Vicissitudes of Life. 'Oh, the pity of it!'
1-3. The mass of human suffering and the absence of pity are such that better off are the dead and still more the unborn.
It is not only through God's ordinance, but by reason of man's perversity, that he is disturbed and perplexed by the social disturbances around him. The world is full of trouble. The weak are oppressed by the strong.
4-6. Success involves envy. Better be secure and at peace.
4. Right] RV 'skilful,' RM 'successful.' For this.. neighbour] RM 'it cometh of a man's rivalry with his neighbour.' Effort is stimulated by competition, but then what man has gained by toil is marred by the hostility of the less fortunate. Vexation of spirit] see on Ecclesiastes 1:14.
5. Even the fool who idly runs through his substance is for the time better off, for he is at peace.
7-12. Two more ills of life are covetousness aria loneliness.
8. There is one alone] The avaricious has none to share his wealth or to succeed him; yet his toil is insatiable.
9-12. The advantages of companionship are shown by four illustrations, three of which are such as have special fitness in the mouth of an Oriental writer. Two companions in travel find their partnership of value, whether (a) they are walking upon a rough and steep path, or (b) sleeping at the end of the day in a narrow chamber with unglazed windows, or (c) in a sudden encounter with thieves, who have availed themselves of the darkness of the night to dig through the earthen walls in search of valuables. Lastly, (d) a threefold cord is strong to resist.
12. RV 'And if a man prevail against him that, is alone.'
13-16. A man may rise from the lowest to the highest station by wisdom; yet even so there is no permanence.
13. Child] RV 'youth.'
14. He cometh] i.e. the poor and wise youth. Whereas also.. poor] RV 'yea, even in his kingdom he (the child) was born poor.' Thus in RV the subject of the whole v. is the youth, whereas in AV two persons are spoken of, viz. the prisoner who rises through wisdom to be a king, and the king who becomes a beggar.
These vv. have been taken to refer to actual events, perhaps in the writer's own day; but no satisfactory reference for them has been found. Thus they had best be understood as a general statement.
15. With the second, etc.] RV 'that they were with the youth, the second, that stood,' etc.
16. There is] RV 'there was.' Even of.. them] RV 'even of all them over whom he was.' T he sketch is continued; there is an endless stream of those who crowd to pay court. They also] RV 'yet they,' etc. Oblivion will soon wipe out all.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany