Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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Ecclesiastes ii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Delights. He speaks in the name of libertines, (St. Gregory, Dial. iv. 4.) or after his conversion. (Calmet) --- The worldling might object that since wisdom affords not content, it is best to try pleasure. But this meets not with the approbation of the wise, as all terrestrial joy is short, and can yield no more than a passing consolation. (Worthington)

Ver. 2. Why. Hebrew, "What doth that?" Septuagint, "Why dost thou so?" Immoderate laughter is a sign of folly, Ecclesiasticus xxi. 23. (Calmet) --- "Even spiritual joy is a temptation." (St. Jerome)

Ver. 3. Wine, and to lead a temperate life. (Calmet) --- Protestants, "to give myself unto wine, (yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom) and to lay hold on folly," &c. (Haydock) --- I wished to indulge myself in pleasure, yet so as not to lose the reputation of wisdom, chap. v. 9. (Haydock)

Ver. 4. Works; palaces, towns, and particularly the temple. Many, like Solomon, will refrain from wine, and still yield to other excesses.

Ver. 5. Orchards. Hebrew, "paradises," in which fruit-trees were planted. (Calmet)

Ver. 7. Family of slaves, "born in my house," (Protestants) distinct from those whom I got for money. (Haydock) --- There were generally procured from foreign nations, as the Hebrews obtained their liberty on the sabbatic year. --- Sheep. David had the like; but Solomon had also horses, 3 Kings x. 21.

Ver. 8. Silver, which became, in consequence, of little value. --- Singing. At the court of Persia, people sung all night, and during the feasts. (Athen. xii., and 14.) --- Cups and vessels; (Aquila and Symmachus) or, "men and women to," &c., (Septuagint) or "a field and fields;" (Calmet) or, Protestants, "as musical instruments, and that of all sorts." Hebrew shidda beshiddoth. (Haydock)

Ver. 9. Wisdom, not that which was supernatural, and could not be found amid such delights, ver. 3., and James iii. 17. I knew that all this was vanity. (Calmet)

Video meliora proboque,

Deteriora sequor. (Ovid) (Haydock)

Ver. 10. Labour. Hebrew, "and this was my portion of all my labour." I perceived that I could not thus obtain content. (Calmet) --- "Thou (O God) hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless till they repose in thee." (St. Augustine, Confessions i. 1.) (Menochius) --- Aurelius makes the same confession as Solomon, respecting the insatiable nature of his own heart, and the emptiness of pleasure, &c.

Ver. 12. What. Hebrew, "For what man shall come after the king?" Septuagint, "after counsel?" Many other versions may be given of this obscure text. Solomon stopt at human wisdom, without consulting the divine; or he asks who shall have greater facility to acquire knowledge than himself, or equal his works? (Calmet) --- Man's wisdom compared with God's is contemptible; though it be preferable to folly. (Menochius)

Ver. 14. Darkness and ignorance. He knows not whither he is going, Proverbs iv. 19., and xvii. 24. Wisdom is to be preferred before wealth, &c. (Calmet) --- Consideration directs a person to do good. --- Alike. Thus worldlings speak, who reflect not on the life to come. (Worthington) --- In many respects all resemble one another, though their sentence be very different. (Menochius)

Ver. 15. Vanity. This inference was false, (ver. 16.) or my labouring for wisdom was to no purpose. (Calmet) --- Septuagint, "I then spoke more in my heart, (for the fool speaks out of his abundance) since this also is vanity." (Haydock)

Ver. 16. Unlearned. He answers, (Jansenius) or rather continues the objections. (Geier) (Calmet)

Ver. 17. Life. Hebrew, "I hated life," as all is attended with anxiety, Romans vii. 24.

Ver. 19. Solicitous. We naturally desire to have our plans perfected. Solomon had, perhaps, a presentiment of Roboam's misconduct, Ecclesiasticus xlvii. 27.

