Vanity is increased to men by oppression, 1-3; by envy, 4; by idleness, 5, 6; by covetousness, 7, 8; by solitariness, 9-12; by willfulness, 13-16.
1 Thus I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of those who were oppressed, and they had no comforter. And on the side of their oppressors there was power, but they had no comforter. 2 Therefore, I praised the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still alive. 3 Indeed, better is he than both of them, who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
4 Again, I considered all labor and every right work, that for this, a man is envied by his neighbor. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit. 5 The fool folds his hands together and eats his own flesh. 6 Better is a handful with quietness, than both the hands full with toil and vexation of spirit.
7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun. 8 There is one alone, and there is not a second, and he has neither child nor brother. Yet there is no end of all his labor, neither is his eye satisfied with riches, neither does he say, "For whom do I labor and bereave my soul of good?" This is also vanity. It is even a grievous labor.
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he does not have another to help him to rise. 11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat. But how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one prevails against him, two shall withstand him. A three-fold cord is not quickly broken.
13 Better is a poor and a wise child, than an old and foolish king who will no more be admonished. 14 For out of prison he comes to reign, for even in his own kingdom he has been poor. 15 I considered all the living who walk under the sun, with the second child who shall stand up in his stead. 16 There is no end of all the people, even of all who have been before them. Those who come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Matthew Henry Commentary - Ecclesiastes, Chapter 4[➚]