Ecclesiastes 4:5
The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh.
Ambition and IndolenceJ. Willcock Ecclesiastes 4:4-6
Practical Wisdom in the Conduct of LifeW. Clarkson Ecclesiastes 4:4-6
An Old Portrait of Modern MenHomilistEcclesiastes 4:4-8
EnvyH. E. Nolloth, B. D.Ecclesiastes 4:4-8
How the Success of Others Should Affect UsJ. Bonnet.Ecclesiastes 4:4-8

There is no vice more vulgar and despicable, none which affords more painful evidence of the depravity of human nature, than envy. It is a vice which Christianity has done much to discourage and repress; but in unchristian communities its power is mighty and disastrous.


1. Generally, the inequality of the human lot is the occasion of envious feelings, which would not arise were all men possessed of an equal and a satisfying portion of earthly good.

2. Particularly, the disposition, on the part of one who is not possessed of some good, some desirable quality or property, to grasp at what is possessed by another.

II. THE FEELINGS AND DESIRES IN WHICH ENVY CONSISTS. We do not say that a man is envious who, seeing another strong or healthy, prosperous or powerful, wishes that he enjoyed the same advantages. Emulation is not envy. The envious man desires to take another's possessions from him - desires that the other may be impoverished in order that he may be enriched, or depressed in order that he may be exalted, or rendered miserable in order that he may be happy.


1. It may lead to unjust and malevolent action, in order that it may secure its gratification.

2. It produces unhappiness in the breast of him who cherishes it; it gnaws and corrodes the heart.

3. It is destructive of confidence and cordiality in society.


1. It should be considered that whatever men acquire and enjoy is attributable to the Divine favor and loving-kindness.

2. And that all men have blessings far beyond their deserts.

3. It becomes us to think less of what we do not or do possess, and more of what we do.

4. And to cultivate the spirit of Christ - the spirit of self-sacrifice and benevolence. - T.

Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour.
Here is a portrait, drawn by a man who lived thousands of years ago, of three distinct types of character that you find everywhere about you.

I. Here is a man WORKING FOR THE GOOD of society (ver. 4). Thank God! there have ever been such men — generous, disinterested, broad-hearted, God-inspired men — men who are doing the "right work." They are the "salt" of the State; remove them, and all is putrescence. How are these men treated by society? Here is the answer. "For this a man is envied of his neighbour." It has ever been so. Cain envied Abel, Korah envied Moses, Saul envied David, the Sanhedrim envied Christ, the Judaic teachers envied Paul. To see society envying such men is a sore "vexation" to all true hearts. What do the existence and treatment of these men show?

1. The great kindness of Heaven in sending such men into every age. What would become of an age without such men in it? The ignorant would have no schools, the afflicted no hospitals, the indigent no poor-laws and charities, the people no righteous laws and no temples for worship.

2. The rightful acknowledgments of most useful services are not to be expected on earth. How did the world treat Moses, Jeremiah, the apostles, and the Holy Christ? Yonder, not here, is the reward for truly right labour.

3. The moral state of society is both unwise and unrighteous. How unwise to treat men who do the "right work" amongst them with envy I For its own good it should cheer them on in their philanthropic efforts. How unrighteous too! These men have a claim to its gratitude, sympathy, and co-operation.

II. Here is a man UTTERLY WORTHLESS in society (vers. 5, 6).

1. He exhausts his own property. The indolent man evermore "eats his own flesh": that is, exhausts his own personal strength, mental, moral, physical, for the want of proper exertion.

2. He wrongly estimates his own happiness. "Better is an handful with quietness than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit." In one sense this is true (Proverbs 15:16). But this is not the sense in which the lazy man regards it. By quietness he meant quiescence, non-exertion, lounging, folding the hands, and sleeping life away. Now, this character abounds in our age and land. These characters are not only a curse to themselves, dying with ennui, but a curse to society; they are clogs upon the wheel of industry; they are social thieves; they eat what others have produced.

III. Here is a man AVARICIOUSLY MAKING USE of society (ver. 8).

1. The man he sketches worked entirely for himself. Selfgratification, self-aggrandizement, self the centre and circumference of all his activities.

