THE WORD: Two are better than one

PHOTO CAPTION: “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper (1942) is a painting in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago (Public Domain).

The fourth chapter of Ecclesiastes begins with a comparison of the oppressed and their oppressors. Because both sides of the equation lack a comforter, the teacher concludes that due to the pain of oppression and the sadness born by oppressors, man is better off dead.

Solomon continues to explore the common theme of the futility of life on earth in this chapter. Regardless of how much power, riches or knowledge one acquires, you can’t take it with you. But the author points out that accomplishments are not in vain when you have friends or companions.

The struggle of life is better faced with a partner. Solomon references the analogy of the “threefold cord” — which was proverbial back to the Epic of Gilgamesh — to show that strength is in numbers. He could also be referencing God as the third cord in the strong rope created by friends and partners.

While Solomon takes a fatalistic view of life with his conclusion that excessive self-interest leads to a meaningless life. But he provides hope that we can find some meaning through companionship and ultimate fulfillment through God.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

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

10 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.

11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?

12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.