King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Ecclesiastes 2

The vanity and vexation of mirth, sensual pleasure, riches, and pomp. (1-11) Human wisdom insufficient. (12-17) This world to be used according to the will of God. (18-26)

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The vanity and vexation of mirth, sensual pleasure, riches, and pomp

1 I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.

2 I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?

3 I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.

4 I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:

5 I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits:

6 I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:

7 I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me:

8 I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.

9 So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.

10 And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.

11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

Human wisdom insufficient

12 And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.

13 Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.

14 The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.

15 Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity.

16 For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.

17 Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

This world to be used according to the will of God

18 Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.

19 And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.

20 Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun.

21 For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil.

22 For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun?

23 For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.

24 There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.

25 For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I?

26 For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Delights. He speaks in the name of libertines, (S. Greg. Dial. iv. 4.) or after his conversion. C. — 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. W.

Ver. 2. Why. Heb. “What doth that?” Sept. “Why dost thou so?” Immoderate laughter is a sign of folly. Eccli. xxi. 23. C. — “Even spiritual joy is a temptation.” S. Jer.

Ver. 3. Wine, and to lead a temperate life. C. — Prot. “to give myself unto wine, (yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom) and to lay hold on folly,” &c. H. — I wished to indulge myself in pleasure, yet so as not to lose the reputation of wisdom. C. v. 9. H.

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. Heb. “paradises,” in which fruit-trees were planted. C.

Ver. 7. Family of slaves, “born in my house,” (Prot.) distinct from those whom I got for money. H. — 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 K. 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; (Aq. and Sym.) or, “men and women to,” &c. (Sept.) or, “a field and fields;” (C.) or, Prot. “as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.” Heb. shidda beshiddoth. H.

Ver. 9. Wisdom, not that which was supernatural, and could not be found amid such delights. v. 3. Jam. iii. 17. I knew that all this was vanity. C.

Video meliora proboque,

Deteriora sequor. Ovid. H.

Ver. 10. Labour. Heb. “and this was my portion of all my labour.” I perceived that I could not thus obtain content. C. — “Thou (O God) hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless till they repose in thee.” S. Aug. Conf. i. 1. M. — Aurelius makes the same confession as Solomon, respecting the insatiable nature of his own heart, and the emptiness of pleasure, &c.

Ver. 12. What. Heb. “For what man shall come after the king?” Sept. “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? C. — Man’s wisdom compared with God’s is contemptible; though it be preferable to folly. M.

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

Ver. 15. Vanity. This inference was false, (v. 16.) or my labouring for wisdom was to no purpose. C. — Sept. “I then spoke more in my heart, (for the fool speaks out of his abundance) since this also is vanity.” H.

Ver. 16. Unlearned. He answers, (Jans.) or rather continues the objections. Geier. C.

Ver. 17. Life. Heb. “I hated life,” as all is attended with anxiety. Rom. vii. 24.

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

Ver. 20. Off, in a sort of despair; suggested by worldly wisdom. Religion alone can impart steady principles. C. — Prot. “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. H.

Ver. 21. Wisdom. The writings of the wise are often perverted by perverse heretics. S. Jer. — Idle heirs dissipate the possessions, which had been accumulated with such industry. C. — Riches tend to encourage the profligacy of the heir. M.

Ver. 24. Drink, using with moderation the things which we have acquired, rather than to be solicitous for more, (W.) which may fall into the hands of an idle heir, who is appointed by God, v. 26. This may also be the plea of libertines, (C.) who would use freely what he has given. S. Aug. con. Jul. iv. 3.

Ver. 26. Pleased God, though he may not be his relation. Prov. xxvi. 16. Job xiii. 22. C.