There are 4 similar statements here. Each statement mentions an activity and a danger. The similar form of all the statements causes us to think that they all teach the same lesson. But the author does not tell us what that lesson is. Perhaps he believes that we will be able to work it out.
Firstly, we can see that the author is giving practical advice. Every activity has its own particular dangers. A person cannot work safely unless he knows about the dangers of his work. People need to be aware of a danger in order to protect themselves from it.
Next, we can see that the author is warning people. They must not be too confident about their future. Whatever people do, there is still a constant danger of death. People cannot protect themselves from every danger, however hard they may try. Our lives are short, so we must prepare for our own deaths. We must have a right relationship with God because, one day, he will be our judge (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
Lastly, there is a lesson here about ambition. In each of the 4 statements, a person hoped to gain a benefit from his work. But the person obtained no benefit, because an accident happened. Perhaps the work was necessary; if so, it was impossible to avoid the danger. But often people carry out tasks that are not necessary. They do those tasks because of ambition or greed. They want to make money that they do not need. And so they put themselves in danger when it is really not necessary (Ecclesiastes 10:11).
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© 2019, Keith Simons.