Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.CHAPTER 4 Observations of Different Wrongs
1. Concerning oppressions (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3)
2. Concerning envy of fools and the rich (Ecclesiastes 4:4-7)
3. Concerning the miser (Ecclesiastes 4:8-12)
4. Concerning popularity (Ecclesiastes 4:13-16)
Ecclesiastes 4:1-3. He observes that the world is filled with oppressions. This connects with the statement made in the previous chapter, (verse 16). Criticism declares in connection with this passage that it could not have been written by Solomon, nor does it, they claim, describe the conditions of the people Israel during the reign of the king. One commentator asks, “Can this bitter experience be drawn, I asked in passing, from the golden day of Solomon, from the high noon of Hebrew prosperity, as sketched in the book of Kings?” They apply it to the days of the Ptolemies. But Solomon does not say that the oppressions were in Jerusalem at all. He says that he saw “all the oppressions that are done under the sun.” As the great king was in touch with other nations he knew what oppression, poverty, tears and sorrow are in the world, and that the oppressed, the grief stricken, the downtrodden, have no comforter. It is so still, “under the sun.” Oppression and all that goes with it is still the history of part of the race and will be as long as sin reigns. Injustice and unredressed wrongs have been the order for almost six thousand years. So deep is his sorrow over these conditions that he declares it would have been better for both the living and the dead if they had never existed at all.
Ecclesiastes 4:4-7. In continuing his observations he mentions the successful man, the man who has made life worth living. But success breeds envy. It makes his life bitter. Instead of being loved the successful man is hated; what else then is it but vanity and vexation of spirit! But now another extreme. It is the sluggard, the lazy man, the fool who eats his own flesh. But here is the best human wisdom can suggest. Avoiding both extremes, he declares, “Better is an handful with quietness, than two handsful with labor and vexation of spirit.”
Ecclesiastes 4:7-12. Another vanity is observed. Some are misers, heaping up riches and treasures untold. He has no relations, no children, no brother, even companionship and friendship are unknown to him. He lives his solitary life. His ambition is to labor and gather riches, but his eyes are never satisfied with riches; he wants more and more all the time. This also is vanity and is a sore travail.
Ecclesiastes 4:13-16. Popularity is another vanity and vexation of spirit. No lot is abiding. Upon the throne sits an old and foolish king. He is dethroned and is replaced by a youth out of prison.