Ecclesiastes 4:12
Parallel Verses
New International Version
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

New Living Translation
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

English Standard Version
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

New American Standard Bible
And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

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

Holman Christian Standard Bible
And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

International Standard Version
If someone attacks one of them, the two of them together will resist. Furthermore, the tri-braided cord is not soon broken.

NET Bible
Although an assailant may overpower one person, two can withstand him. Moreover, a three-stranded cord is not quickly broken.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Though one person may be overpowered by another, two people can resist one opponent. A triple-braided rope is not easily broken.

Jubilee Bible 2000
And if one prevails against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

King James 2000 Bible
And if one prevails against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

American King James Version
And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

American Standard Version
And if a man prevail against him that is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Douay-Rheims Bible
And if a man prevail against one, two shall withstand him: a threefold cord is not easily broken.

Darby Bible Translation
And if a [man] overpower the one, the two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

English Revised Version
And if a man prevail against him that is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Webster's Bible Translation
And if one prevaileth against him, two shall withstand him; and a three-fold cord is not quickly broken.

World English Bible
If a man prevails against one who is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Young's Literal Translation
And if the one strengthen himself, the two stand against him; and the threefold cord is not hastily broken.
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

4:9-12 Surely he has more satisfaction in life, who labours hard to maintain those he loves, than the miser has in his toil. In all things union tends to success and safety, but above all, the union of Christians. They assist each other by encouragement, or friendly reproof. They warm each other's hearts while they converse together of the love of Christ, or join in singing his praises. Then let us improve our opportunities of Christian fellowship. In these things all is not vanity, though there will be some alloy as long as we are under the sun. Where two are closely joined in holy love and fellowship, Christ will by his Spirit come to them; then there is a threefold cord.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 12. - The third instance shows the value of the protection afforded by a companion's presence when danger threatens. If one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; better, if a man overpower the solitary one, the two (ver. 9) will withstand him. The idea of the traveler is continued. If he were attacked by robbers, he would be easily overpowered when alone; but two comrades might successfully resist the assault. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. This is probably a proverbial saying, like our "Union is strength." Hereby the advantage of association is more strongly enforced. If the companionship of two is profitable, much more is this the case when more combine. The cord of three strands was the strongest made. The number three is used as the symbol of completeness and perfection. Funiculus triplex diffcile rumpitur, the Vulgate rendering, has become a trite saying; and the gnome has been constantly applied in a mystical or spiritual sense, with which, originally and humanly speaking, it has no concern. Herein is seen an adumbration of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the Eternal Three in One; of the three Christian virtues, faith, hope, and charity, which go to make the Christian life; of the Christian's body, soul, and spirit, which are consecrated as a temple of the Most High.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him,.... If an enemy, or a thief, or a robber, attack anyone of them, in friendship and fellowship together, and is more than a match for him; both joined together will be able to resist him; so that he shall not succeed in his enterprise, and do the mischief he designed; see 2 Samuel 10:11; Thus, when Satan attacks a single believer, which he chooses to do when alone; so he tempted Eve in the garden, and Christ in the wilderness; and one or more fellow Christians know of it, they are capable of helping their tempted friend, by their advice and counsel, they not being ignorant of Satan's devices; and by striving together in their prayers to God for him: so when false teachers make their efforts, as they usually do, Satan like, upon the weaker sex, and, when alone, they too often succeed; but when saints stand fast in one spirit, and strive together for the faith of the Gospel, they stand their ground, withstand the enemy, and maintain truth;

and a threefold cord is not quickly broken; or "in haste" (c); as two are better than one, so three or more united together, it is the better still; they are able to make head against an enemy; and to conquer him, "vis unita fortior est": if a family, community, city, or kingdom, are divided against themselves, they cannot stand; but, if united, in all probability nothing can hurt them. This doctrine is taught in the fable of the bundle of sticks the old man gave to his sons to break; which, while fastened together, could not be done; but, when art bound, and took out singly, were easily snapped asunder; teaching them thereby unity among themselves, as their greatest security against their common enemy. The same instruction is given by this threefold cord; while it remains twisted together, it is not easily broke, but if the threads are untwisted and unloosed, they are soon snapped asunder: so persons in religious fellowship, be they more or fewer, while they keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, they are terrible, as an army with banners, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against them. And if this is true of the united love and affections of saints, it must be much more so of the love of Father, Son, and Spirit; that threefold cord, with which the saints are drawn and held; and of which it may be said, that it not only is not quickly broken, but that it cannot be broken at all; and therefore those who are held by it are in the utmost safety. Some apply this to the three principal graces, faith, hope, and love, which are abiding ones; and, though they may sometimes be weak and low in their acts and exercise, can never be lost.

(c) "in festinatia", Montanus; "in celeritate", Vatablus; "in festinatione", Rambachius.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

12. one—enemy.

threefold cord—proverbial for a combination of many—for example, husband, wife, and children (Pr 11:14); so Christians (Lu 10:1; Col 2:2, 19). Untwist the cord, and the separate threads are easily "broken."

Ecclesiastes 4:12 Additional Commentaries
Context
The Evils of Oppression
11Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
Cross References
Ecclesiastes 4:11
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?

Ecclesiastes 4:13
Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning.
Treasury of Scripture

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

and if

2 Samuel 23:9,16,18,19,23 And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the …

Daniel 3:16,17 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O …

Ephesians 4:3 Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

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