Ecclesiastes 4-6

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

November 24, 2004

Ecclesiastes 4

:1-3 A Painful World

: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.

There is a lot of evil in the world, a lot of people being oppressed.

:2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.

Those that have died have it better than those who live because they’re done with all the evil in the world.

: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.

He says it’s better not to ever have been conceived than to have lived and/or died and seen the kinds of evil that go on in the world.

:4 Envy

: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.

(Ec 4:4 NLT) {4} Then I observed that most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless, like chasing the wind.



Envy doesn’t bring any good results. It only brings emptiness.
What are the kinds of things we find ourselves being envious over?
There’s an old legend about a greedy man and an envious man who were walking along when they were overtaken by a stranger who got to know them. And after a bit he said, as he departed from them, that he would give each of them a gift. Whoever made a wish first would get what he wanted, and the other would get a double portion of what the first had asked for. The greedy man knew what he wanted, but he was afraid to make his wish because he wanted the double portion for himself and didn’t want the other to get it. And the envious man felt the same way, and he was also unwilling to wish first. After a while the stronger of the two grabbed the other by the throat and said he would choke him to death unless he made his wish. And at that the other man said, “Very well. I make my wish—I wish to be made blind in one eye.” Immediately he lost the sight of one eye, and his companion went blind in both.


:5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.

(Ec 4:5 The Message) {5} The fool sits back and takes it easy, His sloth is slow suicide.

:6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

It’s better to be peaceful with just a little than to have a lot and have your life filled with stress.

:7-8 No heirs

: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.

The person who doesn’t have any family, yet works hard to accumulate wealth. At some point they wonder what they’re doing it all for.

:9-12 Two are better than one

:9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.

You can get more work done when you have somebody to work with.

When my wife and I do the dishes together, we are fast! Way faster than when either of us do it alone.

: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.

We will all fall.

We need others to help pick us up.

We need to pick up others who fall.


On a freezing winter day in December 1987 three children were playing on the icy surface of a Vermont pond when the ice gave way under their combined weight. The two girls pulled themselves out, but four-year-old Zeke flailed helplessly in the water, clinging to a broken chunk of ice. Suddenly, their 80-pound dog let out a series of barks and plunged into the frigid water. She snagged Zeke’s coat securely in her teeth and pulled the terrified youngster toward the bank and into shallow water, where he could stand. The dog then turned and offered her tail to Zeke. The boy grabbed it and was towed to safety.
There are times when believers find themselves in a spot similar to Zeke’s. When a fellow soldier is down on the battlefield, it’s not time for a committee meeting. We need to plunge in and help pull him to safety.

:11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?

In ancient days, they didn’t have thermostats and electric blankets.  King David had trouble staying warm at night and so they hired a young gal to sleep next to him – not for sex, but simply to keep him warm.

We live in a cold world.

We need others to help keep the fire going.

:12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

We are in a war. Satan is seeking to devour us.

Fighting an enemy is easier when you’re not alone.

The third cord could simply be a reference to a third individual.  But I like to think of the third cord as being Jesus in a relationship.


Spiritual Warfare

Do you have friends that you pray with?  Sometimes our friendships can be filled with lots of “friendship” stuff, but Jesus is not allowed to be a part of the relationship.
Don’t just talk about Jesus, pray with your friend.  Pray with your spouse.


No Lone Rangers

As the Lone Ranger and Tonto were riding along towards the north, they spotted a war party of about 50 Apaches coming at them. They turned south, but another war party appeared. They turned east and met another party of 100 braves. They turned west as their last remaining hope and saw a party of 500. The Lone Ranger turned to his friend and said, “Well, faithful friend, this is the end, there’s not much we can do.” Tonto looked back at the Lone Ranger. “What you mean WE, white man?”
Some of us have been let down by others.  We figure it would be better just to trust no one and do everything ourselves.
Hey, if Tonto has let you down, find another friend.  Don’t go it alone.
(1 Cor 12:21 NLT)  The eye can never say to the hand, "I don't need you." The head can't say to the feet, "I don't need you."
Each part of the body needs the other parts.



Charles R. Swindoll (Hope Again, (Word, 1996), p. 121) writes,

Are you cultivating such friends? Are you being a friend? Are there a few folks who will stand near you, sheltering you with their branches?

Jay Kesler, my long-time friend and currently the president of Taylor University, has said that one of his great hopes in life is to wind up with at least eight people who will attend his funeral without once checking their watches. I love it! Do you have eight people who'll do that?

How can I make friends?
By being a friend.
Why doesn’t a person have a lot of friends?

It’s possible that they just don’t want any friends and don’t try to make friends.  There is the “self-sufficient” person who never even tries to have friends.

Sometimes a person is just not nice to be around.  People I’ve seen who have trouble with making friends tend to be “selfish”.  They are more concerned about what they’re going to get from a friendship than what they’re going to put into it.

Either way, it’s learning to get rid of “self”, whether it’s from being “self-sufficient” or being “self-ish”.

Learn to love others with God’s kind of love:

(1 Cor 13:4-8 NLT)  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud {5} or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. {6} It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. {7} Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. {8} Love will last forever, but prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will all disappear.

