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The Scriptorium

Oppression Everywhere

If God is sovereign, why is there so much trouble?

Ecclesiastes 4.1

1Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun:
And look! The tears of the oppressed,
But they have no comforter –
On the side of their oppressors
there is power,
But they have no comforter.

The Story: The end of chapter 3 provides a bridge to this next section of Solomon’s meditations, in which he muses on the wrong that seems everywhere to exist “under the sun.” The word “oppressions” can be translated “frauds” or “wrongs,” and these are perhaps more germane in our day than “oppressions” (depending, of course, on where one lives). People take advantage of one another, Solomon insists, when their only frame of reference is the temporal/material horizon of experience. Here there are no abiding values or ethical principles to keep men from doing as much as they can get away with to aggrandize their own wellbeing at the expense of anyone and everyone. Those who have power wield it for their own ends, while those who do not find themselves on the short end of the stick, with no on one to comfort them. It is a story repeated in all too many ways throughout the course of human history.

The Structure: Having established his theme, Solomon now turns to unpack his most important lesson: Life is nothing to rejoice over if you choose to live it apart from God. The next section of his collection, chapters 4-6, will explore this lesson from various angles, at the same time keeping touch with the main theme of the book, albeit in a rather soto voce manner. Solomon begins this section with a broad generalization, not unlike the way he began each of the preceding sections. We are meant to understand that “oppression”of various kinds – or frauds and wrongdoings – will be the focus of this next part of Solomon’s exhortation. Having held up a vision of what life can be, Solomon now brings his son down to the realities of everyday life. Solomon has his head in the heavenlies even as he unpacks the troubles of the temporal realm.

In what ways can you see that Solomon’s view of fraud and wrongdoing “under the sun” yet holds true in our day?

Each week’s studies in our Scriptorium column are available in a free PDF form, suitable for personal or group use. For this week’s study, “Frauds, Follies, and Fleeting Joys: Ecclesiastes 4,” simply click here.

T. M. Moore

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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