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Although [an assailant] may overpower

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one person, two people can stand against him. A threefold cord

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is not quickly torn apart.


If just one person finds himself under attack, it is a one-on-one situation and his attacker probably has the upper hand, but two people together can usually withstand the attacker. While a two-to-one ratio is better than one-to-one, three-against-one is better still, and I assume you know who this third one is.



The Hebrew simply says “he may overpower, or he may prevail against,” but is not clear who “he” is. It does not have to be specific because it does not matter where the attack is coming from, or what form it takes, the point is that two can fight it off better than one. In the translation column I have added “[an assailant]” because it sounds better in English to give something about the source and nature of the attack rather than nothing at all. In the paraphrase column I highlight the ongoing theme that two are better than one. He has emphasized the numbers one and two several times now because he is working up to a conclusion which he now lays out in the last half of this verse – three is better than one or two (see the next foot note).

2: “Threefold cord”

Solomon did not decide at the last moment to throw this in there as an afterthought, rather it appears from his continued play on the words one and two that he was intentionally building up to this point. He was preparing his reader for the conclusion that a relationship that includes three instead of two is by far the best option. He assumes his readers know who the third entity should be.

At the point in his life when the Shulammite was still alive Solomon had a strong relationship with God, and at the point when he wrote Ecclesiastes he still had a relationship with God but it was being hurt by his anger and resentment over the death of the Shulammite. Here he decides to turn his own pain and heartache into a teaching moment to help others. If we look at all the examples he mentions, we see that when one is alone he has no recourse, while two can work together, and three could potentially suffer some loss and still come out victorious. However, in Solomon’s case, he was struggling. His personal loss had caused him to feel alone, and this may have been a reminder to himself that he was not really alone even though he felt alone. He knew down inside that if he kept a strong relationship with God the “two is better than one” principle would work for him in the end. But on the other hand, he could not handle his grief, his inner anguish, his anger and resentment. He did not allow himself to finish the grieving process because he thought it would dishonor the Shulammite, so he cut the grieving process short, to his own detriment. The book of Ecclesiastes is clear evidence that he had become fixated on death and thought about death all the time. It reeks of death. It shouts the words “truncated grief!”

We know that in the end he did not follow his own advice; he did not keep a strong relationship with God. In the end his anger won and he became that person who is trying to fight a battle all alone, for he had walked away from God. If you are grieving a deep loss, don’t be like Solomon, don’t cut the grieving process short, and don’t stay angry at God. Tell God you are angry at him; He can handle it. But don’t hang on to your anger or it will devour you.