Ecclesiastes 4 Commentary

The uselessness of achievement (4:4-16)

Several examples illustrate how useless much human activity is. Some people drive themselves in their work but can never relax and enjoy it, because they are always worrying about being ahead of everyone else. Others do not work at all and so ruin themselves. Both extremes should be avoided. People should work for a living and enjoy it, but they should not be so ambitious that they create trouble for themselves (4-6).

Other unhappy people are those who spend all their time making money which they neither use themselves nor give to others (7-8). Those who cut themselves off from others, such as these rich misers, really harm themselves, for cooperation with others increases personal security (9-12).

Probably no one experiences the worthlessness of success and fame more than the great man who falls from power. He may have risen from poverty to fame, from prison to the throne, but if he refuses to listen to advice, any intelligent youth could rule better than he (13-14). In fact, among the thousands of people over whom a king rules there may just happen to be such an intelligent youth, who will overthrow the king and seize the throne for himself. But he, like the former king, will soon be forgotten (15-16).

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