Seek Ye First
Dear Lord, thanks for this day and time we can spend together again to learn more about Your word ... I ask you to please be with us and teach us what you want us to get from it ... Please forgive us our lapses, relapses, our sins, Lord ... Thanks for your love ... and that we always come to you, 24/7 ... Please bring on healing wherever needed as well ... this I pray in your name Jesus' - Amen!
This study is taken from EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary
This chapter contains several subjects.
1. People who suffer – Ecclesiastes 4:1-3
v1 Again I thought about the powerful people all over this world. Sometimes they caused people to suffer in many ways.
I saw those people who were suffering.
And they were crying.
People with power can control other people in the wrong way.
But nobody offers comfort to those people who are suffering.
v2 And I thought about those people who have died.
It is better for them than for those people who are still alive.
v3 But it is better for those people who have not yet been born.
It is better for them than for the dead people.
It is better for them than for those people who are still alive.
That is because they have not seen the wicked things on the earth.
And people do very wicked things on this earth.
Verse 1 Powerful people can cause other people to suffer and to have troubles. A bad ruler encourages bad officials. And they cause his people to suffer (Proverbs 29:12). Judges can lie. They might say that wicked rich people are innocent. And they might say that innocent poor people are guilty. The Teacher saw that poor people were suffering. Merchants cheated them. The merchants would not weigh things properly. And then they charged too much money for things of poor quality (Amos 8:5-6). People were afraid of those men with power. So nobody was willing to help the poor people who had these troubles.
Verses 2-3 The people who have died do not suffer. And the people who are not yet born cannot see all the wicked things. People do terrible things on the earth. So it is better for those who are not yet born. That is what the Teacher thinks, anyway. The people who are alive will suffer. And the people who have died also suffered. They all had troubles while they lived on this earth.
2. Attitudes to work – Ecclesiastes 4:4-8
v4 And I saw that people are skilful in their work. And they achieve great things because they are jealous of other people. This too is hard to understand. It is like someone who is chasing the wind.
v5 The fool refuses to work,
so he ruins himself.
v6 It is better to have only a little food in one hand, if your life is quiet and calm.
Some people work too much.
They want to gain twice as much.
They are like someone who is trying to catch the wind.
Verse 4 People often see all the things that other people have. They look at other people and they become jealous. So perhaps they spend much time and effort as they try to be successful. However, they may not always produce a good result. They may neglect their family and they may lose their friends. They may lose their own good health too.
Verse 5 The lazy man is different from the man who works too hard. The *Hebrew text says that the fool ‘folds his hands’. This means, ‘he has decided not to work’. The result is that he ruins himself. He becomes so poor that he has nothing to eat. Then he dies. Or he becomes so selfish that other people do not respect him. In the end, he does not respect himself.
Verse 6 If you have enough, it seems better to live without too much effort. Then your life will be quiet and calm. It is better to be content than to be jealous. To gain a lot, you must work too much. And if you work too hard you do not achieve anything really worthwhile. This behavior is like someone who is trying to catch the wind.
3. The Teacher thinks about political power – Ecclesiastes 4:13-16
v13 A poor young man who is wise is better than an old and foolish king. A king who is like this will not receive advice. v14 Perhaps the young man was in prison before he became king. Or perhaps he was born into a poor family in that country. v15 I once saw that everyone in the country was obeying a new young king. v16 At first there was no limit to all the people who served him. But those people who came later were not happy with him as king. This also has no purpose. It is like someone who is chasing the wind.
Verses 13-14 Usually the *Israelites thought that old people were wise. The Teacher does not mention anyone’s name. But when King David was old, he was like the foolish king. He had ruled for a long time. He had forgotten what his people needed. He did not appoint a king to follow him. Finally, his friend, Nathan, and his wife, Bathsheba, told him what his young son, Adonijah, was trying to do. (See 1 Kings 1:1 – 27.) Old King David still thought that he was wise (Proverbs 26:12). In, Job 32:4-11, Elihu said, ‘It is not only old people who can be wise.’ The *Israelites thought that ‘young’ meant under 30 years old. Many years ago, young Joseph was in prison. But he became an important ruler in the country called Egypt (Genesis 41:14; 41-43).
Verses 15-16 At first the new young king was popular with many people. But later he was not popular with many other people. Perhaps it was not his fault. Perhaps he became so familiar to them that the people wanted a change. People can be loyal for a time. Then their children become adults and those new adults want someone different as their leader. All this has no purpose. It is like someone who is trying to catch the wind.
