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Asbury Bible Commentary – V. Competition, Cooperation, And Fame (4:4–16)
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V. Competition, Cooperation, And Fame (4:4–16)

In this section Qoheleth condemns the competitive spirit (v. 4) while calling for a cooperative one (vv. 9-12). Either prompted by envy (v. 4) or habit (v. 8) the solitary worker may secure wealth, but he has neither friends nor family. His drive for wealth has virtually dehumanized him, robbing him of companionship.

Cooperation, on the other hand, provides for great productivity (v. 9). Further, companionship provides support for the person who physically falls or has a lapse in judgment (v. 10), warmth for a cold winter's night (v. 11), and protection against a thief (v. 12).

The danger of isolation is seen in the old king who enjoys position but is characterized as foolish because he has lost contact with his constituency. The youth, lacking position but possessing ability and energy, will supplant the old king (vv. 13-14). The emphasis here is one of “rags to riches.” But even this youth will go the way of the old king (vv. 15-16). He will lose favor with his constituency as his attractiveness fades. Qoheleth has given another example of chasing after the wind.