Ecclesiastes 4 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
4 Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power—with no one to comfort them. 2 And I thought the dead, who have already died, more fortunate than the living, who are still alive; 3 but better than both is the one 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 one person’s envy of another. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.[a]
5 Fools fold their hands
7 Again, I saw vanity under the sun: 8 the case of solitary individuals, without sons or brothers; yet there is no end to all their toil, and their eyes are never satisfied with riches. “For whom am I toiling,” they ask, “and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business.
The Value of a Friend
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
13 Better is a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king, who will no longer take advice. 14 One can indeed come out of prison to reign, even though born poor in the kingdom. 15 I saw all the living who, moving about under the sun, follow that[c] youth who replaced the king;[d] 16 there was no end to all those people whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a chasing after wind.[e]
Ecclesiastes 4 New Living Translation (NLT)
4 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. 2 So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living. 3 But most fortunate of all are those who are not yet born. For they have not seen all the evil that is done under the sun.
4 Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.
5 “Fools fold their idle hands,
6 And yet,
“Better to have one handful with quietness
The Advantages of Companionship
7 I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun. 8 This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing.
9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
The Futility of Political Power
13 It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. 14 Such a youth could rise from poverty and succeed. He might even become king, though he has been in prison. 15 But then everyone rushes to the side of yet another youth[a] who replaces him. 16 Endless crowds stand around him,[b] but then another generation grows up and rejects him, too. So it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.
Ecclesiastes 4 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
4 But I turned away and thought about all the kinds of oppression being done under the sun.
I saw the tears of the oppressed,
2 So I considered the dead happier, because they were already dead, than the living, who must still live their lives; 3 but happier than either of them is the one who has not yet been born, because he has not yet seen the evil things that are done under the sun.
4 Next I realized that all effort and achievement stem from one person’s envy of another. This too is futility and feeding on wind.
5 Fools fold their arms together
6 Better an armload with tranquillity
7 Then I turned my attention to something else under the sun that is pointless: 8 the situation in which a solitary individual without a companion, with neither son nor brother, keeps on working endlessly but never has enough wealth. “For whom” [he should ask], “am I working so hard and denying myself pleasure?” This too is truly pointless, a sorry business.
9 Two are better than one, in that their cooperative efforts yield this advantage: 10 if one of them falls, the other will help his partner up — woe to him who is alone when he falls and has no one to help him up. 11 Again, if two people sleep together, they keep each other warm; but how can one person be warm by himself? 12 Moreover, an attacker may defeat someone who is alone, but two can resist him; and a three-stranded cord is not easily broken.
13 Better a youth who is poor but wise
15 I observed that all who live and walk under the sun took the side of the youth mentioned first who would rule in place of the king, 16 and that no limit was set for the number of his subjects. Nevertheless, those who come afterwards will not regard him highly. This too is certainly pointless and feeding on wind.
17 (5:1) Watch your step when you go to the house of God. Offering to listen is better than fools offering sacrifices, because they don’t discern whether or not they are doing evil.
Ecclesiastes 4 New King James Version (NKJV)
The Uselessness of Selfish Toil
4 Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun:
And look! The tears of the oppressed,
The Vanity of Selfish Toil
4 Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
5 The fool folds his hands
7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun:
8 There is one alone, without [b]companion:
The Value of a Friend
9 Two are better than one,
Popularity Passes Away
13 Better a poor and wise youth