Ecclesiastes 4:1-8

Evil Under the Sun

1 1Again I 2saw all 3the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had 4no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.
2 And I 5thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive.
3 But 6better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
4 Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is 7vanity and a striving after wind.
5 The fool 8folds his hands and 9eats his own flesh.
6 10Better is a handful of 11quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
7 12Again, I saw vanity under the sun:
8 one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his 13eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, 14"For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?" This also is vanity and an unhappy 15business.

Ecclesiastes 4:1-8 Meaning and Commentary


In this chapter the wise man reassumes the consideration of the case of the abuse of power, to show that there is no happiness in this world, in grandeur and authority enjoyed; since, as he had observed before, on the one hand, the oppressor shall be judged and condemned at the great day of account; so, on the other hand, the oppressed have their lives made so uncomfortable, that the dead are preferred unto them, and unborn persons to them both, Ec 4:1-3; Another vanity he observes, that whereas men expect to be happy by their diligence and industry, this brings upon them the envy of others, Ec 4:4; hence some, on the other hand, place their happiness in sloth and ease, which is another vanity, Ec 4:5,6; and others again in covetousness; who are described by their unsocial life, toilsome labour, unsatisfied desires, and withholding good things from themselves, Ec 4:7,8; upon which some things are said, to show the benefits of a social life, Ec 4:9-12. And the chapter is concluded with exposing the vanity of the highest instance of worldly power and grandeur, royal dignity, through the folly of a king; the effects of which are mentioned, Ec 4:13,14; and through the fickleness of the people, who are soon weary of a prince on the throne, and court his successor, Ec 4:15,16.

Cross References 15

  • 1. Ecclesiastes 9:11
  • 2. Ecclesiastes 3:16
  • 3. Ecclesiastes 5:8; Job 35:9
  • 4. Lamentations 1:2
  • 5. See Job 3:11-26
  • 6. Ecclesiastes 6:3
  • 7. See Ecclesiastes 1:14
  • 8. Proverbs 6:10; Proverbs 24:33
  • 9. [Isaiah 9:20]
  • 10. See Proverbs 15:16
  • 11. Ecclesiastes 6:5
  • 12. [See ver. 1 above]
  • 13. Ecclesiastes 1:8; [Proverbs 27:20; 1 John 2:16]
  • 14. Ecclesiastes 2:18; Psalms 39:6
  • 15. See Ecclesiastes 1:13
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.