King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

Ecclesiastes > Old Testament > Home

Ecclesiastes 1

Solomon shows that all human things are vain. (1-3) Man’s toil and want of satisfaction. (4-8) There is nothing new. (9-11) The vexation in pursuit of knowledge. (12-18)

Ecclesiastes 1 Audio:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Solomon shows that all human things are vain

1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

Man’s toil and want of satisfaction

4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.

7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.

8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

There is nothing new

9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

The vexation in pursuit of knowledge

12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.

13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.

14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.

16 I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.

17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.

18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

« »

G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Jerusalem. This clearly designates Solomon. See v. 12. C. xii. 8.

Ver. 2. Vanities. Most vain and despicable, (C.) and frustrating the expectations of men. M. — S. Aug. reads vanitantium, and infers that this vanity of sublunary things is an effect of man’s sin. Yet he afterwards discovered that he had read incorrectly. Ret. i. 7.

Ver. 3. Labour. People fight for a mere point; for such is the earth compared with the universe. Sen. q. Nat. Hoc est punctum, &c. Matt. xvi. 26.

Ver. 4. Ever. Its substance remains, though the form be changed. C. — At the end of time, it will be purified to continue for ever. W.

Ver. 5. Place daily. Its annual motion is then mentioned. C.

Ver. 6. Spirit. The sun, (S. Jer.) which is like the soul of the world, and which some have falsely asserted to be animated; or rather (C.) the wind is meant, as one rises in different parts of the world when another falls. Pliny ii. 27. M.

Ver. 7. Again. The sea furnishes vapours, &c. Homer (Il. Ph.) expresses himself in the same manner.

Ver. 8. Hearing. In all sciences there are many difficulties. If a man had arrived at perfect knowledge, his researches would cease.

Ver. 10. New. Such vicissitudes have occurred before, though we must not infer that the world is eternal; or that there have been many others before this, as Origen would suppose. Prin. iii. 5. &c. C. — Men’s souls, which are created daily, are nevertheless of the same sort as Adam’s was; and creatures proceed from others of the same species, which have been from the beginning. S. Tho. p. 1. q. 73. W. — Natural and moral things continue much the same. M.

Ver. 11. Things. Otherwise we should read of similar events to those which we behold. The same cause naturally produces the same effect.

Ver. 12. Israel. This was the case with none of Solomon’s descendants. C.

Ver. 14. Vexation. Heb. also, “food of wind;” (Sym.) or “choice of the spirit.” Sept. People are eager to become learned, and yet find no satisfaction. H. — All natural things are insufficient to procure felicity. W.

O Curas hominum! O quantum est in rebus inane! Persius.

Ver. 15. Perverse. Habitual and obstinate sinners. C. — Fools, who follow the broad road. H. — Heb. and Sept. “the defect cannot be numbered.” We know not to what a height the soul of man might have risen, if he had continued faithful.

Ver. 16. Learned. Solomon was blessed both with a natural genius, which he improved by study, and also he had the gift of supernatural wisdom. Yet he declares that all is vanity and pain.

Ver. 17. Errors. Sept. “parables and science.” But to discern the mistakes of men is a part of wisdom, (C.) and Grabe substitutes “wanderings,” instead of “parables,” after Theodot. as Heb. ealluth (H.) means “errors,” (C.) or “follies.” Mont.

Ver. 18. Labour. He is bound to do more for heaven, as he is convinced of his own defects, and of the strict judgments of God. Wisdom is not true happiness, but the means to obtain it. W. — The more a person knows, the more he is convinced of his own ignorance, (C.) and filled with grief, that wisdom should be so much concealed. S. Jer. — Those who are learned, feel indignant that their disciples should be so dull. M.