Online Bible Commentary
Partners and Popularity
Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. 13 Better a poor and wise youth Than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more. 14 For he comes out of prison to be king, Although he was born poor in his kingdom. 15 I saw all the living who walk under the sun; They were with the second youth who stands in his place. 16 There was no end of all the people over whom he was made king; Yet those who come afterward will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and grasping for the wind. (NKJV)
Solomon, son of David, was the king of Israel for some forty years (1 Kings 11:42) from 970 B.C. until his death at the age of fifty-nine in 931 B.C. He wrote the book of Ecclesiastes likely near the end of his life, about 935 B.C.
Solomon, being the son of a king, had received the best education known to man at the time. He learned the best of human wisdom. He also was blessed by God with true wisdom, the wisdom from God. He was considered to be the wisest man ever to live.
In this passage, Solomon writes of partners and popularity. Having a partner in life is a good thing. Your partner may be a husband or wife, or, perhaps, a lifelong friend.
Solomon cites five reasons for not going it alone in this world. First, two people working together can accomplish more than one working alone (v. 9). Second, if one falls the other is there to help him up (v. 10). Next, if “two lie down together” they will keep each other warm (v. 11). Also, in times of trouble, two can fare better than one person standing alone (v. 12a).
Finally, the power of having a partner is illustrated by a rope. A rope with two strands entwined is stronger than a rope of only one strand. Of course the strongest is the three strand rope (v. 12b), with Jesus Christ being the third strand.
Biblical marriage, the only marriage sanctified by God, is made of three strands entwined together; a man, a woman, and Jesus Christ. This is the strongest marriage. It is the only marriage that can last forever.
Next, Solomon writes of popularity, using himself and his family as an example. Solomon’s older brother, Absalom murdered Amnon, King David’s oldest son, to punish Amnon’s rape of Tamar, their half sister. David then punished Absalom by sending him away.
Absalom lived in “poor” conditions, compared to his life as the king’s son (2 Samuel 13). After three years, Absalom returned to Jerusalem with a “wise” plan and was forgiven by David (2 Samuel 14). The “poor and wise youth” is Absalom (v. 13a).
Later Absalom convinced the people that he cared more about their problems than did David (2 Samuel 14-15). Absalom’s treason occurred when David was “old”, likely in his sixties. The people felt like David was not listening to their problems, that he would not be “admonished”. The “old and foolish king who will be admonished no more” is King David (v. 13b).
So now the people wanted Absalom, and he reigned in Jerusalem. David was exiled (2 Samuel 15), as in “prison”. The fickleness of popularity arose again when David regained the throne, coming out of "prison" to do so (v. 14a). So David reigned again, “although he was born poor in his kingdom”, a son of a shepherd (v. 14b).
Upon David’s death, the writer “saw all the living” that “were with the second youth who stands in his place” (v. 15a) “There was no end of all the people over whom he was made king” (v. 16a). The “second youth” is Solomon.
Solomon’s popularity was great, and yet, like David’s, it also faded (v. 16b) (1 Kings 11). It was all in vain, like “grasping for the wind”, without meaning (v. 16c).
So popularity fades. An example of this is presidential politics. Most presidents’ popularity level in their second term is much lower than their first term. As this passage illustrates, kings also faced the same fickleness among their people.
We should not try to go it alone in life. Relationships are important, especially that relationship of a partner for life. However, do not get too caught up in popularity. It will not last. Partnerships can last, forever sometimes. On the other hand, popularity fades.