Ecclesiastes 4:1-16

4  Again I turned my attention to all the acts of oppression that go on under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, and there was no one to comfort them.+ And their oppressors had the power, and there was no one to comfort them.  And I congratulated the dead who had already died rather than the living who were still alive.+  And better off than both of them is the one who has not yet been born,+ who has not seen the distressing deeds that are done under the sun.+  And I have seen how much effort* and skillful work spring from rivalry between people;+ this too is futility, a chasing after the wind.  The stupid one folds his hands while his flesh wastes away.*+  Better is a handful of rest than two handfuls of hard work and chasing after the wind.+  I turned my attention to another example of futility under the sun:  There is a man who is all alone, without any companion; he has no son or brother, but there is no end to all his hard work. His eyes are never satisfied with riches.+ But does he ask himself, ‘For whom am I working hard and depriving myself* of good things’?+ This too is futility and a miserable occupation.+  Two are better than one+ because they have a good reward* for their hard work. 10  For if one of them falls, the other can help his partner up. But what will happen to the one who falls with no one to help him up? 11  Moreover, if two lie down together, they will stay warm, but how can just one keep warm? 12  And someone may overpower one alone, but two together can take a stand against him. And a threefold cord cannot quickly* be torn apart. 13  Better is a poor but wise child than an old but stupid king,+ who no longer has enough sense to heed a warning.+ 14  For he* went out from prison to become king,+ although in that one’s kingship he was born poor.+ 15  I considered all those alive who walk about under the sun, as well as how it goes with the young successor who stands up in the other’s place. 16  Although there is no end to all his supporters, those who come later will not be happy with him.+ This too is futility, a chasing after the wind.


Or “hard work.”
Lit., “and is eating his own flesh.”
Or “my soul.”
Or “greater benefit.”
Or “easily.”
Perhaps referring to the wise child.

Study Notes