9). This is evidently an old proverb, similar to the modern cliche that, "two heads are better than one."

"If two lie together, then they have warmth" (Ecclesiastes 4:11). "The reference here is not to husband and wife, but to travelers. Nights in Palestine are cold, especially in winter; and a loneTRAVELER will sleep close to his donkey for warmth."[11] Here may be one of the secrets why Christ sent out his apostles in pairs. Nothing is any more pitiful than a completely isolated human being."A threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12). This paragraph stresses the value of companionship. "If companionship of two is valuable, much more then is the value if others are added."

K&D, “There is one without a second, also son and brother he has not; and there is no end of his labour; his eyes nevertheless are not satisfied with riches: For whom do I labour, then, and deny all good to my

soul? Also this is vain, and it is a sore trouble.” That ואין, as in Psalm 104:25; Psalm 105:34, has the

meaning of איןב , absque, Nolde has already observed in his Partik.-Concordanz: a solitarius, without one

standing by his side, a second standing near him, i.e., without wife and without friend; also, as the words

following show, without son and brother. Regarding ואח, for which, with the connect. accus., ואח might be

expected (cf. also Ecclesiastes 2:7, וצאן with Mahpach; and, on the other hand, Ecclesiastes 2:23,

with Pashta), vid., under Psalm 55:10. Gam may be interpreted in the sense of “also” as well as of וכעס

“nevertheless” (Ewald, 354a); the latter is to be preferred, since the endless labour includes in itself a

restless striving after an increase of possession. The (Kerî), in an awkward way, changes עיניו into עינו;

the taking together the two eyes as one would here be unnatural, since the avaricious man devours gold, silver, and precious things really with both his eyes, and yet, however great be his wealth, still more does he wish to see in his possession; the sing. of the pred. is as at 1 Samuel 4:15; Micah 4:11.With ulmi ani, Koheleth puts himself in the place of such a friendless, childless man; yet this change of the description into a self-confession may be occasioned by this, that the author in his old age was really thus

isolated, and stood alone. Regarding חסר with the accus. of the person, to whom, and min of the matter, in

respect of which there is want, vid., under Psalm 8:6. That the author stands in sympathy with the sorrowful condition here exposed, may also be remarked from the fact that he nowPROCEEDS to show the

value of companionship and the miseries of isolation:

8 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


a miserable business!

CLARKE, “There is one alone, and there is not a second - Here covetousness and avarice are characterized. The man who is the center of his own existence; has neither wife, child, nor legal heir; and yet is as intent on getting money as if he had the largest family to provide for; nor does he only labor with intense application, but he even refuses himself the comforts of life out of his own gains! This is not only vanity, the excess of foolishness, but it is also sore travail.

GILL, “There is one alone, and there is not a second,.... According to Aben Ezra, either no friend or companion, or no servant, or no wife, which last sense he prefers; no friend or companion he chooses, because friendship and fellowship lead to expenses; and no servant who would be chargeable to him; and no wife, which would be more expensive, and bring on a family of children; wherefore, to save charges, he chooses to have neither of these; for this is a covetous man who is here desert bed;

yea, he hath neither child nor brother; to inherit his substance, as the Targum adds; some worldly men, whose bellies are filled with hidden treasures, having enjoyed much, when they die, leave the rest of their substance to their babes; but the man here described has no children, nor any relations to leave his wealth unto;

yet is there no end of all his labour; when he has executed one scheme to get riches, he forms another; and having finished one work, he enters upon another; he rises early and sits up late, and works and toils night and day, as if he was not worth a dollar, and had a large and numerous family to provide for; or there is no end of what he labours for, or gets by his labour; there is no end of his treasures, Isa_2:7; he is immensely rich, so Aben Ezra interprets it;

neither is his eye satisfied with riches: with seeing his bags of gold and silver, though he takes a great deal of sure in looking upon them too, without making use of them; yet he is not satisfied with what he has, he wants more, he enlarges his desire as hell, and like the grave never has enough; see Ecc_5:10;

neither saith he, for whom do I labour? having neither wife nor child, nor relation, nor friend, and yet so wretchedly stupid and thoughtless as never once to put this question to himself, Who am I toiling for? I am heaping up riches, and know not who shall gather them; it is a vexation to a worldly man to leave his substance behind him, and even to a man that has an heir to inherit it, when he knows not whether he will be a wise man or a fool; but for a man that has no heir at all, and yet to be toiling and labouring for the world, is gross stupidity, downright madness, and especially when he deprives himself of the comfort of what he is possessed of;

and bereave my soul of good? instead of richly enjoying what is given him, he withholds it from himself, starves his back and belly, lives in pinching want amidst the greatest plenty; has not power to eat of what he has, and his soul desireth; see Ecc_6:2.

This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail; a very vain and wicked thing; "an evil business", as it may be rendered; a very great sin and folly indeed; it is thought by some divines to be the worst species of covetousness, most cruel and unnatural.

HE�RY, “Here Solomon fastens upon another instance of the vanity of this world, that frequently the more men have of it the more they would have; and on this they are so intent that they have no enjoyment of what they have. Now Solomon here shows,

I. That selfishness is the cause of this evil (Ecc_4:7, Ecc_4:8): There is one alone, that minds none but himself, cares for nobody, but would, if he could, be placed alone in the midst of the earth; there is not a second, nor does he desire there should be: one mouth he thinks enough in a house, and grudges every thing that goes beside him. See how this covetous muckworm is here described. 1. He makes himself a mere slave to his business. Though he has no charge, neither child nor brother, none to take care of but himself, none to hang upon him, or draw from him, no poor relations, nor dares he marry, for fear of the expense of a family, yet is there no end of his labour; he is at it night and day, early and late, and will scarcely allow necessary rest to himself and those he employs. He does not confine himself within the bounds of his own calling, but is for having a hand in any thing that he can get by. See Psa_127:2. 2. He never thinks he has enough: His eye is not satisfied with riches. Covetousness is called the lust of the eye (1Jo_2:16) because the beholding of it with his eyes is all that the worldling seems to covet, Ecc_5:11. He has enough for his back (as bishop Reynolds observes), for his belly, for his calling, for his family, for his living decently in the world, but he has not enough for his eyes. Though he can but see it, can but count his money, and not find in his heart to use it, yet he is not easy because he has not more to regale his eyes with. 3. He denies himself the comfort of what he has: he bereaves his soul of good. If our souls are bereaved of good, it is we ourselves that do bereave them. Others may bereave us of outward good, but cannot rob us of our graces and comforts, our spiritual good things. It is our own fault if we do not enjoy ourselves. Yet many are so set upon the world that, in pursuit of it, they bereave their souls of good here and for ever, make shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience, bereave themselves not only of the favour of God and eternal life, but of the pleasures of this world too and this present life. Worldly people, pretending to be wise for themselves, are really enemies to themselves. 4. He has no excuse for doing this: He has neither child nor brother, none that he is bound to, on whom he may lay out what he has to his satisfaction while he lives, none that he has a kindness for, for whom he may lay it up to his satisfaction and to whom he may leave it when he dies, none that are poor or dear to him. 5. He has not consideration enough to show himself the folly of this. He never puts this question to himself, “For whom do I labour thus? Do I labour, as I should, for the glory of God, and that I may have to give to those that need? Do I consider that it is but for the body that I am labouring, a dying body; it is for others, and I know not for whom - perhaps for a fool, that will scatter it as fast as I have gathered it - perhaps for a foe, that will be ungrateful to my memory?” Note, It is wisdom for those that take pains about this world to consider whom they take all this pains for, and whether it be really worth while to bereave themselves of good that they may bestow it on a stranger. If men do not consider this, it is vanity, and a sore travail; they shame and vex themselves to no purpose.

JAMISO�, “not a second — no partner.child — “son or brother,” put for any heir (Deu_25:5-10).

eye — (Ecc_1:8). The miser would not be able to give an account of his infatuation.

BE�SO�, “Ecclesiastes 4:8. There is one alone — Who has none but himself to care for. Yea, he hath

neither child nor brother — To whom he may leave his vast estate; yet is there no end of his labours — He

lives in perpetual restlessness and toil. Neither is his eye satisfied — His covetous mind or desire, fitly expressed by the eye, both because the eye is frequently the incentive to this sin of covetousness, (Joshua 7:21,) and because the covetous man hath no good by his riches, save the beholding them with his eyes, as is affirmed, Ecclesiastes 5:11. Neither saith he — Within himself: for he considers nothing but how he may get more and more: For whom do I labour? — Having no posterity or kindred to enjoy it; and bereave my soul of good? —DENY myself those comforts and conveniences which God has allowed me? Shall I take all this pains, and endure all these toils and hardships for a stranger, possibly for an enemy, who will reap the fruit of all my cares and labours? This is also vanity, yea, a sore travail — A dreadful judgment and

misery, as well as a great sin.

PULPIT, “There is one alone, and there is not a second; or, without a second—a solitary being, without partner, relation, or friend. Here, he says, is another instance of man's inability to secure his own happiness. Wealth indeed, is supposed to make friends, such as they are; but miserliness and greed separate a man from his fellows, make him suspicious of every one, and drive him to live alone, churlish and unhappy. Yea, he hath neither child nor brother; no one to share his wealth, or for whom to save and amass riches. To apply these words to Solomon himself, who had brothers, and one son, if not more, is manifestly inappropriate. They may possibly refer to some circumstance in the writer's own life; but of that we know nothing. Yet is there no sad of all his labor. In spite of this isolation he plies his weary task, and ceases not to hoard. Neither is his eye satisfied with riches; so that he is content with what he has (comp. Ecc_2:10; Pro_27:20). The insatiable thirst for gold, the dropsy of the mind, is a commonplace theme in classical writers. Thus Horace, 'Caxm.,' 3.16. 17—

"Crescentem sequitur cura pecuniam, Majorumque fames."

And Juvenal, 'Sat.,' 14.138—

"Interea pleno quum turget sacculus ore,

Crescit amor nummi, quantum ipsa pecunia crevit."

Neither, saith he, For whom do I labor, and bereave my soul of good? The original is more dramatic

than the Authorized Version or the Vulgate, Nec recogitat, dicens, Cui laboro, etc.? The writer suddenly puts himself in the place of the friendless miser, and exclaims, "And for whom do I labor," etc.? We see something similar in Ecc_4:15 and Ecc_2:15. Here we cannot find any definite allusion to the writer's own circumstances. The clause is merely a lively personification expressive of strong sympathy with the situation described (comp. Ecc_2:18). Good may mean either riches, in which case the denial to the soul refers to the enjoyment which wealth might afford, or happiness and comfort. The Septuagint has ἀγαθωσύνης , "goodness," "kindness "—which gives quite a different and not so suitable an idea. Sore

travail; a sad business, a woeful employment.

STEDMAN “How true! Some people keep on toiling although they have no one to work for, and

nothing to do with the money they make. They even deny themselves the pleasures of life in

order to keep laying up funds. What a sharp example is given to us in the recently concluded

story of billionaire Howard Hughes. He did not know what to do with his money. His heirs,

whom nobody can even identify for certain, are left to squabble over it. Somehow in all his tragic

existence, the man never seemed to ask himself, "Why am I doing this? What is life all about?

Why am I amassing tremendous amounts of money when I don't even spend a dime on myself?"

Such is the folly of toiling for riches.

Wealth with none to share it is loneliness.

BENSON, “Ecclesiastes 4:9. Two — Or more, who live together in any kind of society, andJOIN their

powers together in pursuit of any important object; are better than one — Act more cheerfully, and accomplish their designs more readily, than any of them could do in a solitary state; because they have a goodREWARD for their labour — Have great benefit by such combinations and conjunctions of their counsels and abilities, whereby they exceedingly support, encourage, and strengthen each other, and effect many things which none of them could have effected alone. Gregory Thaumaturgus, says Bishop Patrick, understands Solomon as speaking here of κοινωνια βιου, living in communion, or fellowship together, which he shows to be profitable, both to procure us greater happiness, which is the subject of the ninth verse, and to preserve us in the enjoyment of it when we have attained it, which is the subject of the three following verses.

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:8 There is one [alone], and [there is] not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet [is there] no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither [saith he], For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This [is] also vanity, yea, it [is] a sore travail.

Ver. 8. There is one alone, and there is not a second.] A matchless miser, a fellow that hardly hath a fellow; a solivagant, or solitary vagrant, that dare not marry for fear of a numerous offspring. Child he hath none to succeed him, nor brother to share with him, and yet "there is no end of all his labour"; he takes incessant pains and works like a horse, "neither is his eye satisfied with riches"; that lust of the eye - as St John calls covetousness [1 John 2:16] - is as a bottomless gulf, as an unquenchable fire, as leviathan that wantethROOM in the main ocean, or as behemoth, that "trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth." [Job 40:23]Neither saith he, For whom do I labour and bereave my soul of good?] Si haec duo tecum verba reputasses, Quid ago? respirasset cupiditas et avaritia paululum, saith Cicero to Nevius. (a) If thou wouldst but take up those two words, and say to thyself, What do I? thy lust and covetousness would be somewhat rebated thereby. But lust is inconsiderate and headlong; neither is anything more irrational than irreligion. The rich glutton bethought himself of hisSTORE , and resolved to take part of it, [Luke 12:17] so did Nabal; but this wretch here hath not a second, he "plants a vineyard and eats not of the fruit thereof." [1 Corinthians 9:7]And bereave my soul of good,] i.e., Deprive myself of necessary conveniences and comforts, and defraud my genius of that which God hath given me richly to enjoy; [1 Timothy 6:17] or, bereave my soul of good, of God, of grace, of heaven, never thinking of eternity, of "laying up for myself a good foundation," that I may "lay hold upon eternal life"; [1 Timothy 6:19] but by low ends, even in religious duties, making earth my throne and heaven my footstool. "This is vanity" in the abstract; "this is a sore travail," because,Nulla emolumenta laborum, No good to be gotten by it - no pay for a man’s pains; but, as the bird that sitteth on the serpent’s eggs, by breaking and hatching them brings forth a perilous brood, to her own destruction, so do those that sit abrood on the world’s vanities.

LA�GE, “Ecc_4:8. There is one alone, and there is not a second—i. e., one standing entirely alone, without friends and companions, also without near blood relations (according to the following clause), consequently so much the more isolated and obliged to make friends by the free use of his riches, but which he does not do.—Neither is his eye satisfied with riches, i. e., he does not cease to cravo new treasures;

comp. Ecc_2:10. The ò◌éð◌éå must be retained, and need not be exchanged for ò◌éðå . Comp. 1Sa_4:15; 1Ki_14:6; 1Ki_14:12; Psa_37:31.—For whom do I labor and bereave my soul of good?

—Lit., “let my soul fail of the good,” a pregnant construction like that in Psa_10:18; Psa_18:19. This question is put into the mouth of the covetous, but as one finally arriving at reflection, and perceiving the folly of his thus collecting treasures; comp. Ecc_2:18-21; Luk_12:16-21. But it does not follow from this sudden revulsion from foolish to sensible views, without further explanation, that Koheleth means himself (as

above Ecc_2:18 ff.) in the person here described (as Hitzig contends).

David Fox

The Bible says this man…

Had no -son


he was -all alone

he was -never satisfied with what he had

he -worked harder and harder to gain more and


Finally he begins to ask… “For whom and I laboring?

"Why am I depriving myself?”


-“It is a meaningless and a miserable business”!!!!

What business are you in today?

-healthcare business

-the restaurant business

-The lumber business

-The teaching business

-Or even ….. The church business.

***If you’re not in God’s business you are in a

meaningless and a miserable business***

-If you get into God’s business it doesn’t matter what

your occupation is – you will be satisfied and


1)What is God’s business?

-God’s business is the redemption business.

JN. 3:16 “For God so love the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes

in Him should not perish but have everlasting Life.”

2Pet. 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness,but is long

suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners

Christ died for us.”

Jesus even commanded His disciples to carry on with the same attitude…

Mat.28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of

the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have

commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

9 Two are better than one,

because they have a good return for their work:

CLARKE, “Two are better than one - Married life is infinitely to be preferred to this kind of life, for the very reasons alleged below, and which require no explanation.

GILL, “Two are better than one,.... The wise man takes occasion, from the solitariness Of the covetous man before described, to show in this and some following verses the preferableness and advantages of social life; which, as it holds true in things natural and civil, so in things spiritual and religious; man is a sociable creature, was made to be so; and it was the judgment of God, which is according to truth, and who can never err, that it was not good for man to be alone, Gen_2:18. It is best to take a wife, or at least to have a friend or companion, more or less to converse with. Society is preferable to solitariness; conversation with a friend is better than to be always alone; the Targum is,

"two righteous men in a generation are better than one;''

such may be helpful to each other in their counsels and comforts, and mutual aids and assistances in things temporal and spiritual. The Midrash interprets this of the study in the law together, and of two that trade together, which is better than studying or trading separately;

because they have a good reward for their labour; the pleasure and profit they have in each other's company and conversation; in religious societies, though there is a labour in attendance on public worship, in praying and conferring together, in serving one another in love, and bearing one another's burdens, yet they have a good reward in it all; they have the presence of Christ with them, for, where two or three are met together in his name, he is with them; and whatsoever two of them agree to ask in his name they have it; and if two of them converse together about spiritual things, it is much if he does not make a third with them; besides they have a great deal of pleasure in each other's company, and much profit in their mutual instructions, advices, and reproofs; they sharpen each other's countenances, quicken and comfort each other's souls, establish one another in divine truth, and strengthen each other's hands and hearts.

HE�RY, “That sociableness is the cure of this evil. Men are thus sordid because they are all for themselves. Now Solomon shows here, by divers instances, that it is not good for man to be alone (Gen_2:18); he designs hereby to recommend to us

both marriage and friendship, two things which covetous misers decline, because of the charge of them; but such are the comfort and advantage of them both, if prudently contracted, that they will very well quit cost. Man, in paradise itself, could not be happy without a mate, and therefore is no sooner made than matched. 1. Solomon lays this down for a truth, That two are better than one, and more happy jointly than either of them could be separately, more pleased in one another than they could be in themselves only, mutually serviceable to each other's welfare, and by a united strength more likely to do good to others: They have a good reward of their labour; whatever service they do, it is returned to them another way. He that serves himself only has himself only for his paymaster, and commonly proves more unjust and ungrateful to himself than his friend, if he should serve him, would be to him; witness him that labours endlessly and yet bereaves his soul of good; he has no reward of his labour. But he that is kind to another has a good reward; the pleasure and advantage of holy love will be an abundant recompence for all the work and labour of love. Hence Solomon infers the mischief of solitude: Woe to him that is alone. He lies exposed to many temptations which good company and friendship would prevent and help him to guard against; he wants that advantage which a man has by the countenance of his friend, as iron has of being sharpened by iron. A monastic life then was surely never intended for a state of perfection, nor should those be reckoned the greatest lovers of God who cannot find in their hearts to love any one else. 2. He proves it by divers instances of the benefit of friendship and good conversation. (1.) Occasional succour in an exigency. It is good for two to travel together, for if one happen to fall, he may be lost for want of a little help. If a man fall into sin, his friend will help to restore him with the spirit of meekness; if he fall into trouble, his friend will help to comfort him and assuage his grief. (2.) Mutual warmth. As a fellow-traveller is of use (amicus pro vehiculo - a friend is a good substitute for a carriage) so is a bedfellow: If two lie together, they have heat. So virtuous and gracious affections are excited by good society, and Christians warm one another by provoking one another to love and to good works. (3.) United strength. If an enemy find a man alone, he is likely to prevail against him; with his own single strength he cannot make his part good, but, if he have a second, he may do well enough: two shall withstand him. “You shall help me against my enemy, and I will help you against yours;” according to the agreement between Joab and Abishai (2Sa_10:11), and so both are conquerors; whereas, acting separately, both would have been conquered; as was said of the ancient Britons, when the Romans invaded them, Dum singuli pugnant, universi vincuntur - While they fight in detached parties, they sacrifice the general cause. In our spiritual warfare we may be helpful to one another as well as in our spiritual work; next to the comfort of communion with God, is that of the communion of saints. He concludes with this proverb, A threefold cord is not easily broken, any more than a bundle of arrows, though each single thread, and each single arrow, is. Two together he compares to a threefold cord; for where two are closely joined in holy love and fellowship, Christ will by his Spirit come to them, and make the third, as he joined himself to the two disciples going to Emmaus, and then there is a threefold cord that can never be broken. They that dwell in love, dwell in God, and God in them.

JAMISO�, “Two — opposed to “one” (Ecc_4:8). Ties of union, marriage, friendship, religious communion, are better than the selfish solitariness of the miser (Gen_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.

PULPIT, “Koheleth dwells upon the evils of isolation, and contrasts with them the comfort of companionship. Two are better than one. Literally, the clause refers to the two and the one mentioned in the preceding verse; but the gnome is true in general. "Two heads are better than one," says our proverb. Because (asher here conjunctive, not relative) they have a goodREWARD for their

labor. The joint labors of two produce much more effect than the efforts of a solitary worker. Companionship is helpful and profitable. Ginsburg quotes the rabbinical sayings,, Either friendship or death;" and "A man without friends is like a left hand without the right." Thus the Greek gnome—

"Man helps his fellow, city saves."

Χεὶρ χεῖρα νίπτει δάκτυλός τε δάκτυλον .

"Hand cleanseth hand, and finger cleanseth finger."

(Comp. Pro_17:17; Pro_27:17; Ecclesiasticus 6:14.) So Christ sent out his apostles two and two (Mar_6:7).

PULPIT 9-12, “Two better than one; or, companionship versus isolation.


1. Its causes. Either natural or moral, providentially imposed or deliberately chosen.

(1) Examples of the former: the individual who has no wife or friend, son or brother, because these have

been removed by death (Psa_88:18); the traveler who journeys alone through some uninhabited waste

(Job_38:26; Jer_2:6) or voiceless solitude; a stranger who lands on a foreign shore, with whose inhabitants

he can hold no converse, because of not understanding their speech, and who lacks the assistance of a

friendly interpreter.

(2) Instances of the latter: the younger son, who forsakes the parental roof, leaving behind him parents,

brothers, and sisters, as well as friends and companions, acquaintances and neighbors, and departs into a

far country alone to see life and make a fortune; the elder brother, who, when the old people have died, and

the younger branches of the family have removed, remains unmarried, because he chooses to live entirely

for himself; the busy merchant, self-contained and prosperous, who stands apart from his employees, and,

without either colleague or counselor, partner or assistant, takes upon his own broad shoulders the whole

weight and responsibility of a large "concern;" the student, who loves his books better than his fellows, and,

eschewing intercourse with these, broods in solitude over problems too deep for his unaided intellect, that

might be solved in a few hours' talk with a friend; the selfish soul, who has heart to give to no thing or person

outside of self, and who fears lest his own stock of happiness should be diminished were he in an

inadvertent moment to augment that of others.

2. Its miseries. Manifold and richly deserved—at least where the isolation springs from causes moral and

self-chosen. Amongst the lonely man's woes may be enumerated these:

(1) the absence of those advantages and felicities that arise from companionship—a theme treated of in the

next main division of this homily;

(2) the intellectual and moral deterioration that inevitably ensues on the suppression of the soul's social

instincts, and the attempt to educate one's manhood apart from the family, the community, the race, of which

it forms a part;

(3) the inward wretchedness that by the just decree of Heaven attends the crime (where the isolation spoken

of assumes this form) of living entirely for self; and,

(4) aside from ideas of crime and guilt, the insatiable greed of self, which makes even larger demands upon

one's labor, and deeper inroads upon one's peace, than all the claims of ethers would were the soul to honor

these, and which, like an unpitying taskmaster, impels the soul to unceasing toil, and fills it with unending

care (Est_4:8; cf. Ecc_2:23).

II. THE BENEFITS OF COMPANIONSHIP. The "good reward" for their labor which two receive in

preference to one points to the advantages that flow from union. These are four.

1. ReciprocalASSISTANCE . The picture sketched by "the great orator" is that of two

wayfaring men upon a dark and dangerous road, who are helpful to each other in turn as each stumbles in

the path, rendered difficult to tread by gloom overhead or uneven places underfoot. Whereas each one by

himself might deem it hazardous to pursue his journey, knowing that if he fell when alone he might be quite

unable to rise, and might even lose his life through exposure to the inclemencies of the night or the perils of

the place, each accompanied by the other pushes on with quiet confidence, realizing that, should a moment

come when he has need of a second to help him up, that second will be beside him in the person of his


"When two together go, each for the other

Is first to think what best will help his brother;

But one who walks alone, the' wise in mind,

Of purpose slow and counsel weak we find."

(Homer, 'Iliad,' 10.224-226.)

