There is one alone, and there is not a second; yes, he has neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labor; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither said he, For whom do I labor, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yes, it is a sore travail.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Ecclesiastes 4:8. There is one alone — Who has none but himself to care for. Yea, he hath neither child nor brother — To whom he may leave his vast estate; yet is there no end of his labours — He lives in perpetual restlessness and toil. Neither is his eye satisfied — His covetous mind or desire, fitly expressed by the eye, both because the eye is frequently the incentive to this sin of covetousness, (Joshua 7:21,) and because the covetous man hath no good by his riches, save the beholding them with his eyes, as is affirmed, Ecclesiastes 5:11. Neither saith he — Within himself: for he considers nothing but how he may get more and more: For whom do I labour? — Having no posterity or kindred to enjoy it; and bereave my soul of good? — Deny myself those comforts and conveniences which God has allowed me? Shall I take all this pains, and endure all these toils and hardships for a stranger, possibly for an enemy, who will reap the fruit of all my cares and labours? This is also vanity, yea, a sore travail — A dreadful judgment and misery, as well as a great sin.
child—"son or brother," put for any heir (De 25:5-10).
eye—(Ec 1:8). The miser would not be able to give an account of his infatuation.One alone; either,
1. Who lives by himself, as grudging that any ether should partake of his provisions. Or rather,
2. Who hath none but himself to care and labour for, as the next words explain it.
He hath neither child nor brother, to whom he may leave his vast estate.
Yet is there no end of all his labour; he lives in perpetual restlessness and excessive toils.
His eye, i.e. his covetous mind or desire, fitly expressed by the eye, partly because that is the incentive of this sin, Joshua 7:21; and partly because he hath no good by his riches, saving the beholding of them with his eyes, as it is affirmed, Ecclesiastes 5:11, compared with Ecclesiastes 2:10 1Jo 2:16. Neither saith he, within himself; he considers nothing but how he may get more and more. For whom do I labour? having no posterity nor kindred to enjoy it, as was now said. Shall I take all this pains for a stranger, possibly for an enemy, who will reap the fruit of all my labours? Bereave my soul of good; deity myself those comforts and conveniencies which God hath allowed unto me.
A sore travail; a dreadful judgment and misery as well as a great sin.
yea, he hath neither child nor brother; to inherit his substance, as the Targum adds; some worldly men, whose bellies are filled with hidden treasures, having enjoyed much, when they die, leave the rest of their substance to their babes; but the man here described has no children, nor any relations to leave his wealth unto;
yet is there no end of all his labour; when he has executed one scheme to get riches, he forms another; and having finished one work, he enters upon another; he rises early and sits up late, and works and toils night and day, as if he was not worth a dollar, and had a large and numerous family to provide for; or there is no end of what he labours for, or gets by his labour; there is no end of his treasures, Isaiah 2:7; he is immensely rich, so Aben Ezra interprets it;
neither is his eye satisfied with riches: with seeing his bags of gold and silver, though he takes a great deal of sure in looking upon them too, without making use of them; yet he is not satisfied with what he has, he wants more, he enlarges his desire as hell, and like the grave never has enough; see Ecclesiastes 5:10;
neither saith he, for whom do I labour? having neither wife nor child, nor relation, nor friend, and yet so wretchedly stupid and thoughtless as never once to put this question to himself, Who am I toiling for? I am heaping up riches, and know not who shall gather them; it is a vexation to a worldly man to leave his substance behind him, and even to a man that has an heir to inherit it, when he knows not whether he will be a wise man or a fool; but for a man that has no heir at all, and yet to be toiling and labouring for the world, is gross stupidity, downright madness, and especially when he deprives himself of the comfort of what he is possessed of;
and bereave my soul of good? instead of richly enjoying what is given him, he withholds it from himself, starves his back and belly, lives in pinching want amidst the greatest plenty; has not power to eat of what he has, and his soul desireth; see Ecclesiastes 6:2.
This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail; a very vain and wicked thing; "an evil business", as it may be rendered; a very great sin and folly indeed; it is thought by some divines to be the worst species of covetousness, most cruel and unnatural.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)8. There is one alone, and there is not a second] The gaze of the seeker now falls on another picture. That which strikes him as another example of the vanity of human efforts is the frequent loneliness of the worshipper of wealth. He is one, and he has no companion, no partner or friend, often none bound to him by ties of blood, child or brother, yet he labours on, as though he meant to be the founder of a dynasty. “He heapeth up riches and knoweth not who shall gather them” Psalm 39:6.
neither is his eye satisfied with riches] The words paint vividly the special characteristic of the insatiability of avarice,
“Crescit amor nummi quantum ipsa pecunia crescit.”
