Bible Question:

What is the meaning of “a cord of 3 strands is not easily broken”?

Bible Answer:

Three Strands Are Better Than Two

The verse you are referring to is Ecclesiastes 4:12. It reads as follows,

And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NASB)

Starting with Ecclesiastes 4:9, God tells us that it is better to not be a loner. Some people are hermits and want to live alone. Some move into the country and keep to themselves. Others want to do everything without anyone’s help. Some people do not want to be with people. They have no friends or avoid their neighbors. But God warns us in this passage that that is not wisdom. Therefore, starting in Ecclesiastes 4:9 God says that two people are more productive than one person. Most people understand that is true. In verse 10, we are told that if one of the two falls down, the other one can help them. In verse 11 we discover that two people sleeping together will be warmer. That makes sense when there is no heat. Then in verse 12 we are told that two people can withstand someone who is very powerful better than one person, and better yet are three people together.

The actual Hebrew does not say “three strands” but simply “three.” The Hebrew word that is translated as “three stands” is msullas and it means “three.” In this verse the meaning is that three smaller cords are twisted together for greater strength. Three smaller cords twisted together are better than one or two smaller cords by themselves. The picture is of a very powerful individual who overpowers another individual – one on one. When we are told that two can resist, the Hebrew word that is translated as “resist” actually means “to stand against.” That is, two people can resist one but may succumb eventually. But three people are better than two, and two are better than one in withstanding a powerful individual.

Conclusion:

Ecclesiastes 4 discusses oppression – a series of wisdom statements. Ecclesiastes 4:12 might seem obvious to many, but yet how many people do not want help? How many people live alone? How many work alone. Some work alone because they want the honor alone? How many men and women have never been married, because they do not want to have to live with another person? Wisdom says two are better than one and in a difficult situation three are even better.

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