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New International Version Ecclesiastes 4:3

But better than both is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.

Why would his lots be better off?

Ecclesiastes 9:4 Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion! 5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.

Is the unborn better than the living according to this preacher?

New American Standard Bible

But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun.

What is the meaning of "one who has never existed"? Can anyone give me a concrete example of such a 'being'?

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  • It refers to those that don't exist. As to the second question, it is answered in the quoted text.
    – Lucian
    Oct 14 '20 at 15:20
  • ”the dead know nothing” the comparison is between the living and those who have lived (or the dead). Same thing is chapter 4:2 the living and those who have lived are compared to he that has not yet come into existence is what the Hebrew says. NIV’s translation is not faithful to the text. It technically should read someone who has not yet been conceived, he is better off than the living or the dead. This question seems poorly research or confused by the NIV translation which again seems to indicate it’s poorly researched. No where in Heb. are embryos being referred to implied by unborn Oct 16 '20 at 11:53
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There are many places in the Bible that refer to unborn babies, ie, fetuses. Here is a non-exhaustive sample:

  • Ps 139:13 - For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.
  • Isa 44:2 - Thus says the Lord who made you And formed you from the womb, who will help you, ...
  • Jer 20:17 - Because he did not kill me before birth, So that my mother would have been my grave, ...
  • Luke 1:41 - When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • Eccl 11:5 - Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.

Eccl 4:3 says, But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun. (NASB)

The highlighted text translates הָיָה (hayah) and means "fall out, come to pass, become, be" (BDB). Thus, Eccl 4:3 is discussing a person who never existed, not merely an unborn person or fetus.

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  • Robert Young gives And better than both of them `is' he who hath not yet been, in that he hath not seen the evil work that hath been done under the sun. for Ecclesiastes 4:3. To say 'one who has never existed' postulates a non-sequitir. But 'he who hath not yet been' postulates a definite entity, yet to come.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 14 '20 at 21:03
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    @NigelJ - I fully agree but that is what the Hebrew says. The preacher also agrees and says this (almost ridiculous thing) for effect.
    – Dottard
    Oct 14 '20 at 21:19
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Does Ecclesiastes 4:3 refer to the unborn?

It is the stillborn who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 6
3 A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded. 5Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man— 6even if he lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity. Do not all go to the same place?

Why would his lots be better off?

He has rest.

What is the meaning of "one who has never existed"?

It's a non-entity, an oxymoron, no such thing.

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