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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Ecclesiastes 4

Having arrived Ecclesiastes 3:22 at a partial answer to his question Ecclesiastes 1:3; namely, that there is positive good (a portion) in that satisfaction which is found in working, Solomon now turns to the case of such happiness being interrupted and reduced to vanity by various contingencies - by oppression Ecclesiastes 4:1-3; by envy Ecclesiastes 4:4-6; by loneliness Ecclesiastes 4:7-12; and by decay of working power Ecclesiastes 4:13-16. The first two instances seem taken from the lower ranks of life, and the last two derived from the higher ranks of life.

Verse 1

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.

Verse 4

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.”

Verse 5

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 Isaiah 49:26; Psalms 27:2; Micah 3:3.

Verse 6

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.

Verses 7-12

Compare a saying from the Talmud: “A man without companions is like the left hand without the right.”

Verses 13-16

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 Micah 2:13.

They also that ... him - i. e., The next generation shall forget this chosen king.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/ecclesiastes-4.html. 1870.