Ecclesiastes 4:1-8 “Wherefore I Praised The Dead Which Are Already Dead More Than The Living Which Are Yet Alive”

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Ecc 4:1 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.

Ecc 4:2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.

Ecc 4:3 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.

Ecc 4:4 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.

Ecc 4:5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.

Ecc 4:6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

Ecc 4:7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.

Ecc 4:8 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.

Introduction

In this chapter apostate King Solomon’s spiritual emptiness is especially manifested. He is, in this state, the type and shadow of who we are when our deadly wound is healed and we have become the dwelling place for seven demons more evil that the first demon within us.

Luk 11:24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.

Luk 11:25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.

Luk 11:26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. [“The deadly wound was healed”]

Rev 13:3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed [“Seven spirits more wicked than himself” have entered into him]: and all the world wondered after the beast.

King Solomon has informed us that men and beasts have the same spirit, and that a man, apart from God and of himself, has no preeminence above a beast. He is extremely tormented in his mind because he tells us there is a time for every purpose under heaven, and all things are beautiful in God’s time. But Solomon has married 700 wives of the nations around him. Solomon’s marriages to strange wives lead him to serve their gods and to follow the customs of those gods. He has 300 more concubines or secondary wives, and this is the effect of being married to those whose ways are contrary to God’s ways:

1Ki 11:3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.

1Ki 11:4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.

Wives in scripture typify churches. Solomon’s 700 wives and three hundred secondary wives typify the harlot of Rev 17-18 with all of her daughter harlots. Throughout scripture women have been used to seduce God’s people to forsake Him and give away their spiritual birthright for the bowl of red pottage of momentary gratification which comes with spiritual adultery which we commit with the churches of this world by putting their customs and their ways above Christ and His example which He left us.

1Pe 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Even a blind man can see the egregious sins committed against those who have placed themselves at the mercy of these self- centered harlots, and Solomon, a type of each of us, who had at one time known and loved his Maker, could still see all the inequities around him, though he apparently did not consider his own taxes to be too high on his subjects.

1Ki 12:4 Thy father [ King Solomon] made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.

Yet King Solomon could clearly see many inequities in the courts of the kings whose daughters he had married. So he tells us:

Ecc 4:1 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.

Is it true that our oppressors have the power to oppress us? What do the scriptures teach us?

Luk 4:5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

Luk 4:6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.

1Pe 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

“All this power” of the kingdoms of this world is given to Satan, and he walks about “seeking whom he may devour”, but that is not the sum of God’s Word on the power granted to the adversary. The book of Job and many other verses of scripture demonstrate that Satan’s power is derived from and completely controlled by God, and Satan can do nothing he is not sent by God to do. Here are but two examples of how God uses Satan to do all the evil He has made “for Himself”. (Pro 16:4)

1Sa 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.

1Sa 16:15 And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee.

Job 1:12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

So all evil spirits are actually “from the Lord” and go just as far as they are commissioned to go, and not one inch farther.

It is truly an empty life to see all the suffering that is endured in this world and not see any purpose or end in it all. That is where we are as an apostatized King Solomon:

Ecc 4:2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.

This statement is true both spiritually and physically, and the New Testament, bears that out:

Rev 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

As is always the case, we must see this verse both inwardly, as dying daily and being daily crucified with Christ, then we are in a position to say with the apostle Paul:

Php 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Php 1:22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.

Php 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

Php 1:24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

Here is another contribution from Paul to this thought:

Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

Until we come to acknowledge this physical body as “the body of this death”, we are still alive to the flesh.

Mat 8:22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

Luk 9:60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

But before we are granted to value the things of the spirit we are all King Solomon:

Ecc 4:3 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.

The words ‘is he’ are not in the Hebrew. If words need to be added, it would better read like this: “Yea, better than both they, [ is he] which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.” King Solomon, in his apostate state sees no purpose in life if it is not a physical life. From his perspective because of “all the oppressions that are done under the sun”, it is better to never have been born than to be either already dead or yet living and facing death without any hope. This is nothing short of contending with, reproving, and condemning God for bringing men into “the body of this death”. As we have seen, Job, King David and the apostle Paul all did the same, and we all do so in our own time, but thanks be to God we are finally given this hope:

Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

Rom 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

But Job, King David, King Solomon and the apostle Paul, are all types of us, and this is what we all do:

Job 3:1 After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day. [ The day of his birth]

Job 3:2 And Job spake, and said,

Job 3:3 Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.

Job 3:4 Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it.

Here is King David’s version of this same sentiment:

Psa 107:25 For he [ God] commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.

Psa 107:26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.

Psa 107:27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end.

Psa 107:28 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.

Psa 107:29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.

Psa 107:30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

And again the apostle Paul’s lament:

Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

King Solomon and Job, both being types of us, were very generous, merciful, and good men.

