Ecclesiastes 4:9
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Ecclesiastes 4:9. Two — Or more, who live together in any kind of society, and join their powers together in pursuit of any important object; are better than one — Act more cheerfully, and accomplish their designs more readily, than any of them could do in a solitary state; because they have a good reward for their labour — Have great benefit by such combinations and conjunctions of their counsels and abilities, whereby they exceedingly support, encourage, and strengthen each other, and effect many things which none of them could have effected alone. Gregory Thaumaturgus, says Bishop Patrick, understands Solomon as speaking here of κοινωνια βιου, living in communion, or fellowship together, which he shows to be profitable, both to procure us greater happiness, which is the subject of the ninth verse, and to preserve us in the enjoyment of it when we have attained it, which is the subject of the three following verses. 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.Compare a saying from the Talmud: "A man without companions is like the left hand without the right." 9. Two—opposed to "one" (Ec 4:8). Ties of union, marriage, friendship, religious communion, are better than the selfish solitariness of the miser (Ge 2:18).

reward—Advantage accrues from their efforts being conjoined. The Talmud says, "A man without a companion is like a left hand without the right.

Two, who live together in any kind of society, and join their powers together in any enterprises; which he opposeth to that humour of the covetous man, who desired to live alone, as was now said.

A good reward for their labour; both have great benefit by such combinations and conjunctions of their counsels and abilities, whereby they do exceedingly support, and encourage, and strengthen one another, and effect many things which neither of them alone could do. Two are better than one,.... The wise man takes occasion, from the solitariness Of the covetous man before described, to show in this and some following verses the preferableness and advantages of social life; which, as it holds true in things natural and civil, so in things spiritual and religious; man is a sociable creature, was made to be so; and it was the judgment of God, which is according to truth, and who can never err, that it was not good for man to be alone, Genesis 2:18. It is best to take a wife, or at least to have a friend or companion, more or less to converse with. Society is preferable to solitariness; conversation with a friend is better than to be always alone; the Targum is,

"two righteous men in a generation are better than one;''

such may be helpful to each other in their counsels and comforts, and mutual aids and assistances in things temporal and spiritual. The Midrash interprets this of the study in the law together, and of two that trade together, which is better than studying or trading separately;

because they have a good reward for their labour; the pleasure and profit they have in each other's company and conversation; in religious societies, though there is a labour in attendance on public worship, in praying and conferring together, in serving one another in love, and bearing one another's burdens, yet they have a good reward in it all; they have the presence of Christ with them, for, where two or three are met together in his name, he is with them; and whatsoever two of them agree to ask in his name they have it; and if two of them converse together about spiritual things, it is much if he does not make a third with them; besides they have a great deal of pleasure in each other's company, and much profit in their mutual instructions, advices, and reproofs; they sharpen each other's countenances, quicken and comfort each other's souls, establish one another in divine truth, and strengthen each other's hands and hearts.

{f} Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.

(f) As when man is alone, he can neither help himself nor others, he shows that men should live in mutual society to the intent that they may be profitable one to another, and that their things may increase.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. Two are better than one] The strain of moralising which follows indicates at least the revived capacity for a better feeling. As the Debater had turned from the restless strivings of the seeker after wealth to the simple enjoyment of the labouring man or even the sensuous pleasure of the indolent, so now he turns from the isolation of the avaricious to the blessings of companionship. Here at least, in that which carries a man out of himself, there is a real good, a point scored as “gain.” Here also, over and above his own experience the Seeker may have been helped by the current thought of his Greek teachers, the κοινά τὰ φίλων of the proverb, or the lines of Homer,

Σύν τε δύʼ ἐρχομένω, καὶ τε πρὸ ὃ τοῦ ἐνόησεν

Ὅππως κέρδος ἔῃμοῦνος δʼ εἴπερ τε νοήσῃ,

Ἀλλά τε οἱ βράσσων τε νόυς λεπτὴ δέ τε μῆτις.

“When two together go, each for the other

Is first to think what best will help his brother;

But one who walks alone, though wise in mind,

Of purpose slow and counsel weak we find.”

Iliad, x. 224–6.

So the Greek proverb ran as to friends

χεὶρ χεῖρα νίπτει, δακτυλός τε δάκτυλον.

“Hand cleanseth hand, and finger finger helps.”

The “good reward” is more than the mere money result of partnership, and implies the joy of

“United thoughts and counsels, equal hope

And hazard.”

The literature of well-nigh all ages and races abound in expressions of the same thought. Aristotle dedicates two whole books (viii. ix.) of his Ethics to the subject of Friendship, and Cicero made it the theme of one of his most finished essays. Commonly, however, men rested it, as the writer does here, mainly on the basis of utility. “The wise man,” says Seneca (Epist. ix. 8) from his higher Stoic standpoint, “needs a friend, not as Epicurus taught, that he may have one to sit by his bed when he is ill, or to help him when he is poor or in prison, but that he may have one by whose bed he may sit, whom he may rescue when he is attacked by foes.” We may point also to Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 27:17, and the Jewish proverb “a man without friends is like a left hand without the right” (Pirke Aboth, f. 30. 2) as utterances of a like nature. It is, however to be noted, in connexion with the line of thought that has been hitherto followed in these notes as to the date and authorship of the book, that the preciousness of friendship as one of the joys of life was specially characteristic of the school of Epicurus (Zeller, Stoics and Epicureans, c. xx.). It was with them the highest of human goods, and the wise would value it as the chief element of security (Diog. Laert. x. 1. 148). The principle thus asserted finds, it may be added, its highest sanction in the wisdom of Him who sent out His disciples “two and two together” (Luke 10:1).

if they fall] The special illustration appears to be drawn from the experience of two travellers. If one slip or stumble on a steep or rocky path the other is at hand to raise him, while, if left to himself, he might have perished.Verse 9. - Koheleth dwells upon the evils of isolation, and contrasts with them the comfort of companionship. Two are better than one. Literally, the clause refers to the two and the one mentioned in the preceding verse (Ἀγαθοὶ οἱ δύο ὑπὲρ τόν ἔνα, Septuagint); but the gnome is true in general. "Two heads are better than one," says our proverb. Because (asher here conjunctive, not relative) they have a good reward for their labor. The joint labors of two produce much more effect than the efforts of a solitary worker. Companionship is helpful and profitable. Ginsburg quotes the rabbinical sayings,, Either friendship or death;" and "A man without friends is like a left hand without the right." Thus the Greek gnome -

"Man helps his fellow, city saves."

Ξεὶρ χεῖρα νίπτει δάκτυλός τε δάκτυλον.

"Hand cleanseth hand, and finger cleanseth finger." (Comp. Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 27:17; Ecclus. 6:14.) So Christ sent out his apostles two and two (Mark 6:7). "And I praised the dead who were long ago dead, more than the living who are yet in life; and as happier than both, him who has not yet come into existence, who hath not seen the evil work which is done under the sun." ושׁבּח is hardly thought of as part., like יוּקשׁים equals מיקּשׁים, 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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