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Ecclesiastes 4 Common English Bible (CEB)

Death is better than oppression

When I next observed all the oppressions that take place under the sun, I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no one to comfort them. Their oppressors wield power—but they have no one to comfort them. So I declare that the dead, who have already died, are more fortunate than the living, who are still alive. But happier than both are those who have never existed, who haven’t witnessed the terrible things that happen under the sun.

Envy and loneliness

I also observed that people work hard and become good at what they do only out of mutual envy. This too is pointless, just wind chasing.

Fools fold their hands and eat their own flesh.
    But better is resting with one handful
        than working hard for two fistfuls and chasing after wind.

Next, I saw under the sun something else that was pointless: There are people who are utterly alone, with no companions, not even a child or a sibling. Yet they work hard without end, never satisfied with their wealth. So for whom am I working so hard and depriving myself of enjoyment? This too is pointless and a terrible obsession.

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their hard work. 10 If either should fall, one can pick up the other. But how miserable are those who fall and don’t have a companion to help them up! 11 Also, if two lie down together, they can stay warm. But how can anyone stay warm alone? 12 Also, one can be overpowered, but two together can put up resistance. A three-ply cord doesn’t easily snap.

13 A poor but wise youth is better than an old and foolish king, who no longer listens to advice. 14 He emerged from prison to become king, even though during his rule a poor child[a] is born. 15 I saw all who live and walk under the sun following the next youth who would rise to take his place. 16 There was no counting the number of people he ruled, but those who came later aren’t happy with him. This too is pointless and a chasing after wind.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 4:14 Possibly the youth of 4:13; or He emerged from prison to become king, even though he was born poor in the kingdom.
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Ecclesiastes 4 New International Version (NIV)

Oppression, Toil, Friendlessness

Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:

I saw the tears of the oppressed—
    and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
    and they have no comforter.
And I declared that the dead,
    who had already died,
are happier than the living,
    who are still alive.
But better than both
    is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil
    that is done under the sun.

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Fools fold their hands
    and ruin themselves.
Better one handful with tranquillity
    than two handfuls with toil
    and chasing after the wind.

Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:

There was a man all alone;
    he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
    yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
    “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
    a miserable business!

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Advancement Is Meaningless

13 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. 14 The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. 15 I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. 16 There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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