Ecclesiastes can certainly come across as depressing and discouraging. It helps to keep in mind the ultimate conclusion that the book is leading up to. The context is an old Solomon, wise and rich in splendor as king over his lifetime. He is reflecting back on the meaning of life. He ultimately concludes the following:
13The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.
It is with this conclusion in mind that it helps to drive home the meaning of the whole book as we read it. Ultimately everything falls short of real significance except fearing God and keeping his commandments.
The Evils of Oppression
1Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them. 2So I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. 3But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun.
4I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind. 5The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. 6One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind.
7Then I looked again at vanity under the sun. 8There was a certain man without a dependent, having neither a son nor a brother, yet there was no end to all his labor. Indeed, his eyes were not satisfied with riches and he never asked, “And for whom am I laboring and depriving myself of pleasure?” This too is vanity and it is a grievous task.
9Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
13A poor yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction. 14For he has come out of prison to become king, even though he was born poor in his kingdom. 15I have seen all the living under the sun throng to the side of the second lad who replaces him. 16There is no end to all the people, to all who were before them, and even the ones who will come later will not be happy with him, for this too is vanity and striving after wind.
There are a collection of gems of wisdom in this chapter, all of which are worthy of reflection and prayerful consideration for application in our own lives today. Some that strike me…
- Oppression is very bad.
- Empty rivalry is worthless.
- Two working together are better than one.
- A poor wise lad is better than an old and foolish king who no longer receives instruction
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