Ecclesiastes 4:4-16

Ecclesiastes 4:4-16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind. The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind. Then I looked again at vanity under the sun. There was a certain man without a dependent, having neither a son nor a brother, yet there was no end to all his labor. Indeed, his eyes were not satisfied with riches and he never asked, “And for whom am I laboring and depriving myself of pleasure?” This too is vanity and it is a grievous task. Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. A poor yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction. For he has come out of prison to become king, even though he was born poor in his kingdom. I have seen all the living under the sun throng to the side of the second lad who replaces him. There is no end to all the people, to all who were before them, and even the ones who will come later will not be happy with him, for this too is vanity and striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:4-16 New Living Translation (NLT)

Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind. “Fools fold their idle hands, leading them to ruin.” And yet, “Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.” I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun. This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing. Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 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. It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. Such a youth could rise from poverty and succeed. He might even become king, though he has been in prison. But then everyone rushes to the side of yet another youth who replaces him. Endless crowds stand around him, but then another generation grows up and rejects him, too. So it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:4-16 King James Version (KJV)

Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit. The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh. Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit. Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun. 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. Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished. For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor. I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead. There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

Ecclesiastes 4:4-16 New Century Version (NCV)

I realized the reason people work hard and try to succeed: They are jealous of each other. This, too, is useless, like chasing the wind. Some say it is foolish to fold your hands and do nothing, because you will starve to death. Maybe so, but I say it is better to be content with what little you have. Otherwise, you will always be struggling for more, and that is like chasing the wind. Again I saw something here on earth that was useless: I saw a man who had no family, no son or brother. He always worked hard but was never satisfied with what he had. He never asked himself, “For whom am I working so hard? Why don’t I let myself enjoy life?” This also is very sad and useless. Two people are better than one, because they get more done by working together. If one falls down, the other can help him up. But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls, because no one is there to help. If two lie down together, they will be warm, but a person alone will not be warm. An enemy might defeat one person, but two people together can defend themselves; a rope that is woven of three strings is hard to break. A poor but wise boy is better than a foolish but old king who doesn’t listen to advice. A boy became king. He had been born poor in the kingdom and had even gone to prison before becoming king. I watched all the people who live on earth follow him and make him their king. Many followed him at first, but later, they did not like him, either. So fame and power are useless, like chasing the wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:4-16 American Standard Version (ASV)

Then I saw all labor and every skilful work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh. Better is a handful, with quietness, than two handfuls with labor and striving after wind. Then I returned and saw vanity under the sun. There is one that is alone, and he hath not a second; yea, he hath neither son nor brother; yet is there no end of all his labor, neither are his eyes satisfied with riches. For whom then, saith he, do I labor, and deprive my soul of good? This also is vanity, yea, it is a sore travail. Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, and hath not another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have warmth; but how can one be warm alone? And if a man prevail against him that is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king, who knoweth not how to receive admonition any more. For out of prison he came forth to be king; yea, even in his kingdom he was born poor. I saw all the living that walk under the sun, that they were with the youth, the second, that stood up in his stead. There was no end of all the people, even of all them over whom he was: yet they that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:4-16 New International Version (NIV)

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves. Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind. Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless— a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:4-16 Amplified Bible (AMP)

I have seen that every [effort in] labor and every skill in work comes from man’s rivalry with his neighbor. This too is vanity (futility, false pride) and chasing after the wind. The fool folds his hands [together] and consumes his own flesh [destroying himself by idleness and apathy]. One hand full of rest and patience is better than two fists full of labor and chasing after the wind. Then I looked again at vanity under the sun [in one of its peculiar forms]. There was a certain man—without a dependent, having neither a child nor a brother, yet there was no end to all his labor. Indeed, his eyes were not satisfied with riches and he never asked, “For whom do I labor and deprive myself of pleasure?” This too is vanity (a wisp of smoke, self-conceit); yes, it is a painful effort and an unhappy task. Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labor; for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and does not have another to lift him up. Again, if two lie down together, then they keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? And though one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. A poor yet wise youth is better than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction and counsel (friendly reproof, warning)— for the poor youth has [used his wisdom and] come out of prison to become king, even though he was born poor in his kingdom. I have seen all the living under the sun join with the second youth (the king’s acknowledged successor) who replaces him. There is no end to all the people; to all who were before them. Yet those who come later will not be happy with him. Surely this also is vanity (emptiness) and chasing after the wind.