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 because of the pain of oppression and the sadness engendered by oppressors, man is better off dead.
Solomon continues to explore the common theme of the futility of life on earth in this chapter. No matter how much power, wealth, or knowledge one gains, you cannot take it with you. But the author emphasizes that achievements are not in vain when you have friends or companions.
The struggle of life is best faced with a partner. Solomon refers to the “triple cord” analogy – which was proverbial in the epic of Gilgamesh – to show that strength is in numbers. He could also refer to God as the third chord in the strong chord created by friends and partners.
As Solomon takes a fatalistic view of life with his conclusion that excessive self-interest leads to a meaningless life. But it gives hope that we can find meaning through companionship and ultimate fulfillment by God.
Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12
9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their work.
ten For if they fall, one will raise up his fellow man; but woe to him who is alone when he falls; because he has no other to help him.
11 Again, if two are lying together then they have heat: but how can you be warm on your own?
12 And if one wins against him, two will resist him; and a triple cord does not break quickly.