Ver. 20. Off, in a sort of despair; suggested by worldly wisdom. Religion alone can impart steady principles. (Calmet) --- Protestants, "I went about, to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun;" in the transactions of the world. (Haydock)

Ver. 21. Wisdom. The writings of the wise are often perverted by perverse heretics. (St. Jerome) --- Idle heirs dissipate the possessions, which had been accumulated with such industry. (Calmet) --- Riches tend to encourage the profligacy of the heir. (Menochius)

Ver. 24. Drink, using with moderation the things which we have acquired, rather than to be solicitous for more, (Worthington) --- which may fall into the hands of an idle heir, who is appointed by God, ver. 26. This may also be the plea of libertines, (Calmet) who would use freely what he has given. (St. Augustine, contra Jul. iv. 3.)

Ver. 26. Pleased God, though he may not be his relation, Proverbs xxvi. 16., and Job xiii. 22. (Calmet)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

The vanity of pleasures, riches, and worldly labours.

1 I said in my heart: I will go, and abound with delights, and enjoy good things. And I saw that this also was vanity.

2 Laughter I counted error: and to mirth I said: Why art thou vainly deceived?

3 I thought in my heart, to withdraw my flesh from wine, that I might turn my mind to wisdom, and might avoid folly, till I might see what was profitable for the children of men: and what they ought to do under the sun, all the days of their life.

4 I made me great works, I built me houses, and planted vineyards.

5 I made gardens, and orchards, and set them with trees of all kinds.

6 And I made me ponds of water, to water therewith the wood of the young trees.

7 I got me men-servants, and maid-servants, and had a great family: and herds of oxen, and great flocks of sheep, above all that were before me in Jerusalem:

8 *I heaped together for myself silver and gold, and the wealth of kings, and provinces: I made me singing men, and singing women, and the delights of the sons of men, cups and vessels to serve to pour out wine:

9 And I surpassed in riches all that were before me in Jerusalem: my wisdom also remained with me.

10 And whatsoever my eyes desired, I refused them not: and I withheld not my heart from enjoying every pleasure, and delighting itself in the things which I had prepared: and esteemed this my portion, to make use of my own labour.

11 And when I turned myself to all the works which my hands had wrought, and to the labours wherein I had laboured in vain, I saw in all things vanity, and vexation of mind, and that nothing was lasting under the sun.

12 I passed further to behold wisdom, and errors, and folly, (What is man, said I, that he can follow the king, his maker?)

13 And I saw that wisdom excelled folly, as much as light differeth from darkness.

14 *The eyes of a wise man are in his head: the fool walketh in darkness: and I learned that they were to die both alike.

15 And I said in my heart: If the death of the fool and mine shall be one, what doth it avail me, that I have applied myself more to the study of wisdom? And speaking with my own mind, I perceived that this also was vanity.

16 For there shall be no remembrance of the wise no more than of the fool for ever, and the times to come shall cover all things together with oblivion: the learned dieth in like manner as the unlearned.

17 And, therefore, I was weary of my life, when I saw that all things under the sun are evil, and all vanity, and vexation of spirit.

18 Again I hated all my application, wherewith I had earnestly laboured under the sun, being like to have an heir after me,

19 Whom I know not whether he will be a wise man or a fool, and he shall have rule over all my labours with which I have laboured and been solicitous: and is there any thing so vain?

20 Wherefore I left off, and my heart renounced labouring any more under the sun.

21 For when a man laboureth in wisdom, and knowledge, and carefulness, he leaveth what he hath gotten to an idle man: so this also is vanity, and a great evil.

22 For what profit shall a man have of all his labour, and vexation of spirit, with which he hath been tormented under the sun?

23 All his days are full of sorrows and miseries, even in the night he doth not rest in mind: and is not this vanity?

24 Is it not better to eat and drink, and to shew his soul good things of his labours? and this is from the hand of God.

25 Who shall so feast and abound with delights as I?

26 God hath given to a man that is good in his sight, wisdom and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he hath given vexation, and superfluous care, to heap up and to gather together, and to give it to him that hath pleased God: but this also is vanity, and a fruitless solicitude of the mind.



8: 3 Kings xii. 4.

14: Proverbs xvii. 24.; Ecclesiastes viii. 1.