King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Ecclesiastes 10

To preserve a character for wisdom. (1-3) Respecting subjects and rulers. (4-10) Of foolish talk. (11-15) Duties of rulers and subjects. (16-20)

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To preserve a character for wisdom

1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.

2 A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.

3 Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.

Respecting subjects and rulers

4 If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.

5 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler:

6 Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place.

7 I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.

8 He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.

9 Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.

10 If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.

Of foolish talk

11 Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.

12 The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.

13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.

14 A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?

15 The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.

Duties of rulers and subjects

16 Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!

17 Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!

18 By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.

19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.

20 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Ointment. A fly cannot live in it. Pliny xi. 19. — Hence the smallest faults must be avoided, (C.) and superfluous cares, (S. Greg.) as well as the conversation of the wicked, (Thaumat.) particularly of heretics. S. Aug. con. Fulg. 14. — Detractors may be compared to flies: they seek corruption, &c. A little leaven corrupteth the whole lump. 1 Cor. v. 6. C. — The wicked infect their companions, and vice destroys all former virtues. W. — Wisdom, or “a small…folly is more precious than wisdom,” &c. of the world. 1 Cor. i. 25. and iii. 18. Dulce est desipere in loco. Hor. iv. ode 12. — Heb. “folly spoils things more precious than wisdom.” A small fault is often attended with the worst consequences, (C. ix. 18.) as David and Roboam experienced. 2 K. xxiv. and 3 K. xii. 14. C. — Sept. “a little wisdom is to be honoured above the great glory of foolishness.” Prot. “dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking flavour; so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.” H.

Ver. 2. Hand, to do well or ill. Deut. i. 39. Jon. iv. 11. Chal.

Ver. 3. Fools. People judge others by themselves. C. — Thus Nero could not believe that any were chaste. Suet.

Ver. 4. Place. If the devil tempt or persuade thee to sin, repent and humble thyself; or if thou hast offended the great, shew submission.

Ver. 5. Prince, who seems to have been guilty of any indiscretion.

Ver. 6. Rich. Such were chosen magistrates. Ex. xviii. 21. Prov. xxviii. 16. and xxx. 21.

Ver. 8. Him. Those who disturb the state or the Church, shall be in danger.

Ver. 9. Stones. Landmarks or walls. Prov. xxii. 18. — Them. God will punish his injustice, in meddling with another’s property.

Ver. 10. Made blunt. After being repeatedly sharpened, (C.) it will be more difficult to cut with it, and will expose the person to hurt himself, v. 9. H. — Man, since original sin, is in a similar condition. — Wisdom. The wise perform great things even with bad tools. Heb. “wisdom is the best directress.” C.

Ver. 11. Silence. Prot. “without enchantment, and a babbler is no better.” H. — But he compares the detractor to a serpent, (C.) as he infuses the poison into all who pay attention to him. S. Jer. S. Bern.

Ver. 12. Grace. Pleasing and instructive. C.

Ver. 14. Tell him. How foolish, therefore, is it to speak about every thing!

Ver. 15. City. Being so stupid, that they know not, or will not take the pains to find what is most obvious. C. — Thus the pagan philosophers knew all but what they ought to have known; (S. Jer.) and many such wise worldlings never strive to discover the paths which lead to the city of eternal peace: like him who contemplated the stars, and fell into a ditch. C.

Ver. 16. When thy. Heb. lit. “whose,” cujus, as v. 17. H. — S. Jerom give two senses to this passage, the literal and the mystical, according to his usual custom. The dominion of young men and of luxurious judges is reproved, as well as innovations in matters of religion. Is. iii. 4. Those are blessed who have Christ for their head, descending from the patriarchs and saints, (over whom sin ruled not, and who of course were free) and from the blessed Virgin, who was “more free.” They have the apostles for princes, who sought not the pleasures of this world, but will be rewarded, in due time, and eat without confusion. T. 7. W. — Child. Minorities often prove dangerous to the state, while regents cannot agree. — Morning, as children eat at all times. This may relate to the ruler who is a child in age, or in knowledge, though it seems rather to refer to his counsellors. Is. v. 11.

Ver. 17. Noble. Royal extraction, (Esthlon genesthai. Eurip. Hec.) and education, afford many advantages which others, who raise themselves to the throne, do not enjoy. Heb. “the son of those in white,” (C.) or “of heroes.” Mont. — Eurim, (H.) or Chorim seems to have give rise to the word Hero. The advantages of birth only make the defects of degenerate children more observable. C. — Heroum filii noxæ. “The sons of heroes are a nuisance,” (H.) was an ancient proverb. — Season. The time was not fixed; but it was deemed a mark of intemperance to eat before noon, when judges ought to have decided causes. Dan. xiii. 7. Acts ii. 15.

Ver. 18. Through. If we neglect our own, or other’s soul, (H.) in the administration of Church, (S. Jer.) or state, all will go to ruin.

Ver. 19. Feast. As if they were born for this purpose, (Phil. iii. 19. C.) fruges consumere nati. Hor. i. ep. 2. — Money.

Scilicet uxorem cum dote fidemque et amicos,

Et genus, et formam regina pecunia donet. Horace, i. ep. 6.)

— Heb. “money answers all purposes,” (H.) to procure meat, drink, &c. C.

Ver. 20. Said. Pigeons are taught to carry letters in the east, and Solomon alludes to this custom, or he makes use of this hyperbole to shew, that kings will discover the most secret inclinations by means of spies. We must not speak ill even of those who are worthy of blame. v. 16. C.