One is the Lonliest Number…

“Two are better than one; for them there is good compensation for their anxieties. For if they fall, one will raise up his companion; woe to him who is one and falls, for there is not a second one to lift him up.”

(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Every time that I read these words, my mind always goes back to a song made popular by the pop band “Three Dog Night,” namely to the words of One is the Loneliest Number. Indeed, that captures at least part of what Solomon is reflecting on here. God has created people to be in relationship with one another. And, when two people join together to accomplish a task, that task is most commonly completed more quickly and with more ingenuity than were just one to be working on his or her own. Fiction is filled with illustrations of this…Sherlock Holmes had John Watson and Don Quixote had Sancho Panza, but these relationships are found in history as well. David had Jonathan, Moses had Aaron, Jeremiah had Baruch, Paul had Timothy, Jesus sent out the disciples in groups of two, etc… There is great wisdom and benefit that comes from having an appropriate companion during every venture. When you stumble and fall; the other will pick you up. When you have success, your success will be greater and brighter than one will find when one walks alone.

In today’s society, this passage is very commonly used in the context of weddings. And indeed, God also pronounced that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18) and thus God formed a helpmate from Adam’s rib and in this way woman was created and marriage was instituted. Man was given his first real companion. Thus, this too is an illustration of Solomon’s principle. 

Many rabbinical writers also like to point out that the study of God’s word also is something that is better done with a companion. This may be your spouse (with whom you ought to be studying the Bible) but it also may be done with other Christian friends. Here is where another one of Solomon’s proverbs applies: iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). Indeed, we sharpen each other providing both resistance and encouragement as we labor with one another. 

A final application is death. Just as it is not good for man to be alone it is not good for a person to die alone. Friends, family members, the church, and the pastors all have a role in comforting and interceding in prayer for a brother or sister in the church who is suffering and dying. Indeed, two are better than one.

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