King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Ecclesiastes 5

What renders devotion vain. (1-3) Of vows, and oppression. (4-8) the vanity of riches shown. (9-7) The right use of riches. (18-20)

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What renders devotion vain

1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.

2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.

Of vows, and oppression

4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.

5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

6 Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?

7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.

8 If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.

The vanity of riches shown

9 Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.

10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.

11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?

12 The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.

13 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.

14 But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.

15 As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.

16 And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?

17 All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.

The right use of riches

18 Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.

19 Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.

20 For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Few. As none can arrive at the perfect knowledge of God, they should be reserved in speaking of Him. W. — De Deo etiam vera loqui periculosum. Cic. de Nat. — In prayer, (C.) we must not pretend to give him any information, like the heathens. Matt. vi. 7. H.

Ver. 2. Folly. Under anxiety a person is naturally disturbed with dreams, in which some true ideas may present themselves; in like manner, as a great talker will say some things respecting God, which may not be reprehensible, though the greatest part of his discourse will be nothing to the purpose. This is another abuse. All must speak of God and religion, though few are able to do it, with propriety! C.

Ver. 3. Pay it. Deut. xxiii. Vows must be fulfilled. W. — God requires that we should keep the commandments; (Lu. x. 28.) and if we engage ourselves to perform some work of supererogation, he expects that we should be faithful. To vow is of counsel; but to comply with it is of precept. An abuse too common among the Jews is here condemned. C.

Ver. 5. Sin by making a vow, above thy strength, (Chal. Pineda) or by speaking what may excite the passions. Thaumat.; Bossuet — Angel guardian assigned to each one, (W.) or the priest, who took cognizance of vows. C. — Providence, or “foresight” in me to avoid the evil. Heb. and Sept. “it is an error,” (H.) or sin of ignorance, for which certain victims were specified. Lev. v. 4. The neglect of vows could not be thus expiated. C. — Use no allurements to lust. M.

Ver. 6. Number. Those who observe dreams, are filled with apprehension. The Jews were very subject to this superstition. C. — As dreams are vain, so are many words or excuses to evade a vow. Jun. Grot. — Such pretences must not be made. S. Jer. M.

Ver. 7. These. God will bring the wicked to judgment, (C.) and shew for what design he left them in power. H.

Ver. 8. Him. An appeal may be made to the king or to God. Reges in ipsos imperium est Jovis. Hor. iii. ode 1. — Heb. “the king serves, (Mont.) or is served by the field.” Prot. H. — All have a mutual dependence on each other, and thus the vanity of men and the order of Providence appear. C.

Ver. 9. Money. Avarice is like a dropsy, (C.) or poison, infecting all the person. Sallust. — The miser is the slave, and not the possessor, of his riches, (S. Chrys.) like Tantalus, who could not drink, though in the midst of waters. Hor. i. Sat. 1. — Nescis quo valeat nummus, quem præbeat usum.

Ver. 10. Them. He shews the vanity of the great.

Ver. 11. Sleep. Is not the health and content of the poor to be preferred?

Ver. 12. Owner. When they are taken away, they bring greater sorrow, (C.) and even when present, they fill the mind with anxiety. H.

Ver. 13. Affliction. Heb. “by an evil affair,” or accident. C. — Who. Heb. “and there is nothing in his hand.” H. — As temporal riches prove detrimental to their owners, so do false philosophy and heresy to those who follow them. S. Jer. W.

Ver. 14. Labour. All must die in this manner. But it is most afflicting that he was formerly rich, and must leave his son indigent. C.

Ver. 16. Sorrow. The person whose riches have been taken away, had made a bad use of them, (C.) living like a miser. It would be more rational to indulge in the pleasures which they afford, though this is also vain. C. iii. 14.

Ver. 19. Delight, while he observes due moderation. His life passes away sweetly. C.