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The author of Ecclesiastes seems to think that in the given context of his view that people are better off unborn or dead. Is he identifying certain types of people or is his context including everyone who lives in the world?

Here are two places where he mentions where it would be better not to have been born.

And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun. (ESV, Ecclesiastes 4:2-3)

If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life's good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. (ESV, Ecclesiastes 6:3)

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    These look like examples of hyperbole rather than considered opinions. – Dick Harfield Jul 5 '15 at 21:18
  • @DickHarfield - If one is to understand it not literally, the question remains the same, is it applied to some, or all? – Mike Jul 5 '15 at 23:41
  • "These look like examples of hyperbole" - are you among those highly motivated by the idea that scriptures should not be read literally ? – Cynthia Avishegnath Jul 6 '15 at 2:16
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    @BlessedGeek to read a text literally is to read it as the author intended it to be read, therefore if the author intended hyperbole reading the text as such is to read it as hyperbole, but to take it 'literally' is a literalistic eisegesis that if consistently applied would mean the reader would quickly end up with eyes, hands or feet :) – Jonathan Chell Jul 6 '15 at 6:56
  • How do you know that the author intended it to be hyperbolic? – Cynthia Avishegnath Jul 7 '15 at 6:29
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In the first instance Kohelet is looking at all the oppression taking place upon the earth and noting that evil people are dominating others and there is no one who will rescue them. In a time of oppression and genocide the ones who died are indeed released from the evil and in that sense are better off. Those who are not yet born are not subject to those evil times.

In the second instance a man has acquired an abundance of riches yet never learns to enjoy them. In this case a stillborn child has more peace than that particular person for it does not experience the frustration of toiling under the sun and yet finding no reason to enjoy life.

Both examples relate to very specific circumstances.

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    Welcome to Stack Exchange. If you haven't done so already, check out the site tour. In particular, be sure to read the section on what constitutes a good answer and revise your post to either cite references that back your position or to more thoroughly explain how you get this interpretation from the text itself. Please note that "showing your work" is required on this Stack Exchange. – ThaddeusB Aug 2 '15 at 5:23
  • good argument . – Mike Aug 3 '15 at 1:40
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This passage in English looks so different from the passage I am reading in the original Hebrew.

In Hebrew, let's start with verse 2.
ושבח אני את המתים
and I praise/hail the dead

שכבר מתו
who even/already died

מן החיים
from the living

אשר המה חיים עדנה
who are living yet

Verse 3:
וטוב משניהם
and good(better) from the two of them

את אשר עדן לא היה
are who not yet exist/live

אשר לא ראה את המעשה הרע
who not seen the evil deeds

אשר נאשה תחת השמש
who has not done-work under the sun.


I don't know how your English translations work but in the original Hebrew, verse 2 and verse 3 are the comparative duet of two sides of the coin.

Verse 2 says blessed are the dead than those who are actively alive.

Verse 3 says better of the two is one who is not even born, does even yet exist.


Eccl 6:3:
אם יוליד איש מאה
if having-children a man a hundred

ושנים רבות יהיה
and many years he lives

ורב שיהיו ימי שניו
and many which are his days

ונפשו לא תשבע מן הטובה
and his breath not fulfilled from goodness

וגם קבורה לא היתה לו
and also burial-grave has not he

אמרתי טוב ממנו הנפל
say I better than he the fallen


Note that the last word [הנפל] Ha-NeFeL is cognate of word of the same Hebrew spelling (Ha-NFaL) the singular for the famous [נפלים] neflim. [הנפל] HaNeFeL is the only occurrence of the Bible conjugated this way, and no where else in the Bible is the word [נפל] used to connote fetal miscarriage. I highly doubt this word should be correlated to miscarriage.

I would say, the passage says that it is better to be among the fallen, the outcast, those rejected from salvation, than to be one who is unfulfilled, and who dies unburied, regardless if one lives in longevity and has a hundred children.

IOW, blessed/happy are the poor in spirit.

  • Every time I write an explanation that completely violates christian doctrine, I get voted down. I am sorry to have made you angry, but your beliefs must be challenged by scripture. I hope this time, you people graciously accept the explanation - and please attack my opinion and critique my translation rather than expressing your displeasure in an unfair manner. Let your god defend himself. – Cynthia Avishegnath Jul 7 '15 at 6:27
  • fyi - I rarely vote down...just does not suit my personality and did not here either. However My question for the case of better being unborn then born ...is better for everyone or jist some. I don't really see what your opinion is? Also I'm not sure any Christian doctrine is at stake here but I can imagine in other instances it may come into play a have also experienced the inverse now and again;) – Mike Jul 7 '15 at 10:37

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