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But I turned away and thought about all the kinds of oppression being done under the sun.

I saw the tears of the oppressed,
and they had no one to comfort them.
The power was on the side of their oppressors,
and they had no one to comfort them.

So I considered the dead happier, because they were already dead, than the living, who must still live their lives; but happier than either of them is the one who has not yet been born, because he has not yet seen the evil things that are done under the sun.

Next I realized that all effort and achievement stem from one person’s envy of another. This too is futility and feeding on wind.

Fools fold their arms together
and eat their own flesh away.

Better an armload with tranquillity
than both arms full of effort and feeding on wind.

Then I turned my attention to something else under the sun that is pointless: the situation in which a solitary individual without a companion, with neither son nor brother, keeps on working endlessly but never has enough wealth. “For whom” [he should ask], “am I working so hard and denying myself pleasure?” This too is truly pointless, a sorry business.

Two are better than one, in that their cooperative efforts yield this advantage: 10 if one of them falls, the other will help his partner up — woe to him who is alone when he falls and has no one to help him up. 11 Again, if two people sleep together, they keep each other warm; but how can one person be warm by himself? 12 Moreover, an attacker may defeat someone who is alone, but two can resist him; and a three-stranded cord is not easily broken.

13 Better a youth who is poor but wise
than a king who is old but foolish,
no longer willing to listen to advice.
14 True, he rose from prison to be king;
yet, while ruling, he became poor.

15 I observed that all who live and walk under the sun took the side of the youth mentioned first who would rule in place of the king, 16 and that no limit was set for the number of his subjects. Nevertheless, those who come afterwards will not regard him highly. This too is certainly pointless and feeding on wind.

17 (5:1) Watch your step when you go to the house of God. Offering to listen is better than fools offering sacrifices, because they don’t discern whether or not they are doing evil.

Oppression, Toil, Friendlessness

Again I looked and saw all the oppression(A) 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.(B)
And I declared that the dead,(C)
    who had already died,
are happier than the living,
    who are still alive.(D)
But better than both
    is the one who has never been born,(E)
who has not seen the evil
    that is done under the sun.(F)

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.(G)

Fools fold their hands(H)
    and ruin themselves.
Better one handful with tranquillity
    than two handfuls with toil(I)
    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(J) 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.