2. The man he sketches worked unremittingly for himself. "Yet is there no end of all his labour." Always at it — morning, noon, and night; it was the one thing he did.

3. The man he sketches worked insatiably for himself. "Neither is his eye satisfied with riches." The passion of avarice has been called the great sepulchre of all the passions. Unlike other tombs, however, it is enlarged by repletion and strengthened by age. An avaricious man is like Tantalus, up to the chin in water, yet always thirsty. Avarice seems to me to be the ruling passion of the age.


Here Solomon discloses to us one of the most remarkable among the many sources of human misery; remarkable, because it springs not out of failure, but out of success; and so it is one which lies deeper than any of the ills wrought by the uncertainty of life, or by the caprice of fortune. It is a true and striking instance of the vanity of human affairs, when a man spends a lifetime in the pursuit of wealth, and meets only with poverty and ruin; or dies as soon as he has obtained it, and "leaves his riches to other." The same reflection is forced upon us when the student, who has denied himself everything for years in the pursuit of science, is struck down by death just as he is about to reap the reward of his labours, and all his knowledge rendered useless. But there is one deep aggravation of human misery which does not lie thus upon the surface. With all these failures, a few do succeed, and for these there is a special burden which they must inevitably bear; there is one adversity born of their prosperity; one calamity to which their very happiness subjects them: and that is — Envy. Not only the envy of the world, but the envy of their neighbours, and the alienation of their friends, is often the portion of the successful; and isolation of soul is the doom of the great. This Solomon declares to be the lot of all travail, and justly adds: "This is also vanity and vexation of spirit." But not only does this venomous principle, one of the blackest traits in our fallen nature, come in to poison the enjoyment of every fortune made, and every position gained among men: there is a more truly Satanic development of the passion than even this: viz. envy at the success of goodness; a malicious displeasure when one who has shown long, unwearied industry in an honourable calling, and lived a life of devotion to the glory of God, and the good of man, obtains the just fruit of his labours; the promise of godliness in the life that now is. "Again, I considered all travail, and every 'right work,' that for this a man is envied of his neighbour." And yet this is what we see in every department of life. We see it, for example, in the venomed spite with which low natures regard a good man, just because he is better than themselves; disliking him because, whenever they are in his presence, they feel their own vileness and worthlessness as they never feel it at any other time. The life of the true Christian is one unflagging reproach to the world. His ingenuous truthfulness and sincerity witnesses against the world's falsehood and hollowness; the Christian's noble self-devotedness against its self-love; his steadfast adherence to the cause of righteousness, against the cowardly looseness of the world's principles; the Christian's high hopes and lofty aspirations against the worldling's low desires and grovelling aims. "For every right work," he is "envied of his neighbour." No age, nor position, nor character, is exempt from the poisoned shafts of envy. Is there a godly school-boy? Such a one will generally be a mark for the ridicule, and the petty persecution, of the lower-minded of his playmates. They will watch him, as Satan observed Job, for some little fault which they may exaggerate and rejoice over. They will place temptations in his path, and strive, in every way, to bring him down to the same level with themselves. And that is but the prophecy of what awaits him in after life. The godly servant or workman, who regards the interest of his employer as his own, and serves "not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but with singleness of heart, fearing God," will always be exposed to the envy, the detraction, and the slander of his idle and unprincipled fellows, whose sole aim is, by mutual agreement, to do the smallest possible amount of work for the largest possible amount of pay. And the same evil principle besets the Christian everywhere, extending upwards through all the strata of society.

(H. E. Nolloth, B. D.)

Instead of the success of others being a matter of envy, it should be used as an example of promise to us, inducing us to go and do likewise. The life of the great man teaches us that we also, being brother to him, may become, in a measure, great. There is wealth, too, to be had, without robbing any man of what he has. It is always to be found in economy and work. For long enough this doctrine was hid, even from the wise and prudent. Even yet we try to find it anywhere but in honest labour — in gold mines, or in speculation, or in gambling — and we may chance to find it laid up in some of these; but it has all come from industry originally, and, in most places, it can be got there in a fair measure still. At any rate, it cannot be got in idleness. We may cherish envy of him who has succeeded, and fold our hands till it eats into the very marrow of our bones, but we shall be no nearer the attainment of fortune than when we commenced the operation.

