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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Ecclesiastes 4

Verses 1-3

ECCLESIASTES

CHAPTER 4

UNRELIEVED OPPRESSION

Verse 1 declares Solomon’s observation that under the sun men in authority use their power to oppress (Ecclesiastes 3:16) the helpless, causing them to shed tears; but there is no comforter to console the oppressed ones, a fact twice mentioned for emphasis, Ecclesiastes 3:16; Ecclesiastes 5:8; Proverbs 28:16. How bankrupt of real comfort are those who live under the sun, without the promise of John 14:1; John 14:18.

Verse 2 further emphasizes the plight of the oppressed under the sun, declaring that those already dead are better off than the living, Ecclesiastes 2:17.

Verse 3 goes further, affirming that he who hath not yet existed is better than either the oppressed living or already dead, Ecclesiastes 6:3-5; Job 3:20; Job 6:11; Job 7:6; Jonah 4:8.

Verses 4-6

VEXING WORK PROBLEMS

Verses 4-6 reveal Solomon’s observations regarding the vexing work problems of men under the sun:

Verse 4 reveals that the zealous worker succeeds but in so doing arouses the envy of his neighbor and vexation of his own spirit, Proverbs 14:30; Genesis 4:5-8; Genesis 26:14; Genesis 37:11; 1 Samuel 18:5-9; 1 Samuel 19:1.

Verse 5 affirms that the fool who refuses to work destroys himself, Proverbs 6:10-11; Proverbs 18:9.

Verse 6 suggests the better way is to be content with just the necessary, avoiding the way of the grasping or the lazy drop-out, Ecclesiastes 2:24; Proverbs 15:16-17; Proverbs 16:8. This also is vanity in the end, because it is good for this life only, Ecclesiastes 2:15-16.

Verses 7-12

BURDEN OF LONELINESS

Verses 7-8 declare the Preacher’s observation that for man to be alone under the sun is vanity. Early on God declared it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Verse 8 declares such to be vanity and sore travail. Verses 9-12 following cite some of the many benefits lost by those who are alone.

Verse 9 affirms that two are better than one because two in partnership can accomplish more than one and will receive a greater reward for their labor, Exodus 17:12; 1 Samuel 14:6-7.

Verse 10 emphasizes benefits of a companion at hand to help in the event of accident or other circumstances requiring the ability of more than one, Exodus 17:12; Job 29:15; Proverbs 31:20; John 15:13; Luke 10:34.

Verse 11 suggests the benefit of increased physical warmth when two occupy the same bed, in a cold land, without heating facilities. This illustration envisions two who may honorably occupy the same sleeping space.

Verse 12 suggests the value of a faithful companion, to help one withstand the attack of an enemy. As stated in Verse 9, two are better than one, 1 Samuel 14:6-7.

Verses 13-16

TRANSIENCY OF HUMAN RULERS

Verse 13 declares Solomon’s awareness that wisdom is the preeminent need of a king, and affirms that a poor but wise young man is better suited to reign than a king who has grown old and foolish, to the, extent he will no longer listen to wise advice, Ecclesiastes 7:19; Ecclesiastes 9:15; Deuteronomy 27:19; Proverbs 11:14; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 15:22.

Verse 14 illustrates the validity of the preceding statement by reference to an unnamed person of humble origin who came out of prison to reign. Such was the experience of Joseph (Genesis 41:14; Genesis 41:41-43). Psalms 113:5-8 also refers to God elevating the poor to sit with princes.

Verses 15-16 reveal Solomon’s conclusions regarding acceptability of rulers, after considering all the living under the sun, and those that shall come afterward. He concludes that the second child (the wise younger man who replaces the old and foolish king) will be well received at first, but in time will also act foolishly and become unsatisfactory to the people. Thus, the final conclusion is, surely this also, the exercise of human rule under the sun, is vanity and vexation of spirit, Ecclesiastes 1:14.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 4". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/ecclesiastes-4.html. 1985.