The Evils of Oppression
1 Then I looked again and considered all the acts of oppression that were being practiced under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them. 2 So I congratulated and thought more fortunate are those who are already dead than the living who are still living. 3 But better off than either of them is the one who has not yet been born, who has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
4 I have seen that every [effort in] labor and every skill in work comes from man’s rivalry with his neighbor. This too is vanity (futility, false pride) and chasing after the wind. 5 The fool folds his hands [together] and consumes his own flesh [destroying himself by idleness and apathy]. 6 One hand full of rest and patience is better than two fists full of labor and chasing after the wind.
7 Then I looked again at vanity under the sun [in one of its peculiar forms]. 8 There was a certain man—without a dependent, having neither a child nor a brother, yet there was no end to all his labor. Indeed, his eyes were not satisfied with riches and he never asked, “For whom do I labor and deprive myself of pleasure?” This too is vanity (a wisp of smoke, self-conceit); yes, it is a painful effort and an unhappy task.(A)
9 Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labor; 10 for if (a)either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and does not have another to lift him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, then they keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? 12 And though one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
13 A poor yet wise youth is better than an old and foolish king who (b)no longer knows how to receive instruction and counsel (friendly reproof, warning)— 14 for the poor youth has [used his wisdom and] come out of prison to become king, even though he was born poor in his kingdom. 15 I have seen all the living under the sun join with the second youth (the king’s acknowledged successor) who replaces him. 16 There is no end to all the people; to all who were before them. Yet those who come later will not be happy with him. Surely this also is vanity (emptiness) and chasing after the wind.
a. Ecclesiastes 4:10: Lit they fall.
b. Ecclesiastes 4:13: God’s word calls on us to make our senior years a time of spiritual maturity and intellectual growth. A time to convert a lifetime of courageous morality, personal integrity, and character-building into a legacy that encourages and inspires the next generation.