Ecclesiastes 4: 1, “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.”

In the fall of 1999, we worked disaster relief after Hurricane Floyd hit the U.S. east coast. Work was with a cooking unit preparing and distributing meals to storm victims. A serving line was set up daily in a church for people that lived in the neighborhood.

An elderly lady came in every day and took out several meals for her neighbors. She and Margie developed a conversational friendship and one day were discussing disasters and other troubling occurrences. As the lady left, she turned and said to Margie, “Always has been and always will be.”

That statement could very accurately be made concerning oppression, although her newfound friend was referring to disasters. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes chapter four, acknowledged his frustration with his inability to solve the problem. In his great wisdom, he knew a tremendous frustration in those things he could not accomplish.

Oppression is defined as “prolonged, cruel or unjust treatment or control.” To define the word oppress is difficult since varying conditions exist and depending where one stands on the “oppressed or being oppressed” side of the fence.

In Solomon’s writings, to exploit, mistreat or take advantage of, appeared to define oppression. Mass murder and torture likely fell into a more severe category.

In Solomon’s statement, “There was no one to comfort them,” (verse 1) might be one of those cases of prophesy that on the surface does not appear to be prophesy. Just under 1,000 years after Solomon’s writing of Ecclesiastes, the Savior came, who at times, was referred to as Comforter.

Regardless of the degree or type of oppression to which Solomon was referring, humans harm one another. Whether we are referring to schoolyard bullying or all-out war (nation against nation), injustices happen.

On first glance in reading Ecclesiastes, it appears Solomon’s purpose in life was to complain. I once heard in a sermon, “Some people have the spiritual gift of complaining.” Complaining may, however, reflect a deeper conflict of a troubled soul.

Others see their statements as a voicing of concern for a particular condition or situation. Indeed, some are more observant than others and have a propensity to foresee problems developing. However, we regard Solomon’s Ecclesiastes as bringing to our attention existing conditions that in his mind must be addressed.

“The voicing of concern” may be a fitting description of what Solomon was saying. By calling the attention of the people to the fact of oppression, perhaps something could be done to prevent or at least lessen it.

Another very powerful lesson Solomon teaches us in chapter four is that the oppressed existed 3,000 years ago just as now. As long as people exist, some will have desires for power and have no concern for others; oppression happens!

One of my favorite Bible stories is that of Gideon in Judges, chapters six and seven. The scripture tells us the Israelites were being oppressed by the Midianites and Amalekites. The oppression was because of their disobedience. Might some cases of oppression even now be purposed by God?

Could Native Americans possibly have seen the future and realize the Europeans coming to their shores would destroy their way of life? History teaches us, wherever Europeans set foot on other lands, when the indigenous peoples were in the way, they were eliminated.

In examples found in the Bible as well as world news today, we see many cases in which people are oppressed. Solomon stated and restated, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Proverbs 28: 16, “A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor, But he who hates covetousness will prolong his days.” Scriptural references to the consequences of being oppressive are many.

Solomon also pointed out in verse one, “The tears of the oppressed, but they have no comforter.” In a political environment, power brokers, dictators and the egotists seem to have a talent for silver tongue rhetoric to obtain for themselves positions of power.

Jesus makes a point in Matthew 5: 4-10, those that are persecuted will be blessed. This gives us an assurance that someday the oppression will end.

Oppression happens! Solomon was troubled by it and had power to reconcile such conditions, but only to a point. Ecclesiastes four simply points out his anguish over the fact it happens and was existent in his world.

Wars in third world countries, conflicts and tribal uprisings are constantly ongoing. To the typical citizen of most civilized nations (if there is such a thing), there is a blindness or ignorance of these oppressive actions.

Some are oppressed by their own families in the negative teachings that come from parents, siblings and others. I know someone that was told by a teacher, “You’ll never amount to anything; you are useless.” As a teacher myself, I find this very hurtful and disappointing in the profession. Praise God, those types are few.

When one is told, “You have no opportunity to be any better than I am,” a defeated attitude is present from the beginning. Discouragement is a form of oppression. Every child has a potential for success, but that potential can be destroyed by a few words.

Solomon was so depressed by the inequities that result in oppression in his world that he made the statement one would be better off dead than to exist (verse 2). In some cases, the condition of being oppressed is so by one’s own doing. I have always and will continue to believe, two of the greatest traits parents and teachers can instill into children are those of perseverance and determination.

Solomon’s desire for a justified eternal perspective was unattainable in his time. Perhaps his state of anxiety was a forerunner of salvation by faith in a crucified and resurrected Savior, Christ Jesus. Hope for eternity simply did not exist in his day as after the resurrection of Jesus.

Perhaps God’s motivating him to the writing of chapter four was to establish a feeling of a future salvation path (John 1: 17). The meaningless life to Solomon would likely not have existed (or been lessened) had he lived after Jesus came. Jesus’ suffering and death provided us with a freedom Solomon did not have.

Sin was a yoke (Acts 15: 10) to the Old Testament Jew.

His state of near insanity because of his extreme wisdom and ability to see “beyond the horizon,” should be a case-in-point to today’s Christian of how blessed we are. People have not always had the assurance of an eternal existence as we have today.

Solomon, even with his extreme wisdom and wealth, had limited opportunity to tell people about God, repentance and the eternal perspective.

How depressing it must be for a person (then or now) to see this life as “all there is.”

It appears Solomon was in a state of extreme frustration by the oppression that existed. Even with his God-given wisdom and power as king of Israel, his ability to quell the oppression was limited and in many cases, non-existent.

Our greatest avenue to lessen oppression in this world is to tell others about Christ Jesus and His teachings.

Without the knowledge of the Biblical rules for mankind to live by, oppression will continue.

We have no excuse for not preaching/teaching the Gospel to a lost world!

If Christians don’t tell others about our glorious Savior, no one will.

If we consider those without knowledge of the Gospel as oppressed, we may be more motivated to evangelize.

Van Yandell is a retired Industrial Arts teacher, an ordained evangelist and commissioned missionary from Fredonia.