|<< Ecclesiastes 4 >>|
Wesley's Notes on the Bible
1 So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.
4:1 I returned - I considered again. Oppressions - Whether by princes, magistrates, or other potent persons. No comforter - None afforded them pity or succour. But they, and c. - No comfort therein.
2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.
4:2 I praised - I judged them less miserable. For this is certain, that setting aside the future life, which Solomon doth not meddle with in the present debate; and considering the uncertainty, and vanity, and manifold calamities of the present life, a wise man would not account it worth his while to live.
3 Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
4:3 Better is he - Who was never born. Not seen - Not felt: for as seeing good is put for enjoying it, so seeing evil is put for suffering it.
4 Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
4:4 Right work - All the worthy designs of virtuous men. Envied - Instead of honour, he meets with envy and obloquy.
5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.
4:5 The fool - Is careless and idle: perceiving that diligence is attended with envy, he runs into the other extreme. Eateth - Wastes his substance, and brings himself to poverty, whereby his very flesh pines away for want of bread.
6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.
4:6 Better - These are the words of the sluggard, making this apology for his idleness, That his little with ease, is better than great riches got with much trouble.
7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.
8 There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.
4:8 Alone - Who has none but himself to care for. Brother - To whom he may leave his vast estate. Yet - He lives in perpetual restlessness and toil. For whom - Having no kindred to enjoy it. And bereave - Deny myself those comforts and conveniences which God hath allowed me? A sore travel - A dreadful judgment, as well as a great sin.
9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
4:9 Two - Who live together in any kind of society. Because - Both have great benefit by such conjunction, whereby they support, encourage, and strengthen one another.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
4:10 They - One of them. Fall - Into any mistake, or sin, or danger.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
4:12 Prevail - Against either of them.
13 Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.
4:13 Better - More happy. Now he proceeds to another vanity, That of honour and power. Than a king - Who hath neither wisdom to govern himself, nor to receive the counsels of wiser men.
14 For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.
4:14 For he - The poor and wise child is often advanced to the highest dignity. Whereas - That old king is deprived of his kingdom.
15 I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead.
4:15 I considered - The general disposition of common people, in all kingdoms, that they are fickle and inconstant. With the second child - This may be understood of the king's child, or son and heir, called second, in respect of his father, whose successor he is. Stand up - Arise to reign.
16 There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit.
4:16 No end - This humour of the common people hath no end, but passes from one generation to another. Before them - Before the present generation. And so here are three generations of people noted, the authors of the present change, and their parents, and their children; and all are observed to have the same inclinations. In him - They shall be as weary of the successor, though a wise and worthy prince, as their parents were of his foolish predecessor.