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Ecclesiastes 4 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

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. And I thought the dead, who have already died, more fortunate than the living, who are still alive; 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.

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]

Fools fold their hands
    and consume their own flesh.
Better is a handful with quiet
    than two handfuls with toil,
    and a chasing after wind.[b]

Again, I saw vanity under the sun: 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

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]

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 4:4 Or a feeding on wind. See Hos 12.1
  2. Ecclesiastes 4:6 Or a feeding on wind. See Hos 12.1
  3. Ecclesiastes 4:15 Heb the second
  4. Ecclesiastes 4:15 Heb him
  5. Ecclesiastes 4:16 Or a feeding on wind. See Hos 12.1
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Ecclesiastes 4 New Living Translation (NLT)

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. So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living. 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.

Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

“Fools fold their idle hands,
    leading them to ruin.”

And yet,

“Better to have one handful with quietness
    than two handfuls with hard work
    and chasing the wind.”

The Advantages of Companionship

I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun. 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.

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.

Footnotes:

  1. 4:15 Hebrew the second youth.
  2. 4:16 Hebrew There is no end to all the people, to all those who are before them.
New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


Ecclesiastes 4 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

But I turned away and thought about all the kinds of oppression being done under the sun.

I saw the tears of the oppressed,
and they had no one to comfort them.
The power was on the side of their oppressors,
and they had no one to comfort them.

So I considered the dead happier, because they were already dead, than the living, who must still live their lives; 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.

Next I realized that all effort and achievement stem from one person’s envy of another. This too is futility and feeding on wind.

Fools fold their arms together
and eat their own flesh away.

Better an armload with tranquillity
than both arms full of effort and feeding on wind.

Then I turned my attention to something else under the sun that is pointless: 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.

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
than a king who is old but foolish,
no longer willing to listen to advice.
14 True, he rose from prison to be king;
yet, while ruling, he became poor.

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.

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved.

Ecclesiastes 4 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Uselessness of Selfish Toil

Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun:

And look! The tears of the oppressed,
But they have no comforter—
[a]On the side of their oppressors there is power,
But they have no comforter.
Therefore I praised the dead who were already dead,
More than the living who are still alive.
Yet, better than both is he who has never existed,
Who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.

The Vanity of Selfish Toil

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.

The fool folds his hands
And consumes his own flesh.
Better a handful with quietness
Than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind.

Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun:

There is one alone, without [b]companion:
He has neither son nor brother.
Yet there is no end to all his labors,
Nor is his eye satisfied with riches.
But he never asks,
“For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?”
This also is vanity and a [c]grave misfortune.

The Value of a Friend

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Popularity Passes Away

13 Better a poor and wise youth
Than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more.
14 For he comes out of prison to be king,
Although [d]he was born poor in his kingdom.
15 I saw all the living who walk under the sun;
They were with the second youth who stands in his place.
16 There was no end of all the people [e]over whom he was made king;
Yet those who come afterward will not rejoice in him.
Surely this also is vanity and grasping for the wind.

Footnotes:

  1. Ecclesiastes 4:1 Lit. At the hand
  2. Ecclesiastes 4:8 Lit. a second
  3. Ecclesiastes 4:8 Lit. evil task
  4. Ecclesiastes 4:14 The youth
  5. Ecclesiastes 4:16 Lit. to all before whom he was to be
New King James Version (NKJV)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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