The application of this principle of mutual helpfulness to almost every department of life, to the home and to

the city, to the state and to the Church, to the workshop and to the playground, to the school and to the

university, is obvious.

2. Mutual stimulus. Illustrated from the case of two travelers, who on a cold night lie under one blanket

(Exo_23:6), and keep each other warm; whereas, should they sleep apart, they would each shiver the whole

night through in miserable discomfort. The counterpart of this, again, may be found in every circle of life, but

more especially in the home and the Church, in both of which the inmates are enjoined and expected to be

helpers and comforters of each other, considering one another to provoke unto love and good works


3. Efficient protection. The writer notes the peril of the pilgrim whom, if alone, a robber may overpower, but

whom, if accompanied by a comrade, the highwayman would not venture to attack. So multitudes of dangers

assail the individual, against which he cannot protect himself by his own unaided strength, but which the

friendly assistance of another may aid him to repel. As illustrations will at once present themselves, cases of

sickness, temptations to sin, assaults upon the youthful believer's faith. In ordinary life men know the value

of co-operation as a means of defense against invasions of what are deemed their natural rights; might the

Christian Church not derive from this a lesson as to how she can best meet and cope with the assaults to

which she is subjected by infidelity on the one hand, and immorality on the other?

4. Increased strength. As surely as division and isolation mean loss of power, with consequent weakness, so

surely do union and co-operation signify augmented might and multiplied efficiency. The Preacher expresses

this by saying, "The threefold cord will not quickly be broken." As the thickest rope may be snapped if first

untwisted and taken strand by strand, so may the most formidable army be defeated, if only it can be dealt

with in detached battalions, and the strongest Church may be laid in ruins if its members can be overthrown

one by one. But then the converse of this is likewise true. As every strand twisted into a cable imparts to it

additional strength, so every grace added to the Christian character makes it stronger to repel evil, and gives

it larger ability for Christian service; while every additional believer incorporated into the body of Christ

renders it the more impregnable by sin, and the more capable of furthering the progress ()f the truth.


1. The sinfulness of isolation.

2. The duty of union.

3. The value of a good companion.

The first human need or problem to be solved was being alone and needing a companion,

and God solved it by making one become two. Two makes all the difference in the world.

One is just not a whole number. Singles need to be two as well as married people. All people

need to be at least a couple if not a group. Everyone needs a friend and companion, for two

are always better than one. Jesus sent out his disciples two by two, for it is not good to be

alone in the service of Christ even. Two are always better than one.

“It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)

Heb 10:24 NIV) And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good


It also says "and to fellowship". Someone said the definition of fellowship was two fellows in a

ship, rowing together. If you ve ever tried to sit side by side in a row boat and coordinate your

efforts. If one person rows a little bit more than the other person, you just go in a circle. But if

you coordinate your efforts together, you can go fast and accomplish a lot.

The miser is alone and misses out on all that relationships can bring to life because he is in love

with self and stuff.

LANGE, “Ecc_4:9. Two are better than one..—That is, it is better, in general, to be associated than isolated, comp. Gen_2:18, and the saying of the Talmud: “A man -without companions is like the left without the right hand” (Pirke Aboth; f. 30, 2).—Because they have a goodREWARD for their labor.

—Lit., who have a good reward for their labor. What this good reward consists of, the three subsequent verses show by three examples, which point out, in a similar manner, the pleasure as well as the profit and protection afforded by socially living and cordially co-operating with one’s fellows.

Ecc_4:10. For if they fall, i. e., the one or the other. We cannot think of both falling at the same time,

because they then would both need aid.—But woe to him that is alone when he falleth.—àé ìå “woe to

him” comp. à◌é ø◌ê◌ Ecc_10:16, and also the kindred ä◌é Eze_2:10.

Ecc_4:11. If two lie together, then they have heat.—The conjugal lying together of man and wife is certainly not intended, but rather that of two travelling: companions who are obliged to pass the night in the open air. The necessity of this in Palestine, on account of the prevalence of cold nights there, can easily cause great embarrassment, especially as poorer travellers have no other covering with them than their over-garment; comp. Exo_22:26; Son_5:3

First of all in verse 9 he says “they have a good reward for their toil”. The first reason then is that

they can accomplish more together.

We put a new microwave in our kitchen last week. It’s one of those over the stove combination

microwave/range hoods. I didn’t think it’d be that big of a job. I took the range hood out and the

cupboards down and took them and had them cut down so that we’d have enough room for the

microwave. When I finally got the cupboards back and was ready to install the microwave I put

the cupboards back in and got the wiring done and the mounting plate attached to the wall. And

when I opened the directions to install the microwave it clearly said, “Requires 2 people to

install.” I got to tell you, I was certain I could do this by myself, but my wife insisted on helping

me. As we lifted the microwave into place I discovered why we needed two people. It was much

heavier when you’re trying to hold it in place and screw it up at the same time. It turned out to be

more difficult than I first thought. And I couldn’t have done the job by myself. It’s a truth that

relates to so many areas of life. We can accomplish so much more when we team up with another

person to get a job done.

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two [are] better than one; because they have a goodREWARD for their


VER 9. Two are better than one.] Friendly society is far beyond that wretched "aloneness" of the covetous wretch; [Ecclesiastes 4:8] he JOINS house to house and land to land, that he may live alone in the midst of the earth." [Isaiah 5:8]“Quin sine rivali, seque et sua solus amato.” - Horat.

Let him enjoy his moping solitariness, if he can. "It is not good for man to be alone," saith God; [Genesis 2:18] and he that loves to be alone is either a beast or a god, saith the philosopher (a) Man is ζωον πολιτικον, a sociable creature - he is "nature’s good fellow," and holds this for a rule, Optimum solarium sodalitium. There is great comfort in good company: next to communion with God is the communion of saints. Christ sent out his apostles by two and two. [Mark 6:7] He himself came from heaven to converse with us; and shall we, like stoics, stye up ourselves, and not daily run into good company? The evil spirit is for solitariness, God is for society. (b) He dwells in the "assembly of his saints"; yea, there he hath a delight to dwell, calling the Church his Hephzibah, [Isaiah 62:4] and the saints were David’s Hephzibam, "his delight." [Psalms 16:3] Neither doth God nor good men take pleasure in a stern, froward austerity, or wild retiredness, but in a mild affableness and amiable conversation.

BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labour.The necessity and benefits of religious society

I. Prove the truth of the wise man’s assertion, that, “two are better than one, and that in reference to society in general, and religious societies in particular.” And how can this be done better than by showing that it is absolutely necessary for the welfare both of the bodies and souls of men? Indeed, if we look upon man as he came out of the hands of his Maker, we imagine him to be perfect, entire, lacking nothing. But God, whose thoughts are not as our thoughts, saw something still wanting to make Adam happy. And what was that? Why, an help meet for him. And if this were the case of man before the fall; if a help was meet for him in a state of perfection; surely since the fall, when we come naked and helpless out of our mother’s womb, when our wants increase with our years, and we can scarcely subsist a day without the mutual assistance of each other, well may we say, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Society, then, we see, is absolutely necessary in respect to our bodily and personal wants. If we carry our view farther, and consider mankind as divided into different cities, countries, and nations, the necessity of it will appear yet more evident. For how can communities be kept up, or commerce carried on, with our society? Many other instances might be given of the necessity of society in reference to our bodily, personal, and national wants. But what are all these when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, in comparison of the infinite greater need of it with respect to the soul? Let us suppose ourselves in some degree to have tasted the good word of life, and to have felt the powers of the world to come, influencing and moulding our souls into a religious frame;

to be fully and heartily convinced that we are soldiers listed under the banner of Christ, and to have proclaimed open war, at our baptism, against the world, the flesh, and the devil; and have, perhaps, frequently renewed our obligations so to do by partaking of the Lord’s Supper; that we are surrounded with millions of foes without, and infested with a legion of enemies within; that we are commanded to shine as lights in the world in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation; that we are travelling to a long eternity, and need all imaginable helps to show, and encourage us in, our way thither. Let us, I say, reflect on all this, and then how shall each of us cry out, “Brethren, what a necessary thing it is to meet together in religious societies!” The primitive Christians were fully sensible of this, and therefore we find them continually keeping up communion with each other (Act_2:42; Act_4:23; Act_9:19; Act_12:12). And it is reported of the Christians in after ages that they used to assemble together before daylight to sing a psalm to Christ as God. So precious was the communion of saints in those days.

II. Some reasons why “two are better than one,” especially in religious society.

1. As man in his present condition cannot always stand upright, but by reason of the frailty of his nature cannot but fall; one eminent reason why two are better than one, or, in other words, one great advantage of religious society is, “that when they fall, the one will lift up his fellow.”

2. It is an observation no less true than common, that kindled coals if placed asunder soon go out, but if heaped together quicken and enliven each other, and afford a lasting heat. The same will hold good in the case now before us. If Christians kindled by the grace of God unite, they will quicken and enliven each other; but if they separate and keep asunder, no marvel if they soon grow cool or tepid. If two or three meet together in Christ’s name, they will have heat: but how can one be warm alone?

3. Hitherto we have considered the advantages of religious societies as a great preservative against falling into sin and lukewarmness, and that too from our own corruptions. But what says the wise son of Sirach? “My son, when thou goest to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation;” and that not only from inward, but outward foes; particularly from those two grand adversaries, the world and the devil: for no sooner will thine eye be bent heavenward, but the former will be immediately diverting it another way, telling thee thou needest not be singular in order to be religious; that you may be a Christian without going so much out of the common road. But see here the advantage of religious company; for supposing thou findest thyself thus surrounded on every side, and unable to withstand such horrid (though seemingly friendly) counsels, haste away to thy companions, and they will teach thee a truer and better lesson; they will tell thee that thou must be singular if thou wilt be religious; and that it is as impossible for a Christian, as for a city set upon a hill, to be hidden: that if thou wilt be an almost Christian (and as good be none at all) thou mayest live in the same idle, indifferent manner as thou seest most other people do; but if thou wilt be not only almost, but altogether a Christian, they will inform thee thou must go a great deal farther: that thou must not only faintly seek, but “earnestly strive to enter in at the strait gate”: that there is but one way now to heaven, as formerly, even through the narrow passage of a sound conversion: and that in order to bring about this mighty work, thou must undergo a constant but necessary discipline of fasting, watching, and prayer. And, therefore, the only reason why those friends give thee such advice is, because they are not willing to take so much pains themselves; or, as our Saviour told Peter on a like occasion, because they savour not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.

III. The several duties incumbent on every member of a religious society as such.

1. Mutual reproof.

2. Mutual exhortation.

3. Mutual assisting and defending each other. (G. Whitefield, M. A.)

Two better than one

An axiom like this needs no discussion. No man is at his best alone. Some powers are dormant and practically useless to the individual. Competition is one form of stimulus. It may act through our selfishness. We desire to surpass another, to do better or acquire more and so meet oppositions and antagonisms with resoluteness. As iron sharpeneth iron, so intellects may be whetted and made keener by mental attrition. The axe does not sharpen itself on itself, but by a stone. So are human minds improved by these emulative endeavours. But love is a better discipline than competition. It is akin to the regenerative power of God. Two friends walk in loving unity and fellowship. They aim to enlarge their faculties of observation. The two see more objects than one pair of eyes could possibly see, perhaps threefold or tenfold, for in the friendly effort, each to excel, their individual faculties are more vigilant than if each were alone. In church life these principles of development constantly obtain. Some come to the place of worship and instruction with the true hunger of the soul. They not only help the preacher, who may represent the original unit by their added sympathy, but enlarge their own spiritual appreciation of truth. Failure to co-operate in church work is crippling. It is like putting the minus sign before a quantity. You cripple not only a finger by removing a joint, but embarrass the whole hand. The entire grip is gone for ever. Paralyze the little muscles that play over a pulley moving the eyelid and the lid drops over the eye. So the weakest member of a church may help or hinder the integrity and efficiency of the whole body of Christ. As indifference is deadening and disheartening, whether in religious or political enterprise, when people are slack, dubious and apathetic, so co-operation stimulates and the heart of the toiler rises with courage and hope. It may be objected that one loses his individuality. But no one is strictly independent. Material forces are adjusted to each other, as the centripetal and centrifugal, day and night, attraction and repulsion, muscular flexion and extension. Souls have their orbits as well as planets. These may be contracted or enlarged according to the influences exerted. No man liveth to himself or is independent of shrinking or quickening influences. If you come statedly and devoutedly to the sanctuary, you secure a blessing to yourself and you help God to convert men. So, too, in the last place, in Christian companionship, two are better than one. For if one fall by the way the other may lift him to his feet. Thus the crosses and losses of life become more tolerable, and the unity and harmony of earthly fellowship become prophetic of the unbroken and perfected felicities of heaven. (C. R. Barnes.)

EBC, “Ecclesiastes 4:9-16

Yet these are capable of a nobler Motive and Mode.

Now a jealous rivalry culminating in mere avarice, -that surely is not the wisest or noblest spirit of which those are capable who devote themselves to affairs. Even "the idols of the market" may have a purer cult. Business, like wisdom or mirth, may neither be, nor contain, the supreme Good: still, like them, it is not in itself and of necessity an evil. There must be a better mode of devotion to it than this selfish and greedy one; and such a mode Coheleth, before he pursues his argument to a close, pauses to point out. As if anticipating a modern theory which grows in favour with the wiser sort of mercantile men, he suggests that cooperation-of course I use the word in its etymological rather than in its technical sense-should be substituted for competition. "Two are better than one," he argues; "union is better than isolation; conjoint labour brings the larger reward" (Ecc_4:9). To bring his suggestion home to the business bosom of men, he uses five illustrations, four of which have a strong Oriental colouring. The first is that of two

pedestrians (Ecc_4:10); if one should fall-and, such an accident, owing to the bad roads and long cumbrous robes common in the East, was by no means infrequent-the other is ready to set him on his feet; while, if he is alone, the least that can befall him is that his robe will be trampled and bemired before he can gather himself up again. In the second illustration (Ecc_4:11), our two travellers, wearied by their journey, sleep together at its close. Now in Syria the nights are often keen and frosty, and the heat of the day makes men more susceptible to the cold. The sleeping chambers, moreover, have only unglazed lattices which let in the frosty air as well as the welcome light; the bed is commonly a simple mat, the bedclothes only the garments worn through the day. And therefore the natives huddle together for the sake of warmth. To lie alone was to lie shivering in the chill night air. The third illustration (Ecc_4:12) is also taken from the East. Our two travellers, lying snug and warm on their common mat, buried in slumber, that "dear repose for limbs with travel tired," were very likely to be disturbed by thieves who had dug a hole through the clay walls of the house, or crept under the tent, to carry off what they could. These thieves, always on the alert for travellers, are marvellously supple, rapid, and silent in their movements; but as the traveller, aware of his danger, commonly puts his "bag of needments" or valuables under his head, it does sometimes happen that the deftest thief will rouse him by withdrawing it. If one of our two wayfarers was thus aroused, he would call on his comrade for help, and between them the thief would stand a poor chance; but the solitary traveller, suddenly roused from sleep, with no helper at hand, might very easily stand a worse chance. than the thief. The fourth illustration (Ecc_4:12) is that of the threefold cord-three strands twisted into one, which, as we all know, English no less than Hebrew, is much more than three times as strong as any one of the separate strands.

But in the fifth and most elaborate illustration (Ecc_4:13-14), we are once more carried back to the East. The slightest acquaintance with Oriental history will teach us how uncertain is the tenure of royal power; how often it has happened that a prisoner has been led from a dungeon to a throne, and a prince suddenly deposed and reduced to impotence and penury. Coheleth supposes such a case. On the one hand, we have a king old, but not venerable, since, long as he has lived, he has not "even yet learned to accept admonition"; he has led a solitary selfish, suspicious life, secluded himself in his harem, surrounded himself with a troop of flattering courtiers and slaves. On the other hand, we have the poor but wise young man, "the affable youth," who has lived with all sorts and conditions of men, acquainted himself with their habits and wants and desires, and conciliated their regard. His growing popularity alarms the old despot and his minions. He is cast into prison. His wrongs and sufferings endear him to the wronged and suffering people. By a sudden outbreak of popular wrath, by a revolution such as often sweeps through Eastern states, he is set free, and led from the orison to the throne, although he was once so poor that none would do him reverence. This is the picture in the mind’s eye of the Preacher; and, as he contemplates it, he rises into a kind of prophetic rapture, and cries, "I see-I see all the living who walk under the sun flocking to the youth who stands up in the old king’s stead; there is no end to the multitude of the people over whom he ruleth!" (Ecc_4:15).

By these graphic illustrations Coheleth sets forth the superiority of the sociable over the solitary and selfish temper, of union over isolation, of the neighbourly goodwill which leads men to combine for common ends over the jealous rivalry which prompts them to take advantage of each other, and to labour each for himself alone.

But even as he urges this better, happier temper on men occupied with business and public affairs, even as he contemplates its brightest illustration in the youthful prisoner whose winning and sociable qualities have lifted him to a throne, the old mood of melancholy comes back on him; there is the familiar pathetic break in his voice as he concludes (Ecc_4:16), that even this wise youth, who wins all hearts for a time, will soon be forgotten; that "even this," for all so hopeful as it looks, "is vanity and vexation of spirit."

A profound gloom rests on the second act of this Drama. It has already taught us that we are helpless in the grip of laws which we had no voice in making; that we often lie at the mercy of men whose mercy is but a caprice; that in our origin and end, in body and spirit, in faculty and prospect, in our lives and pleasures, we are no better than the beasts which perish: that the avocations into which we plunge, and amid which we seek to forget our sad estate, spring from our jealousy the one of the other, and tend to a lonely miserliness without use or charm. The Preacher’s familiar conclusion -"Be tranquil, be content, enjoy as much as you can"-has grown doubtful to him. He has seen the brightest promise come to nought. In a new and profounder sense, "all is vanity and vexation of spirit."

But, though passing through a great darkness, he sees, and reflects, some little light. Even when facts seem to contradict it, he holds fast to the conclusion that wisdom is better than folly, and kindness better than selfishness, and to do good, even though you lose by it, better than to do evil and gain by it. His faith wavers only for a moment; it never wholly loosens its hold. And, in the fifth chapter, the light grows, though even here the darkness does not altogether disappear. We are sensible that the twilight in which we stand is not that of evening, which will deepen into night, but that of morning, which will shine more and more until the day dawn, and the daystar arise in the calm heaven of patient tranquil hearts.

HAWKER 9-12, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. (10) For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. (11) Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? (12) And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.If we spiritualize these verses, they will be beautiful and instructive. For if Jesus and my soul be the two here spoken of, sure I am, that I shall be lifted up whensoever I fall. In every place, and upon every occasion, my advantages will be great indeed. I shall find warmth, and life, and light, and love. But without Jesus, there is a woe indeed, and a fatal fall: for who but Jesus, can raise a fallen sinner? In his strength I shall be strong, and if thus joined to the Lord Jesus by one Spirit, even God the Holy Ghost, here is a three-fold cord, which cannot be broken.

In the movie “Castaway,” Tom Hanks plays an employee of Federal Express. Early in the movie,

he boards a jet plane and says good-bye to his girlfriend. He gives her the keys to his car and

says, “I’ll be right back.”

Well, everyone who bought a ticket to that movie knew that wasn’t going to be. Because we all

knew from the advertisements that this movie was about a man trying to survive on a deserted

island after a terrible plane crash.

When the character played by Tom Hanks gave the car keys to his girlfriend, you wanted to

scream out at him to keep the keys. Because hooked to the key chain was a Swiss Army knife.

Alone on a deserted island, you could use a knife like that.

After the crash, the lonely man walks the beach gathering debris from the crashed Federal

Express plane. He opens the boxes looking for something to help him survive. Perhaps a Swiss

Army knife or two.

But no.

Instead he finds things that, at least on the surface, seem useless.

Ice Skates. Yep, they would come in handy on a small tropical island.


A volleyball.

Yet, in time each becomes useful. Including the volleyball. Tom Hanks draws a face on it one

night and begins talking to it, in order to pass the time. He even addresses this volleyball by

name – Wilson.

At first this seems to be just a way to entertain himself. But after five years of being alone on that

island, this light-hearted source of entertainment becomes an obsession.

Right before making the decision to try to get off the island in a homemade boat, the character

played by Tom Hanks becomes angry and frustrated and to express that anger he takes the

volleyball named Wilson and throws it away, into the sea.

The marooned man watches the ball as it falls into the sea and suddenly realizes, “That was

stupid.” And he goes after the ball. He risks his life rescuing his friend (the volleyball),

swimming against the tide and among the rocky beach until at last he has in his hands his friend

(the volleyball).

He looks at it and says, “Wilson. Wilson. I’m so sorry. I’ll never do that again. Forgive me!” He

says this to his friend (the volleyball).

Yep, at this point the viewer of the movie knows, this man has been alone on that island way too


There is a silliness in that moment, but the way Tom Hanks plays his part, it’s more tragic than


We all desperately need friendships.


R: A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out

K: Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, "What! You, too? I

thought I was the only one."

C.S. Lewis.

R:A friend is someone who know exactly what you are and loves you anyway

K: Oscar Wilde wrote, "A true friend always stabs you in the front."

R: Lawrence Peters says you can tell a real friend by the fact that when you’ve made a fool of

yourself he doesn’t feel you’ve done a permanent job.

The writer of Ecclesiastes wants us to understand that Friendship is a good investment (v. 9).

When the author says in verse nine, “Two are better than one, because they have good reward for

their labor” the words “good reward” can also be translated “good return” for it means

-dividends paid on a wise investment. The very best investment you will ever make in life will

not be a financial one, but rather the investment made in relationships. We will get the best return

on that investment over any other investment that we will ever make. As we go through life there

are two kinds of things we can give our lives to. Some people try to accumulate possessions.

They are constantly trying to get more or better stuff. It is attributed to the late Malcolm Forbes

to have said, “He who dies with most toys wins.” However, since he has died, he knows that not

to be true. If we spend all our lives trying to accumulate more and more possessions, we will

never truly be happy and fulfilled. On the other hand we can decide to focus on building

relationships, trying to make friends and to be a friend. The first half of Proverbs 18:24 says, “A

man who has friends must himself be friendly…”



An old man, going on a lone highway,

Came at evening tide, cold and gray,

To a chasm, vast and wide,

Through which was flowing a swollen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim,

The sullen stream had no fear for him.

But he turned when safe on the other side,

And BUILT a BRIDGE to span the tide.

"Old Man," said a pilgrim near;

"You are wasting your strength in building here,

Your journey will end at the ending of day,

You will never again pass this way.

You have crossed this chasm deep and wide;

Why BUILD you a BRIDGE at evening tide?"

The BUILDER lifted his old, gray head:

"Good friend, in the path that I have come,"

He said, "There followed after me today,

A fair haired youth, whose feet must pass this way.

The chasm that has been naught for me,

To that fair haired youth a PITFALL be...

He too, must cross in the twilight dim."


There’s a book that I came across a few weeks ago as I was wandering through the Christian

bookstore, it’s one that I’d recommend for any single person. It’s called, “Joyfully Single in a

Couple’s World.” In that book Harold Sala, says that singles have three basic needs. I would go

even further to say that these are three needs that are shared by every human being.

The first is our need to give and receive love. The late psychiatrist Karl Menninger said, “Love is

the medicine for the sickness of the world” and psychologist Eric Fromm believes that loneliness

and the inability to love are the underlying causes of both psychic and emotional disorders.

Joshua Liebman in his book Peace of Mind wrote, “There comes a time in the development of

every person when he must love his neighbor or become a twisted, stunted personality.”

God has built within each of us a need to give and receive love. This is one of the greatest

reasons why we marry. Because we have this need. And this is one of the things that brings the

most pain to single people, not having this need met.

The second need that we find common to both singles and marrieds is the need to feel

worthwhile. There are those of you sitting right here in this room today who struggle with your

own self image. Some of you may have come from homes where you were told that you were no

good. You may have been abused or neglected. Or maybe as a result of a physical attribute you

were made fun of. As children we are very impressionable. And while we learn as adults that we

are important in God’s sight, the messages we receive growing up shape us into the people we

will become. As adults we spend so much of our time trying to prove that we are worthwhile. We

do it by working hard in our careers, attempting to be successful. We do it by dieting and

attempting to feel worthwhile by the way we look. Some people try to find their worth in

relationships and so they end up in a marriage in which they’re attempting to get their self-worth

boosted by their spouse, and when their spouse fails it only does more to demean them as a

person. All of us have the need to feel worth-while.

The final need that is common to all of us is to have the security that comes from a relationship.

There’s something about being in a happy marriage that brings security to our lives; it’s

something that is often missing these days as divorce has become an easy out. I’m going to give

a challenge to those of you who are married as we close in a couple of minutes but to those of

you who are single let me say this: each of these needs: to give and receive love, to feel

worthwhile, and to have the security that comes from a relationship can be met without being

married or without even being in a relationship with a man or woman.

