Evil Oppression on Earth
4:1 So1 I again considered2 all the oppression3 that continually occurs4 on earth.5
This is what I saw:6
The oppressed7 were in tears,8 but no one was comforting them;
no one delivers9 them from the power of their oppressors.10
4:2 So I considered11 those who are dead and gone12
more fortunate than those who are still alive.13
4:3 But better than both is the one who has not been born14
and has not seen the evil things that are done on earth.15
Labor Motivated by Envy
4:4 Then I considered16 all the skillful work17 that is done:
Surely it is nothing more than18 competition19 between one person and another.20
This also is profitless – like21 chasing the wind.
4:5 The fool folds his hands and does no work,22
so he has nothing to eat but his own flesh.23
4:6 Better is one handful with some rest
than two hands full of toil24 and chasing the wind.
Labor Motivated by Greed
4:7 So25 I again considered26 another27 futile thing on earth:28
4:8 A man who is all alone with no companion,29
he has no children nor siblings;30
yet there is no end to all his toil,
and he31 is never satisfied with riches.
He laments,32 “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself33 of pleasure?”34
This also is futile and a burdensome task!35
Labor is Beneficial When Its Rewards Are Shared
4:9 Two people are better than one,
because they can reap36 more benefit37 from their labor.
4:10 For if they fall, one will help his companion up,
but pity38 the person who falls down and has no one to help him up.
4:11 Furthermore, if two lie down together, they can keep each other warm,
but how can one person keep warm by himself?
4:12 Although an assailant may overpower39 one person,
two can withstand him.
Moreover, a three-stranded cord is not quickly broken.
Labor Motivated by Prestige-Seeking
4:13 A poor but wise youth is better than an old and foolish king
who no longer knows how to receive advice.
4:14 For he came out of prison40 to become king,
even though he had been born poor in what would become his41 kingdom.
4:15 I considered all the living who walk on earth,42
as well as the successor43 who would arise44 in his place.
4:16 There is no end to all the people45 nor to the past generations,46
yet future generations47 will not rejoice in him.
This also is profitless and like48 chasing the wind.