Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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Ecclesiastes ix.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Of God. He seems to treat both alike, so that the just themselves cannot say whether their sufferings be a punishment or a trial. (St. Jerome) (Calmet) --- Knoweth not certainly, and in an ordinary manner. (Worthington) --- Hatred. Hebrew and Septuagint, "yet love and hatred man knoweth not." (Haydock) --- Prosperity or adversity proves nothing. (Calmet) --- Mortals cannot tell whether their afflictions tend to their greater improvement, like Job's, or they are in punishment of sin, like those of Pharao, and of the Egyptians. This they shall know after death. (Worthington) --- Yet the wicked know already that they are displeasing to God. (Salmeron in 2 Corinthians xii.) "The just and....their works are in the hand of God, even love and hatred; men know not," &c. (De Dieu; Amama)

Ver. 2. But. Hebrew joins this with the preceding not, "by all that is before them. All things come alike to all, there is one event to," &c. (Protestants) (Haydock) --- The pagans distinguished real goods and evils from those which were only apparent, like prosperity and adversity, which are determined only by the good or bad use. (St. Jerome) --- Thus religion looks upon virtue and vice in the former light; and riches, poverty, &c., in the latter. It may be difficult to decide, whether, under adversity, the just have supported themselves better by virtue, or the wicked by vanity. God will manifest the truth. (Calmet) --- Perjured. Hebrew and Septuagint, "swearer, so he that fears an oath." (Haydock)

Ver. 3. Evil. People hence take occasion to indulge in vice, (chap. viii. 14.) though the conduct of God be irreproachable. (Calmet) --- Shall. Hebrew, "they go to the dead." (Haydock) --- Many think that these are the sentiments of the impious.

Ver. 4. There. Even those who have had the vanity to claim divine honours, never could persuade themselves that they would escape death. But the just forms a different conclusion from the wicked. He looks upon his life only as a preparation for the other, (Hebrews xi. 13., and Ephesians ii. 19.) while libertines make haste to enjoy the fleeting pleasure, Isaias xxii. 13. To the former death seems desirable, (chap. iv. 2., and vi. 3.) to the latter it is a subject of consternation; and he prefers the vilest creature living, to the most noble when dead. (Calmet) --- Hebrew, "for whosoever is chosen (yebuchar. Marginal note yechubar, "is united") to all the living, has hope; for a," &c. (Haydock) --- Moderns generally follow the marginal reading of the Masorets. (Calmet) --- "For who shall live for ever?" (Symmachus) "Who partakes with all the living? There is hope." (Septuagint) (Haydock) --- During life alone the sinner may amend, chap. ii. 3. The Gentiles are preferred before the Jews. (Worthington)

Ver. 5. Know nothing more, viz., As to the transactions of this world, in which they have now no part, unless it be revealed to them; neither have they any knowledge or power now of doing any thing to secure their eternal state, (if they have not taken care of it in their lifetime) nor can they now procure themselves any good, as the living always may do, by the grace of God. (Challoner)

Ver. 7. God. Be grateful to him, and make a good use of his benefits, (St. Jerome, exp. 2.) or these are the words of libertines. (Bossuet) (St. Jerome, 1. explicat.) (Calmet)

Ver. 8. White. As in times of joy, and among people of quality, chap. x. 17., and Proverbs xxxi. 23. --- Head. Our Saviour reproaches the Pharisees for neglecting this, Luke vii. 45.

Ver. 9. Wife. Some translate, "the woman," or harlot; as if the wicked still spoke.

Ver. 10. Earnestly. Live in delights, or perform many good works, chap. ii. 5. Our Lord seems to allude to this passage. What thou dost, do quickly, John xiii. 27.

Ver. 11. All. Thus it appears to the inattentive, and to the wicked. For Solomon frequently inculcates that Providence directs all wisely. Human industry is not always attended with success, Deuteronomy xxix. 19. This is a fresh proof of the vanity of all things. (Calmet)

Ver. 12. With. Hebrew adds, "evil." Net, (Montanus) or hook. (Haydock) --- Them. They may use precautions; but, without God's aid, they will not succeed, Psalm cxxvi. 1. (Calmet)

Ver. 14. And the siege, &c. Hebrew has only "great bulwarks over or against it." (Haydock)

Ver. 15. Afterward, is not in Hebrew. The poor man was unnoticed before. (Calmet) --- Vulgate insinuates that he met with no return of gratitude, which is but too common; (Haydock) and this shews the vanity of the world.

Ver. 16. Heard? Ecclesiasticus xiii. 28. Men are so unjust as to despise wisdom, if it be in a poor man. The prudence of an individual has often saved cities, as was the case at Abela, and Bethulia; (2 Kings xx. 22.; Calmet) and Syracuse was defended a long time by Archimedes against the whole Roman army. (Plut.[Plutarch?] in Marcel.)

Ver. 17. Fools. Though the wise often meet with contempt, it is only among fools, who form the majority. (Calmet) --- Vain declaimers in the Church shew their own folly, as well as that of their hearers. (St. Jerome)

Ver. 18. Things. A woman saved Abela; and Achan almost ruined Israel. Want of prudence in a general is often fatal. Virtues are connected, as well as vices. (Calmet) --- For one transgression, many acts of virtue are lost. (St. Jerome)


Bible Text & Cross-references:

Man knows not certainly that he is in God's grace. After death, no more work or merit.

1 All these things have I considered in my heart, that I might carefully understand them: There are just men and wise men, and their works are in the hand of God: and yet man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love, or hatred:

2 But all things are kept uncertain for the time to come, because all things equally happen to the just and to the wicked, to the good and to the evil, to the clean and to the unclean, to him that offereth victims, and to him that despiseth sacrifices. As the good is, so also is the sinner: as the perjured, so he also that sweareth truth.

3 This is a very great evil among all things that are done under the sun, that the same things happen to all men: whereby also the hearts of the children of men are filled with evil, and with contempt while they live, and afterwards they shall be brought down to hell.

4 There is no man that liveth always, or that hopeth for this: a living dog is better than a dead lion.

5 For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know nothing more, neither have they a reward any more: for the memory of them is forgotten.

6 Their love also, and their hatred, and their envy, are all perished, neither have they any part in this world, and in the work that is done under the sun.

7 Go then, and eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with gladness: because thy works please God.

8 At all times let thy garments be white, and let not oil depart from thy head.

9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest, all the days of thy unsteady life, which are given to thee under the sun, all the time of thy vanity: for this is thy portion in life, and in thy labour wherewith thou labourest under the sun.

10 Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly: for neither work, nor reason, nor wisdom, nor knowledge, shall be in hell, whither thou art hastening.

11 I turned me to another thing, and I saw that under the sun, the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the learned, nor favour to the skilful: but time and chance in all.

12 Man knoweth not his own end: but as fishes are taken with the hook, and as birds are caught with the snare, so men are taken in the evil time, when it shall suddenly come upon them.

13 This wisdom also I have seen under the sun, and it seemed to me to be very great:

14 A little city, and few men in it: there came against it a great king, and invested it, and built bulwarks round about it, and the siege was perfect.

15 Now there was found in it a man poor and wise, and he delivered the city by his wisdom, and no man afterward remembered that poor man.

16 And I said that wisdom is better than strength: how then is the wisdom of the poor man slighted, and his words not heard?

17 The words of the wise are heard in silence, more than the cry of a prince among fools.

18 *Better is wisdom, than weapons of war: and he that shall offend in one, shall lose many good things.



18: Ecclesiastes vii. 20.