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Better Not to Have Been Born

Next, I turned to look at all the acts of oppression that make people suffer under the sun. Look at the tears of those who suffer! No one can comfort them. Their oppressors have all the power. No one can comfort those who suffer. I congratulate the dead, who have already died, rather than the living, who still have to carry on. But the person who hasn’t been born yet is better off than both of them. He hasn’t seen the evil that is done under the sun.

Hard Work Versus Laziness

Then I saw that all hard work and skillful effort come from rivalry. Even this is pointless. It’s like trying to catch the wind. A fool folds his hands and wastes away. One handful of peace and quiet is better than two handfuls of hard work and of trying to catch the wind.

Those Who Are All Alone

Next, I turned to look at something pointless under the sun: There are people who are all alone. They have no children or other family members. So there is no end to all the hard work they have to do. Their eyes are never satisfied with riches. But they never ask themselves why they are working so hard and depriving themselves of good things. Even this is pointless and a terrible tragedy.

Two Are Better Than One

Two people are better than one because together they have a good reward for their hard work. 10 If one falls, the other can help his friend get up. But how tragic it is for the one who is all alone when he falls. There is no one to help him get up. 11 Again, if two people lie down together, they can keep warm, but how can one person keep warm? 12 Though one person may be overpowered by another, two people can resist one opponent. A triple-braided rope is not easily broken.

Rulers and Fickle Citizens

13 A young man who is poor and wise is better than an old, foolish king who won’t take advice any longer.

14 A young man came out of prison to rule as king, even though he had been born in poverty in that same kingdom. 15 I saw all living people moving about under the sun. They sided with the second young man, the king’s successor. 16 There was no end to all those people, everyone whom he led.[a] But those who will come later will not be happy with the successor. Even this is pointless. It’s like trying to catch the wind.


  1. Ecclesiastes 4:16 Or “everyone who lived before these [kings].”