The Apostle Paul had some surprising things to say on a lot of topics. One of those areas is on

the topic of singleness. We don’t have time to read what he wrote this morning but let me give

you the gist of it: he says, if you’re single stay that way, unless you can’t control your sexual

desires, then marry. But he makes it clear that this is his “opinion” not the word of the Lord. In

order to understand why he’s saying what he saying you’ve got to understand his frame of

thinking and the view of the church of his day. They believed Christ’s second coming was

imminent. They believed it would happen within their lifetime. And so Paul says, there’s no point

in getting married, Christ is coming back, just focus on living for him. Those of you who are

single, here’s the most relevant piece of information that you can glean from this entire passage,

it’s at the bottom of the first page of the outline: the benefit of singleness is unhindered devotion

to God. As a single person you can focus on serving God to an extent that those of us who are

married are not able. That’s why the Catholic Church has for so long insisted on celibacy.

But pastor you say, you don’t understand my loneliness. No, you’re right I don’t. But let me

suggest to you that the concept of a “Love of a Lifetime” is not just for married people.” And

those of you who are married sit up and take note, because what I’m going to say next can make

all the difference in your marriage.

Flip your outlines over… Our first love should be Jesus Christ. Whether you’re single or married

your first love should be Jesus Christ. That’s why the Bible says that Christians aren’t supposed

to marry non-Christians. Because as a Christian the very center of our being should be our love

for Jesus Christ. And if you’re married then your spouse should understand that he/she is not

your first love, and they should feel the same way. It’s crucial that we be whole individuals

through our relationships with Jesus Christ before we can give ourselves to another person. And

those of you who are single, hear me: you don’t need another person to be whole. Your

relationship with Jesus Christ can meet the needs that are most dear to you.

So can your needs be met? I believe the answer is yes… and let me share with you the plan I

believe God has for meeting those needs. If you’re following along in your outlines, “God’s

vessel for meeting the needs of singles is the church.” Think about it. Look around you. Do you

know how many singles and widows and widowers there are in the church? Do you think that’s a

coincidence? No. The church provides the companionship that Ecclesiastes talked about. The

church provides an opportunity to form relationships and friendships that are fundamental to our

existence. I believe one of God’s intentions for the church was to meet those needs. So if you’re

single… you’re in the right place. Because it’s here that you can learn first of all how to get in

touch with your first love and then can enter into relationships which can bring the

companionship in this life that you need.

As we prepare to wrap up this morning I want to share a word with both those of you who are

single and those of you who are married. It’s a passage taken out of Ephesians 5:1-2. Listen to

Paul’s words: “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and

gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Whether you’re single or married there two truths which if you’ll pursue will fulfill you as a

person, will help you discover the love of your lifetime, and if you’re married will strengthen the

relationship that you’ve been gifted with. Here they are:

1. Become like God. Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, “I’ve become my

father/mother”? Or perhaps you’ve discovered behaviors or mannerisms that are just like those

of your parents. Why? Because as children we imitate our parents. Paul says, “imitate God like

children imitate their parents.”

A few weeks ago I had a message on the sign out front of the church (in Belfast) that read “Jesus

became what we are so that we can become what he is.” That’s powerful. Our life’s goal should

be to become like Jesus. That’s what the big WWJD movement was about. Thinking “What

Would Jesus Do?” and then living like that. Did you know that the term Christian actually means

“Little Christ”? Are you a little Christ? When others look at you, husbands and wives, when your

spouse looks at you, do they see Jesus? That’s what living the Christian life is all about. That’s

what discipleship is all about. That’s what our church is all about. Making disciples. Because

being a disciple is becoming like God.

2. The second piece of advice that I would give to you this morning is this: Live Love. As a

teenager there was a song that was popular by a group called DC Talk. The chorus said, “Love is

a Verb.” We need to have our understanding of love transformed from believing that love is a

noun, something we feel, to understanding that love is something we live. It’s something we do.

It’s no coincidence that Jesus said the two greatest commandments are these: “Love the Lord

your God with all your heart” (did you catch that? God’s our first love, not a spouse,) and the

second is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When we make love a way of life our lives will be


As we close this morning let me give a word of encouragement to those of you who are single. I

can’t imagine what it’s like to be in your shoes. I haven’t experienced your loneliness. But I do

know this, God cares. God wants to be your first love and to help you find peace and fulfillment

in life. God wants you to find completion in him. My prayer for you is that you’ll find wholeness

in the one who died because of his love for you.

And those of you who are married let me give you this challenge. Marriage is no longer taken

seriously. It’s time that we as the church, keep that in mind, you’re the church, it’s time that we

stand up and show by example that we are the children of God. Unless our marriages are

different, unless our homes are different, people aren’t going to see Jesus Christ.

George Whitefield Sermon 8

The Necessity and Benefits of Religious Society

Eccles. 4:9-12, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward

for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe

be to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help

him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat; but how can one be

warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a

threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Among the many reasons assignable for the sad decay of true

Christianity, perhaps the neglecting to assemble ourselves together, in

religious societies, may not be one of the least. That I may therefore do

my endeavor towards promoting so excellent a means of piety, I have

selected a passage of scripture drawn from the experience of the wisest of

men, which being a little enlarged on and illustrated, will fully answer my

present design; being to show, in the best manner I can, the necessity and

benefits of society in general, and of religious society in particular.

"Two are better than one, &c."

From which words I shall take occasion to prove,

FIRST, The truth of the wise man's assertion, "Two are better than

one," and that in reference to society in general, and religious society in


SECONDLY, To assign some reasons why two are better than one,

especially as to the last particular. 1. Because men can raise up one

another when they chance to slip: "For if they fall, the one will lift up

his fellow." 2. Because they can impart heat to each other: "Again, if tow

lie together, then they have heat, but how can one be warm alone?" 3.

Because they can secure each other from those that do oppose them: "And if

one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is

not quickly broken." From hence,

THIRDLY, I shall take occasion to show the duty incumbent on every

member of a religious society.

And FOURTHLY, I shall draw an inference or two from what may be said;

and then conclude with a word or two of exhortation.

FIRST, I am to prove the truth of the wise man's assertion, that "two

are better than one," and that in reference to society in general, and

religious societies in particular.

And how can this be done better, than by showing that it is absolutely

necessary for the welfare both of the bodies and souls of men? Indeed, if

we look upon man as he came out of the hands of his Maker, we imagine him

to be perfect, entire, lacking nothing. But God, whose thoughts are not as

our thoughts, saw something still wanting to make Adam happy. And what was

that? Why, and help meet for him. For thus speaketh the scripture: "And the

Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make an

help meet for him."

Observe, God said, "It is not good," thereby implying that the

creation would have been imperfect, in some sort, unless an help was found

out meet for Adam. And if this was the case of man before the fall; if an

help was meet for him in a state of perfection; surely since the fall, when

we come naked and helpless out of our mother's womb, when our wants

increase with our years, and we can scarcely subsist a day without the

mutual assistance of each other, well may we say, "It is not good for man

to be alone."

Society then, we see, is absolutely necessary in respect to our bodily

and personal wants. If we carry our view farther, and consider mankind as

divided into different cities, countries, and nations, the necessity of it

will appear yet more evident. For how can communities be kept up, or

commerce carried on, without society? Certainly not at all, since

providence seems wisely to have assigned a particular product to almost

each particular country, on purpose, as it were, to oblige us to be social;

and hath so admirably mingled the parts of the whole body of mankind

together, "that the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee; nor

again, the hand to the foot, I have no need of thee."

Many other instances might be given of the necessity of society, in

reference to our bodily, personal, and national wants. But what are all

these when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, in comparison of the

infinite greater need of it, with respect to the soul? It was chiefly in

regard to this better part, no doubt, that God said, "It is not good for

the man to be alone." For, let us suppose Adam to be as happy as may be,

placed as the Lord of the creation in the paradise of God, and spending all

his hours in adoring and praising the blessed Author of his being; yet as

his soul was the very copy of the divine nature, whose peculiar property it

is to be communicative, without the divine all sufficiency he could not be

completely happy, because he was alone and incommunicative, nor even

content in paradise, for want of a partner in his joys. God knew this, and

therefore said, "It is not good that the man shall be alone, I will make a

help meet for him." And though this proved a fatal means of his falling;

yet that was not owing to any natural consequence of society; but partly to

that cursed apostate, who craftily lies in wait to deceive; partly to

Adam's own folly, in rather choosing to be miserable with one he loved,

than trust in God to raise him up another spouse.

If we reflect indeed on that familiar intercourse, our first parent

could carry on with heaven, in a state of innocence, we shall be apt to

think he had as little need of society, as to his soul, as before we

supposed him to have, in respect to his body. But yet, as God and the holy

angels were so far above him on the one hand, and the beasts so far beneath

him on the other, there was nothing like having one to converse with, who

was "bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh."

Man, then, could not be fully happy, we see, even in paradise, without

a companion of his own species, much less now he is driven out. For, let us

view him a little in his natural estate now, since the fall, as "having his

understanding darkened, his mind alienated from the life of God;" as no

more able to see his way wherein he should go, than a blind man to describe

the sun: that notwithstanding this, he must receive his sight ere he can

see God: and that if he never sees him, he never can be happy. Let us view

him in this light (or rather than darkness) and deny the necessity of

society if we can. A divine revelation we find is absolutely necessary, we

being by nature as unable to know, as we are to do our duty. And how shall

we learn except one teach us? But was God to do this himself, how should

we, but with Moses, exceedingly quake and fear? Nor would the ministry of

angels in this affair, be without too much terror. It is necessary,

therefore (at least God's dealing with us hath showed it to be so) that we

should be drawn with the cords of a man. And that a divine revelation being

granted, we should use one another's assistance, under God, to instruct

each other in the knowledge, and to exhort one another to the practice of

those things which belong to our everlasting peace. This is undoubtedly the

great end of society intended by God since the fall, and a strong argument

it is, why "two are better than one," and why we should "not forsake the

assembling ourselves together."

But further, let us consider ourselves as Christians, as having this

natural veil, in some measure, taken off from our eyes by the assistance of

God's Holy Spirit, and so enabled to see what he requires of us. Let us

suppose ourselves in some degree to have tasted the good word of life, and

to have felt the powers of the world to come, influencing and molding our

souls into a religious frame: to be fully and heartily convinced that we

are soldiers lifted under the banner of Christ, and to have proclaimed open

war at our baptism, against the world, the flesh, and the devil; and have,

perhaps, frequently renewed our obligations so to do, by partaking of the

Lord's supper: that we are surrounded with millions of foes without, and

infected with a legion of enemies within: that we are commanded to shine as

lights in the world, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation:

that we are traveling to a long eternity, and need all imaginable helps to

show, and encourage us in our way thither. Let us, I say, reflect on all

this, and then how shall each of us cry out, brethren, what a necessary

thing it is to meet together in religious societies?

The primitive Christians were fully sensible of this, and therefore we

find them continually keeping up communion with each other: for what says

the scripture? They continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and

fellowship, Acts 2:42. Peter and John were no sooner dismissed by the great

council, than they haste away to their companions. "And being set at

liberty they came to their own, and told them all these things which the

high priest had said unto them," Acts 4:23. Paul, as soon as converted,

"tarried three days with the disciples that were at Damascus." Acts 9:19.

And Peter afterwards, when released from prison, immediately goes to the

house of Mary, where there were "great multitudes assembled, praying," Acts

12:12. And it is reported of the Christians in after ages, that they used

to assemble together before day-light, to sing a psalm to Christ as God. So

precious was the Communion of Saints in those days.

If it be asked, what advantages we shall reap from such a procedure

now? I answer, much every way. "Two are better than one, because they have

a good reward for their labor: for if they fall, the one will lift up his

fellow; but woe be to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not

another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat;

but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall

withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

Which directly leads me to my SECOND general head, under which I was

to assign some reasons why "two are better than one," especially in

Religious Society.

1. As man in his present condition cannot always stand upright, but by

reason of the frailty of his nature cannot but fall; one eminent reason why

two are better than one, or, in other words, one great advantage of

religious society is, "That when they fall, the one will lift up his


And an excellent reason this, indeed! For alas! When we reflect how

prone we are to be drawn into error in our judgments, and into vice in our

practice; and how unable, at least how very unwilling, to espy or correct

our own miscarriages; when w consider how apt the world is to flatter us in

our faults, and how few there are so kind as to tell us the truth; what an

inestimable privilege must it be to have a set of true, judicious, hearty

friends about us, continually watching over our souls, to inform us where

we have fallen, and to warn us that we fall not again for the future.

Surely it is such a privilege, that (to use the words of an eminent

Christian) we shall never know the value thereof, till we come to glory.

But this is not all; for supposing that we could always stand upright,

yet whosoever reflects on the difficulties of religion in general, and his

own propensity to lukewarmness and indifference in particular, will find

that he must be zealous as well as steady, if ever he expects to enter the

kingdom of heaven. Here, then, the wise man points out to us another

excellent reason why two are better than one. "Again, if two lie together,

then they have heat; but how can one be warm alone?" Which was the next

thing to be considered.

2. A Second reason why two are better than one, is because they can

impart heat to each other.

It is an observation no less true than common, that kindled coals, if

placed asunder, soon go out, but if heaped together, quicken and enliven

each other, and afford a lasting heat. The same will hold good in the case

now before us. If Christians kindled by the grace of God, unite, they will

quicken and enliven each other; but if they separate and keep asunder, no

marvel if they soon grow cool or tepid. If two are three meet together in

Christ's name, they will have heat: but how can one be warm alone?

Observe, "How can one be warm alone?" The wise man's expressing

himself by way of question, implies an impossibility, at least a very great

difficulty, to be warm in religion without company, where it may be had.

Behold here, then, another excellent benefit flowing from religious

society; it will keep us zealous, as well as steady, in the way of


But to illustrate this a little farther by a comparison or two. Let us

look upon ourselves (as was above hinted) as soldiers listed under Christ's

banner; as going out with "ten thousand, to meet one that cometh against us

with twenty thousand;" as persons that are to "wrestle not only with flesh

and blood, but against principalities, against powers, and spiritual

wickednesses in high places." And then tell me, all ye that fear God, if it

be not an invaluable privilege to have a company of fellow soldiers

continually about us, animating and exhorting each other to stand our

ground, to keep our ranks, and manfully to follow the captain of our

salvation, though it be through a sea of blood?

Let us consider ourselves in another view before mentioned, as persons

traveling to a long eternity; as rescued by the free grace of God, in some

measure, from our natural Egyptian bondage, and marching under the conduct

of our spiritual Joshua, through the wilderness of this world, to the land

of our heavenly Canaan. Let us farther reflect how apt we are to startle at

every difficulty; to cry, "There are lions! There are lions in the way!

There are the sons of Anak" to be grappled with, ere we can possess the

promised land. How prone we are, with Lot's wife, to look wishfully back on

our spiritual Sodom, or, with the foolish Israelites, to long again for the

flesh-pots of Egypt; and to return to our former natural state of bondage

and slavery. Consider this, my brethren, and see what a blessed privilege

it will be to have a set of Israelites indeed about us, always reminding us

of the folly of any such cowardly design, and of the intolerable misery we

shall run into, if we fall in the least short of the promised land.

More might be said on this particular, did not the limits of a

discourse of this nature oblige me to hasten,

3. To give a third reason, mentioned by the wise man in the text, why

two are better than one; because they can secure each other from enemies

without. "And if one prevail against him, yet two shall withstand him: and

a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

Hitherto we have considered the advantages of religious societies, as

a great preservative against falling (at least dangerously falling) into

sin and lukewarmness, and that too from our own corruptions. But what says

the wise son of Sirach? "My son, when thou goest to serve the Lord, prepare

thy soul for temptation:" and that not only from inward, but outward foes;

particularly from those two grand adversaries, the world and the devil: for

no sooner will thine eye be bent heavenward, but the former will be

immediately diverting it another way, telling thee thou needest not be

singular in order to be religious; that you may be a Christian without

going so much out of the common road.

Nor will the devil be wanting in his artful insinuations, or impious

suggestions, to divert or terrify thee from pressing forwards, "that thou

mayst lay hold on the crown of life." And if he cannot prevail this way, he

will try another; and, in order to make his temptation the more

undiscerned, but withal more successful, he will employ, perhaps, some of

thy nearest relatives, or most powerful friends, (as he set Peter on our

blessed Master) who will always be bidding thee to spare thyself; telling

thee thou needest not take so much pain; that it is not so difficult a

matter to get to heaven as some people would make of it, nor the way so

narrow as others imagine it to be.

But see here the advantage of religious company; for supposing thou

findest thyself thus surrounded on every side, and unable to withstand such

horrid (though seemingly friendly) counsels, haste away to thy companions,

and they will teach thee a truer and better lesson; they will tell thee,

that thou must be singular if thou wilt be religious; and that it is as

impossible for a Christian, as for a city set upon a hill, to be hidden:

that if thou wilt be an almost Christian (and as good be none at all) thou

mayest live in the same idle, indifferent manner as thou seest most other

people do: but if thou wilt be not only almost, but altogether a Christian,

they will inform thee thou must go a great deal farther: that thou must not

only faintly seek, but "earnestly strive to enter in at the strait gate:"

that there is but one way now to heaven as formerly, even through the

narrow passage of a sound conversion: and that in order to bring about this

mighty work, thou must undergo a constant, but necessary discipline of

fasting, watching, and prayer. And therefore, the only reason why those

friends give thee such advice, is, because they are not willing to take to

much pains themselves; or, as our Savior told Peter on a like occasion,

because they "savor not the things that be of God, but the things that be

of men."

This then, is another excellent blessing arising from religious

society, that friends can hereby secure each other from those who oppose

them. The devil is fully sensible of this, and therefore he has always done

his utmost to suppress, and put a stop to the communion of saints. This was

his grand artifice at the first planting of the gospel; to persecute the

professors of it, in order to separate them. Which, though God, as he

always will, over-ruled for the better; yet, it shows, what an enmity he

has against Christians assembling themselves together. Nor has he yet left

off his old stratagem; it being his usual way to entice us by ourselves, in

order to tempt us; where, by being destitute of one another's help, he

hopes to lead us captive at his will.

But, on the contrary, knowing his own interest is strengthened by

society, he would first persuade us to neglect the communion of saints, and

then bid us "stand in the way of sinners," hoping thereby to put us into

the seat of the scornful. Judas and Peter are melancholy instances of this.

The former had no sooner left his company at supper, but he went out and

betrayed his master: and the dismal downfall of the latter, when he would

venture himself amongst a company of enemies, plainly shows us what the

devil will endeavor to, when he gets us by ourselves. Had Peter kept his

own company, he might have kept his integrity; but a single cord, alas! how

quickly was it broken? Our blessed Savior knew this full well, and

therefore it is very observable, that he always sent out his disciples "two

by two."

And now, after so many advantages to be reaped from religious society,

may we not very justly cry out with the wise man in my text, "Woe be to him

that is alone; for when he falleth, he hath not another to lift him up!"

When he is cold, he hath not a friend to warm him; when he is assaulted, he

hath not a second to help him to withstand his enemy.

III. I now come to my third general head, under which was to be shown

the sever duties incumbent on every member of a religious society, as such,

which are three. 1. Mutual reproof; 2. Mutual exhortation; 3. Mutual

assisting and defending each other.

1. Mutual reproof. "Two are better than one; for when they fall, the

one will lift up his fellow."

Now, reproof may be taken either in a more extensive sense, and then

it signifies our raising a brother by the gentlest means, when he falls

into sin and error; or in a more restrained signification, as reaching no

farther than whose miscarriages, which unavoidably happen in the most holy

men living.

The wise man, in the text supposes all of us subject to both: "For

when they fall (thereby implying that each of us may fall) the one will

lift up his fellow." From whence we may infer, that "when any brother is

overtaken with a fault, he that is spiritual (that is, regenerate, and

knows the corruption and weakness of human nature) ought to restore such a

one in the spirit of meekness." And why he should do so, the apostle

subjoins a reason "considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted;" i.e.

considering thy own frailty, lest thou also fall by the like temptation.

We are all frail unstable creatures; and it is merely owing to the

free grace and good providence of God that we run not into the same excess

of riot with other men. Every offending brother, therefore, claims our pity

rather than our resentment; and each member should strive to be the most

forward, as well as most gentle, in restoring him to his former state.

But supposing a person not to be overtaken, but to fall willfully into

a crime; yet who art thou that deniest forgiveness to thy offending

brother? "Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall." Take ye, brethren,

the holy apostles as eminent examples for you to learn by, how you ought to

behave in this matter. Consider how quickly they joined the right hand of

fellowship with Peter, who had so willfully denied his master: for we find

John and him together but two days after, John 20:2. And ver. 19, we find

him assembled with the rest. So soon did they forgive, so soon associate

with their sinful, yet relenting brother. "Let us go and do likewise."

But there is another kind of reproof incumbent on every member of a

religious society; namely, a gentle rebuke for some miscarriage or other,

which though not actually sinful, yet may become the occasion of sin. This

indeed seems a more easy, but perhaps will be found a more difficult point

than the former: for when a person has really sinned, he cannot but own his

brethren's reproof to be just; whereas, when it was only for some little

misconduct, the pride that is in our natures will scarce suffer us to brook

(endure, tolerate) it. But however ungrateful this pill may be to our

brother, yet if we have any concern for his welfare, it must be

administered by some friendly hand or other. By all means then let it be

applied; only, like a skillful physician, gild over the ungrateful pill,

and endeavor, if possible, to deceive thy brother into health and

soundness. "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and malice, and evil speaking,

be put away" from it. Let the patient know, his recovery is the only thing

aimed at, and that thou delightest not causelessly to grieve thy brother;

then thou canst not want success.

2. Mutual exhortation is the second duty resulting from the words of

the text. "Again, if two lie together, then they have heat."

Observe, the wise man supposes it as impossible for religious persons

to meet together, and not to be the warmer for each other's company, as for

two persons to lie in the same bed, and yet freeze with cold. But now, how

is it possible to communicate heat to each other, without mutually stirring

up the gift of God which is in us, by brotherly exhortation? Let every

member then of a religious society write that zealous apostle's advice on

the tables of his heart; "See that ye exhort, and provoke one another to

love, and to good works; and so much the more, as you see the day of the

Lord approaching." Believe me, brethren, we have need of exhortation to

rouse up our sleepy souls, to set us upon our watch against the temptations

of the world, the flesh, and the devil; to excite us to renounce ourselves,

to take up our crosses, and follow our blessed master, and the glorious

company of saints and martyrs, "who through faith have fought the good

fight, and are gone before us to inherit the promises." A third part,

therefore, of the time wherein a religious society meets, seems necessary

to be spent in this important duty: for what avails it to have our

understandings enlightened by pious reading, unless our wills are at the

same time inclined, and inflamed by mutual exhortation, to put it in

practice? Add also, that this is the best way both to receive and impart

light, and the only means to preserve and increase that warmth and heat

which each person first brought with him; God so ordering this, as all

other spiritual gifts, that "to him that hath, i.e. improves and

communicates what he hath, shall be given; but from him that hath not, or

does not improve the heat he hath, shall be taken away even that which he

seemed to have." So needful, so essentially necessary, is exhortation to

the good of society.

3. Thirdly, The text points out another duty incumbent on every member

of a religious society, to defend each other from those that do oppose

them. "And if one prevail against him, yet two shall withstand him; and a

threefold cord is not quickly broken."

Here the wise man takes it for granted, that offenses will come, nay ,

and that they may prevail too. And this is not more than our blessed master

has long since told us. Not, indeed, that there is any thing in

Christianity itself that has the least tendency to give rise to, or promote

such offenses: No, on the contrary, it breathes nothing but unity and love.

But so it is, that ever since the fatal sentence pronounced by God,

after our first parents fall, "I will put enmity between thy seed and her

seed;" he that is born after the flesh, the unregenerate unconverted

sinner, has in all ages "persecuted him that is born after the spirit:" and

so it always will be. Accordingly we find an early proof given of this in

the instance of Cain and Abel; of Ishmael and Isaac; and of Jacob and Esau.

And, indeed, the whole Bible contains little else but an history of the

great and continued opposition between the children of this world, and the

children of God. The first Christians were remarkable examples of this; and

though those troublesome time, blessed be God, are now over, yet the

apostle has laid it down as a general rule, and all who are sincere

experimentally prove the truth of it; that "they that will live godly in

Christ Jesus, must (to the end of the world, in some degree or other)

suffer persecution." That therefore this may not make us desert our blessed

master's cause, every member should unite their forces in order to stand

against it. And for the better effecting this, each would do well, from

time to time, to communicate his experiences, grievances, and temptations,

and beg his companions (first asking God's assistance, without which all is

nothing) to administer reproof, exhortation, or comfort, as his case

requires: so that "if one cannot prevail against it, yet two shall

withstand it; and a threefold (much less a many-fold) cord will not be

quickly broken."

