Here the Preacher turns, from unjust judgments, where there was most guilt, to the sufferers under them often without succour or sympathy: a state apt to provoke reprisals and revolution, only increasing yet more the disorder of sin.
"Then I returned and saw 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. Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive; yea, better than them both did I esteem him which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
"Then I saw all labour and every skilful work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh. Better is an handful with quietness, than two handfuls with labour and striving after wind (vers. 1-6).
Till Christ return, there is no adequate correction or redress. The Preacher, who only speaks here of things present, could but praise the dead who had passed away, or the unborn who saw nothing. Such is man, that success only excites envy in the neighbour, and bitter self- mortification in the fool. The quiet thankful soul here, as before, alone is wise.
Then the vanity of selfishness is portrayed from ver. 7, and the value of fellowship from ver. 9, from which the king is not exempt, especially as he may be foolish and the people fickle (vers. 13-16). Vanity and vexation reign everywhere.
"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 labour, neither is his eye satisfied with riches. For whom then, do I labour, 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 labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he faileth, 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 the king; yea, even in his kingdom he was born poor. I saw all the living which walk under the sun, that they were with the child, the second, that stood up in his stead. [There was] no end of all the people, 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" (vers. 7-16).
Never will the state of man and the world be a joy to the glory of God, till He come again and come in power to reign, Who first came to glorify God in obedience and suffering for sin, and thus to lay the foundation for blessing in righteousness evermore.