King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Ecclesiastes 4

Miseries from oppression. (1-3) troubles from envy. (4-6) The folly of covetousness. (7,8) The advantages of mutual assistance. (9-12) the changes of royalty. (13-16)

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Miseries from oppression

1 So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.

3 Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.

Troubles from envy

4 Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.

6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

The folly of covetousness

7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.

8 There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.

The advantages of mutual assistance

9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.

10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?

12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

The changes of royalty

13 Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.

14 For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.

15 I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead.

16 There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Any. God suffereth the innocent to be oppressed for a time, that they may merit a greater reward. Ps. lxxii.

Ver. 3. Born. It is better to have no existence than to be in eternal misery. Matt. xxvi. 24. But the affliction of the just procureth glory for them. W. — The pagan sages observed, that it was “best for mortals not to be born; and if they were, to die very soon.” Chalcid. and Theognis. — But they considered only temporal inconveniences. Religion has in view the danger of sin, and the desire of eternal happiness. Rom. vii. 24.

Ver. 4. Industries, or Heb. “righteous actions.” If one be poor, he is in distress; if rich, he is exposed to envy; so that all is vanity. C.

Ver. 5. Flesh, which he will not labour to sustain; (H.) or he repines at his own past misconduct, and at the affluence of others.

Ver. 6. Mind. These are the words of the slothful, (C.) or of truth. H. Prov. xvii. 1. — The indolent will not observe moderation in the application of this sentence. M.

Ver. 8. Things? He acts as if he were to live for ever, or feared to be starved.

Ver. 9. Therefore is not in Heb. &c. The miser had better have some society. It is advantageous; though to refrain from its comforts, out of piety, is not blamed. The solitary must be “an angel or a devil.” C. — Society. Besides the advantages of friendship, this implies that a person must have Jesus Christ with him, that he may rise from sin and death by his assistance. S. Jer. W.

Ver. 10. Fall into sickness, poverty, or sin. The saints have withdrawn people from the dangers of the world into monasteries, where they may fight together against the devil.

Ver. 12. Cord. True charity increaseth in strength as it does in number, (S. Jer. W.) though friendship may not admit of more than two persons. H. — Some explain this triple cord of the blessed Trinity, or of the three monastic vows, the theological virtues, or the parts of penance, &c.

Ver. 13. Foolish. Great wisdom and prudence is required of kings; who, like others, are exposed to many vicissitudes.

Ver. 14. Prison. The exaltation of Joseph, Mardochai, and Daniel, was remarkable. C. — Si fortuna volet, fies de Rhetore Consul. Juv. Sat. vii.

Ver. 15. Second heir. M. — “They adore the rising (Papinius) more than the setting sun; (Plut. Pomp.) and a person is no sooner on the throne than his successor begins to be courted: (v. 16.) so inconstant are mortals! C.

Ver. 16. In him. Many are perfectly unacquainted with the king, who finds so many admirers about his person, and even of these the greatest part begin to be presently disgusted, and wish for another change.

Ver. 17. Keep. Here many begin the fifth chap. as Solomon alters his style, and gives many important instructions. C. — For. Heb. “rather than that fools should offer sacrifice, since they know not that they are doing wrong.” Mont. — Do not imitate hypocrites, (H.) who have the appearance of sanctity, while they despise God’s orders. Jer. vii. 2. C.