Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ... Intentionally Focused Study: Week 5 - Study Notes using SOAP Bible Study Method


Ecclesiastes 4:9-12  (NIV)

9     Two are better than one,
.           because they have a good return for their labor:
10   If either of them falls down,
.           one can help the other up.
.      But pity anyone who falls
.           and has no one to help them up.
11   Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
.            But how can one keep warm alone?
12   Though one may be overpowered,
.            two can defend themselves.
.      A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (CJB)

9    Two are better than one,
.           in that their cooperative efforts yield this advantage:
10  If one of them falls,
.           the other will help his partner up -
.     Woe to him who is alone when he falls
.           and has no one to help him up.
11  Again, if two people sleep together, they keep each other warm;
.     but how can one person be warm by himself?
12  Moreover, an attacker may defeat - someone who is alone,
.            but two can resist him;
.     and a three-stranded cord is not easily broken.


"Two are better than one.... and a three-stranded cord is not easily broken":  These are main themes throughout scripture - sometimes overtly stated, other times inferred, and still other times exemplified.

Union, being united together, united together with both another (or others) - and God:  that is one of the highest ideals.

In verse 9 of the Complete Jewish Bible for Ecclesiastes 4 above, 'their cooperative effort yields....advantage' comes across quite differently than the western translation, 'they have a good return for their labor'.

According to a quick viewing of the Hebrew definitions for the text in 4:9 via Strong's Concordance, the Western translation seems to be a rather literal translation.  That is all well and good.  However, Hebrew scholars often cite the fact that various words take on added meaning depending on how they are combined.  Thus, I'm inclined to give extra credence to the CJB translation.

Certainly each of the two translations can point in the same direction, but they can also point in quite opposite directions, depending on the paradigm from which one or the other is read.

'They have a good return for their labor' does not echo the 'two are better than one theme' quite as clearly as 'their cooperative effort yields...advantage.'

My attention is utterly drawn to this idea of God's honoring 'cooperative effort' in light of 'two are better than one.... and a three-stranded cord is not easily broken.'

Might understanding the Jewish meaning behind this term 'cooperative effort' help us understand God's view of 'kingdom living' in which we glorify Him and love others more and more fully and effectively?


In these modern times, one might honestly ask if this 'cooperative effort' is communal/socialistic in nature.  Historically speaking, however, Israelites were called upon in the writings and the prophets to live out God's ideals of 'cooperative effort' in a patriarchal, land owning society.  Such efforts were hardly socialistic.

Old Testament text doesn't seem to say, "Here is an example of 'cooperative effort' in action."  [We might prefer for God to be so direct, however, as Solomon put it, we are to work at discerning hidden lessons.]

Were the hidden lessons so well disguised that no one ever found them?  In Old Testament days, some Israelites did indeed live holy lives through the grace revealed to them in the writings and the prophets (as evidenced by scripture saying that this man or that woman lived righteously before God).  Those Israelites have exemplified the best of what 'cooperative effort' must mean in rich ways through the grace of our Lord.  It would be beneficial to study out their lives in light of this phrase 'cooperative effort yields...advantage.'  However, overall, Old Testament Israelites were too distracted by the cares of this world to take the time to understand, let alone fulfill the ideals of 'cooperative effort.'

PRAYER:  Father God, help us to take time to listen to the Holy Spirit with open hearts and minds so that we may discern what 'cooperative effort' means in its fulness in order that we may fulfill all that You are asking of us today - that we may walk together with each other before You - gaining every advantage for Your name and Your kingdom as possible.


Certainly the kings of the various kingdoms surrounding Israel called upon their people to rise up together in 'cooperative effort' at times.  Such efforts, being directed by dictators, were hardly socialistic.  Furthermore, and more importantly, even the best of kings rarely cared about their part in 'cooperative effort', thereby throwing off any honest efforts of the people in general to live according to this ideal of 'cooperative effort' throughout their lands.

In more recent ages, the kings of various kingdoms in 'Christendom' also struggled with their own part of living in line with this call to 'cooperative effort'.  The only king I know of who sought earnestly to serve his people in every way possible in order to fulfill his part in the Messiah's view of 'cooperative effort' in all aspects of life was Alfred the Great of England, which led to his being such a wise king that his people lived as a self-ruling land in which crime was hardly known...... - which is precisely why Alfred was the only king called 'the great' in all 'Christendom.'  (A brief introduction into the life of Alfred the Great can be read online in chapters 15-17 here.)

Clearly 'cooperative effort' does yield great advantages.  All of England was blessed because one man, the King of England, sought to fulfill 'cooperative effort' with his people.


Going back to Biblical ages, the notable exceptions to rule by kings were Israel, who was ruled by judges for some 400 years before begging for kings; and Greece, who threw off her kings after realizing the inherent problems with rule by kings, precisely because kings rarely understand this 'cooperative effort'.

After throwing off her kings, Greece held to various philosophies regarding 'cooperative effort' throughout her glory days.  If one studies Greece's earliest views of 'cooperative effort,' in which each man was called upon to meet the needs of the nation in times of crisis - even to the point of laying his life down for his Greek city-state if need be, though he was not forced to do so; and compares them with the ideals furthered by the Messiah himself, one will find that they are strikingly similar.  It has been argued that the earliest Greek commitments to this view of 'cooperative effort' which they held to dearly for some time after throwing off her kings was one of the reasons why Greece rose in power and influence. However, over time, Greek ideals of 'cooperative effort' devolved significantly, first in one problematic way, then in another.