“So grows our love of wealth as grows the wealth itself.”
neither saith he, For whom do I labour] The words in italics “saith he” express the meaning of the original but deprive it of its dramatic boldness. The speaker imagines himself in the place of the miser and this is the question which in that case he would ask. The picture is, as it were, a replica of that already drawn in chap. Ecclesiastes 2:18-19.Verse 8. - There is one alone, and there is not a second; or, without a second - a solitary being, without partner, relation, or friend. Here, he says, is another instance of man's inability to secure his own happiness. Wealth indeed, is supposed to make friends, such as they are; but miserliness and greed separate a man from his fellows, make him suspicious of every one, and drive him to live alone, churlish and unhappy. Yea, he hath neither child nor brother; no one to share his wealth, or for whom to save and amass riches. To apply these words to Solomon himself, who had brothers, and one son, if not more, is manifestly inappropriate. They may possibly refer to some circumstance in the writer's own life; but of that we know nothing. Yet is there no sad of all his labor. In spite of this isolation he plies his weary task, and ceases not to hoard. Neither is his eye satisfied with riches; so that he is content with what he has (comp. Ecclesiastes 2:10; Proverbs 27:20). The insatiable thirst for gold, the dropsy of the mind, is a commonplace theme in classical writers. Thus Horace, 'Caxm.,' 3:16. 17 -
"Crescentem sequitur cura pecuniam, Majorumque fames." And Juvenal, 'Sat.,' 14:138 -
"Interea pleno quum turget sacculus ore,
Crescit amor nummi, quantum ipsa pecunia crevit." Neither, saith he, For whom do I labor, and bereave my soul of good? The original is more dramatic than the Authorized Version or the Vulgate, Nec recogitat, dicens, Cui laboro, etc.? The writer suddenly puts himself in the place of the friendless miser, and exclaims, "And for whom do I labor," etc.? We see something similar in ver. 15 and Ecclesiastes 2:15. Here we cannot find any definite allusion to the writer's own circumstances. The clause is merely a lively personification expressive of strong sympathy with the situation described (comp. Ecclesiastes 2:18). Good may mean either riches, in which case the denial to the soul refers to the enjoyment which wealth might afford, or happiness and comfort. The Septuagint has ἀγαθωσύνης, "goodness," "kindness " - which gives quite a different and not so suitable an idea. Sore travail; a sad business, a woeful employment. Ecclesiastes 9:12; the m of the part. Pih. is not usually thrown away, only מהר, Zephaniah 1:14, is perhaps equals ממהר, but for the same reason as בּית־אל, 2 Kings 2:3, is equals בּבית - אל. Thus ושׁבּח, like ונתון, Ecclesiastes 8:9, is inf. absol., which is used to continue, in an adverbially subord. manner, the preceding finite with the same subject,
(Note: Also 1 Chronicles 5:20, the subject remains virtually the same: et ita quidem ut exaudirentur.)
Genesis 41:43; Leviticus 25:14; Judges 7:19, etc.; cf. especially Exodus 8:11 : "Pharaoh saw ... and hardened (והכבּד) his heart;" just in the same manner as ושׁבּח here connects itself with ושׁ אני וא. Only the annexed designation of the subject is peculiar; the syntactic possibility of this connection is established by Psalm 15:5, Job 40:2, and, in the second rank, by Genesis 17:10; Ezekiel 5:14. Yet אני might well enough have been omitted had וש אני וא not stood too remote. Regarding עדנה
(Note: Thus punctuated with Segol under Daleth, and ,נ raphatum, in F. H. J. P. Thus also Kimchi in W.B. under עד.)
and עדן. The circumstantial form of the expression: prae vivis qui vivi sunt adhuc, is intentional: they who are as yet living must be witnesses of the manifold and comfortless human miseries.
It is a question whether Ecclesiastes 4:3 begins a new clause (lxx, Syr., and Venet.) or not. That את, like the Arab. aiya, sometimes serves to give prominence to the subject, cannot be denied (vid., Bttcher, 516, and Mhlau's remarks thereto). The Mishnic expressions היּום אותו, that day, הארץ אותהּ, that land, and the like (Geiger, 14. 2), presuppose a certain preparation in the older language; and we might, with Weiss (Stud. ueber d. Spr. der Mishna, p. 112), interpret אשׁר את in the sense of אותי אשר, is qui. But the accus. rendering is more natural. Certainly the expression טוב שׁבּח, "to praise," "to pronounce happy," is not used; but to טוב it is natural to suppose וקראתי added. Jerome accordingly translates: et feliciorem utroque judicavi qui necdum natus est. הרע has the double Kametz, as is generally the case, except at Psalm 54:7 and Micah 7:3.
(Note: Vid., Heidenheim, Meor Enajim, under Deuteronomy 17:7.)
Better than he who is born is the unborn, who does not become conscious of the wicked actions that are done under the sun. A similar thought, with many variations in its expression, is found in Greek writers; see regarding these shrill discordances, which run through all the joy of the beauty and splendour of Hellenic life, my Apologetick, p. 116. Buddhism accordingly gives to nirvna the place of the highest good. That we find Koheleth on the same path (cf. Ecclesiastes 6:3; Ecclesiastes 7:1), has its reason in this, that so long as the central point of man's existence lies in the present life, and this is not viewed as the fore-court of eternity, there is no enduring consolation to lift us above the miseries of this present world.
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