IV. But it is time for me to proceed to the fourth general thing

proposed, to draw an inference or two from what has been said.

1. And first, if "two are better than one," and the advantages of

religious society are so many and so great; then it is the duty of every

true Christian to set on foot, establish and promote, as much as in him

lies, societies of this nature. And I believe we may venture to affirm,

that if ever a spirit of true Christianity is revived in the world, it must

be brought about by some such means as this. Motive, surely, cannot be

wanting, to stir us up to the commendable and necessary undertaking: for,

granting all hitherto advanced to be of no force, yet methinks the single

consideration, that great part of our happiness in heaven will consist in

the Communion of Saints; or that the interest as well as piety of those who

differ from us, is strengthened and supported by nothing more than their

frequent meetings; either of these considerations, I say, one would think,

should induce us to do our utmost to copy after their good example, and

settle a lasting and pious communion of the saints on earth. Add to this,

that we find the kingdom of darkness established daily by such like means;

and shall not the kingdom of Christ be set in opposition against it? Shall

the children of Belial assemble and strengthen each other in wickedness;

and shall not the children of God unite, and strengthen themselves in

piety? Shall societies on societies be countenanced for midnight revelings,

and the promoting of vice, and scarcely one be found intended for the

propagation of virtue? Be astonished, O heavens at this!

2. But this leads me to a second inference; namely, to warn persons of

the great danger those are in, who either by their subscriptions, presence,

or approbation, promote societies of a quite opposite nature to religion.

And here I would not be understood, to mean only those public meetings

which are designed manifestly for nothing else but revellings and

banquetings, for chambering and wantonness, and at which a modest heathen

would blush to be present; but also those seemingly innocent entertainments

and meetings, which the politer part of the world are so very fond of, and

spend so much time in: but which, notwithstanding, keep as many persons

from a sense of true religion, as doth intemperance, debauchery, or any

other crimes whatever. Indeed, whilst we are in this world, we must have

proper relaxations, to fit us both for the business of our profession, and

religion. But then, for persons who call themselves Christians, that have

solemnly vowed at their baptism, to renounce the vanities of this sinful

world; that are commanded in scripture "to abstain from all appearance of

evil, and to have their conversation in heaven:" for such persons as these

to support meetings, which (to say no worse of them) are vain and trifling,

and have a natural tendency to draw off our minds from God, is absurd,

ridiculous, and sinful. Surely two are not better than one in this case:

No; it is to be wished there was not one to be found concerned in it. The

sooner we forsake the assembling ourselves together in such a manner, the

better; and no matte how quickly the cord that hold such societies (was it

a thousand-fold) is broken.

But you, brethren, have not so learned Christ: but, on the contrary,

like true disciples of your Lord and Master, have by the blessing of God

(as this evening's solemnity abundantly testifies) happily formed

yourselves into such societies, which, if duly attended on, and improved,

cannot but strengthen you in your Christian warfare, and "make you fruitful

in every good word and work."

What remains for me, but, as was proposed, in the first place, to

close what has been said, in a word or two, by way of exhortation, and to

beseech you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to go on in the way you

have begun; and by a constant conscientious attendance on your respective

societies, to discountenance vice, encourage virtue, and build each other

up in the knowledge and fear of God.

Only permit me to "stir up your pure minds, by way of remembrance,"

and to exhort you, "if there be any consolation in Christ, any fellowship

of the spirit," again and again to consider, that as all Christians in

general, so all members of religious societies in particular, are in an

especial manner, as houses built upon an hill; and that therefore it highly

concerns you to walk circumspectly towards those that are without, and to

take heed to yourselves, that your conversation, in common life, be as

becometh such an open and peculiar profession of the gospel of Christ:

knowing that the eyes of all men are upon you, narrowly to inspect every

circumstance of your behavior: and that every notorious willful miscarriage

of any single member will, in some measure, redound to the scandal and

dishonor of your whole fraternity.

Labor, therefore, my beloved brethren, to let your practice correspond

to your profession: and think not that it will be sufficient for you to

plead at the last day, Lord have we not assembled ourselves together in thy

name, and enlivened each other, by singing psalms, and hymns, and spiritual

songs? For verily, I say unto you, notwithstanding this, our blessed Lord

will bid you depart from him; nay, you shall receive a great damnation, if,

in the mists of these great pretensions, you are found to be workers of


But God forbid that any such evil should befall you; that there should

be ever a Judas, a traitor, amongst such distinguished followers of our

common master. No, on the contrary, the excellency of your rule, the

regularity of your meetings, and more especially your pious zeal in

assembling in such a public and solemn manner so frequently in the year,

persuade me to think, that you are willing, not barely to seem, but to be

in reality, Christians; and hope to be found at the last day, what you

would be esteemed now, holy, sincere disciples of a crucified Redeemer.

Oh, may you always continue thus minded! And make it your daily,

constant endeavor, both by precept and example, to turn all your converse

with, more especially those of your own societies, into the same most

blessed spirit and temper. Thus will you adorn the gospel of our Lord Jesus

Christ in all things: Thus will you anticipate the happiness of a future

state; and by attending on, and improving the communion of stints on earth,

be made meet to join the communion and fellowship of the spirits of just

men made perfect, of the holy angels, nay, of the ever blessed and eternal

God in heaven.

Which God of his infinite mercy grant through Jesus Christ our Lord;

to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, three persons and one God, be

ascribed, as is most due, all honor and praise, might, majesty and

dominion, now and for ever. Amen.

10 If one falls down,

his friend can help him up.

But pity the man who falls

and has no one to help him up!

GILL, “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow,.... That is, if anyone of them fall, the

other will lift him up, as they are travelling together, in whatsoever manner; if one falls from his horse, or out of his carriage, or into a ditch, the other will endeavour to raise him up again: this, as it is true in a natural, so in a figurative and metaphorical sense, with religious persons especially;

"if one of them falls upon the bed, and lies sick,''

as the Targum paraphrases it, his friend and brother in a religions community will visit him, and sympathize with him, and speak a word of comfort to him, and pray with him, which may issue in his restoration. So the Targum,

"the other will cause his friend to rise by his prayer;''

or if he fall into outward distress, poverty, and want, his spiritual friend or friends will distribute to his necessity; if he falls into errors, as a good man may, such as are of the same religious society with him will take some pains to convince him of the error of his way, and to convert him from it, and to save a soul from death, and cover a multitude of sins; and if he falls into sin, to which the best of men are liable, such as are spiritual will endeavour to restore him in a spirit of meekness;

but woe to him that is alone when he falleth! for he hath not another to help him up; no companion to raise him up when fallen; no Christian friend to visit and comfort him when sick, to relieve him under his necessities, when poor and afflicted, or to recover him from errors in judgment, or immoralities in practice; and especially if he has not Christ with him to raise him up, keep, and uphold him.

HE�RY, “United strength. If an enemy find a man alone, he is likely to prevail against him; with his own single strength he cannot make his part good, but, if he have a second, he may do well enough: two shall withstand him. “You shall help me against my enemy, and I will help you against yours;” according to the agreement between Joab and Abishai (2Sa_10:11), and so both are conquerors; whereas, acting separately, both would have been conquered; as was said of the ancient Britons, when the Romans invaded them, Dum singuli pugnant, universi vincuntur - While they fight in detached parties, they sacrifice the general cause. In our spiritual warfare we may be helpful to one another as well as in our spiritual work; next to the comfort of communion with God, is that of the communion of saints. He concludes with this proverb, A threefold cord is not easily broken, any more than a bundle of arrows, though each single thread, and each single arrow, is. Two together he compares to a threefold cord; for where two are closely joined in holy love and fellowship, Christ will by his Spirit come to them, and make the third, as he joined himself to the two disciples going to Emmaus, and then there is a threefold cord that can never be broken. They that dwell in love, dwell in God, and God in them.

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

BE�SO�, “Ecclesiastes 4:10-12. For, if they fall — If one or more of them fall in any way; as into any

mistakes, andERRORS , or sins, dangers, or distresses. The one will lift up his fellow — Will hold him

up, if he be falling, or raise him up, if he be fallen. If two lie together, then they have heat — They will be

sooner warm in a cold bed and a cold season. So virtuous and gracious affections are excited by good society; and Christians warm one another, by provoking one another to love and good works. But how can one be warm alone? — How can the warmth and fervency of true Christian love and zeal be retained by him who stands aloof from, and has no intercourse with, his fellow-Christians? If one prevail against him — If an enemy, visible or invisible, might easily prevail against either or any of them, if not associated with others, two or more, uniting their counsels and efforts, will be able to withstand him; and a three-fold cord is not quickly broken — If a man have not only one, but two or more friends to assist him, he is so much the

moreSECURE against all assaults, and therefore the more happy. Thus, in our spiritual warfare, we may be helpful to each other as well as in our spiritual work. And next to the comfort of communion with God, is that of the communion of saints. For they that dwell in love dwell in God, and God in them.

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him [that is] alone when he falleth; for [he hath] not another to help him up.Ver. 10. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow.] Provided that they hold together and be both of a mind. That which is stronger shoreth up that which is weaker. While Latimer and Rid ley lived, they kept up Cranmer, by intercourse of letters and otherwise, from entertaining counsels of revolt. Bishop Ridley, being prisoner in the Tower, had the liberty of the same, to prove, belike, whether he would go to mass or not, which once he did. And Mr Bradford, being there prisoner, and hearing thereof, wrote an effectual letter to persuade him from the same, which did Mr Ridley no little good, for he repented, &c. (a) Bishop Farrar also being in the King’s Bench prisoner, was travailed with by the Papists at the end of Lent to receive the sacrament at Easter in one kind, who, after much persuading, yielded to them, and promised so to do. But, by God’s good providence, the Easter evening, the day before he should have done it, was Bradford brought to the same prison, where, the Lord making him his instrument, Bradford only was the means that the said bishop revoked his promise, and would never after yield to be spotted with that Papistical pitch. (b) Dr Taylor for like cause rejoiced that ever he came into prison, there to be acquainted with that angel of God, John Bradford: so he called him, for the good he received from him. (c) One man may be an angel to another in regard of counsel and comfort; nay, a God to another, as Moses was to Aaron. "Though he fall, he shall arise," for the Lord puts under his hand. [Psalms 37:24]

But woe to him that is alone.] Because Satan is readiest to assault when none is by toASSIST . Solitariness, therefore, is not to be affected, because it is "the hour of temptation."For he hath not a second to help him up.] As Elizabeth Cowper, the martyr, in Queen Mary’s days had, who, being condemned, and at the stake with Simon Miller, when the fire came unto her she a little shrank thereat, crying once, Ah! When Simon heard the same, he put his hand behind him toward her, and willed her to be strong and of good cheer; for, ‘Good sister,’ said he, ‘we shallSOON have a joyful and sweet supper. It is but winking a little, and you are in heaven.’ With these and the like speeches, she, being strengthened, stood still and quiet, as one most glad to finish that good work. (d) It was therefore a devilish policy in Julian and other heathen persecutors to banish Christians into far countries one from another, and to confine them to isles and mines, where they could not have access one to another.

PULPIT, “Koheleth illustrates the benefit of association by certain familiar examples. For if they fall, the

one will lift up his fellow. If one or the other fall, the companion will aid him. The idea is that two travelers are making their way over a rough road—an experience that every one must have had in Palestine. Vulgate, Si unus ceciderit. Of course, if both fell at the same time, one could not help the other. Commentators quote Homer, 'Iliad,' 10.220-226, thus rendered by Lord Derby—

"Nestor, that heart is mine;

I dare alone Enter the hostile camp, so close at hand;

Yet were one comrade giv'n me, I should go

With more of comfort, more of confidence.

Where two combine, one before other sees

The better course; and ev'n though one alone

The readiest way discover, yet would be

His judgment slower, his decision less."

Woe to him that is alone. The same interjection of sorrow, àÄé , occurs in Ecc_10:16, but elsewhere only in late Hebrew. The verse may be applied to moral falls as well as to stumbling at natural obstacles.BROTHER HELPS brother to resist temptation, while many have failed when tried by isolation who would have manfully withstood if they had had the countenance and support of others.

"Clear before us through the darkness

Gleams and burns the guiding light;

Brother clasps the hand of brother,

Stepping fearless through the night."

A Real Friend Helps You When You’re Down. (v.10) “For if they fall, one will lift up his

companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.”

Now you may have a lot of people in your life you could call acquaintances. But you may only

have a very few that you could term “real friends.”

Some one has suggested that we have been successful in life if we have enough close friends to

act as pall bearers at our funeral.

You may wonder, “How can I tell the difference between acquaintances and friends.” That’s easy,

just get in trouble, the people that are still around are your real friends, and there may not be as

many left as you would have thought. A friend is the kind of person if you call them at 2:00 in

the morning and tell them you need them. They don’t ask, “So what’s the problem” and then

decide whether or not to come. They simply ask, “Where are you?” as they are getting dressed.

That’s a friend. How many people do you have like that in your life? The writer of Proverbs

(17:17) says, “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.”

An old man was lying on his deathbed. He only had a few hours to live when suddenly he

smelled chocolate chip cookies. He loved chocolate chip cookies more than anything else in the


With his last bit of energy he pulled himself out of bed, struggled across the floor to the stairs,

and headed down the stairs into the kitchen where he found his wife baking those sweet-smelling


As he reached for one… SMACK! He felt a slap across the back of his hand. His wife scolded,

“Leave those alone; they’re for your funeral!”

An elderly man lay in a hospital bed with his wife of 55 years sitting at his bedside. “Is that you,

Ethel, at my side again?” he whispered.

“Yes, dear,” she answered.

He softly said to her, “Remember years ago when I was in the Veteran’s Hospital? You were with

me then. You were with me when we lost everything in a fire. And Ethel, when we were poor –

you stuck with me then too.”

The man sighed and said, “I tell you, Ethel, you’re bad luck.”

11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.

But how can one keep warm alone?

GILL, “Again, if two lie together, then they have heat,.... The Targum adds, in the winter; when it is a cold season, they warm one another by lying together. The Targum interprets it of a man and his wife; it is true of others; see 1Ki_1:1;

but how can one be warm alone? not soon, nor easily, in time of cold weather. This is true in a spiritual sense of persons in a Christian communion and religious society; when they are grown cold in their love, lukewarm in their affections, and backward and indifferent to spiritual exercises, yet by Christian conversation may be stirred up to love and good works: so two cold flints struck against each other, fire comes out of them; and even two cold Christians, when they come to talk with each other about spiritual things, and feel one another's spirits, they presently glow in their affections to each other, and to divine things; and especially if Christ joins them with his presence, as he did the two disciples going to Emmaus, then their hearts burn within them.

JAMISO�, “(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 (Luk_24:32; Act_28:15).

ELLICOTT, “11. How can one be warm — The ordinary people of Palestine to this time, as did all the

ancients, lie down at night in the usualCLOTHI�G of the day. The country has hot days and cold nights, and a traveller is annoyed at the complaints of his men arising from insufficient protection. The frost consumes them by night, and they crowd together for warmth. The houses formerly had open lattice instead of glass windows, so that the cold night air was felt within, and the sleepers on mats and carpets suffered from the chill. There is no allusion here to husband and wife. Night-dresses, distinct from the clothing worn by day, were first introduced by the French, and in quite modern times.

PULPIT, “The first example of the advantage of companionship spoke of the aid and support that are thus

given; the present verse tells of the comfort thus brought. If two lie together, then they have heat. The winter nights in Palestine are comparatively cold, and when, as in the case of the poorer inhabitants, the outer garment worn by day was used as the only blanket during sleep (Exo_22:26, Exo_22:27), it was a comfort to have the additional warmth of a friend lying under the same coverlet. Solomon could have had no such experience.

Here is a part of the Bible written for those who live in Minnesota, for much of the world

this is meaningless, but here it is very relevant.

The third reason why two are better than one is that they can meet each other’s physical needs.

The author says two can keep each other warm. You’ve probably seen movies where this was

played out by two people who are lost in the wilderness or on a cold mountain and stay warm by

snuggling together. This is one of the biggest needs that’s met in marriage. But every one of us

whether we’re married or not has a need to have physical needs met by another. When I go into a

nursing home or hospital one of the things that I’m very sensitive to is the power of touch. It’s

something that can be abused or neglected. Some of the people in these nursing homes haven’t

been touched in weeks or even months. And just the touch of my hand as I pray for them is an

amazing thing.

I Pyschology Today of June 1982, 40,00 people were surveyed and asked what qualities were

most valued in a friendship the the 3rd most important quality was warmth and affection.

People need to have someone stand close to them during the cold-times of life

A Real Friend Is Someone Who Provides Emotional Or Physical Warmth In A Cold, Cruel

World. (v. 11)

“Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone?”

Some times we have a tendency to take a passage so literally that we miss point of the whole

idea. This is more than just about keeping each other physically warm. We need help to face

circumstances beyond our control, we need to be able to gain emotional strength when we do not

have enough of our own. Sometimes it’s cold out there in the world. These are those

circumstances where we are facing a battle of “How am I going to make it through this right

now!” That is the time we need a friend to give us emotional strength.

We all know that the reality of life is that we encounter a lot of people who when we spend time

with them, they send our emotional gas gauge all the way over to empty. We leave their presence

absolute drained. But there are other people, and these are our friends, that when we spend time

with them, our emotion gas gauge goes all the way over to full. There are two kinds of people in

the world encouragers and discouragers, which group characterizes you? You know, I think that

many of those discouraging people have no idea that they are discouragers. But all you need to

do is take a look at what you say. If every word out of your mouth is setting someone straight or

telling them how they can improve themselves or their performance, you probably have a

problem in this area. Why not decide to be an encourager today?

A Real Friend Is Someone Who Provides Emotional Or Physical Warmth In A Cold, Cruel World

And …..

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm [alone]?

VER 11. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat.] Heat of zeal and good affection. "Did not our hearts burn within us," said those two disciples, when Christ once made the third with them, and by holy conference kindled them. [Luke 24:32] So when Silas and Timotheus came from Macedonia, Paul was "pressed in spirit." [Acts 18:5] Warm he was before, but now all of a light fire, as it were. Those dull daughters of Jerusalem, by hearing the spouse describe her beloved, as she doth from tip to toe, were fired up with desire to join with her in seeking after him whom her soul loved. The lying together of the dead body of one with the bones of Elisha, gave life to it. So doth good company give life to those that are dead in sin. Let two cold flints be smitten together, and fire will come forth. So let two dull Christians confer and communicate their soul secrets, and it shall not repent them; they shall find the benefit of it. "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades?" saith God toJOB . [Job 38:31] These Pleiades be the seven stars, that have all one name, because they all help one another in their work, which is to bring the spring, and, like seven sisters, so are they joined together in one constellation, and in one company. We see that God will have the sweetest works in nature to be performed with mutual help. The best time of the year, the sweetest warmth cometh with these Pleiades, and the best time of our life cometh when we lie together in true love and fellowship, No sooner had the Philippians received the gospel, but they were in "fellowship" to a "day." [Philippians 1:5] They knew, that as sincerity is the life of religion, so is society the life of sincerity.

12 Though one may be overpowered,

two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Advancement Is Meaningless

GILL, “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him,.... If an enemy, or a thief, or a robber, attack anyone of them, in friendship and fellowship together, and is more than a match for him; both joined together will be able to resist him; so that he shall not succeed in his enterprise, and do the mischief he designed; see 2Sa_10:11; Thus, when Satan attacks a single believer, which he chooses to do when alone; so he tempted Eve in the garden, and Christ in the wilderness; and one or more fellow Christians know of it, they are capable of helping their tempted friend, by their advice and counsel, they not being ignorant of Satan's devices; and by striving together in their prayers to God for him: so when false teachers make their efforts, as they usually do, Satan like, upon the weaker sex, and, when alone, they too often succeed; but when saints stand fast in one spirit, and strive together for the faith of the Gospel, they stand their ground, withstand the enemy, and maintain truth;

and a threefold cord is not quickly broken; or "in haste" (c); as two are better than one, so three or more united together, it is the better still; they are able to make head against an enemy; and to conquer him, "vis unita fortior est": if a family, community, city, or kingdom, are divided against themselves, they cannot stand; but, if united, in all probability nothing can hurt them.

This doctrine is taught in the fable of the bundle of sticks the old man gave to his sons to break; which, while fastened together, could not be done; but, when art bound, and took out singly, were easily snapped asunder; teaching them thereby unity among themselves, as their greatest security against their common enemy. The same instruction is given by this threefold cord; while it remains twisted together, it is not easily broke, but if the threads are untwisted and unloosed, they are soon snapped asunder: so persons in religious fellowship, be they more or fewer, while they keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, they are terrible, as an army with banners, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against them. And if this is true of the united love and affections of saints, it must be much more so of the love of Father, Son, and Spirit; that threefold cord, with which the saints are drawn and held; and of which it may be said, that it not only is not quickly broken, but that it cannot be broken at all; and therefore those who are held by it are in the utmost safety. Some apply this to the three principal graces, faith, hope, and love, which are abiding ones; and, though they may sometimes be weak and low in their acts and exercise, can never be lost.

JAMISO�, “one — enemy.threefold cord — proverbial for a combination of many - for example, husband, wife, and

children (Pro_11:14); so Christians (Luk_10:1; Col_2:2, Col_2:19). Untwist the cord, and the separate threads are easily “broken.”

ELLICOTT, “12. And if one prevail — “One” is here the object of the verb, and it should read, “If an assailant prevail against one man, two can resist him.” A threefold cord is a lively emblem of a close alliance. That “union is strength,” is the theme of many a fable and proverb. To this dayTRAVELLERS in the East are too much exposed to marauders to allow of journeying singly. This discourse on friendship reminds one of the manly and tender attachment of David and Jonathan.

PULPIT, “The third instance shows the value of the protection afforded by a companion's presence when danger threatens. If one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; better, if a man overpower the solitary one, the two (Ecc_4:9) will withstand him. The idea of the traveler is continued. If he were attacked by robbers, he would be easily overpowered when alone; but two comrades might successfully resist the assault. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. This is probably a proverbial saying, like our "Union is strength." Hereby the advantage of association is more strongly enforced. If the companionship of two is profitable, much more is this the case when more combine. The cord of three strands was the strongest made. The number three is used as the symbol of completeness and perfection. Funiculus triplex diffcile

rumpitur, the Vulgate rendering, has become a trite saying; and the gnome has been constantly applied in a mystical or spiritual sense, with which, originally and humanly speaking, it has no concern. Herein is seen an adumbration of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the Eternal Three in One; of the three Christian virtues, faith, hope, and charity, which go to make the Christian life; of the Christian's body, soul, and spirit, which are consecrated as a temple of the Most High.

LANGE, “Ecc_4:12. And if one prevail against him.— ú÷ó means to overcome (comp. the adjective ú◌◌÷◌◌éó powerful, Ecc_6:10), not to attack (Knobel, Elster), or fall upon (Ewald). é◌ú◌÷◌ôå is an indefinite singular with an object presupposed in the suffix: “if one overwhelmed him, the one;” comp. 2Sa_14:6; Pro_13:24; and Ecc_2:21, which passages satisfactorily show that Ewald’s proposition to read é◌ú◌÷◌ôå◌ is unnecessary.—(Comp. Ewald, Lehrbuch, § 309 c).—Two shall withstand him.—Of course not the one mentioned in the first part, but rather his opponent, who forms the unnamed subject in é◌ú◌÷◌ôå . Comp. similar cases in Ecc_5:18; Ecc_6:12; Ecc_8:10; as well as the phrase ò◌î◌ã ð◌â◌ã “to oppose somebody,” to resist one; 2Ki_10:4; Dan_8:7. Ewald and Elster are not so correct in saying: “thus stand two before him,” namely, the attacked one himself and his companion—which clearly affords too weak a thought.—And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.—That is, if three of them, instead of two, hold

together, then so much the better. The symbol is taken from the fact that a cord of three strands holds more firmly than one consisting of a simple strand, or of two only. Comp. the well-known fable of a bundle of arrows, and the German proverb: “Strong alone, but stronger with others.” There is no allusion to the sacredness of the number three, and still less to the Trinity, which a few older commentators thought to find herein. Moreover, the title of several books of devotion is derived from this passage, e. g., the celebrated book of the Priest of Rostock, Nikolaus Russ, about the year Ecc 1500: de triplici funi:ulo, in which faith, hope and love are described is the three cords of which there must be made the rope that is to rescue man from the abyss of ruin. And so of later works, as (Lilienthal) “A Threefold Cord,” a book of proverbs for every day in the year (for every day a saying containing a promise and a prayer.)—New. Ed., Hamburg, Sigmund. A threefold cord, woven out of the three books of St. Augustine: Manuale, Soliloquia, et Meditationes, 1863. 4.Third strophe.