:13-16 Fleeting Popularity

: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 cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.

:15 I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead.

: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.

(Ec 4:13-16 NLT) {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 youth could come from prison and succeed. He might even become king, though he was born in poverty. {15} Everyone is eager to help such a youth, even to help him take the throne. {16} He might become the leader of millions and be very popular. But then the next generation grows up and rejects him! So again, it is all meaningless, like chasing the wind.

The idea is that a young, poor man could arise from prison to take over the throne from a foolish old king.  He might gain the approval of all the people, but one day will find that he too, just like the foolish old king, will find people rejecting him.


Power is fleeting


At the 1990 National Prayer Breakfast, former Secretary of State Jim Baker sounded the warning about the dangers of becoming egotistical:
Someone asked me what was the most important thing that I had learned since being in Washington. I replied that it was the fact that temporal power is fleeting. He recalled driving through the White House gates and noticing a man walking alone down Pennsylvania Avenue. He had held Baker's position in a previous administration. There he was, alone -- no reporters, no security, no adoring public, no trappings of power. Just one solitary man alone with his thoughts. And that mental picture continually serves to remind me of the impermanence of power and the impermanence of place.

-- Laura L. Nash, Believers in Business, Nelson, 1994, p. 172.

I wonder about a couple of examples from Israel’s history:

David’s son, Absalom, wasn’t born into poverty, but he had been exiled for the murder of his half brother Amnon.  Absalom rose to steal the hearts of the people and overthrow David and his government.
He was killed in battle, but his government dissolved and David regained his throne.
When Solomon was old, he had trouble with one of his leaders, Jeroboam, who ended up fleeing to Egypt.
When Solomon died, Jeroboam came back and ended up leading a revolt against Solomon’s son Rehoboam.
Yet Jeroboam’s son Nadab was assassinated and as quickly as Jeroboam came to the top, his family disappeared.

There is a sense of futility in trying to achieve popularity and power.  You can try and achieve these things, but they can slip away from you just as fast as you get them.

Ecclesiastes 5

5:1-7 Few Words with God

:1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.

:2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

:3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.

:4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.

:5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

:6 Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?

:7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.

(Ec 5:1-7 NLT) {1} As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut! Don’t be a fool who doesn’t realize that mindless offerings to God are evil. {2} And don’t make rash promises to God, for he is in heaven, and you are only here on earth. So let your words be few. {3} Just as being too busy gives you nightmares, being a fool makes you a blabbermouth. {4} So when you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him. {5} It is better to say nothing than to promise something that you don’t follow through on. {6} In such cases, your mouth is making you sin. And don’t defend yourself by telling the Temple messenger that the promise you made was a mistake. That would make God angry, and he might wipe out everything you have achieved. {7} Dreaming all the time instead of working is foolishness. And there is ruin in a flood of empty words. Fear God instead.


Understand who you are talking to.

God is in heaven.  You are not.
I think that sometimes in prayer we just rattle on and on and on with no idea of who we are talking to.
If we were to be sitting with the President of the United States, would we say some of the things we say?
(Mat 6:5-8 KJV)  And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
I think that sometimes we aren’t trying to talk with God.  We’re trying to talk with the person across the room.  Sometimes we try and send “messages” to other people as we pray.  Sometimes we are trying to simply impress others with our own spirituality by our prayers.
{6} But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
It’s not wrong to pray in a group.  But if you don’t ever pray when you’re alone, then something’s wrong.
{7} But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
God isn’t impressed by the amount of words you use.  Few Words are okay.
{8} Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
God doesn’t need to be informed in our prayers.  Prayer is not about informing God, it’s about asking for His help.


Careful what you promise

In the context, the idea is not to be making lots of promises to God that you don’t intend to keep.
God takes your promises seriously.  He intends for you to keep your promises to Him.
(Deu 23:21-23 KJV)  When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. {22} But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee. {23} That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; even a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the LORD thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth.

It would be better not to make an empty promise than to make a promise you don’t intend to keep.


:8 If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.

:9 Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.

Apparently the Hebrew is a little difficult in these passages.

The King James sounds as if God will one day make everything right.  There may be injustice now, but later God will correct it all.

:10-12 Futility of greed

:10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.

:11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?

You can never have enough.

:12 The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.

A hard working man will sleep well.

The greedy man doesn’t sleep because he’s paranoid about someone taking his money.

:13-17 Empty Wealth

:13 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.

:14 But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.

:15 As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.

:16 And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?

:17 All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.

(Ec 5:13-15 NLT) {13} There is another serious problem I have seen in the world. Riches are sometimes hoarded to the harm of the saver, {14} or they are put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. {15} People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day they were born.

Jesus said,

(Mat 6:19-21 KJV)  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: {20} But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: {21} For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The detectives on TV often say, “Follow the money”.
What are your “treasures”?  That’s where your heart will be.
If you lay up treasures in heaven, then that’s where your heart will be.

:18-20 Enjoying your life

:18 Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.

:19 Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.

:20 For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.

(Ec 5:20 NLT) {20} People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.


