The “preacher” speaks compassionately at the beginning of this chapter about those people who suffer oppression. The preacher speculates that those oppressed who have died are better off than those who are still alive. No longer “under the sun,” they have gone on to eternity. But he also says that those who have never even been born are better off still because they have not seen the evil deeds that man does.
He has made two points here. The first is the same message that he has been driving home in this book previously. What really matters is what comes after – when we are no longer “under the sun”; and those who have already moved on are better off. This is obviously so. But even those people have seen man’s inhumane treatment of his fellow man; and that alone makes them less fortunate than those who have not been born. Seeing the distress, tears, and hopelessness of those who are oppressed is painful to anyone who cares about his fellow man; and clearly, Solomon did.
He then has some things to say about work. Verse 5 agrees with many of the verses in the Book of Proverbs about how foolish it is to be lazy. But then in verse 6, he points out the foolishness of the other extreme – the “workaholic,” saying “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” Worse yet are the people described in verses 7-8 – those who have no one else or even have isolated themselves through their insatiable hunger for more wealth, and their lack of balance in their lives.
Some have tried to ascribe verses 13-16 to Joseph, but it seems to be simply a parable. It points out on the one hand that powerful people who become so egotistic that they no longer listen to anyone else can find themselves losing it all. But even the poor, but wise youth he compares him to (though becoming enormously successful himself) is no better off in the end, for power and riches “under the sun” will not matter in the end.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.