1Ki 4:29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.

In the previous chapter he expresses his compassion for the oppressed:

Ecc 3:16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.

Ecc 3:17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

It is a very conflicted man who believes in God’s judgments, who believes “there is a time for every purpose and for every work”, but who also continues to say:

Ecc 4:4 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.

“Right work[ s]” are performed by righteous men, and yet “for this a man is envied of his neighbor”. It was envy of “right work” that turned Joseph’s brother’s against him, and it was envy of “right work” that caused Christ to be hated of the Jews.

Let’s read about how this works:

Gen 37:2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.

Gen 37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.

Gen 37:4 And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

Joseph had not yet dreamed his dreams, and yet his brothers “hated him”, simply because he was faithful to his father when they were not, and because his father preferred him.

Christ too was envied for His “right work” and the fact that His Father preferred Him:

Joh 10:32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?

But this is what we are called to if we are granted to be faithful to our heavenly Father:

Mat 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

But when we are contending with God we still think: “This is also vanity and vexation of spirit”, and we condemn God for being hated of all men, and we all first take the easy way out by conforming to what our families and friends want us to believe and to do. We all do it in our own time.

So let us ask the question concerning the last part of verse 4: Is “there a time for every purpose and for every work” to be judged of God, or is it all just “vanity and vexation of spirit?” If indeed God will judge us then it certainly is not in vain at all because God’s judgment causes men to learn righteousness:

Isa 26:9 With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.

Continuing:

Ecc 4:5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.

“Folds his hands together” means he is lazy and will not work to feed himself. Spiritually we are all by nature lazy fools who think that because this physical realm is all there is, therefore everything is “vanity and a vexation of spirit”. Those who are granted to “work out their own salvation” while at the same time realizing that “it is God that works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure, know that this temporary life is full of promise of something far, far better.

Php 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Php 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Elaborating on and continuing with this thought Solomon tells us this about ourselves:

Ecc 4:6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

Ecc 4:7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.

Vanity is indeed all this world of itself has to offer. Yes, it is true, just a handful with peace of mind, is worth far more than “both hands full without peace of mind, and with a troubled spirit. But look at how this same King Solomon expressed himself in the book of Proverbs:

Pro 16:8 Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.

This verse is fortified by these verses which both repeat a very important spiritual message:

Pro 21:9 It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.

Pro 25:24 It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house.

Spiritually speaking it is better to be in fellowship with Christ’s persecuted few than to be in a huge church with a thousand demanding ‘wives’ pulling you in every direction, and with a huge mortgage and “many wonderful works” to be financed and to be demanded of you, all leading to hearing the dreaded words “I never knew you, depart from me you workers of iniquity”, who chose the broad and easy way over the hard and narrow way.

Mat 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

Mat 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Mat 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Mat 7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

A charming personality is not a “fruit of the spirit”. But obedience to God’s word is the Biblical definition of ‘love’, and that is the first “fruit of the spirit”.

Mat 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

There are but two men in all of scripture, and every verse of scripture is concerned with these two men. Those two men are our “old… first man Adam”, and our “new man… the last Adam”. It is only our “old… first man Adam” who would ask “For whom do I labor, and bereave my soul of good?” The last Adam denies himself and knows exactly for whom he is doing so. He is doing it for his Lord who is also his head and in that sense his husband.

Ecc 4:8 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.

This is the perfect description the tax- heavy King Solomon himself. Here is the purpose for the lives and struggles of all who are in Christ:

2Co 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

Christ’s wife is not “a brawling woman in a wide house”. This is the mindset of the wife of Christ:

Eph 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

Paul makes it clear that every word of his admonitions to husband and wives in Eph 5, are actually “concerning Christ and the church”.

Eph 5:32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Submitting to Christ does indeed entail suffering with Him, through “much tribulation”, but it is not seen in any way as “vanity”. Every trial is instead filled with great purpose and meaning, for which we “come to Him with the sacrifice of thanksgiving”.

Psa 107:20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.

Psa 107:21 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

Psa 107:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.

It is truly our old man who “hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches”.

In our old man the words: “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?” are fulfilled. This is the same thing that we came to see of ourselves in Ecc 1:

Ecc 1:8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye [ of our “old… first man Adam”] is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

The exact opposite it true for the righteous who have their affections set on things above:

Pro 10:3 The LORD will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.

Pro 13:25 The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul: but the belly of the wicked shall want.

Next week, if the Lord wills, we will continue our study with these verses:

Ecc 4:9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.

Ecc 4:10 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.

Ecc 4:11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?

Ecc 4:12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecc 4:13 Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.

Ecc 4:14 For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.

Ecc 4:15 I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead.

Ecc 4:16 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.

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