What make’s God angry – Ecclesiastes 5:1-7
v1 Be careful when you go to God’s house. Go there to listen. Do not be like foolish people when you offer your gift to God. They do not know when they are doing something wrong.
v2 Do not be too eager to speak to God.
You must think carefully before you promise something to God.
God is in heaven and you are on the earth.
So do not say much when you speak to him.
v3 If you worry too much about something,
you will dream about it.
If you talk too much like foolish people,
you will say the wrong thing.
v4 When you promise something to God, you must do it. God is not happy with foolish people. So, do what you have promised to do. v5 You must do anything that you have promised to do. Otherwise it is better not to promise it. v6 Do not let your words offend God. And do not say to the leader in the *temple that your promise was a mistake. God may become angry with you. And he might destroy everything that you do. v7 Too many dreams produce many words and many silly thoughts. So, wise people will be afraid to make God angry. And they will obey him.
Verse 1 The Teacher warns people about how they should approach God. ‘God’s house’ may mean the holy building that is called ‘the *temple’. It is in the city called Jerusalem. Or it may mean any place where people go to *worship God. ‘To listen’ means to take in carefully. And we must obey what we hear. People need to think carefully before they offer a gift to God. Then they will show that they really want to give honor to him. ‘To obey God is better. To give a gift to him is less important.’ (See 1 Samuel 15:22.) People are stupid if they do not intend to obey God. *Worship is foolish if it is only a custom. That kind of *worship is not sincere. The people are just imitating other people’s ideas. They are not showing that they themselves really want to *worship God. They may think that they are doing the right thing. But they may be doing something that is wrong.
Verses 2-3 are about prayer. We cannot behave towards God as we sometimes behave towards people. Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Our Father who is in heaven’. ‘In heaven’ reminds us that we must not speak to God carelessly. He is great because he made everything. And he is the great Judge who makes decisions about all men and all women. We must think before we speak. And we must not be impatient. Also, Jesus himself taught us that there is no need to say a lot (Matthew 6:7).
Verses 4-6 People make serious promises to God. A man and a woman make serious promises to each other when they marry. People may promise to give something to God. Or they may promise to do something for him. Here are some examples:
1) Jacob wanted God to protect him. So he made a serious promise to God. Jacob said that he would give to God one from every 10 of his possessions (Genesis 28:20-22).
2) Hannah promised that she would give her son to God (1 Samuel 1:11). Her son, Samuel, served God during all his life.
3) Jonah made a serious promise to give a gift to God. He wanted to thank God because God had rescued him from danger (Jonah 2:9).
A person is free to decide whether he promises something to God. So it is right to think carefully about it first. People should be sure that they can do that thing (Deuteronomy 23:21-23).
The leader would be an official person who worked in the *temple. The person has not done what he promised to God. So the leader would ask the person why he has not done it. The person must not answer just with an excuse. He must not say only that the promise was a mistake. He could not merely say that he wanted God to forgive him for the mistake. So the priest must stand and speak to God on behalf of the person. Perhaps the person had not intended to do a bad thing. But he was careless (Leviticus 4:22, 27). God would be angry about a careless attitude to a promise. Whatever the person did in the future might not be successful.
Verse 7 Many dreams have no use. And people may talk a lot but their words have no value. So a wise person will be afraid to make God angry. They will use only a few sincere words when they talk to him.
When people use power in a wrong way – Ecclesiastes 5:8-9
v8 It should not surprise you when you see bad officials. They are not fair to poor people. And they are causing the people to suffer. But a more important official always is watching each official. And there are even more important officials who are watching them both. v9 The land produces crops, and everyone will benefit from those crops. But the king will benefit the most.
Verse 8 Where there are many officials, it is very hard for a poor person. He cannot obtain a fair decision. He cannot afford to give money to the officials. He must wait while the officials make excuses. Maybe they do nothing. Or maybe they send him to another official. People should realize that this happens in the world. Each official watches the other officials and each official takes a part of the taxes.
Verse 9 The *Hebrew text is not clear. These are three possible explanations of this verse.
1) The people’s work was agriculture. Perhaps it was better to have a king and his officials. This was true, even if some officials were unfair.
2) Some people think that these words praise a king like Uzziah. He liked agriculture (2 Chronicles 26:10).
3) A king exists to protect the country. This should benefit everyone who lives there.
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