K&D, ““And if one shall violently assail him who is alone, two shall withstand him; and (finally) a threefold cord is not quickly broken asunder.” The form (yithqepho) for (yithqephehu), Job 15:24, is like

(hirdepho), Hosea 8:3 = (hirdephehu), Judges 9:40. If we take תקף in the sense of to overpower, then the

meaning is: If one can overpower him who is alone, then, on the contrary, two can maintain their ground

against him (Herzf.); but the two אם, Ecclesiastes 4:10, Ecclesiastes 4:11, which are equivalent to ἐάν ,

exclude such a pure logical εἰ . And why should תקף, if it can mean overpowering, not also mean doing

violence to by means of a sudden attack? In the Mishnic and Arab. it signifies to seize, to lay hold of; in the

Aram. החזיק = אתקף , and also at Job 14:20; Job 15:24 (vid., Comm.), it may be understood of a violent

assault, as well as of a completed subjugation; as נשא means to lift up and carry; עמד, to tread and to

stand. But whether it be understood inchoat. or not, in any case האחד is not the assailant, who is much

rather the unnamed subj. in יתקפי, but the one (the solitarius) who, if he is alone, must succumb;

theCO�STRUCTIO� of (hithqepho haehhad) follows the scheme of Exodus 2:6, “she saw it, the

child.” To the assault expressed by תקף, there stands opposed the expression עמד נגד , which means to

withstand any one with success; as 2 ,לפני עמד Kings 10:4; Psalm 147:17; Daniel 8:7, means to maintain

one's ground. Of three who hold together, 12a says nothing; the advance from two to three is thus made in the manner of a numerical proverb (vid., Proverbs, vol. I p. 13). If two hold together, that is seen to be good; but if there be three, this threefold bond is likened to a cord formed of three threads, which cannot easily be

broken. Instead of the definite specific art. הם הח , we make use of the indefinite.Funiculus triplex difficile

rumpitur is one of the winged expressions used by Koheleth.

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.Ver. 12. And if one prevail against him, &c.] Vis unita fortior. God bade Gideon to go down to the camp of the Midianites, and if he feared to go, then to take with him his servant Phurah. Jonathan will not go without his armourbearer - David without Abishai. [1 Samuel 26:6] Christ, whenTO BEGIN his passion in the garden, took Peter, James, and John with him, for the benefit of their prayers and company, though they served him but sorrily. "My dove is but one." [Song of Solomon 6:9] "Jerusalem is a city compact together." [Psalms 122:3] The Church is "terrible as an army with banners"; [Song of Solomon 6:4] "the gates of hell cannot prevail against her." [Matthew 16:18] Unity hath victory, but division breeds dissolution, as it did once in this island when Caesar firstENTERED it. Dum singuli pugnant universi vincuntur, saith Tacitus of the ancient Britons. The Turks pray daily that the differences among us Christians may be heightened, for that will soonest undo us, and one of their emperors, when his council dissuaded him from a war against the Germans, because of their multitude, said that he feared them not, because sooner would his fingers be all of one length than their princes all of one mind. (a)

And a threefold cord is not easily broken.] A proverbialCONFIRMATION well interpreted by Lyra:Quanto plures et boni in amicitia coniuncti sunt, tanto status eorum melioratur, - The more they are that unite, so they be good, the better it is with them. See 2 Samuel 10:9-12. We lose much of our strength in the loss of friends; our cable is as it were untwisted. Hence David so bemoans the loss of Jonathan, and

made him an epitaph. [2 Samuel 1:17-27] Hence St Paul counted it aSPECIAL mercy to him that Epaphroditus recovered. [Philippians 1:27]

WILLIAM BAETA “Solomon’s first three examples of ‘two together’ illustrates the concept of

marriage on the human plane. It relates to a horizontal relationship that is merely a relationship

between the man and the woman. But Solomon’s fourth picture, the ‘cord of three strands’

illustrates marriage as it was conceived at creation. It is a binding together of three persons – the

man, the woman and God. The relationship between the man and the woman alone is not enough

to ensure a successful marriage. This relationship is still on the human plane. Adding God to the

relationship introduces a completely new dimension to the relationship. God then becomes an

integral part of the marriage relationship. The picture of ‘a cord of three strands’ does not merely

illustrate the pattern of marriage established at creation; it also illustrates just as accurately the

pattern of marriage for believers today – those who are united through their faith in Christ. The

principle that binds them inseparably together is the marriage covenant, a covenant that you have

entered into today. The Christian marriage as a threefold one can stand any strain. The strain may

be so great that two of its strands begin to fray. But the third strand will always remain strong

and hold out until the strain is eased and the two frayed strands bound up. When times of strain

come up and both husband and wife begin to weaken and feel unable to hold out, God Himself,

the third strand, holds on until the strain is eased and both husband and wife can be healed and

restored. In the cord of three strands the principle that intertwines the strands and holds them

together is the covenant. Clearly this makes the covenant an essential element of a successful

marriage. Jesus Christ consistently upheld the plan of marriage initiated at creation by the Father.

He refused to settle for anything less than the original purpose of God. Neither should we.

Aloneness is tragic and togetherness is tremendous. Epicurus who sought for pleasure as life’s

goal felt friends were the greatest. He said, “Of all the things which wisdom procures for the

happiness for life as a whole, by far the greatest is the acquisition of friendship.” “We ought to

look round for people to eat and drink with before we look for something to eat or drink.”

Proverbs 17:17 says: “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.”

A few years ago there was a country song out in which one woman counsels another woman not

to get involved with a certain guy because he is a “walk away Joe”. Just a little turmoil, trouble

or discomfort and he’ll be gone. Friends, for what its worth, when it comes to friendships I don’t

want to be a walk away Joe. I want to be a steadfast, committed, faithful Joe.

Perhaps there is no better example of this than the television Sitcom “Cheers.” The theme song

says, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad

you came; You want to be where you can see, Our troubles are all the same; You want to be

where everybody knows your name!” Isn’t it sad that was written about a bar instead of the

house of God.

A Real Friend Is Someone Who Will Fight To Protect You Or Your Reputation. (v. 12)

“Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.”

When these words were written based on the military strategy of the ancient world. Almost all

combat, was hand to hand combat. Soldiers went into battle with a partner, someone that could

be counted and trusted implictedly. The soldiers stood back to back of one another, and they

always keep their backs in contact and fought whatever enemy came from any side.

Friends not only never stab you in the back, they guard your back. A friend never puts up with

gossip about their friends. Let me give you a definition of Gossip. I think you would write this

down. (Gossip is when someone says something negative or unkind about someone who is not

present, whether it is true or not.)

In the study of 40,000 people who were asked what they valued most in a friendship the Number

one answer was the ability to keep confidences

We protect people when we protect the secrets of their hearts

-Prov 17:9 He who covers over an offense promotes love,

but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

-16:28 A perverse man stirs up dissension,

- and a gossip separates close friends.

Consider these thoughts from Chuck Swindoll:

"An old Marine Corp buddy of mine, to my pleasant surprise, came to know Christ after he was

discharged. I say surprise because he cursed loudly, fought hard, chased women, drank heavily,

loved war and weapons, and hated chapel services.

A number of months ago, I ran into this fellow, and after we’d talked awhile, he put his hand on

my shoulder and said,

’You know, Chuck, the only thing I still miss is that old fellowship I used to have with all the

guys down at the tavern. I remember how we used to sit around and let our hair down.

I can’t find anything like that for Christians. I no longer have a place to admit my faults and talk

about my battles -- where somebody won’t preach at me and frown and quote me a verse.’

’The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit that there is to the fellowship Christ wants

to give his church.

It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality -- but it is a

permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic.

You can tell people secrets, and they usually don’t tell others or even want to.

The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the

human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a

counterfeit at the price of a few beers.

With all my heart I believe that Christ wants his church to be unshockable, a fellowship where

people can come in and say, ’I’m sunk, I’m beat, I’ve had it.’ "

stop and ask yourself some tough questions.

ö Make a list of some possible embarassing situations people may not know how to handle.

ö A woman discovers her husband is a practicing homosexual. Where in the church can she find

help where she’s secure with her secret?

ö Your mate talks about separation or divorce. To whom do you tell it?

ö Your daughter is pregnant and she’s run away -- for the third time. She’s no longer listening to

you. Who do you tell that to?

ö You lost your job, and it was your fault. You blew it, so there’s shame mixed with

unemployment. Who do you tell that to?

ö Financially, you were unwise, and you’re in deep trouble.

ö Or a man’s wife is an alcoholic.

ö Or something as horrible as getting back the biopsy from the surgeon, and it reveals cancer,

and the prognosis isn’t good.. To whom do you tell it?

We’re the only outfit I know that shoots its wounded.

An Arabian Proverb says: "A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s

heart, chaff and grain together knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what

is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away."

Jackie Robinson was the first black to play major league baseball.

While breaking baseball’s "color barrier," he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. While

playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error.

His own fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans jeered.

Then shortstop "Pee Wee" Reese came over and stood next to him.

He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd.

The fans grew quiet.

Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.

And what’s the most popular program on television? "Friends," with it’s hit theme song, "I’ll Be

There For You."

There are few things more painful and disheartening than betrayal by a close friend. In the

Psalms, King David writes about this experience:

"Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against

me. . . If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me,

I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with

whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God." –

Psalm 41:9, 55:12-14

We know what he’s talking about, don’t we? The feelings of disappointment, and sadness, and

loss when a friend becomes an enemy can be almost unbearable. And the natural reaction when

this happens is to pull back, to retreat to the safety of superficial conversations and limited

personal contact. To protect ourselves against further pain by guarding our emotions, not letting

ourselves care too much or reveal too much. Paul Simon put those feelings into words in his

song, "I Am a Rock":

I’ve built walls

A fortress deep and mighty

That none may penetrate

I have no need of friendship

Friendship causes pain

It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain

I am a rock. I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain.

And an island never cries.

A rock feels no pain. An island never cries. But it never rejoices, either, or feels happiness, or

contentment, or love. Instinctively, we know that’s the way of death, not life.


"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne

in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people

one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his

right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ’Come, you who are

blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of

the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me

something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me,

I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. . . I tell you the

truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ " –

Matthew 25:31-40

"Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." – Galatians 6:2

"Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

– Philippians 2:4

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." - 1

Thessalonians 5:11


Disregarding another person’s faults preserves love; telling about them separates close friends." –

Proverbs 17:9 (NLT)

It should go without saying that you aren’t gossiping to others about your friends’ sins and

weaknesses, either. Your goal should be to protect your friends’ reputation, not undermine it.

There is nothing more corrosive to trust than hearing through a third party that someone you

considered a friend has been criticizing you behind your back. If there is something absolutely

must be addressed, something that cannot be overlooked, then do as Paul instructs. Speak to

them, not to others, and speak openly and honestly:

"An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses

from an enemy." – Proverbs 27:5-6 (NLT)

"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But

watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." - Galatians 6:1

If you feel it necessary to confront someone about their sin, it must be with love and humility,

rather than an attitude of spiritual superiority and condemnation. Remember that, even as you are

speaking to them of their fault, you are just as much a sinner as they are, and are subject to the

very same temptations. For the same reason, when a friend sins against you, whether or not you

consider it important enough to say anything about, your first response must be one of

forgiveness. Then, if you do mention it, you can do so with patience and kindness, rather than

bitterness and anger.

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious

behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God

through Christ has forgiven you." – Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT)

Third, and finally, always give them the benefit of the doubt. Assume the best motives you

possibly can. And stick by them, even when they are wrong. Not to affirm or support what they

have done, but to affirm and support them. Be faithful, even when it would be easier to cut and


"A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need." – Proverbs 17:17

If you do these three things, you will be well on your way to building strong, lasting friendships.

Seek to serve, rather than to be served; be generous with praise and stingy with criticism; and be

loyal – stick with them through thick and thin.

Anybody recognize the place on the screen behind me? That’s Epcot center at Disneyworld in

Orlando, FL. Anybody been there? Anybody know why it’s called Epcot?

Epcot stands for "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow." It’s supposed to show you

what tomorrow’s community is going to look like.

But you know what, as I thought about it, Disneyworld is not the Experimental Prototype

Community of Tomorrow. You know what is? The church. The church is the Experimental

Prototype Community of Tomorrow! God started it with the purpose of showing the world his

redemptive love and what he had in mind before the fall of humankind.

It is in this community that we help mature each other in our broken places. We hold each other

accountable for our blind spots. We encourage each other to be all God created us to be.

This is the place where we empower strong marriages. I mean, marriage is the greatest thing but

the hardest thing I know. I need to have other models around me to demonstrate what it means to

be in a healthy, God-loving kind of marriage.

Remember the story of the boy who was trying to find the right girl to marry. And so he found

one and brought her home and his mom just didn’t like her…found didn’t like her,

etc... finally went out and found one exactly like his mom in every way and brought her didn’t like her.

Well, a lot of marriages need help, including yours and mine, and this should be the place we

find that help.

This should be the place where we learn Christian parenting. This is the place where we nurture

healthy identities. That’s what we’re here to do, to model the community of tomorrow, the

prototype, heaven. We are to model that and reach as many people as we can to be a part of it.

People need that connection. It’s why God created Christian friends, and family. It’s why we

have community. And it’s why we cannot ignore a world of hurting and lonely people just

waiting for someone, for some Christian to reach out with a voice of concern and acceptance. We

all need that community.

Remember the story in John 5. I think it’s one of the most pitiful stories in the Bible.

Jesus visits the people at the pool of Siloam, they were all sick and they believed

that when the waters were stirred if you were the first one into the water you would be healed.

And Jesus says to a man who has been there for 38 years, Do you want to get well. And the man

says yes, but I have no one to help me in the water.

Thirty-eight years, hundreds of people around him day after day, but he didn’t have one friend

that would take the time to help him out. That’s called loneliness.

And it doesn’t matter how many people you come into contact with, what matters is This: do we

take the time to develop meaningful relationships with one another.

David and Jonathan, two best friends in the Old Testament, did this well. Unlike a lot of men

today, Jonathan and David spoke to each other about their commitment. "We have sworn

friendship with each other in the name of the Lord...", (1 Samuel 20:42) they said.

Let your friends know loud and clear that you are there for them!

I. Five Commandments For the Wives

(These commands for men and women are drawn primarily from The Art of Understanding Your

Mate. Cecil G. Osborne. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970. pp. 157-184.)

Ladies you may have come with a little bit of dread in you heart today, expecting to be told once

more that all that is needed is for you to be submissive. Submission by both partners is important

but it is not my emphasis for today.

1. Give up on Your Quest for a Perfect Marriage

Marriage is the most difficult and complex of all human relationships and it requires patience,

skill, tact, emotional and spiritual growth. You can “grow a good marriage” if you are willing to

work at it.

Maybe we need to adopt the philosophy of the woman who responded when the pastor asked if

she too her husband for better or worse. She said, “He can’t get much worse, and there ain’t no

hope of him getting any better, so I take him as he is.”

It takes a wise and patience wife to make a good husband. They seldom come ready made.

2. Give up on all Hope of Changing your Husband through Criticism or Attack

The simple truth is “you cannot make your husband more thoughtful by complaining!” Such

tactics usually have one of two results with men, they will either retreat or they will become


We can change no one other than ourselves by direct action. We can only change ourselves and

when we change, others tend to change in reaction to us. Give up making demands. Abandon the

martyr stance. Be what you want him to be.

3. Give Praise and Affection (Instead of Seeking it)(Ephesians 4:29) “Let no corrupt word

proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to

the hearers.” (NKJV)

Be your husband’s biggest fan. Your husband has deep needs to be admired. He wants to know if

you value him, if you respect what he does, if you are proud of him.

If your friends only knew your husband by what they heard you say about him, what would they


When your around your women friends don’t rag on your husband, brag on your husband. Say

good things about him to others. It will pay dividends in your relationship.

4. Do Things Your Husband Likes to Do.

“Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get better return for their

labor (10) If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when

they fall are in real trouble.” (NLT) (Eccles 4:9, 11)

Guys want their wives to be their best friends. They want to hang out with them. They want their

wives to share their interest.

Enjoy time with your husband. Develop the intimacy that comes from having fun together.

5. Provide a Peaceful Place

Proverbs 17:1 (NKJV) “Better is a dry morsel with quietness, Than a house full of feasting with


Would you say that your home is stress-reducing or stress producing? I know that it is difficult to

create a peaceful, loving environment, especially in this society of two career families. In no way

am I suggesting that it is the wife’s sole responsibility to turn her house into a home. It is a team


Just remember that the first few minutes inside the door set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Meet him at the door and welcome him home.

Don’t meet him at the door with the news that Jimmy has been bad, the sink is backed up and oh,

yea the bank called and we are overdrawn.

II. Five Commandments For Husbands

1 Peter 3:7 (NKJV) “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to

the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life…”

Men listen carefully this may be the most important message you will hear all year. If you want

bonus points with your wife today at least pretend to be listening. Extra points go to any man

actually writing something down.

1. Assign Top Priority to your Marriage Relationship

Ephesians 5:25 (NKJV) “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and

gave Himself for her,”

Don’t take your marriage or your mate for granted. You may even need to help around the house.

Some men actually seem to believe that God created Adam and noticed all the clothes lying

around all over the garden and created a woman to pick them up. One woman said that her

husband’s idea of helping out was to lift his feet when she is vacuuming.

Guys we need to put our relationship with our spouse back at the top of the list. Guys where do

you think that your wife would say that she is on your priority list? Does she have to compete

with you work? With your hobbies?

2. Dare to Talk (Give Praise) and ReassuranceIn the book of Proverbs (16:24) we find this wise

words of advice, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the

bones. (NKJV)

Have you ever witnessed two guys trying to express affection for one another. “Hey ugly how’s

it going.” “Good, easy money. How about yourself.” Don’t even think about trying that on a


Guys you need to work at verbalizing your feelings for your wife, (i.e. tell her how you feel).

“There is a story told about a businessman whose wife was experiencing depression. She began

to mope around and be sad, lifeless, no light in her eyes, no spring in her step, joyless. It became

so bad that this “man of the world” did what any sophistic-ated person would do. He made an

appointment with a psychiatrist. On the appointed day, they went to the psychiatrist’s office, sat

down with him and began to talk. It wasn’t long before the wise doctor realized what the

problem was. So without saying a word, he simply stood, walked over in front of the woman’s

chair, signaled her to stand, he took her by the hands, looked at her in the eyes for a long time,

and then gave her a big warm hug. You could immediately see the change come over the woman.

Her face softened, and her eyes lit up. She immediately relaxed. Her whole face glowed.

Stepping back, the doctor said to the husband, ‘See, that’s she needs. With that the husband said,

‘ Okay, I’ll bring her in Tuesday and Thursday each week, but I have to play golf on the other

afternoons.” (# 263)

Somme couples are literally “out of touch” with each other!

3. Listen without feeling the need to solve the Problem.

James 1:9 “…..take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak….”

A common compliant from women is that their husbands don’t listen to them and understand

them. The men, on the other hand, are bewildered and say, “I do listen to her!” What is

happening typically is that the woman wants to talk about a problem and share how she is feeling

about it, the man wants to get out the problem and solve it.

The conversation may go like this.

The woman says, “I had a terrible day a work


The man says, “Well, why don’t you quit.

She says, “I didn’t say I wanted to quit. I

was just trying to tell you I had a hard day.”

He says, “If you didn’t want my opinion

why did you ask for it.”

She says, “Just forget I said anything.”

He says, “I will.”

For the next week try to listen to your wife, let her know you understand how she feels and don’t

try to fix situation unless she asks you to.

4. Avoid Criticism

Proverbs 13:3 “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, But he who opens wide his lips shall

have destruction.” (NKJV)

A man who constantly criticizes and put down his wife can produce numerous results in his wife

almost all of them negative. A regular barrage of criticism, even when warranted, is always

destructive. Criticism in any area is inevitable in almost any human relationship, but the less

there is, the more satisfactory the marriage.

5. Remember the Importance of Little Things

Men are usually less sentimental than women and attach less significance to such things as

birthdays, anniversaries and “special days,” and are apt to over look the little gestures that mean

so much to women. Love is not just a feeling; it involves positive actions which can mean a lot to

a woman.

A husband that forgets his wedding anniversary or his wife’s birthday has committed all most

unforgivable sin. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas all call for special recognition.

For some you to begin to do this will be a shock to your wife. It may be like the story I heard, “A

husband was told by the marriage counselor to try and be nice to his wife. One day he comes

home from work. He’s dressed up in a suit, he has cologne on, he has a bouquet of flowers and a

box of candy in his hands. He’s trying to make a good impression. The wife says, ‘Oh I can’t

believe it! Little Johnny has been throwing up; the dishwasher just broke; your parents are

coming to visit for the weekend and to top it all off, you come home drunk.”


It has been said, “Marriage is never finished, the lesson is never learned, the effort is never at an

end. Marriage like life is a matter of solving the little things, the big things generally take care of


Success in Marriage does not depend on finding the right person so much as it does on being the

right person. Focus on the person you can change, and that is yourself. It is not marriages that

fail, it is people that fail, all that marriage does is reveal that failure.

If the church is to have the impact on the world and our society that God intends for us to have

there must be a re-commitment of Christian homes and marriages to be what God want them to

be. Perhaps you need to begin by making or renewing your commitment to Christ as the Lord of

your life.

In the final analysis the only person who can meet your deepest needs is Jesus. If you are looking

for a man or woman to do that you are looking in the wrong place. God is the only one who can

do that, why not turn to Him today?

Living Bible:

Ecc. 4:12 And one standing alone can be attacked and defeated. But two can stand back to back

and conquer; three is even

better, for a triple braided cord is not easily broken.

Psalms 142:2 I looked on my right hand, and behold, but there was no man that know me; refuge

failed me; no man

cared for my soul.


Have you ever watched COPS on TV?

There is a time when the law officer knows, I must call for BACK UP.

Both my sons are law enforcement officers, they have a criteria for knowing when they should

call for help, for back up.

Not every situation needs back up. In some situations back up would be a waste of manpower,

yet in other situations they will

not approach the need without back up, or at least knowing back up is near.


1.1 JESUS, united by thy grace,

And each to each endeared,

With confidence we seek thy face,

And know our prayer is heard.

2 Still let us own our common Lord,

And bear thine easy yoke,

A band of love, a threefold cord,

Which never can be broke.

3 Make us into one spirit drink;

Baptize into thy name;

And let us always kindly think,

And sweetly speak, the same.

4 Touched by the loadstone of thy love,

Let all our hearts agree,

And ever towards each other move,

And ever move towards thee.

5 To thee, inseparably joined,

Let all our spirits cleave;

O may we all the loving mind

That was in thee receive!

6 This is the bond of perfectness,

Thy spotless charity;

O let us (still we pray) possess

The mind that was in thee!

7 Grant this, and then from all below

Insensibly remove:

Our souls their change shall scarcely know,

Made perfect first in love!

8 With ease our souls through death shall glide

Into their paradise,

And thence, on wings of angels, ride

Triumphant through the skies.

9 Yet, when the fullest joy is given,

The same delight we prove,

In earth, in paradise, in heaven,

Our all in all is love.

13 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king

who no longer knows how to take warning.

BAR�ES, “These verses set forth the vanity of earthly prosperity even on a throne. Opinion as to their application is chiefly divided between considering them a parable or fiction like that of the childless man in Ecc_4:8 : or as setting forth first the vicissitudes of royal life in two proverbial sayings Ecc_4:13-14, and then Ecc_4:15-16, the vicissitudes or procession of the whole human race, one generation giving place to another, Which in its turn will be forgotten by its successor. On the whole, the first appears to have the better claim.


Child - Rather, young man.

