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Ecclesiastes 4:2 . Wherefore I praised the dead more than the living, who are robbed, fleeced, and exposed to incessant afflictions, from oppression and war. Solomon alludes to extreme cases, such as our Saviour foretold would befal the Jews in their revolt against the Romans; when men should say, Blessed are the breasts that never gave suck. The like times were foretold of the Romans, in their civil wars, and in the scourge of the Saracens, that men should seek death, and it should flee from them. Revelation 9:6.
Ecclesiastes 4:5 . The fool foldeth his hands together, in sloth and despair; and after eating up his own flesh, hunger, misery, and despair come upon him like a flood, and his family is left to perish. Sometimes the nerves, like a spring stretched too far, lose their energy: the spirits fail when pressure is too severe.
Ecclesiastes 4:8 . There is one, and happy it would be if there were not a second; a man who has neither son nor brother to enjoy his riches; yet there is no end of his labour to hoard up wealth! This earth-worm forms a contrast with the fool who wastes all, by saving all. Like the beasts, he has little idea of a treasure in heaven. Surely this is a case of vanity and vexation of spirit.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 . Two are better than one. They divide the cares and duties of life. When grief afflicts the one, there is a bosom of comfort at hand: the torrent is diminished when the stream is divided. The jesuits in their comments get over this by saying, that in the monastic habits, the friars and the nuns live in society.
Ecclesiastes 4:13 . Better is a poor and a wise child, than an old and foolish king who will no more be admonished, by the venerable senators which stand at the foot of the throne. He involves himself in war, like the strong bulls, gets dethroned or slain, while his more prudent son is liberated from his chain, and placed on his father’s throne. Assuredly, all these contumelious fluctuations of society designate the vanity of human passions, and the vexations of the mind.
The subject of the brutish man is here continued. Solomon, viewing the calamities of life, and seeing the wicked oppress the comparatively innocent, praises the dead, a negative part of whose blessedness it is to rest from their labours. Hence afflicted people should seek all their happiness in God, and in future hopes. At the same time it shows that their king, labouring under so many disgusts of life, had a feeling heart for the oppressed, and a horror of tyranny and crimes.
This wise and learned king was the more afflicted for the miseries of human life, because he saw that a sottish and brutish spirit pervaded all ranks of society. The fool redoubling his calamities, the miser labouring in vain, the prince losing his throne, and loading his people with calamities. Christ alone is the Healer of the nations.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany