4 Next I observed all the oppression and sadness throughout the earth—the tears of the oppressed, and no one helping them, while on the side of their oppressors were powerful allies. 2 So I felt that the dead were better off than the living. 3 And most fortunate of all are those who have never been born and have never seen all the evil and crime throughout the earth.
4 Then I observed that the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy! But this, too, is foolishness, chasing the wind. 5-6 The fool won’t work and almost starves but feels that it is better to be lazy and barely get by, than to work hard, when in the long run it is all so futile.
7 I also observed another piece of foolishness around the earth. 8 This is the case of a man who is quite alone, without a son or brother, yet he works hard to keep gaining more riches. And to whom will he leave it all, and why is he giving up so much now? It is all so pointless and depressing.
9 Two can accomplish more than twice as much as one, for the results can be much better. 10 If one falls, the other pulls him up; but if a man falls when he is alone, he’s in trouble.
11 Also, on a cold night, two under the same blanket gain warmth from each other, but how can one be warm alone? 12 And one standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
13 It is better to be a poor but wise youth than to be an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. 14 Such a lad could come from prison and succeed. He might even become king though born in poverty. 15 Everyone is eager to help a youth like that, even to help him usurp the throne. 16 He can become the leader of millions of people and be very popular. But, then, the younger generation grows up around him and rejects him! So again, it is all foolishness, chasing the wind.
New International Version
Oppression, Toil, Friendlessness
4 Again I looked and saw all the oppression(A) that was taking place under the sun:
I saw the tears of the oppressed—
and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
and they have no comforter.(B)
2 And I declared that the dead,(C)
who had already died,
are happier than the living,
who are still alive.(D)
3 But better than both
is the one who has never been born,(E)
who has not seen the evil
that is done under the sun.(F)
4 And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.(G)
7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:
8 There was a man all alone;
he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
yet his eyes were not content(J) with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
“and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
a miserable business!
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Advancement Is Meaningless
13 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. 14 The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. 15 I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. 16 There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.