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YLT - 4:13 Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king, who hath not known to be warned any more. YLT - 4:14 For from a house of prisoners he hath come out to reign, for even in his own kingdom he hath been poor. YLT - 4:15 I have seen all the living, who are walking under the sun, with the second youth who doth stand in his place; YLT - 4:16 there is no end to all the people, to all who were before them; also, the latter rejoice not in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

It is not clear to me whether the second youth is the poor and wise one of Eccl 4:13 and what is it happening here, does he stands in the place of the old and fool king?

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I considered all the living — The general disposition of common people in all kingdoms, that they are fickle and inconstant, weary of their old governors, and desirous of changes; with the second child that shall stand up — That shall arise to reign. This may be understood of the king’s child, or son and heir, called second in respect to his father, whose successor he is.

Most modern interpreters regard the “second child” as identical with the “young man” of Ecclesiastes 4:13, and understand the passage, “I saw him at the head of all his people; yet his great popularity was but temporary, and the next generation took no pleasure in him.” It seems to me that by no stretch of rhetoric can “all the living which walk under the sun” be taken for the subjects of the sovereign in question. I am inclined to think that the Preacher reverts to the general topic, and considered all the living with the “second youth,” i.e., the second generation which shall succeed them. He saw the old generation hardened in its ways, and incapable of being admonished, and then displaced by a new generation, with which the next will feel equal dissatisfaction.

Sources:

https://biblehub.com/commentaries/ecclesiastes/4-15.htm

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  • Thank you indeed. I was thinking of the second child as the second one that is lacking as a son or a brother in Eccl 4:8. May be a reference to the Mashiach, typified by Joseph who reigned as a second of the kingdom of Egypt (this hint comes from Rashi) and came out of the house of the prisoners. But also David was bor as a poor sheperd... Could the old king be a representation of Saul? Mashiach's kingdom has numberless subjects, and nowadays many would not be happy to have him ruling over their lives... – Ettore Panizon May 15 '19 at 13:51
  • I should've put in quotes and sited sources sorry, my answer is a combination of commentaries from biblehub.com/commentaries/ecclesiastes/4-15.htm – www.gffg.info May 15 '19 at 14:26
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Ecclesiastes 4:15 (DRB) I saw all men living, that walk under the sun with the second young man, who shall rise up in his place.

This seems to refer to the apparent vanity of life: when one life is ending, there pops up (signified by "youth" or "young boy" - ha yeled) another no less entitled to life than he, in a seemingly endless cycle; no one is 'special,' and "nothing is new under the sun" (1:9). The point of the chapter - and the book - is driving home the vanity of life without a governing structure or purpose - a telos.

(The word sheni (second) may allow for the translation, "yet another" instead of "second," however, this might only be possible if we ignore the define articles, depending on how wide one makes the context.)

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The ordinal article haš·šê·nî is most commonly translated as ‘the second’, although the ESV translation is ‘that youth’. The use of this ordinal article denotes a change in subject from the king (the original subject) to the youth (a secondary subject), before reverting back to the king.

Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. 14 For he went from prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor. 15 I saw all the living who move about under the sun, along with that[b] youth who was to stand in the king's[c] place. 16 There was no end of all the people, all of whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

In this translation, the relevant notation is: [b] the second; [c] his, which offers a more direct translation, but one which is less clear in English.

The author appears to be referring to the potential of the poor and wise youth, compared to that of an old and foolish king who no longer heeds advice and thus has nothing to look forward to except his inevitable death. After his death, the people he led (including this youth he considers better than the king) will continue, and later generations won’t value this old and foolish king in the way he currently enjoys.

The ‘vanity and striving after the wind’ in this case refers to the pointlessness of having ‘arrived’ at the summit of power and influence in a temporary life.

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