CLARKE, “Better is a poor and a wise child - The Targum applies this to Abraham. “Abraham was a poor child of only three years of age; but he had the spirit of prophecy, and he refused to worship the idols which the old foolish king - Nimrod - had set up; therefore Nimrod cast him into a furnace of fire. But the Lord worked a miracle and delivered him. Yet here was no knowledge in Nimrod, and he would not be admonished.” The Targum proceeds:

GILL, “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king,.... The wise man proceeds to show the vanity of worldly power and dignity, in the highest instance of it, which is kingly; and, in order to illustrate and exemplify this, he supposes, on the one hand, a person possessed of royal honour; who has long enjoyed it, is settled in his kingdom, and advanced in years; and who otherwise, for his gravity and dignity, would be venerable; but that he is foolish, a person of a mean genius and small capacity; has but little knowledge of government, or but little versed in the arts of it, though he has held the reins of it long in his hand; and, which is worst of all, is vicious and wicked: on the other hand, he supposes one that is in his tender years, not yet arrived to manhood; and so may be thought to be giddy and inexperienced, and therefore taken but little notice of; and especially being poor, becomes contemptible, as well as labours under the disadvantage of a poor education; his parents poor, and he not able to get books and masters to teach him knowledge; nor to travel abroad to see the world, and make his observations on men and things; and yet being wise, having a good genius, which he improves in the best manner he can, to his own profit, and to make himself useful in the world; and especially if he is wise and knowing in the best things, and fears God, and serves him; he is more happy, in his present state and circumstances, than the king before described is in his, and is fitter to take his place, and be a king, than he is; for though he is young, yet wise, and improving in knowledge, and willing to be advised and counselled by others, older and wiser than himself; he is much to be preferred to one that is old and foolish;

who will no more be admonished; or, "knows not to be admonished any more" (d): he neither knows how to give nor take advice; he is impatient of all counsel; cannot bear any admonition; is stubborn and self-willed, and resolved to take his own way. The Jews, in their Midrash, Jarchi, and others, interpret it, allegorically, of the good and evil imagination in men, the principle of grace, and the corruption of nature; the one is the new man, the other the old man; the new man is better than old Adam: the Targum applies it to Abraham and Nimrod; the former is the poor and wise child, that feared God, and worshipped him early; the latter, the old and foolish king, who was an idolater, and refused to be admonished of his idolatry; and so the Midrash.

HE�RY, “Solomon was himself a king, and therefore may be allowed to speak more freely than another concerning the vanity of kingly state and dignity, which he shows here to be an uncertain thing; he had before said so (Pro_27:24, The crown

doth not endure to every generation), and his son found it so. Nothing is more slippery than the highest post of honour without wisdom and the people's love.

I. A king is not happy unless he have wisdom, Ecc_4:13, Ecc_4:14. He that is truly wise, prudent, and pious, though he be poor in the world, and very young, and upon both accounts despised and little taken notice of, is better, more truly valuable and worthy of respect, is likely to do better for himself and to be a greater blessing to his generation, than a king, than an old king, and therefore venerable both for his gravity and for his dignity, if he be foolish, and knows not how to manage public affairs himself nor will be admonished and advised by others - who knows not to be admonished, that is, will not suffer any counsel or admonition to be given him (no one about him dares contradict him) or will not hearken to the counsel and admonition that are given him. It is so far from being any part of the honour of kings that it is the greatest dishonour to them that can be not to be admonished. Folly and wilfulness commonly go together, and those that most need admonition can worst bear it; but neither age nor titles will secure men respect if they have not true wisdom and virtue to recommend them; while wisdom and virtue will gain men honour even under the disadvantages of youth and poverty. To prove the wise child better than the foolish king he shows what each of them comes to, Ecc_4:14. 1. A poor man by his wisdom comes to be preferred, as Joseph, who, when he was but young, was brought out of prison to be the second man in the kingdom, to which story Solomon seems here to refer. Providence sometimes raises the poor out of the dust, to set them among princes, Psa_113:7, Psa_113:8. Wisdom has wrought not only the liberty of men, but their dignity, raised them from the dunghill, from the dungeon, to the throne. 2. A king by his folly and wilfulness comes to be impoverished. Though he was born in his kingdom, came to it by inheritance, though he has lived to be old in it and has had time to fill his treasures, yet if he take ill courses, and will no more be admonished as he has been, thinking, because he is old, he is past it, he becomes poor; his treasure is exhausted, and perhaps he is forced to resign his crown and retire into privacy.

II. A king is not likely to continue if he have not a confirmed interest in the affections of the people; this is intimated, but somewhat obscurely, in the last two verses. 1. He that is king must have a successor, a second, a child that shall stand up in his stead, his own, suppose, or perhaps that poor and wise child spoken of, Ecc_4:13. Kings, when they grow old, must have the mortification of seeing those that are to jostle them out and stand up in their stead. 2. It is common with the people to adore the rising sun: All the living who walk under the sun are with the second child, are in his interests, are conversant with him, and make their court to him more than to the father, whom they look upon as going off, and despise because his best days are past. Solomon considered this; he saw this to be the disposition of his own people, which appeared immediately after his death, in their complaints of his government and their affectation of a change. 3. People are never long easy and satisfied: There is no end, no rest, of all the people; they are continually fond of changes, and know not what they would have. 4. This is no new thing, but it has been the way of all that have been before them; there have been instances of this in every age: even Samuel and David could not always please. 5. As it has been, so it is likely to be still: Those that come after will be of the same spirit, and shall not long rejoice in him whom at first they seemed extremely fond of. Today, Hosanna - tomorrow, Crucify. 6. It cannot but be a great grief to princes to see themselves thus slighted by those they have studied to oblige and have depended upon; there is no faith in man, no stedfastness. This is vanity and vexation of spirit.

JAMISO�, “The “threefold cord” [Ecc_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; 1Ki_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).

ELLICOTT, “13. Better is… a wise child — This would be better rendered youth, as the word is often used even of those near manhood.

An old and foolish king — Age and royalty have always been objects of veneration in the East; but an aged “king” who has been so foolish as to alienate all his counsellors, and come to later years without their support, is here put as inferior to a poor youth who is still teachable.

COKE, “Ecclesiastes 4:13. Better is a poor and a wise child, &c.— Better is the experienced and wise

son, than the old, &c. Desvoeux; who has shewn, that the word מסכן misken, from the

root סכן saken, properly signifies experienced; and by this interpretation the passage appears with new

beauties; for what can be more striking than the title which the wise son, the young prince here spoken of, has to the preference given him above his father, when he is represented as possessed in his youth of those very qualifications, experience and wisdom, which are generally looked upon as the properties of old age? And what could make his worth more conspicuous than the opposition of the old king's faults in those very respects? See chap. Ecclesiastes 10:6; Ecclesiastes 7:16-17.

K&D, ““Better is a youth poor and wise, than a king old and foolish, who no longer understands how to be warned,” - i.e., who increases his folly by this, that he is “wise in his own eyes,” Proverbs 26:12; earlier,

as עוד denotes, he was, in some measure, accessible to the instruction of others in respect of what was

wanting to him; but now in his advanced age he is hardened in his folly, bids defiance to all warning counsel,

and undermines his throne. The connection of the verb ידע with ל and the inf. (for which elsewhere only

the inf. is used) is a favourite form with the author; it means to know anything well,Ecclesiastes 5:1; Ecclesiastes 6:8; Ecclesiastes 10:15; here is meant an understanding resting on the knowledge of

oneself and on the knowledge of men. נזהר is here and at Ecclesiastes 12:12, Psalm 19:12,

a Niph. tolerativum, such as the synon. נוסר, Psalm 2:10: to let oneself be cleared up, made wiser,

enlightened, warned. After this contrast, the ideaCONNECTED with חכם also defines itself. A young

man (ילד, as at Daniel 1:4, but also Genesis 4:23) is meant who (vid., above, p. 639, under (misken)) yet

excels the old imbecile and childish king, in that he perceives the necessity of a fundamental change in the present state of public matters, and knows how to master the situation to such aDEGREE that he raises

himself to the place of ruler over the neglected community.


"Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king, who knoweth not how to receive admonition any more. For out of prison he came forth to be king; yea, even in his kingdom, he was born poor. I saw all the living that walk under the sun, that they were with the youth, the second that stood up in his stead. There was no end of all the people, even of all them over whom he was: yet they that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind."

Some have tried to find the Biblical story of Joseph in this, but without success. "It is probably a parable, of a

poor youth who through wisdom rose to be king."[13]

"They that come after" (Ecclesiastes 4:16). "This refers to those of a later generation who were not present when the youth became king."[14]

We find it difficult to understand what is meant here. Kidner's interpretation appears to be the bestAVAILABLE . "The paragraph has its obscurities; but it portrays something common in public life, the short-lived popularity of the great. First there was the stubbornness of the old man who had been king too long."[15] There are elements in this which suggest both the rise of Joseph to kingly dignity, and that of David whose second half of the kingship so vividly contrasted with the first half; but nearly all scholarsAGREE that, "The passage was not designed to be historical."[16]

The big points in the paragraph are (a) the bad example of the foolish old king too stubborn to take advice, who, of course, lost his throne, and (b) the fickleness of the public who afterward hated the wise youth who succeeded the old king.

Sir Walter Scott, whom I quoted in my first commentary (Matthew), and whom I'm glad toQUOTE also in this my last one, paid his respects to the fickleness of public opinion in these words:"Who o'er the herd would wish to reign?

Fantastic, fickle, fierce, and vain,

Vain as a leaf upon the stream,

And fickle as a changeful dream,

Fantastic as a woman's mood,

And fierce as frenzy's fevered blood;

Thou many headedMONSTER thing,O, who would wish to be thy king"?[17]

PULPIT, “Better is a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king. The word translated "child"

(yeled), is used sometimes of one beyond childhood (see Gen_30:26; Gen_37:30; 1Ki_12:8), so here it may

be rendered "youth." Misken, πενὴς , pauper (Vulgate), "poor," is found also at Ecc_9:15, Ecc_9:16, and nowhere else; but the root, with an analogous signification, occurs at Deu_8:9and Isa_40:20. The clause says that a youth who is clever and adroit, though sprung from a sordid origin, is better off than a king who has not learned wisdom with his years, and who, it is afterwards implied, is dethroned by this young man. Who will no more be admonished; better, as in the Revised Version, who knoweth not how to receive admonition any more. Age has only fossilized his self-will and obstinacy; and though he was once open to advice and hearkened to reproof, he now bears no contradiction and takes no counsel. Septuagint, Ὅς οὐκ ἔγνω τοῦπροέχειν ἔτι , "Who knows not how to take heed any longer;" which is perhaps

similar to the Vulgate, Qui nescit praevidere in posterum, "Who knows not how to look forward to the future."

The words will bear this translation, and itACCORDS with one view of the author's meaning (see below); but that given above is more suitable to the interpretation of the paragraph which approves itself to us. The sentence is of general import, and may be illustrated by a passage from the Book of Wisdom (Wis. 4:8, 9), "Honorable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that is measured by length of years. But wisdom is the grey hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age." So Cicero, 'De Senect.,' 18.62, "Non cant nee rugae repente auctoritatem arripere possunt, sod honeste acta superior aetas fructus capit aactoritatis extremes." Some have thought that Solomon is here speaking of himself, avowing his folly and expressing his contrition, in view of his knowledge of Jeroboam's delegation to the kingdom—the crafty youth of poor estate (1Ki_11:26, etc.), whom the Prophet Ahijah had warned of approaching greatness. But there is nothing in the recorded history of Solomon to make probable such expression of self-abasement, and our author could never have so completely misrepresented him. Here, too, is another proof that Ecclesiastes is not written by Solomon himself.

PULPIT 13-16, “The vicissitudes of royalty; or, the experience of a king.

I. WELCOMED IN YOUTH. The picture sketched that of a political revolution. "An old and foolish king, no

longer understanding how to be warned," who has fallen out of touch with the times, and neither himself

discerns the governmental changes demanded by the exigencies of the hour, nor is willing to be guided by

his state councilors, is deposed in favor of a youthful hero who has caught the popular imagination,

perceived the necessities of the situation, learnt how to humor the fickle crowd, contrived to install himself in

their affections, and succeeded in promoting himself to be their ruler.

1. Climbing the ladder. Originally a poor man's son, he had raised himself to be a leader of his countrymen,

perhaps as Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, did in the days of Rehoboam (1Ki_11:26-28), interesting himself in

the social and political condition of his fellow-subjects, sympathizing with their grievances, probably acting

as their spokesman in laying these before the aged sovereign; and, when their demands were unheeded,

possibly fanning their discontent, and even helping them to plot insurrection—for which, having been

detected, he was cast into prison. Nevertheless, neither his humble birth nor his forcible incarceration had

been sufficient to degrade him in the people's eyes.

2. Standing on the summit. Accordingly, when the tide of discontent had risen so high that they could no

longer tolerate their senile and imbecile monarch, and their courage had waxed so valiant as to enable them

successfully to carry through his deposition, they bethought themselves of the imprisoned hero who had

espoused and was then suffering for their cause, and having fetched him forth from confinement, proceeded

with him to the then deserted palace, where they placed upon his head the crown, amid shouts of jubilant

enthusiasm, crying, "God save the king!" It is doubtless an ideal picture, which in its several details has often

been realized; as, e.g; when Joseph was fetched from the round house of Heliopolis, and seated on the

secondTHRONE OF EGYPT (Gen_41:14, Gen_41:40); as when David was crowned at

Hebron on Saul's death by the men of Judah (2Sa_2:4), and Jeroboam at Shechem by the tribes of Israel

(1Ki_12:20); as when Athaliah was deposed, and the boy Joash made king in her stead (2Ki_11:12).

3. SURVEYING his fortune. So far as the new-made king was concerned, the commencement

of his reign was auspicious. It doubtless never occurred to him that the sun of his royal person would ever

know decline, or that he would ever experience the fate of his predecessor. It was with him the dawn of rosy-

fingered morn; how the day would develop was not foreseen, least of all was it discerned how the night

should fall!


1. Extending his renown. Seated on his throne, he wields the scepter of irresponsible authority for a long

series of years. As the drama of his life unfolds, he grows in the affections of his people. With every

revolution of the sun his popularity increases. The affairs of his kingdom prosper. The extent of his

dominions widens. All the kingdoms of the earth come to place themselves beneath his rule. Like another

Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Xerxes, Alexander, Caesar, he is a world-governing autocrat. "All the living who

walk under the sun" are on the side of the man who had been born poor, and had once languished in a

prison; neither is there any end to all the people at whose head he is.

2. Enjoying his felicity. One would say, as perhaps in the heyday of his prosperity he said to himself, the cup

of his soul's happiness was full. He had obtained all the world could bestow of earthly glory, power the most

exalted, influence the most extended, riches the most abundant, fame the most renowned, popularity the

most secure! What could he wish else? The sun of his royal highness was shining in meridian splendor, and

prostrate nations were adoring him as a god. No one surely would venture to suggest that the orb of his

majestical divinity might one day suffer an eclipse. We shall see! Strange things have happened on this

much-agitated planet.


1. The shadows gathering. The brightest earthly glory is liable to fade. One who has reached the topmost

pinnacle of tame, and is the object of admiration to millions of his fellows, may yet sink so low that men shall

say of him, as Mark Antony said of the fallen Caesar—

"Now lies he there,

And none so poor to do him reverence."

The idol of one age may become an object of execration to the next. As in ancient Egypt another king arose

who knew not Joseph, so in the picture of the Preacher grew to manhood another generation which knew

not the poor wise youth who had been his country's deliverer. He of whom it had once been said—

"All tongues speak of him, and the bleared sights

Are spectacled to see him Ï and such a pother [made about him],

As if that whatsoever God who leads him

Were slyly crept into his human powers,

And gave him graceful posture"—

('Coriolanus,' act 2. se. 1.)

lived to be an object of derision to his subjects.

2. The night descending. In the irony of history, the same (or a similar) fate overtook him as had devoured

his predecessor. As the men and women of a past age had counted his predecessor an imbecile and a fool,

so were the men and women of the present age disposed to look on him. If they did not depose him, they

did not "rejoice in him," as their fathers had done when they hailed him as their country's savior; they simply

suffered him to drop into ignominious contempt, and perhaps well-merited oblivion. Such spectacles of the

vanity of kingly state had been witnessed before the Preacher's day, and have been not unknown since. So

fared it with the boy-prince Joash (2Ki_11:12; 2Ch_24:25), and with Richard II; whose subjects cried "All

hail!" to him in the day of his popularity, but to whom, when he put off his regal dignity,

"No man cried, 'God save him!'

No joyful tongue gave him his welcome home,

But dust was thrown upon his sacred head."

('King Richard II.,' act 5. sc. 2.)


1. The vanity of earthly glory.

2. The fickleness of popular renown.

3. The ingratitude of men.

BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR 13-16, “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish

king, who will no more be admonished.On the advantages of Christian knowledge to the lower orders of society

There is no topic on which the Bible maintains a more lucid and entire consistency of sentiment than the superiority of moral over all physical and all external distinctions. One very animating inference to be drawn from our text is, how much may be made of humanity. Did a king come to take up his residence amongst us—did he shed a grandeur over our city by the presence of his court, and give the impulse of his expenditure to the trade of its population—it were not easy to rate the value and the magnitude which such an event would have on the estimation of a common understanding, or the degree of personal importance which would attach to him who stood a lofty object in the eye of admiring townsmen. And yet it is possible, out of the raw and ragged materials of an obscurest lane, to rear an individual of more inherent worth than him who thus draws the gaze of the world upon his person. By the act of training in wisdom’s ways the most tattered and neglected boy who runs upon our pavements do we present the community with that which, in wisdom’s estimation, is of greater price than this gorgeous

inhabitant of a palace. Even without looking beyond the confines of our present world, the virtue of humble life will bear to be advantageously contrasted with all the pride and glory of an elevated condition. The man who, though among the poorest of them all, has a wisdom and a weight of character which makes him the oracle of his neighbourhood—the man who, vested with no other authority than the meek authority of worth, carries in his presence a power to shame and to overawe the profligacy that is around him—the venerable father, from whoso lowly tenement the voice of psalms is heard to ascend with the offering up of every evening sacrifice—the Christian sage, who, exercised among life’s severest hardships, looks calmly onward to heaven, and trains the footsteps of his children in the way that leads to it—the eldest of a well-ordered family, bearing their duteous and honourable part in the contest with its difficulties and its trials—all these offer to our notice such elements of moral respectability as do exist among the lowest orders of human society, and elements, too, which admit of being multiplied far beyond the reach of any present calculation. But, to attain a just estimate of the superiority of the poor man who has wisdom, over the rich man who has it not, we must enter into the calculation of eternity—we must look to wisdom in its true essence, as consisting of religion, as having the fear of God for its beginning, and the rule of God for its way, and the favour of God for its full and satisfying termination—we must compute how speedily it is, that, on the wings of time, the season of every paltry distinction between them must at length pass away; how soon death will strip the one of hie rags, and the other of his pageantry, and send them in utter nakedness to the dust; how soon judgment will summon them from their graves, and place them in outward equality before the Great Disposer of their future lot, and their future place, through ages which never end; how in that situation the accidental distinctions of life will be rendered void, and personal distinctions will be all that shall avail them; how, when examined by the secrets of the inner man, and the deeds done in their body, the treasure of heaven shall be adjudged only to him whose heart was set upon it in this world; and how tremendously the account between them will be turned, when it shall be found of the one, that he must perish for lack of knowledge, and of the other, that he has the wisdom which is unto salvation. And let me just state that the great instrument for thus elevating the poor is that Gospel of Jesus Christ, which may be preached unto the poor. It is the doctrine of His Cross finding an easier admission into their hearts than it does through those barriers of human pride and human resistance, which are often reared on the basis of literature. Let the testimony of God be simply taken in, that on His own Son He has laid the iniquities of us all—and from this point does the humble scholar of Christianity pass into light, and enlargement, and progressive holiness. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

The old king and the youth

It has been thought that Ecclesiastes must here be referring to some well-known event of his own times: but, if this be the case, the event has not yet been identified. Perhaps he is simply presenting an imaginary but possible case, for which there had been quite sufficient basis in many a political revolution. In those old kingdoms and empires it was always possible that even a beggar or prisoner might rise to the throne, whilst the monarch who had been born to the crown might, in his old age, perhaps through his own folly, become a poor man in his own kingdom. Such was the instability of the most exalted of earthly positions. And Ecclesiastes sketches the picture of the young upstart—a usurper wise and skilful enough to make himself the leader of a successful revolution, and to place himself in the stead of the old monarch. So great is the popularity of this usurper that he becomes the idol of the hour: millions flock around his standard, and place him on the throne. But even this popularity is, in turn, an evanescent thing; “those who come after him” (the people of a younger generation) “shall not rejoice in him.” He, too, has only his day. It may be that, even during his lifetime, he loses the popular favour: and,

at the best, he soon passes away in death, and is speedily forgotten. Thus the glory and fame even of monarchy itself is also “vanity and feeding on wind.” It would not be difficult to find many a “historical parallel” to this picture. One of the most striking has occurred within the memory of some of us. When Louis Philippe, the aged King of France, who would not be admonished by the signs of the times, had at length to flee from his own kingdom in 1848, Louis Napoleon, who, not long before, had been for five years a prisoner in the fortress of Ham, appeared in Paris, and, throwing himself into the midst of political affairs, gradually became more and more popular, until in due time he became President of the Republic, and ultimately Emperor of France. We know how he was worshipped by the masses of the French people, how there was “no end of all the people” who flocked around him in their enthusiasm. And we know how, after many years of royal splendour, the collapse came suddenly at last, and how, after the defeat at Sedan, the nation, almost as one man, turned round and kicked the idol they had worshipped. Even one of our own poets had hailed him as “Emperor evermore!” But where is all his “glory” now? Surely “vanity of vanities” might well be inscribed on the tomb of Napoleon

III. And, indeed, the career of many a man who has been borne along into high position on the wave of popular enthusiasm furnishes a most salutary lesson as to the real value of mere earthly fame and greatness. (T. C. Finlayson.).

HAWKER, “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be

admonished. (14) For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his

kingdom becometh poor.The sense of these verses is very plain. The folly spoken of in scripture, means a state void of Christ, who is himself wisdom. Poverty with Jesus is blessed. Any state, and every state, without Jesus, is wretched. If we read this, or any other part of scripture, when speaking of folly in this point of view, those two scriptures will beautifully illustrate and explain it. The first is, Isa_27:11; and the second Job_28:28.

BENSON, “Ecclesiastes 4:13-14. He nowPROCEEDS to another vanity, even that of honour and power, and the highest places. Better — More happy; is a poor and wise child — Who is doubly contemptible, both for his age and for his poverty; than an old and foolish king, who, though venerable for his age, and gravity, and royal dignity, yet hath neither wisdom to govern himself, nor to receive the counsels or admonitions of wiser men, but is foolish, rash, and incorrigible. For out of prison he — The poor and wise child; cometh to reign — Is ofttimes advanced by his wisdom to the highest power and dignity; which was the case with Joseph, Mordecai, and many others; whereas he that is born in his kingdom — That old king, who was born of the royal race, and had possessed his kingdom for a long time; becometh poor — Is deprived of his kingdom, either by the rebellion of his subjects, provoked by his folly, or by the power of some other and wiser prince.

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:13 Better [is] a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.

Ver. 13. Better is a poor and wise child.] Such as was Joseph, David, Daniel, and his three comrades, &c.; apt to learn, ready to receive instruction, and as careful to follow it. And well doth the Preacher join poverty with wisdom, for, Nescio quomodo bonae mentis soror est paupertas, saith he in Petronius; and,Paupertas est philosophiae vernacula, - Poverty is the proper language of philosophy, and wisdom is undervalued little and set by. Those wisest of the Greeks were very poor - Aristides, Phocion, Pelopidas, Epaminondas, Socrates, Ephialtes. (a) So were those worthies "of whom the world was not worthy; they wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins, being destitute." [Hebrews 11:38] Sweet smelling Smyrna was the poorest of all the seven churches, yet hath the richest price set upon it. [Revelation 2:8-11] Lactantius died miserably

poor; so did Theodorus Gaza, that learned Greek. Of Archimedes thus sings Silius, -

“Nudus opum, sed cui coelum terraeque patebant.” (b)

But I am fully of Aeneas Sylvius’s judgment, that popular men should esteem wisdom as silver, noblemen as gold, princes as pearls. Of Queen Elizabeth (that peerless princess) it is said that she hated, no less than did Mithridates, such as despised virtue forsaken of fortune. (c)

Than an old and foolish king.] Brabanli quo magis senescunt, eo magis stultescunt. (d) So do many men of quality, monarchs and others, weak, and yet wilful,SHORT witted, and yet self-conceited; such as were Saul, Rehoboam, Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar, our Henry III, called Regni dilapidator, destroyer of kingdoms, and that James that reigned in Scotland in our Edward IV’s time, of whom as the story is told that he was so much wedded to his own opinion, that he could not endure any man’s advice (how good soever) that he fancied not. He would seldom ask counsel, but never follow any. (e) Xerxes, in his expedition against Greece, isREPORTED to have called his princes together, and thus to have spoken to them: Lest I should seem to follow mine own counsel, I have assembled you; and now do you remember, that it becomes you rather to obey than to advise. (f)

14 The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or

he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom.

BAR�ES, “Rather: For out of the house of bondage he goes forth to be a king; although he was born poor in his kingdom, i. e., in the country over which he became king.

