Study Guide

Ecclesiastes Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Tears for Fears

  • Ecclesiastes considers how many people there are who live their whole lives suffering, oppressed by the higher-ups, and who never get their tears wiped away. All the power is on the side of the oppressors.
  • This leads Ecclesiastes to one of his darkest statements yet. He says it's pretty obvious that it's better to be dead than to be alive. But it's even better not to have ever been born at all. Man—bleak stuff.
  • And to make it all worse, the only reason anyone even bothers to toil and do better at work is just to get one-up on the guy next-door, or because they envy what someone else has. And guess what that is? Yep. More vanity. And "chasing after wind." Cue up that "Word of the Day" freak-out, again.
  • Ecclesiastes rails against "fools" once more. Whereas other people are working too hard in their envious struggles, fools simply sit with their hands folded and "consume their own flesh" (4:5). Gross.

Bro-mance

  • Ecclesiastes talks about people who are on their own—solitary individuals, still working hard. But who are they working for, if not themselves? Nobody. So they're depressed and confused.
  • Ecclesiastes says it would be better to get some friends. Only one or two are necessary, it seems. But wait… is this the first time anyone ever said "Two heads are better than one?" (4:9). Maybe. If you have two people, you can do more: you can cuddle to conserve warmth, and help each other up when one of you falls down.
  • It's also better to be young, poor, and wise, than to be an old, rich king who doesn't know how to take advice anymore. Ecclesiastes says he sees the young, energetic people continually coming in and taking the place of elderly burn-outs. But what about when they (the formerly young people) get old and burnt out? Well, it'll be time for another rewind.
  • And you know what Ecclesiastes thinks all this is? Do we really need to say it? Let's just say it rhymes with… "Shmanity."

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