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ALPHAPEDIA

ECCLESIASTES 4: 12

Ecclesiastes 4: 12. As the Bible says: 

And if one can overcome the one who is alone, two can resist. A three-threaded rope does not tear quickly.

A three-threaded rope does not break quickly. Perhaps there are no words in Ecclesiastes better known than these as a proverbial expression for the strength of unity. “Triple” is chosen as an epithet, partly to bring the thought of two to three, as in Proverbs 30:15; Proverbs 30:18; Proverbs 30:21, three to four, partly because “three” was for the Israelite the typical number of integrity.

Probably also because the three-threaded rope was the strongest rope in use. The proverbial form has naturally led to a multiple application of the maxim, and the devout imagination of the interpreters has seen in it a reference to the doctrine of the Three Persons in the unity of the Godhead, to the union of Faith, Hope and Charity in the Christian life, and so on.

And if one Prevails against him, two shall Resist him

If an enemy, or a thief, attacks either of them, in friendship and fellowship together, and is more than a rival to him; both together can resist him; lest he succeed in his enterprise, and do the mischief which he hath devised; see (2 Samuel 10:11).

Therefore, when Satan attacks a single believer, he chooses to do it when he is alone; then he tempted Eve in the garden and Christ in the wilderness; and one or more fellow Christians know it, they are able to help their tempted friend, by his counsel, they do not ignore Satan’s devices. And by striving together in their prayers to God for him: thus, when false teachers make their efforts, as they usually do, Satan likes the weaker sex, and when they are alone, they too often succeed.

But when the saints stand firm in one spirit and strive together for the faith of the gospel, they stand firm, resist the enemy, and hold fast the truth. And a triple cable does not break quickly or “hastily”; as two are better than one, then three or more united, it is even better.

They are capable of attacking an enemy; and to conquer him, “vis unita fortior est”: if a family, community, city or kingdom is divided against itself, they cannot resist; but, if they are united, in all probability nothing can harm them. 

This doctrine is taught in the fable of the bundle of sticks that the old man gave to his children to break them; which, although united, could not be done; but when the art was united and taken out separately, it was easily broken into pieces. So he taught them unity among them, as their greatest security against their common enemy. 

The same instruction is given by this triple cord; while it remains twisted, it does not break easily, but if the threads are not twisted or released, soon they break in pieces. So people in religious communion, be they more or less, while maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, are terrible, like an army with banners, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against them. 

And if this is true of the united love and affection of the saints, it must be much more of the love of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit; that threefold cord, with which the saints are drawn and held; and of which it may be said, that not only is it not quickly broken, but it cannot be broken at all.

And therefore, those who are in its power are in the highest security. Some apply this to the three chief graces, faith, hope, and love, which are permanent; and though they may sometimes be weak and low in their acts and exercise, they can never be lost.

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