Summary: This is a verse by verse look at Ecclesiastes chapter four.
Ecclesiastes Chapter Four
Ecclesiastes 4:1 Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them.
There is much injustice in this world. Those in power many times do not use that power to help but to hinder. Each of us have some power – how do you use yours?
Ecclesiastes 4:2 So I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living.
Because of the oppression in this world – I considered the dead better off than the living.
Ecclesiastes 4:3 But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun.
But better off still are those who have never been born.
Matthew Henry has said: “It grieved Solomon to see might prevail against right. Wherever we turn, we see melancholy proofs of the wickedness and misery of mankind, who try to create trouble to themselves and to each other. Being thus hardly used, men are tempted to hate and despise life. But a good man, though badly off while 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. Ungodly men have most cause to wish the continuance of life with all its vexations, as a far more miserable condition awaits them if they die in their sins. If human and worldly things were our chief good, not to exist would be preferable to life, considering the various oppressions here below.”
Ecclesiastes 4:4 I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind.
Some people are lazy while others are workaholics. Lazy people, seeing the futility of dashing about for success, idle away their time and hurt both themselves and those who depend on them. Workaholics are often driven by envy, greed, and a constant desire to stay ahead of everyone else. Both extremes are foolish and irresponsible. The answer is to work hard but with moderation. Take time to enjoy the other gifts God has given, and realize that it is God who gives out the assignments and the rewards, not us.
Ecclesiastes 4:5 The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh.
It is foolishness to sit back and do nothing for all it does is to hurt yourself. Every person needs to feel that they have a purpose and are productive.
Ecclesiastes 4:6 One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind.
Utley has said: “Life is a competition for food, for shelter, for work, for possessions, for honor, for control! This is the philosophy of atheistic humanism. Power makes right! This is human ego run amuck! Without God the only motive is “me”! This is where laissez faire capitalism is a human curse! This is where communism failed! Every human is envious, every human takes advantage. Every human exploits his fellow human. Life without God is a “dog-eat-dog” life of competition and unsatisfied lust for more-and-more-for-me at any cost.”
Ecclesiastes 4:7 Then I looked again at vanity under the sun.
Everywhere I looked and found vanity. A life without God is full of vanity. You think you have seen everything – but just wait……
Ecclesiastes 4:8 There was a certain man without a dependent, having neither a son nor a brother, yet there was no end to all his labor. Indeed, his eyes were not satisfied with riches and he never asked, "And for whom am I laboring and depriving myself of pleasure?" This too is vanity and it is a grievous task.
Clarke has said: “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.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.
Cooperating with others has advantages. Life is designed for companionship, not isolation, for intimacy, not loneliness. Some people prefer isolation, thinking they cannot trust anyone. We are not here on earth to serve ourselves, however, but to serve God and others. Don't isolate yourself and try to go it alone. Seek companions; be a team member.