CLARKE, “For out of prison he cometh to reign - “Then Abraham left the country of the idolaters, where he had been imprisoned, and came and reigned over the land of Canaan; and Nimrod became poor in this world.” This is the fact to which the ancient rabbins supposed Solomon to allude.

GILL, “For out of prison he cometh to reign,.... That is, this is sometimes the case of a poor and wise child; he rises out of a low, mean, abject, obscure state and condition, to the highest dignity; from a prison house, or a place where servants are, to sit among princes, and even to have the supreme authority: so Joseph, to whose case Solomon is thought to have respect, and which is mentioned in the Midrash; who was but a young man, and poor and friendless, but wise; and was even laid in prison, though innocent and guiltless, from whence he was fetched, and became the second man in the kingdom of Egypt; so David, the youngest of Jesse's sons, was taken from the sheepfold, and set upon the throne of Israel: though Gussetius

(e) interprets this of the old and foolish king, who comes out of the house or family, הסודים,�of�















JAMISO�, “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).

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:14 For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also [he that is] born in his kingdom becometh poor.

VER 14. For out of prison he cometh to reign.] As Valentinian the emperor; Sultan Mustapha the great Turk, A.D. 1622; our Henry IV, who was crowned the very same day that, the year before, he had been banished the realm. (a) As, on the other side, Henry VI was sent again prisoner to the Tower the same day that he had been carried through the city, as it were, in triumph, and had heard the shouts of the commons in every street, crying, God save King Henry. Lo! he that had been the most potent monarch for dominions, saith the chronicler, (b) that ever England had, was not now theMASTER OF a molehill, nor owner of his own liberty. So that in him it appeared that mortality was but the stage of mutability, when a man born in his kingdom, yea, born to a kingdom, became thus miserably poor. Furthermore, Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, grandchild to John of Gaunt, may serve as a fit instance and example to all how uncertain Adam’s sons are of any continuing greatness. For, saith Philip Commines, I once saw him run on foot bare legged after the Duke of Burgundy’s train, begging (c) his bread for God’s sake; but he uttered not his name, he being the nearest of the house of Lancaster, and brother-in-law unto King Edward IV, from whom he fled; and being known who he was, Burgundy gave him a small pension to maintain his estate. (d)

ELLICOTT, “14. Out of prisonJ reign — The possibilities of the “youth” are stated as a reason for the declaration of the preceding verse. He may go from prison to a throne, while a born king, managing foolishly, may become a poor outcast. The bright example of Joseph was ever recurring to Jewish writers. Also, that of Jeroboam the “industrious,” who, after the death of Solomon, returned from exile in Egypt and became

king of Israel.

PULPIT, “For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor. The ambiguity of the pronouns has induced different interpretations of this verse. It is plain that the paragraph is intended to corroborate the statement of the previous verse, contrasting the fate of the poor, clever youth with that of the old, foolish king. The Authorized Version makes the pronoun in the first clause refer to the youth, and those in the second to the king, with the signification that rich and poor change places—one is abased as the other is exalted. Vulgate,Quod de carcere catenisque interdum quis egrediatnr ad regnum; et alius natus in regno inopia consummatur. The Septuagint is somewhat ambiguous, Ὅτι ἐξ οἴκου

τῶν δεσµίων ελξελεύσεται τοῦ βασιλεῦσαι ὅτι καί γε ἐν βασιλείᾳ αὐτοῦ ἐγενήθη πένης , "For from the house of prisoners he shall come forth to reign, because in his kingdom he [who?] was born [or, 'became'] poor." It seems, however, most natural to make the leading pronouns in both clauses refer to the youth, and thus to render: "For out of the house of prisoners goeth he forth to reign, though even in his kingdom he was born poor." Beth hasurim is also rendered "house of fugitives," and Hitzig takes the expression as a description of Egypt, whither Jeroboam fled to escape the vengeance of Solomon. Others see here an allusion to Joseph, who was raised from prison, if not to be king, at least to an exalted position which might thus be designated. In this case the old and foolish king who could not look to the future is Pharaoh, who could not understand the dream which was sent for his admonition. Commentators have wearied themselves with endeavoring to find some other historical basis for the supposed allusion in the passage. But although many of these suggestions (e.g. Saul and David, Joash and Amaziah, Cyrus and Astyages, Herod and Alexander) meet a part of the case, none suit the whole passage (Ecc_4:13-16). It is possible, indeed, that some particular allusion is intended to some circumstance or event with which we are not acquainted. At the same time, it seems to us that, without much straining of language, the reference to Joseph can be made good. If it is objected that it cannot be said that Josephwas born in the kingdom of Egypt, we may reply that the words may be taken to refer to his cruel position in his own country, when he was despoiled and sold, and may be said metaphorically to have "become poor;" or the word nolad may be considered as equivalent to "came," "appeared," and need not be restricted to the sense of "born."

LANGE, “The confusion and difficulty which such a mode of treatment (whether by Orthodox or Rationalist) has made in the interpretation of Ecc_4:13, have been greatly increased by a wrong translation

of Ecc_4:14 th. It has been most commonly held that the, pronoun in î◌ì◌ëå◌úå (his kingdom) refers to the

young man, and ðåì◌ã , to some one, or to the subjects generally, born under his usurped power. This certainly destroys the contrast which the arrangement and the particles of the two verses seem to intend. Again, ðåì◌ã (as a participle), or ðåì◌ã , has been taken as referring to the young man himself, born in his, that is, the old man’s, kingdom—said young usurper himself afterwards becoming poor. Such seems to be Zöckler’s view partially. All sorts of twists are resorted to by others to make thisAPPLICABLE

to Jeroboam, or Hitzig’s “young man” Joseph, or to somebody else. Our E.V. is ambiguous as to which is meant, and leaves the sense in total darkness. There is a striking contrast intended here, as is shown by the order of the words, and the particles ë◌◌é â◌í . There is meant to be the most direct antithesis, as best illustrating such a vicissitude of fortune. The one born to a throne and becoming poor, is put in strongest contrast with the one born in obscurity and rising to power: “For out of prison (out of servitude or some condition of restraint, it may be actual imprisonment) the one comes forth to reign, whilst

the other, though born in his kingdom (in his royal state), becomes a pauper. “The particle â◌◌í has an

emotional force; it expresses astonishment at such a case: yea, more—what is stranger still—“the royally born becomes poor.” There is good authority for such a view, although most of the commentators wander after something else. The Vulgate renders it most clearly and literally: De carcere et catenis quis egrediatur inlerdum ad regnum, et alius, natus in regno, inopia consumatur: “From prison and from chains one may sometimes come forth to a kingdom, whilst another born in a kingdom may be reduced to want.” It is clear, from the mode of expression, that the Latin translator looked upon it as a general illustration of the changes in human fortune. A still better authority is the old Greek Version of Symmachus, the best of the Greek interpreters: ‘O MEN ãὰñ ἐê öõëáêῆò ἐîῆëèå âáóéëåῦóáé , ‘ Ï ÄÅ , êáßðåñ âáóéëåὺò ãåííçèÝéò , ἐóôéí

ἐíäåÞò : “The one comes from prison to reign, the other, born a king, becomes needy. This is confirmed by

the Syriac translation of Origen’s Hexapla, which follows the Greek of Symmachus, word for word. See it, as given in the Syriac marginal translations to Middledorpf’s edition of the Codex Syriaco-hexaplaris.

Ecc_4:14. For out of prison he cometh to reign.— á◌◌éú ä◌ñå◌ø◌éí contracted from á◌◌éú

ä◌à◌ñå◌ø◌éí (comp. similar contractions in 2Ch_22:5; Eze_20:30), also synonymous with á◌◌éú

à◌ñ◌éø◌éí ,Jdg_16:21; Jdg_16:25 (comp. Gen_39:20). Or else this reading ä◌ñå◌øéí must owe its origin to the opinion that Joseph’s elevation from the prison to the throne (Genesis 41 :) is here alluded to, in which case we should read á◌◌éú ä◌ñ◌å◌øéí , and explain this either by “house of the outcast” “of the degraded” (Ewald, comparing Isa_49:21), or “by house of the fugitives” (Hitzig, comparingJdg_4:18; 2Sa_3:36). But these varied meanings would produce very little difference in the sense,—Whereas also he that is born in

his kingdom becometh poor.— ë◌◌é â◌í , after the ë◌◌é of the preceding clause, introduces not so much a verification of it, as an intensification, by which is expressed that the prisoner (or fugitive) has not merely transiently fallen into adversity, but that he was born in poor and lowly circumstances; and

this á◌◌î◌ì◌ëå◌úå “in his kingdom,” i. e., in the same land that ho should afterwards rule as king (Hitzig,

Elster, Vaihinger and Ewald, who are mainly correct). Rosenmueller, Knobel and Hahn translate: “although

he was born poor in his kingdom;” Hengstenberg: “for although born in his kingdom, he becomes poor nevertheless”—both of them less suitable meanings, of which the latter should be rejected as too artificial and contrary to the accentuation.

K&D, “For out of the prison-house he goeth forth to reign as king, although he was born as a poor man in

his kingdom.” With י כ the properties of poverty and wisdom attributed to the young man are verified, -

wisdom in this, that he knew how to find the way from a prison to a throne. As (harammim), 2 Chronicles 22:5 = (haarammim), 2 Kings 8:28, so (hasurim) = (haasurim) (cf. (masoreth) = (maasoreth), Ezekiel 20:37); (beth haasirim) ((Kerı); (haasurim)), Judges 16:21, Judges 16:25, and (beth haesur), Jeremiah 38:15, designate the prison; cf. Moëd katan, Ecclesiastes 3:1. The modern form of the language prefers this elision

of the א, e.g., תרב ,אל־אתר = אלתר ,אלו אף = אפלו post = אתר ב contra, etc. The perf. יחא is also

thought of as having reached the throne, and having pre-eminence assigned to him as such. He has come forth from the prison to become king, רש Ï Úי . Zöckler translates: “Whereas also he that was born in his

kingdom was poor,” and adds the remark: “ כי גם , after the כי of the preceding clause, does not so much introduce a verification of it, as much rather an intensification; by which is expressed, that the prisoner has not merely transitorily fallen into such misery, but that he was born in poor and lowly circumstances, and that

in his own kingdom ם ב , i.e., in the same land which he should afterwards rule as king.” But כי גם is nowhere

used by Koheleth in the sense of “ja auch” (= whereas also); and also where it is thus to be translated, as at Jeremiah 14:18; Jeremiah 23:11, it is used in the sense of “denn auch” (= for also), assigning proof. The fact is, that this group of particles,ACCORDING as כי is thought of as demonst. or relat., means either

“denn auch,” Ecclesiastes 4:16; Ecclesiastes 7:22; Ecclesiastes 8:16, or “wenn auch” = ἐὰν καί , as here

and at Ecclesiastes 8:12. In the latter case, it is related to י כ Ûם (sometimes also merely ם ג , Psalm

95:9; Malachi 3:15), as ἐὰν ( εἰ ) καί , although, notwithstanding, is to καὶ ἐάν ( εἰ ), even although.(Note: That the accentuation separates the two words כי גם־ is to be judged from this, that it almost

everywhere prefers כי אם־ (vid., under Comm. to Psalm 1:2).)

Thus 14b, connecting itself with למלך, is to be translated: “although he was born (נולד,not נולד) in his kingdom as a poor man.”

(Note: רש נולד cannot mean “to become poor.” Grätz appeals to the Mishnic language; but no intelligent

linguist will use רש נולד of a man in any other sense than that he is originally poor.)

We cannot also concur with Zöckler in the view that the suff. of:_b refers to the young upstart: in the kingdom which should afterwards become his; for this reason, that the suff. of תח, Ecclesiastes 4:16 , refers

to the old king, and thus also that this designation may be mediated, בם must refer to him. מלכות signifies kingdom, reign, realm; here, the realm, as at Nehemiah 9:35, Daniel 5:11; 6:29. Grätz thinks Ecclesiastes 4:13-16 ought to drive expositors to despair. But hitherto we have found no room for despair in obtaining a meaning from them. What follows also does not perplex us. The author describes how all the world hails the entrance of the new youthful king on his government, and gathers together under his sceptre.

15 I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed

the youth, the king's successor.

BAR�ES, “I considered ... - literally, I saw “all the population of the young man’s kingdom.”The second child - This second youth is generally understood to be identical with the one

mentioned in Ecc_4:13.

CLARKE, “With the second child that shall stand up - The Targum applies this to the case of Jeroboam and Rehoboam. History affords many instances of mean persons raised to sovereign authority, and of kings being reduced to the meanest offices, and to a morsel of bread. Agrippa himself ascended the throne of Israel after having been long in prison. See Josephus, Ant. lib. 18: c. 8. This the heathens attributed to fortune.

Si fortuna volet, fies de rhetore consul;Si volet haec eadem, fies de consule rhetor.Juv. Sat. vii., ver. 197.

Though I have given what the Jews suppose to be the allusion in these verses, yet the reader may doubt whether the reference be correct. There is a case implied, whether from fact or assumption I cannot say; but it seems to be this:

A king who had abused the authority vested in him by oppressing the people, had a son whose prudent conduct promised much comfort to the nation, when he should come to the throne. The father, seeing the popular wish, and becoming jealous of his son, shut him up in prison. In the interim the old king either dies or is deposed, and the son is brought out of prison, and placed on the throne. Then (Ecc_4:15, Ecc_4:16) multitudes of the people flock to him, and begin to walk under the sun; i.e., the prosperous state to which the nation is raised by its redemption from the former tyranny. However, the wise man insinuates that this sunshine will not last long. The young king, feeling the reins in his own hands, and being surrounded by those whose interest it was to flatter in order to obtain and continue in court favor, he also becomes corrupted so that those who come after shall have no cause of rejoicing in him. This appears to be the case; and similar cases have frequently occurred, not only in Asiatic, but also in European history, I have, in another place, referred to the case of Rushn Achter, who was brought out of prison and set upon the throne of Hindoostan. This is expressed in the following elegant Persian couplet, where his fortune is represented as similar to that of the patriarch Joseph: -

“The bright star is now become a moon:Joseph is taken out of prison, and become a king.”

Rushn Achter signifies a bright or splendid star.

GILL, “I considered all the living which walk under the sun,.... All men that were then alive, who were capable of walking upon the earth; even all of them that were under the heavens, in every land and nation, under whatsoever dominion or government: these, and their manners, Solomon had particularly observed, and made his remarks upon, by which it appeared how fickle the minds of the populace were under every government, and how precarious and uncertain were the honour and dignity of princes;

with the second child that shall stand up in his stead: the heir and successor or every prince, that shall rise up and take the throne of his father or predecessor, and reign in his stead. The wise man observed how the people commonly behaved towards him; how that they generally stood best affected to him, than to the reigning prince; worshipped the rising sun, courted his favour and friendship, soothed and flattered him; expressing their wishes to see him on the throne, and treated with neglect and contempt their lawful sovereign. Some, contrary to the accents, connect this with the word "walk" (h); that walk with the second child, join themselves to him, converse with him, and show him great respect and honour: and there are others that, by this second child, understand the poor and wise child, that succeeds the old and foolish king, whom yet, in time, the people grow weary of; such is the levity and inconstancy of people, that they are not long pleased with princes, old or young, wise or foolish. The Targum interprets this of the foresight Solomon had, by a spirit of prophecy, of those that rebelled against his son Rehoboam, and of those that cleaved unto him, who was his second, and reigned in his stead. Noldius (i) thinks Solomon refers to the history of his friend Hiram, king of Tyre, whose kingdom, in his and in his son's time, was very large, flourishing, and opulent, but in a following reign not so; and he renders and paraphrases the words thus,

""I saw all the works under the sun; with Baleazarus, the son of a friend" (Hiram, for שני,�





JAMISO�, ““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, his stead — the old king’s.

ELLICOTT, “(15) I considered.—Heb., I saw. Most modern interpreters regard the “second child” as identical with the “young man” of Ecclesiastes 4:13, and understand the passage, “I saw him at the head of all his people; yet his great popularity was but temporary, and the next generation took no pleasure in him.” It seems to me that by no stretch of rhetoric can “all the living which walk under the sun” be taken for the subjects of the sovereign in question. I am inclined to think that the Preacher reverts to the general topic, and considered all the living with the “second youth,” i.e., the second generation which shall succeed them. He saw the old generation hardened in its ways, and incapable of being admonished, and then displaced by a new generation, with which the next will feel equal dissatisfaction.

HAWKER, “I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead. (16) There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit.If we read those aphorisms of the Preacher without looking for the explanations of them in the gospel, we shall be led to consider them rather as the melancholy effusions of a mind soured with life, than as the reflections of a wise and prosperous king, who, from the experience of carnal vanities, had formed those just conclusions, in order to lead the heart to the pursuit of better things. Nothing can be more evident, than that the Holy Ghost designed from the public confession of Solomon, on these interesting points, in which all men by nature are so eagerly engaged, to teach, that the whole is vanity. And from a full conviction; that all is vanity out of Christ, to make this a means in his Almighty hand, to lead the church to Christ. And these divine truths, when blessed to this end, become blessed indeed! We have a beautiful and comprehensive conclusion to this effect, in a verse of the Psalms. Psa_119:96.

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:15 I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead.

Ver. 15. I considered all the living, &c.] He means the multitude, that shallow brained, but great and many headed beast, making defection from their old prince, though never so prudent, and setting up his own son against him, as they dealt by David more than once, merely out of an itch of instability and affectation of novelty. Now, as this is to others, so to kings also a vexation, to seeALREADY the common aspect of their people bent upon another object before the time; to behold them worshipping the rising sun, (a) as the proverb is, and themselves laid aside, in a manner, as broken vessels out of request in comparison. (b) Crowns have their cares and crosses, and high seats are never but uneasy. O vilis pannus! O base clout! said one king concerning his diadem, were it but known how many molestations and miseries do attend thee, Nemo foret qui te tollere vellet humo, no man would deign to take thee up lying at his feet. Antoninus the philosopher said often that the empire was malorum oceanus, an ocean of mischiefs; and another caused it to be written upon his tomb, Felix si non imperitassem, Happy had I been if I had never reigned. It is seldom seen, as before hath been observed, that God allows unto the greatest darlings of the world a perfect contentment, be they never so well deserving. Something they must have to complain of, that shall give an unsavoury verdure to their sweetest morsels, and make their very felicity miserable.Verse 16

PULPIT, “I considered all the living which walk under the sun; or, I have seen all the population. The expression is hyperbolical, as Eastern monarchs speak of their dominions as if they comprised the whole world (see Dan_4:1; Dan_6:25). With the second child that shall stand up in his stead. "With" ( òÄí ) means "in company with," "on the side of;" and the clause should be rendered, as in the Revised Version, That they were with the youth, the second, that stood up in his stead. The youth who is called the second is the one spoken of in the previous verses, who by general acclamation is raised to the highest place in the realm, while the old monarch is dethroned or depreciated. He is named second, as being the successor of the other, either in popular favor or on the throne. It is the old story of worshipping the rising sun. The verse may still be applied to Joseph, who was made second to Pharaoh, and was virtually supreme in Egypt, standing in the king's place (Gen_41:40-44).

LANGE, “Ecc_4:15. “I beheld all the living walking beneath the sun,” etc. Zöckler may well call this “a somewhat inflated description of the dominion which that youth had acquired.” It is indeeduberschwanglich, high-flown, most extravagant, as thus applied; and the thought should have shown him that there must be something false in theAPPLICATION . It is barely suggested by what was said before (Ecc_4:14) about the vicissitudes of the individual life, but has no other connection with it. It is a rising of the view to a higher scale, so as to take in the world, or race at large, and its olamic vicissitudes, as they might be called. øàéúé , I saw, ISURVEYED , or contemplated. It is presented as a picture of the

mind taking in not single events, but all the living,ë◌◌ì ä◌ç◌é◌◌éí . No where else in the Bible is this most sweeping language applied to such narrow uses as are here supposed. Where it is not used abstractly for life, as the plural çééí often is, it is never found in any less sense than the human race, or of the living as opposed to the dead. Comp. Job_28:12; Isa_8:20, “Land of the living,” Psa_142:6, “Light of the living,” similar expressions, Psa_116:9; also Ecc_6:8; Ecc_9:5, and other places. Here ëì joined with it (and it is the only place where it is so joined) makes it still more difficult to restrict it to such a narrow sense. The language rises beyond this: “I surveyed, I contemplated, all the living, as they walked beneath the sun,” cunctos viventes ambulantes sub sole. These are certainly very lofty words to apply to a crowd running after Jeroboam, or Hitzig’s ambitious youth, or any other personage of that kind. No artificial rule of criticism, de universalibus restrinfendis, etc., can justify the use of such language, in such a case. The true idea,

moving on, squadron after squadron, the countless multitude that has already passed, ò◌í ä◌é◌◌ì◌ã äù◌ ◌ð◌é , together “with the second generation,” as we do not hesitate to render it, that shall stand in its

place,—the ò◌í here simply denoting the connection between the different parts of the picture or survey. The old procession that he thus saw walking beneath the sun (a term every where else used for the theatre of the human race), or the old part of it, is disappearing, whilst a younger world is now coming upon the stage and continuing the same ceaseless movement. As this rises before the mental vision of the seer [ ä◌øà◌ä ],

he cries out, à◌éï ÷◌õ ì◌ë◌ì ä◌ò◌í “ there is no end to all the people,”—there is no numbering the ranks of this vast host, as they ever come and go. As applied to Jeroboam, such language as this would not be a mere hyperbole, but a transcendental bombast, unworthy of the author and his most serious book. It calls to mind that sublime picture which Addison presents in his Vision of Mirza, the countless multitudes on the broken bridge of life, as they are ever coming out of the dark cloud on the one side, and passing away with the great flood of eternity on the other. It is this evident pictorial element in the verse, when rightly rendered, that strongly opposes the idea of any such comparatively petty historical references, and forces us to regard it as a representation of the great human movement through time into eternity. “No end to all that were

before; yea, these that come after shall not rejoice in it [ á◌å ] that is, the ò◌í the people, the all, that were

before it, now regarded collectively as the past in whom there is no more delight,—each generation satisfied with itself, and boasting of itself, as ours does, deeming itself, as it were, the all on earth; for what are all the ages past to this nineteenth century ! Now the pronoun in ú◌◌ä◌ú◌◌éå though singular in form, may have a collective antecedent, a case too common in the Hebrew language to require citations. The only antecedent of this kind, or of any kind, in the verse, is the à◌úÎë◌◌ìÎä◌ç◌é◌◌éí the all of the living, and which the makkephs, and the accents, show to be taken as one: “all the living, etc., with the second generation that shall arise in its stead.” The evident parallelism favors this choice of the singular pronoun; but if we are to overlook all this for the purpose of maintaining a historical reference, then we must go back two verses, and find the antecedent in “ the old and foolish king,” in whose place this second child, with “all the living beneath the sun, and the people without end,” marching with him, is to stand! The common sense of the reader must judge in this matter. If, then, the pronoun in ú◌◌ç◌ú◌◌éå has for its antecedent the à◌úÎë◌◌ìÎä◌ç◌é◌◌éí ,

grammatical consistency would demand, as the antecedent of the pronoun in á◌å (in it, instead of in him),

the ë◌◌ ì à◌ù◌ ◌ø just before, especially as joined with the singular substantive verb ä◌é◌ä . Besides the desire to find historic allusions, two verbal peculiarities here seem to have had much influence upon translators. One is the use of this singular pronoun which has just been explained, and which the parallelism of the picture so strongly demands. The other is the somewhat peculiar use of the word é◌ì◌ã in Ecc_4:15,

and its contiguity toé◌ì◌ã in Ecc_4:13, leading to the false inference that they must be used in precisely the

same manner. Now though the use of é◌ì◌ã for generation is not found elsewhere in the Bible Hebrew, yet it

is perfectly natural and in harmony with the frequent generic use of á◌ï . It is, too, highly poetical, thus to regard one generation as the offspring, the child, of the preceding. It is only using é◌ì◌ãfor the cognate ú◌åì◌ã◌ä from the same root, and the unusual expression may have been suggested by

the é◌ì◌ã in Ecc_4:13, giving such a turn to the thought and the language. The order of ideas would be this: as the “young man” succeeds the old, so does the young race succeed its progenitor. So the primary sense of ãÝíïò in Greek is child, offspring, and from this comes its use forrace, generation. Whilst, then, it may be said that the word, etymologically, fits the thought, nothing could be more graphic than, the mode of representation.

