4Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless.2So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living.3But most fortunate of all are those who are not yet born. For they have not seen all the evil that is done under the sun.4Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless - like chasing the wind.5“Fools fold their idle hands, leading them to ruin.”6And yet, “Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.”
The Advantages of Companionship
7I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun.8This 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.9Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.10If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.11Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone?12A 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.
The Futility of Political Power
13It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice.14Such a youth could rise from poverty and succeed. He might even become king, though he has been in prison.15But then everyone rushes to the side of yet another youth who replaces him.16Endless crowds stand around him, but then another generation grows up and rejects him, too. So it is all meaningless - like chasing the wind.