(J. Bonnet.)

Body, Clasping, Consumes, Eateth, Eating, Eats, Flesh, Foldeth, Folding, Folds, Fool, Foolish, Hands, Ruins, Takes
1. vanity is increased unto men by oppression
4. by envy
5. by idleness
7. by covetousness
9. by solitariness
13. by willfulness

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Ecclesiastes 4:5

     5156   hand
     5539   sluggard

The Order of Thought which Surrounded the Development of Jesus.
As the cooled earth no longer permits us to understand the phenomena of primitive creation, because the fire which penetrated it is extinct, so deliberate explanations have always appeared somewhat insufficient when applying our timid methods of induction to the revolutions of the creative epochs which have decided the fate of humanity. Jesus lived at one of those times when the game of public life is freely played, and when the stake of human activity is increased a hundredfold. Every great part,
Ernest Renan—The Life of Jesus

In making the following thread to the rich literature on Constantine the plan has been to confine almost wholly to Monographs, since to refer to all histories, encyclopædias, and the like which treat of him would be endless. Only such few analyzed references are introduced as have special reasons. Even with this limit it cannot be at all hoped that the list is exhaustive. Considerable pains has been taken, however, to make it full, as there is no really extended modern list of works on Constantine,
Eusebius Pamphilius—The Life of Constantine

And for Your Fearlessness against them Hold this Sure Sign -- Whenever There Is...
43. And for your fearlessness against them hold this sure sign--whenever there is any apparition, be not prostrate with fear, but whatsoever it be, first boldly ask, Who art thou? And from whence comest thou? And if it should be a vision of holy ones they will assure you, and change your fear into joy. But if the vision should be from the devil, immediately it becomes feeble, beholding your firm purpose of mind. For merely to ask, Who art thou [1083] ? and whence comest thou? is a proof of coolness.
Athanasius—Select Works and Letters or Athanasius

The Upbringing of Jewish Children
The tenderness of the bond which united Jewish parents to their children appears even in the multiplicity and pictorialness of the expressions by which the various stages of child-life are designated in the Hebrew. Besides such general words as "ben" and "bath"--"son" and "daughter"--we find no fewer than nine different terms, each depicting a fresh stage of life. The first of these simply designates the babe as the newly--"born"--the "jeled," or, in the feminine, "jaldah"--as in Exodus 2:3, 6, 8.
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life

Letter xxxvi (Circa A. D. 1131) to the Same Hildebert, who had not yet Acknowledged the Lord Innocent as Pope.
To the Same Hildebert, Who Had Not Yet Acknowledged the Lord Innocent as Pope. He exhorts him to recognise Innocent, now an exile in France, owing to the schism of Peter Leonis, as the rightful Pontiff. To the great prelate, most exalted in renown, Hildebert, by the grace of God Archbishop of Tours, Bernard, called Abbot of Clairvaux, sends greeting, and prays that he may walk in the Spirit, and spiritually discern all things. 1. To address you in the words of the prophet, Consolation is hid from
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux—Some Letters of Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux

Scriptures Showing the Sin and Danger of Joining with Wicked and Ungodly Men.
Scriptures Showing The Sin And Danger Of Joining With Wicked And Ungodly Men. When the Lord is punishing such a people against whom he hath a controversy, and a notable controversy, every one that is found shall be thrust through: and every one joined with them shall fall, Isa. xiii. 15. They partake in their judgment, not only because in a common calamity all shares, (as in Ezek. xxi. 3.) but chiefly because joined with and partakers with these whom God is pursuing; even as the strangers that join
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

It is not surprising that the book of Ecclesiastes had a struggle to maintain its place in the canon, and it was probably only its reputed Solomonic authorship and the last two verses of the book that permanently secured its position at the synod of Jamnia in 90 A.D. The Jewish scholars of the first century A.D. were struck by the manner in which it contradicted itself: e.g., "I praised the dead more than the living," iv. 2, "A living dog is better than a dead lion," ix. 4; but they were still more
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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