Enjoy your life

It’s a gift of God to be able to enjoy life.

Ecclesiastes 6

:1-2 Enjoying your treasure

:1 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men:

:2 A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.

It’s a sad thing when God has given a person many things, yet they don’t have the ability to enjoy it, and even worse when a stranger enjoys these treasures.

What are the treasures in your life?

I think about my family – my wife and my kids

Do other people appreciate your treasures more than you do?


:3 If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.

:4 For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.

:5 Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other.

:6 Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?

(Ec 6:3-6 NLT) {3} A man might have a hundred children and live to be very old. But if he finds no satisfaction in life and in the end does not even get a decent burial, I say he would have been better off born dead. {4} I realize that his birth would have been meaningless and ended in darkness. He wouldn’t even have had a name, {5} and he would never have seen the sun or known of its existence. Yet he would have had more peace than he has in growing up to be an unhappy man. {6} He might live a thousand years twice over but not find contentment. And since he must die like everyone else—well, what’s the use?

This is not an excuse to kill unborn children.

The point is how worthless this earthly life is if you don’t learn to enjoy the treasures that God has given you.


:7 All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.

:8 For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?

:9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

(Ec 6:9 NLT) {9} Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless; it is like chasing the wind.


:10 That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he.

(Ec 6:10 NLT) {10} Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny.

Just find out what God has designed you to be, and be it.

:11 Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?

:12 For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

(Ec 6:11-12 NLT) {11} The more words you speak, the less they mean. So why overdo it? {12} In the few days of our empty lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? And who can tell what will happen in the future after we are gone?


ACRES OF DIAMONDS – Russell H. Conwell

There once lived not far from the River Indus an ancient Persian by the name of Ali Hafed. He said that Ali Hafed owned a very large farm, that he had orchards, grain-fields, and gardens; that he had money at interest, and was a wealthy and contented man. He was contented because he was wealthy, and wealthy because he was contented. One day there visited that old Persian farmer one of these ancient Buddhist priests, one of the wise men of the East.

The old priest told Ali Hafed all about diamonds, and that if he had one diamond the size of his thumb he could purchase the county, and if he had a mine of diamonds he could place his children upon thrones through the influence of their great wealth. Ali Hafed heard all about diamonds, how much they were worth, and went to his bed that night a poor man. He had not lost anything, but he was poor because he was discontented, and discontented because he feared he was poor. He said, “I want a mine of diamonds,” and he lay awake all night. Early in the morning he sought out the priest. I know by experience that a priest is very cross when awakened early in the morning, and when he shook that old priest out of his dreams, Ali Hafed said to him: “Will you tell me where I can find diamonds?” “Diamonds! What do you want with diamonds?” “Why, I wish to be immensely rich.” “Well, then, go along and find them. That is all you have to do; go and find them, and then you have them.” “But I don’t know where to go.” “Well, if you will find a river that runs through white sands, between high mountains, in those white sands you will always find diamonds.” “I don’t believe there is any such river.” “Oh yes, there are plenty of them. All you have to do is to go and find them, and then you have them.” Said Ali Hafed, “I will go.” So he sold his farm, collected his money, left his family in charge of a neighbor, and away he went in search of diamonds. He began his search, very properly to my mind, at the Mountains of the Moon. Afterward he came around into Palestine, then wandered on into Europe, and at last when his money was all spent and he was in rags, wretchedness, and poverty, he stood on the shore of that bay at Barcelona, in Spain, when a great tidal wave came rolling in between the pillars of Hercules, and the poor, afflicted, suffering, dying man could not resist the awful temptation to cast himself into that incoming tide, and he sank beneath its foaming crest, never to rise in this life again.

The man who purchased Ali Hafed’s farm one day led his camel into the garden to drink, and as that camel put its nose into the shallow water of that garden brook, Ali Hafed’s successor noticed a curious flash of light from the white sands of the stream. He pulled out a black stone having an eye of light reflecting all the hues of the rainbow. He took the pebble into the house and put it on the mantel which covers the central fires, and forgot all about it.

A few days later this same old priest came in to visit Ali Hafed’s successor, and the moment he opened that drawing-room door he saw that flash of light on the mantel, and he rushed up to it, and shouted: “Here is a diamond! Has Ali Hafed returned?” “Oh no, Ali Hafed has not returned, and that is not a diamond. That is nothing but a stone we found right out here in our own garden.” “But,” said the priest, “I tell you I know a diamond when I see it. I know positively that is a diamond.” Then together they rushed out into that old garden and stirred up the white sands with their fingers, and lo! there came up other more beautiful and valuable gems than the first.

Thus was discovered the diamond-mine of Golconda, the most magnificent diamond-mine in all the history of mankind, excelling the Kimberly itself. The Kohinoor, and the Orloff of the crown jewels of England and Russia, the largest on earth, came from that mine.

Had Ali Hafed remained at home and dug in his own cellar, or underneath his own wheatfields, or in his own garden, instead of wretchedness, starvation, and death by suicide in a strange land, he would have had ‘acres of diamonds.



I think that one of the best ways to “enjoy” your treasures is to be thankful.
What are you thankful for?