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Ecclesiastes 4:1

Oppression, Toil, Friendlessness

1 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.

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Read Ecclesiastes 4:1 Using Other Translations

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.
Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.
Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless.

What does Ecclesiastes 4:1 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Ecclesiastes 4:1

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are
done under the sun
The wise man, according to Aben Ezra, returned from the thought, which he had expressed in the latter part of the preceding chapter, that it was good for a man to rejoice in his works, and called it in; since he could not rejoice, when he considered the oppression and violence that were in the world; but it does not appear that he did call it in, for he afterwards repeats it: or rather he returns to his former subject, the abuse of power and authority, mentioned ( Ecclesiastes 3:16 ) ; and from whence he had digressed a little by the above observation; and takes a review of all kinds of oppressions which are done, and of all sorts of "oppressed" F24 ones, as some render it, which become so, under the sun; subjects by their prince; the stranger, widow, and fatherless, by unjust judges; the poor by the rich; servants and labourers by their masters; and the like. Moreover, he saw by the Holy Ghost, as Jarchi paraphrases it, all oppressions by a spirit of prophecy; he foresaw all the oppressions that would be done under the sun; as all the injuries done to the people of Israel in their several captivities; so to the church of Christ in Gospel times; all the persecutions of Rome Pagan, and also of Rome Papal; all that has or will be done by antichrist, the man of the earth, who before long will oppress no more, ( Psalms 10:18 ) ; the Targum restrains these oppressions to those which are done to the righteous in this world: and it is well observed by the wise man, that they are such as are under the sun, for there are none above it, nor any beyond the grave, ( Job 3:17 Job 3:18 ) ; and behold the tears of [such as were] oppressed;
which their eyes poured out, and which ran down their cheeks, and were all they could do, having no power to help themselves: it is in the singular number, "and behold the tear" F25; as if it was one continued stream of tears, which, like a torrent, flowed from them; or as if they had so exhausted the source of nature by weeping, that the fountain of tears was dried up, and scarce another could drop; or it was as much as could be, that another should drop from them: and this the wise man could not well behold, without weeping himself; it being the property of a good man to weep with them that weep, especially with good men oppressed; and they had no comforter;
to speak a comfortable word to them; not so much as to do that which would be some alleviation of their sorrow, much less to help them, no human comforter; and this is a very deplorable condition, ( Lamentations 1:2 Lamentations 1:9 Lamentations 1:16 Lamentations 1:17 ) ( Psalms 69:20 ) ; indeed, when this is the case, good men under their oppressions have a divine Comforter; God comforts them under all their tribulations; one of the names of the Messiah is "the Consolation of Israel", ( Luke 2:25 ) ; and the Spirit of God is "another Comforter", ( John 14:16 ) ; and such are well off, when all other comforters are miserable ones, or other men have none; and on the side of their oppressors [there was] power;
to crush them and keep them under, or to hinder others from helping or comforting them: or there was no "power [to deliver them] out of the hand of their oppressors" F26; so some render and supply the words; with which sense agrees the Targum,

``and there is none to redeem them out of the hand of their oppressors, by strength of hand and by power.''
It may be rendered, "out of the hand of their oppressors [comes] power", or violence; such as the oppressed are not able to withstand; so the Arabic version; but they had no comforter:
which is repeated, not so much for confirmation, as to excite attention and pity, and to express the affliction of the oppressed, and the cruelty of others; and this following on the other clause, leads to observe, that the power of the oppressor is what hinders and deters others from comforting. Jarchi interprets this whole verse of the damned in hell, punished for their evil works, weeping for their souls oppressed by the destroying angels; and so, he says, it is, explained in an ancient book of theirs, called Siphri.

F24 (Myqveh) "oppressos", Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Drusius, Schmidt, Rambachius, so Broughton; "fraudatos", Cocceius.
F25 (temd) "lachryma", Montanus, Tigurine version, Cocceius, Rambachius.
F26 (xk Mhyqve dymw) "et quia deest facultas se vindicandi e manu opprimentium ipsos", Tigurine version; "aut evadendi e manu opprimentium se virtus", Junius & Tremellius; "nec vires ad evadendum a manu opprimentium ipsos", Piscator.
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