Agreeing with this is an interpretation given by that acute Jewish critic, Aben-Ezra, except that it takes the

pronoun in á◌å as referring to the òåì◌í or world, so frequently mentioned. After stating the other view, he

proceeds to say: “There are those who interpret ä◌é◌◌ì◌ã ä◌ù◌ ◌◌ð◌é the second child, as denoting the

generation that comes after another ( äãåø äáà àçøéå ) and the meaning as being, that he saw the living as they walked beneath the sun, and they, with their heirs that shall stand in their place, are like those who

went before them, and these, as well as those, shall have no joy ( á◌å ) in it, that is, áòåìí in the world.” It is

the same procession so curtly, yet so graphically, described eh. Ecc_1:4 : “generation comes, and

generation goes,” ìòåìí Rashi regardséìã as meaning generation, but strangely refers it to the generation of

Noah, and the àçøðéí or “they who come after,” to that of Peleg.

The Hebrew preposition òí like the Latin cum and the English with when used for and, may denote a

connection in thought, or in succession, as prmterea, besides, as well as, like the ArabicãÚÇ “I saw all the living walking, etc., and together with, or along with them, or besides this, I saw the second generation." This is a well established use of the preposition. Comp. 1Sa_17:4;1Sa_16:12 : àãîåðé òí éôä îøàä “ruddy

as well as fair,” and in this book, Ecc_2:16, çëí òí äëíéì “the wise man as well as the fool,” 1Ch_25:8, îáéï òí

úìîéã “teacher (with) as well as the disciple,”Psa_106:6, “we with our fathers,” we and our fathers, or we as

well as our fathers; also Neh_3:12; Psa_115:13; Dan_11:8; Psa_104:25, “the great as well as the small,”

and other places. The great difficulty in the way of the common view is the word ä◌ù◌ ◌◌ð◌é “The second child,” “the child the second,” must denote one of two or more. A concordance shows that there is no exception to this. To take it in the sense of successor to something of a different kind (a second one) is without an example to support it. No mention is made of any other “child,” or “young man.” The difficulty has led some to give äù◌ ◌ðé the sense çáø , companion, for which they seek a warrant in the 10th verse; and then they refer it to a son of Hiram, who was Solomon’s friend or companion: “I saw the child (the son) of my friend.” See Notes to Noldius Heb. Part. No.1023. This is very absurd; and yet the one who defends it denounces the absurdity of the more common reference to Jeroboam. Whoever wishes to see “confusion on confusion heaped,” in the treatment of these passages, and in the attempt to restrict the extent of this language, may consult De Dieu, Crit. Sac., p. 183. Take these verses, however, as general reflections on the vicissitudes of the individual and of the race, and all this confusion immediately gives place to harmony.—T. L.]

COKE, “Verse 15-16Ecclesiastes 4:15-16. I considered all the living— I saw all the living eager to walk under the sun, with the second son who should succeed him.VER . 16. No end of all the people! of all that resorted to them! Yet they who shall come after will have no reason to be glad of that successor. I do not find, says Desvoeux,

that the interpreters have taken any notice of the phrase, walking under the sun with a man in power, as of a figurative expression. Nay, our version turns it so as to make it a mere repetition of all the living; yet this expression is the more remarkable here, as it is followed in the next verse by another, which, from a comparison between Genesis 5:22; Genesis 5:24; Genesis 17:1 appears to be synonimous to it, in a

metaphorical sense; I mean to be before the face, לפני lipnei, which I have rendered resorted.From the context, the idea must be paying one's court, or something to that purpose; andTHE IMAGE alluded to, is that of a man who does not value the inconvenience, great as it was in the climate of Judea, of walking in a place exposed to the scorching heat of the sun, provided he may by so doing testify his regard for the person whom he attends. This notion may be confirmed by the known signification of the phrase, walking

with God, (see Gen. as above,) which the LXX very properly have rendered ευαρεστησε . This chapter contains the fourth and last proof, brought to support the first general proposition, which is taken from the wrong use which men, considered with respect to the duties and particular circumstances of social life, make ofOPPORTUNITIES which might be turned to their private advantage, or to that of the public; whether it be owing to their wickedness, folly, or supineness. The particular instances are these: I. The great and powerful, instead of relieving those who suffer wrong, support one another in their oppressive schemes; so that the oppressed have no one to wipe off their tears; Ecclesiastes 4:1.—II. A man who is industrious, and applieth his labour well, is sure to attract the envy of those whose interest should rather prompt them to encourage him, and to improve by his example; Ecclesiastes 4:4.—III. The idler envies the prosperity and plenty enjoyed by the industrious, while his aversion to trouble and labour makes him choose poverty rather than abundance; whereas he ought to rest satisfied in that state which is the natural consequence of the way of life that he chooses; Ecclesiastes 4:5-6.—IV. As the character of the idler was opposed to that of the industrious man, so another character is now introduced in opposition to that of the idler; viz. the character of an indefatigable covetous man, who, having nobody to share his fortune with, cannot resolve to leave off heaping up riches, and quietly to enjoy what he has already acquired, or take some one in partnership with him. He is fully convinced of the advantages resulting from a social life, and of the inconveniences to which the lonesome life that he leads is unavoidably subject. Yet he will notAVAIL himself of those advantages, or avoid these dreadful inconveniences, at the expence of admitting another into a share of that plenty which he himself does not enjoy, although he possesses it: Ecclesiastes 4:7-12.—V. The next instance is, that of the regard which is generally paid to dignities and places, rather than to real worth and merit; whereby virtue and public spirit lie under great discouragement.

BENSON, “Ecclesiastes 4:15. I considered all the living — The general disposition of common people in all kingdoms, that they are fickle and inconstant, weary of their old governors, and desirous of changes; with the second child that shall stand up — That shall arise to reign. This may be understood of the king’s child, or son and heir, called second in respect to his father, whose successor he is. SomeJOIN this clause with the preceding, thus: I considered all the living which walk — Or, that they walk; under the sun— That is, upon earth; with the second child — That is, that they follow, favour, and worship him, as the rising sun, upon which the eyes and hopes of most people are fixed. Probably Solomon observed this disposition in his own people, who were growing weary of his government, andBEGINNING to desire a change, and to turn their eyes to Rehoboam his successor. At least he remembered the rebellion that had been raised against his father David in favour of Absalom, and might have reason to think the same leaven was still working in his kingdom. The verse is thus paraphrased by Bishop Patrick: “Such is the infelicity of princes, that I have seen a king left with nothing but the bare title, and the outward state of royalty; the hearts and affections of all, nobles, gentry, and common people, from one end of the kingdom to the other, inclining to his son (or next heir) that is to succeed him; unto whom they do obeisance, as if he were already upon the throne; but neglect his old father, who sees himself robbed of those honours in which he placed his happiness.”

K&D, “Verse 15-16“I saw all the living which walk under the sun on the side of the youth, the second who shallENTER upon the place of the former: no end of all the people, all those at whose head he stands.” The author, by the expression “I saw,” places himself back in the time of the change of government. If we suppose that he represents this to himself in a lively manner, then the words are to be translated: of the second who shall be his successor; but if we suppose that he seeks to express from the standpoint of the past that which, lying farther back in the past, was now for the first time future, then the future represents the time to come in the past, as at 2 Kings 3:27; Psalm 78:6; Job 15:28 (Hitz.): of the second who should enter on his place (עמד,

to step to, to step forth, of the new king, Daniel 8:23; Daniel 11:2.; cf. 1 ,קום Kings 8:20). The designation

of the crowd which, as the pregnant עם expresses, gathered by the side of the young successor to the old

king, by “all the living, those walking under the sun (המה, perhaps intentionally the pathetic word for הלכים, Isa 42; 5),” would remain a hyperbole, even although the throne of the Asiatic world-ruler had been intended; still the expression, so absolute in its universality, would in that case be more natural (vid., the conjectural reference to Cyrus and Astygates). הש#ני, Ewald refers to the successor to the king, the second after the king, and translates: “to the second man who should reign in his stead;” but the second man in this sense has certainly never been the child of fortune; one must then think of Joseph, who, however, remains the second man. Hitzig rightly: “The youth is the second שני, not in contrast to the king, who, as his ,אחר

predecessor, is the first.” “Yet,” heCONTINUES .should be the apposהילד“ ,

and השני thePRINCIPAL word,” i.e., instead of: with the second youth, was to be expected:

we may also express it) of the second youthful king, so that he comes to stand at the head of an endless multitude. The lxx, Jerome, and the Venet. render incorrectly the all (the multitude) as the subject of the relative clause, which Luther, after the Syr.,CORRECTS by reading לפניו for of the :לפניהם

people that went for him there was no end. Rightly the Targ.: at whose head (= רישיהון ב ) he had the

direction, לפני, as with 1 ,ובא יצא Samuel 18:16; 2 Chronicles 1:10; Psalm 68:8, etc. All the world

congregates about him, follows his leadership; but his history thus splendidly begun, viewed backwards, is a history of hopes falsified.“And yet they who come after do not rejoice in him: for that also is vain, and a grasping after the wind.” For all that, and in spite of that (gam has here this meaning, as at Ecclesiastes 6:7; Jeremiah 6:15; Psalm 129:2; Ewald, §354a), posterity ( הא, as at Ecclesiastes 1:11; cf. Isaiah 41:4) has no joy in this king, - the hopes which his contemporaries placed in the young king, who had seized the throne and conquered their

As to the historical reminiscence from the time of the Ptolemies, in conformity with which Hitzig (in his Comm.) thinks this figure is constructed; Grätz here, as always, rocks himself in Herodian dreams. In his Comm., Hitz. guesses first of Jeroboam, along with Rehoboam the ילד שני , who rebelled against King

Solomon, who in his old age had become foolish. In anESSAY , “Zur Exeg. u. Kritik des B. Koheleth,” in Hilgenfeld's Zeitschr. XIV 566ff., Saul, on the contrary, appears to him to be the old and foolish king, and David the poor wise youth who rose to the throne, and took possession of the whole kingdom, but in his latter days experienced desertion and adversities; for those who came after (the younger men) had no delight in him, but rebelled against him. But in relation to Saul, who came from the plough to be king, David, who was called from being a shepherd, is not רש נולד ; and to Jewish history this Saul, whose nobler self is darkened by melancholy, but again brightens forth, and who to his death maintained the dignity of a king of Israel, never at any time appears as וכסיל Ï מלך . Moreover, by both combinations of that which is related

with the הסורים àית (for which הס is written) of the history of the old Israelitish kings, a meaning contrary to

the usage of the language must be extracted. It is true that סור, as the so-called PARTICIP

perfecti, may mean “gone aside (to a distance),” Isaiah 49:21; Jeremiah 17:13; and we may, at any rate, by סורים, think on that poor rabble which at first gathered around David, 1 Samuel 22:2, regarded as

outcasts from honourable society. But בית will notACCORD therewith. That David came forth from the house (home) of the estranged or separated, is and remains historically an awkward expression, linguistically obscure, and not in accordance with the style of Koheleth. In order to avoid this incongruity, Böttcher regards Antiochus the Great as the original of the ילד. He was the second son of his father, who died 225. When a hopeful youth of fifteen years of age, he was recalled to the throne from a voluntary banishment into Farther Asia, very soon gained against his old cousin and rival Achaeus, who was supported by Egypt, a large party, and remained for several years esteemed as a prince and captain; he

disappointed, however, at a later time, the confidence which was reposed in him. But granting that the voluntary exile of Antiochus might be designated as בית האס , he was yet not a poor man, born poor, but was the son of King Seleucus Callincus; and his older relative and rival Achaeus wished indeed to become king, but never attained unto it. Hence השני is not the youth as second son of his father, but as second on the throne, in relation to the dethroned king reckoned as the first. Thus, far from making it probable that the Book of Koheleth originated in the time of the Diadochs, this combination of Böttcher's also stands on a feeble foundation, and falls in ruins when assailed.The section Eccl 1:12-4:16, to which we have prefixed the superscription, “Koheleth's Experiences and their Results,” has now reached its termination, and here for the first time we meet with a characteristic peculiarity in the composition of the book: the narrative sections, in which Koheleth, on the ground of his own experiences and observations,REGISTERS the vanities of earthly life, terminate in series of proverbs in which the I of the preacher retires behind the objectivity of the exhortations, rules, and principles obtained from experience, here recorded. The first of these series of proverbs which here follows is the briefest, but also the most complete in internalCONNECTION .

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.

BAR�ES, “There is - Rather: There was.That have been before them - Rather, before whom he was, i. e., at the head of whom the

young king was. Compare Mic_2:13.

They also that ... him - i. e., The next generation shall forget this chosen king.

CLARKE, “There is no end of all the people - This is supposed to refer to the multitudes of people who hail the advent and accession of a new sovereign; for, as Suetonius remarks, A plerisque adorari solem orientem, “Most people adore the rising sun.” But when the new king becomes old, very few regard him; and perhaps he lives long enough to be as much despised by the very persons who before were ready to worship him. This is also a miserable vanity. Thus the blooming heir: -

“Shall feel the sad reverse: honored awhile;Then, like his sire, contemn’d, abhorr’d, forgot.”

GILL, “There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them,.... Before the present generation, the living that walked under the sun; a vast number they were that lived before them, and they were of the same restless temper and disposition; changeable in their affection and behaviour towards their governors; no end of their number, nor any stable affection for, nor settled satisfaction in, their rulers; but this itch of novelty, of having new princes over them, went from age to age, from generation to generation. Some understand this of the king and his son, the predecessor and successor, and of those that went before them; and of their behaviour to the kings that reigned before them; the people have not their end or satisfaction in their governors, but are restless: which comes to the same sense;

they also that come after shall not rejoice in him; that come after the present generation, and after both the reigning prince, and even after his successor; they will not rejoice long in him that shall be upon the throne after them, any more than the present subjects of the old king, or those that now pay their court to the heir apparent; they will be so far from rejoicing in him, that they will loath and despise him, and wish him dead or dethroned, and another in his room.

Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit; to a king, to see himself thus used by his subjects; for a short time extolled and praised, and then despised and forsaken.

JAMISO�, “Notwithstanding their now worshipping the rising sun, the heir-apparent, I reflected that “there were no bounds, no stability (2Sa_15:6; 2Sa_20:1), no check on the love of innovation, of all that have been before them,” that is, the past generation; soalso 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.

BENSON, “Ecclesiastes 4:16. There is no end of the people — The sense seems to be, either, 1st, The people who have this humour are without end, or innumerable: or, 2d, This humour of the common people hath no end, but passes from one generation to another: they ever were, and are, and will be, unstable and

of government here expressed. And so, here are three generations of people mentioned; the authors of the present change, and their parents, and their children; and all are observed to have the same inclinations in these matters. They also that come after shall not rejoice in him — They shall be as weary of the successor, though a wise and worthy prince, as their parents were of his foolish predecessor. Surely, this also is vanity — From all this it appears, that happiness is not to be found in honour and power; no, not in the very highest pitch of it: for there also is not only dissatisfaction to be found, but many dangers, troubles, and vexatious cares, which much disturb and perplex the minds of those that possess it. See Bishop Patrick.

HAWKER, “Ecclesiastes 4:16


MY soul! hast thou learnt to form similar conclusions to the Preacher from the same causes; and in a right estimate of human life, made calculations what the close will be? Hast thou beheld the tinge of vanity which is given to all, and from hence directed thy views to all precious Jesus, the complete, the soul-satisfying, the supreme, the only good? Oh! thou the pearl of great price! in thee I find everything that is substantial and satisfying: yea, durable riches and righteousness. Possessing thee, thy church must possess all things: for thou art all in all to thy people. And what endears thee, oh! thou lovely One, to the heart of all that know thee, and enjoy thee, is, that thou art freely given, freely bestowed by God our Father, without our deserts, without our conscious want of thee, without our desire, nay, without our first wishes, and even against all our natural dislike to thee. Yes! blessed Jesus! never should we have sought thee, hadst thou not sought us: never should we have loved thee, hadst thou not first loved us. But in the endless pursuit of any, and every vanity rather than Jesus, would our poor, blind, and deluded nature, have gone on, turning from one creature comfort to another, until death had finished all, and we had lain down in the silent grave, with sorrow and disappointment!

Oh! ye that are now entering life, full of high prospects of health and youth and the many gilded objects before you, inviting you by their syren songs to ruin; oh! that the Lord may give you to

seek grace, to avoid being lost amidst the deceitful pursuits of what the world calls pleasure. Look to Solomon. Hear what the Preacher said. And before you have run the mad round of vanity and folly, which can terminate in nothing short of disappointment and vexation of spirit, make now a right calculation. Look unto Jesus. Behold how glorious in his person: how blessed in his grace and mercy! how suited to the circumstances of poor, fallen, dying creatures! Think, from what misery he can save - Think to what happiness he can bring - How delightful his fellowship! How sweet his society. And while he becomes all that the soul can need now; how fully will he satisfy the soul to all eternity? Hear, ye young; and the Lord direct your choice. It is Jesus that calls at the entering in of the gates: and his promise is like himself, unalterable and sure. He saith, I love them that love me: and those that seek me early shall find me.

TRAPP, “Ecclesiastes 4:16 [There is] no end of all the people, [even] of all that have been before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also [is] vanity and vexation of spirit.VER 16. There is no end of all the people,] i.e., They are infinitely discontented and restless in their

desires after a new and another governor. Aει γαρ το παρον βαρυ, as Thucydides long since observed, The present government, be it never so good, is always grievous. "O that I were made judge in the land," said Absalom. [2 Samuel 15:4] Oh that thou wert, said the people, who yetSOON had enough of him. And so had they of their new king, Saul, whom contra gentes, they would needlessly have, after the manner of all other nations. [1 Samuel 8:6-7] How soon did the Baptist grow stale to the Jews, that had lately "heard him gladly," [Mark 6:20] and was no more set by than "a reed shaken with the wind!" [Matthew 11:7] How suddenly did they change theirNOTE concerning Christ from "Hosanna" toCrucify him! The common people are like to children, saith an interpreter, that rest not contented with any schoolmaster, and like to servants that love to change every year their masters. People are desirous to hear new preachers, as feasters to hear new songs and new instruments. [Ezekiel 33:32

PULPIT, “There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them. The paragraph plainly is carrying on the description of the popular enthusiasm for the new favorite. The Authorized Version completely obscures this meaning. It is better to translate, Numberless were the people, all, at whose head

he stood. Koheleth places himself in the position of a spectator, and marks how numerous are the adherents who flock around the youthful aspirant. "Nullus finis omni populo, omnibus, quibus praefuit" (Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Volck). Yet his popularity was not lasting and his influence was not permanent. They also that come after shall not rejoice in him. In spite of his cleverness, and notwithstanding the favor with which he is now regarded, those of a later generation shall flout his pretensions and forget his benefits. If we still continue the allusion to Joseph, we may see here in this last clause a reference to the change that supervened when another king arose who knew him not (Exo_1:8), and who, oblivious of the services of this great benefactor, heavily oppressed the Israelites. This experience leads to the same result; it is allvanity and vexation of spirit.

COKE, “REFLECTIONS.—1st, He had before considered the case of proud oppressors, and foreseen their judgment: here he turns his eyes to the oppressed, and bewails their misery.1. Their condition is deplorable, and often helpless; for, here, might often overcomes right. The tears of the poor, the orphan, the persecuted, cry out against their severe and covetous masters, their treacherous guardians, and tyrannical governors; and they have no comforter, few caring to expose themselves in the cause of injured innocence, especially where the power in the hands of oppressors makes it dangerous to oppose the iniquitousPROCEEDINGS , or even to shew compassion to those who suffer under their wickedness.2. The judgment which he formed concerning this state of oppression is, that death itself were preferable to such aCONTINUED scene of misery; and never to have had a being, more desirable, than merely to come thus into the world, to see the evil that is done under the sun, and suffer. And this is spoken as the conclusion of sense without respect to a future state; for else, as it is a great truth that they who in Christ have finished their warfare, are in a much more desirable state than those militant saints, who still bear the

burden and heat of the day; so to have a being, however miserable upon earth, can never make a good man wish he had never been born, since God is glorified in his sufferings, and an eternity of happiness is before him. Nor ought any man to quarrel with his being, because of the evil that he sees or feels; it is his own fault, if the issue be not for his good.2nd, The more he considers, the more the conviction is evident, that all beneath the sun is vanity and vexation of spirit.

1. Is a man industrious, ingenious, and successful? immediately he is the butt of envy. Though with hard travail he laboured in the school of learning, or in the business of life, and all theSTEPS he took were unexceptionably upright; yet, such is the vile nature of fallen man, that, instead of rendering the deserved praise, and rejoicing in his neighbour's prosperity and honour, his evil eye is upon him, and his malignant tongue too often ready to traduce his merit. Even his good works shall frequently draw upon him the bitterest hatred, 1 John 3:12. But, though men make us so ungrateful a return, we must not be discouraged: we shall have praise of God, and that will overbalance the world's envy and hatred.2. The opposite conduct is yet attended with greater vexation. Instead of being industrious, and to avoid being envied, the fool, the slothful man, foldeth his hands together; and the consequence of such idleness is, that he eateth his own flesh, emaciated through hunger and famished for want, or wasting the substance that his family should inherit; and suggests, in vindication of himself, that a little with ease, and without labour, is better than abundance which must be hardlyEARNED ; as if sloth were quietness, diligent industry intolerable toil, and indolence contentment. Or the words may express the wise man's judgment, directing us to the golden mean between reproachful indolence and restless labour and anxiety; for the moderate gains of honest industry, enjoyed with contentment, are an infinitely more satisfactory portion, than the exorbitant wealth which is gotten with hard labour, kept with anxiety, and embittered in the using.3rdly, He that walks about under the sun, will ever be observing more and more of the vanity of the creature; a fresh instance of which is produced,

1. In the character of the miser, who, though he has none but himself to provide for, and neither child nor brother to whom he may bequeath the riches that he has amassed, yet is indefatigable in his labours, insatiable in his desires of wealth, shuns the joys of society, nay, grudges the necessaries that his own body requires, because of the expence; and never once considers, (so wretchedly is he infatuated.) forwhom do I labour? neither for the glory of God, my own comfort, nor the good of others; perhaps, for those who will neverTHANK me, and will squander in extravagance and thoughtless dissipation the fruits of so much toil and care. This is indeed a vanity and sore travail, the folly as great as the sin.2. The wise man shews how much preferable society and the enjoyment of our labours is, to this unnatural solitude and niggardliness. The comforts and advantages of marriage and friendship amply overpay us for all they cost. Two are better than one; more happy than they could be separate; because they have a goodREWARD for their labour; enjoy mutual assistance and counsel, and communicate mutual pleasure. If one falls as they travel, the other is ready to lend his helping hand; if intoERRORS of sin, a faithful friend will seek to restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; if into sorrow, he will be near to comfort him: But woe to him that is alone when he falleth: where he lies, he is in danger of being lost. Again, If two lie together, they have heat; which is true spiritually, for nothing warms the heart more than Christian fellowship, as the disciples going to Emmaus experienced; while solitude, instead of raising our affections, as secluded monks and hermits boast, removes us from one of the most effectual means of heavenly-mindedness. As useful will society be in time of danger: the robber will attack a singleTRAVELLER , who dares not attempt it when he has company. Satan thus beset Eve, and false teachers thus single out their prey; but a faithful friend is a guard against temptation, which, even by the communication of it, is sometimes overcome; and a threefold cord, where Christians unite in society, and Christ is in the midst of them, is not quickly broken; for they have their great High-Priest and their King for their protector.4thly, Crowns seem the most substantial goods, yet they are held by a precarious tenure, and cumbered with much vanity and vexation of spirit.

1. If they be on the heads of the foolish, they totter; for, though inherited by descent, and worn to old age, yet, if the king, whose age should add veneration and weight to his dignity, be foolish, unable to manage the reins of government, and perverse and conceited withal, who will not bear to be admonished, nor advise with the counsellors of wisdom; he becometh poor, ruins his subjects, or is conquered by invaders. So that even a child, though poor and low in the world, yet, if wise, is a more respectable personage, and may rise from the dunghill, as Joseph from the dungeon to the highest honours; while the other is perhaps hurled from the summit of dignity and affluence to the depths of infamy and want.

2. The very fickleness of the people will sometimes be enough to bring about revolutions in the state. Solomon observed in his researches, that the rising sun was usually adored; and the successor more caressed than the reigning monarch. They are in haste to see his child stand up in his stead, and think to alter their condition for the better in transferring the crown from the father to the son. Thus without end are they restlessly given to change, as those who went before them were, and those who come after them will be; dissatisfied quickly with their new king, and willing to pull him down today, whom they set up yesterday. And it cannot but afford much grief to a prince to see this inconstancy in his subjects, and to hear those hiss him in contempt, who late received him with huzzas and shouts of praise. It is well when this teaches him to seek a richer and more enduring crown than that of gold, even a crown of glory, which fadeth not away.