What caused this spiral downward?  Philosophical changes regarding 'cooperative effort' spiraled downward because Greece's highest ideals called upon all Greek men to strive to live like the ideal, perfect man (that's why their statues glorified men and women who exemplified the perfect human form - nature bore witness to them the fact that a 'perfect man' is identifiable in nature, and we are all to strive to be like that perfect nature); however, no one could fully manage to live up to such a perfect ideal.  Just as many today reject the Pollyanna quality of television shows like Leave it to Beaver, some Greeks began to challenge the veracity of the call to 'cooperative effort', when no one could achieve it!  Each subsequent change in philosophy was an effort to compensate for and expect men's falling short.  Of course, no code but strict adherence to the code of perfection or an understanding of the gift of grace could settle all issues in Greece.

In short, the Greeks gave up on trying to be like God's perfect Son.

At the same time, each alteration to their initial understanding of 'cooperative effort' drove their ideals further and further away from the truth.

Their efforts to find a way to aspire once again towards becoming that perfect man, and therefore their becoming that perfect state, all became more and more corrupt.  Their greatest of philosophers, struggled to try to solve these issues.  Socrates came closest.  Right after him?  Plato, plunged off the deep end.  Plato actually published arguments that all men ought to give up the identity of their own children so they would not hoard for their own prodigy when the nation was in want.  Admittedly, Plato's friends later managed to get him to rescind that portion of his writings; however, cooperative effort had at least considered that extreme relatively early on.


Why had Plato embraced this extreme?  By this approach to procreation, he reasoned that each man would more freely apply all his strength, and abilities, and wealth, whenever needed, freely and liberally in a cooperative, communal effort for the well being of the nation - for the good of all.  This type of 'cooperative effort', this type of communal living were to be guided by the alleged wisdom/need of the people.  In Plato's case, greater natural endowment would produce various levels of influence over decisions related to such communal efforts - thus 'pure equality' was not the goal, but all men were to be seen as vital parts of the nation who should each be encouraged to contribute to the good of the cooperative effort.

In Israel, the 'cooperative effort' was seen quite differently.  Cooperative effort was needed for survival, but also valued within the kingdom - with neighbors being 'brothers', and thereby obligated to care for each other.  Consider the lesson to the Israelites during their Exodus when God condemned the Edomites who would not allow Israel to pass through their lands  (Numbers 18).  At other times, one tribe was called upon by God to help other tribes.  The 'cooperative effort' was to be based upon the brotherhood of the nation at all times - and thus growing out of patriarchy rather than communal ideals.

The church was intended to be established upon these highest of ideals, this brotherly design, which was indeed re-emphasized by the Messiah - with God being the heavenly patriarch, or heavenly Father of all who called upon the name of the one who saves:  Jeshua.

Israel's socio-economic system did indeed entail a national charity system.  However, it was governed and directed by the government of the priests - thus it was more patriarchal in nature.  Still, in addition to the government's call to help lift up the downtrodden through national charity, more was demanded of the common Israelite.  As seen in the teachings of the Messiah as He walked and talked among His people, God had intended brother to help brother through brotherly love throughout the centuries.

This 'cooperative effort' thus was to be brother helping brother whenever a brother had fallen down and needed help getting back up.

Israel never fully realized this beautiful brotherhood as a nation - though many Israelite people did embody these principles.

Does the church have a chance of being the church triumphant on this earth if we do not embrace this greater view of the Cooperative Effort of the Brotherhood (aka:  the Holy Spirit living and loving through us)?

A - "It is not good for man to be alone." (We need God to be there, seeing to various details....)

David had Jonathan.  Their union, their 'male bonding' in today's terms, was sealed by the fact that both of them brought God with them, into everything.

B - God & His Son are active together - are not alone.  Together they direct creation (Genesis 1:1...):  God spoke His plan via the Word (John 1:1...).  The Word worked into being the plan God spoke.  (The Holy Spirit was also there, seeing to the details put forward by God through the Word.)

C - Jesus and the Holy Spirit minister to the saints this side of heaven.  Jesus provided the means by which the needs of His people will be met.  Then He directed the Holy Spirit to comfort us, teach us, and guide us, help us where we are weak (Romans 8:26), pray for us when we do not know how to pray (Romans 8:26).

Romans 8:26  "In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we should.  But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us, with gr(oanings to deep for words.
D - It is good for believers to share in each other's troubles, "

E - The third strand in the cord.

In marriage the third strand is God's Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the ruach hakodesh.

While it is good for us as people to be joined together with others in one way or another - always, it is that third strand in the cord which most stabilizes us and makes it difficult to break us.

In New Testament thinking, we are to "Pray without ceasing."  I Thessalonians 5:17

Understanding what it would mean to desecrate God's Holy Name, and understanding what it would mean to avoid desecrating God's Holy Name is very differently expressed in the Jewish language than in the English language.  





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