King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Ecclesiastes 7

The benefit of a good name; of death above life; of sorrow above vain mirth. (1-6) Concerning oppression, anger, and discontent. (7-10) Advantages of wisdom. (11-22) Experience of the evil of sin. (23-29)

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The benefit of a good name; of death above life; of sorrow above vain mirth

1 A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.

2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.

3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.

4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.

6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.

Concerning oppression, anger, and discontent

7 Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.

8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

9 Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.

10 Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.

Advantages of wisdom

11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.

12 For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.

13 Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?

14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.

15 All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.

16 Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself ?

17 Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?

18 It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.

19 Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.

20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

21 Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee:

22 For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.

Experience of the evil of sin

23 All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.

24 That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?

25 I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:

26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.

27 Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account:

28 Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.

29 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Above him. We are intent on things which regard us not, while we neglect the important concerns of heaven. Hebrew may be joined with the preceding. C. — Prot. (11.) “seeing there are many thing which increase vanity, what is man the better? 12.) for who knoweth?” &c. H. — Some strive to obtain riches or honours, which will prove fatal to them. C. — None can perfectly know the nature of things either present or future. W.

Ver. 2. Name. “It is necessary for the sake of others,” (S. Aug. de B. Vid. xxii.) particularly for those who have to direct souls. S. Greg. in Ezec. C. — In this second part is shewn that felicity is procured by a good life. W. — Death. Speaking of the just, for death is the beginning of sorrows to the wicked. C. — Some nations mourned on the birth-day of their children. Val. Max. ii. 6. Eurip in Ctes.

Ver. 3. Come. While at birth-day feasts (Gen. xl. 20. Matt. xiv. 6.) people give themselves up to joy, and cherish the idea of living long. C.

Ver. 4. Anger. That is, correction, or just wrath and zeal against evil, (Ch.) is preferable to a misguided complaisance. Prov. xxvii. 6. C. — Anger, when rightly used, helps us to correct our faults. W.

Ver. 5. Mourning. They submit willingly to correction, (S. Jer.) or think seriously on the dangers of sin and God’s judgments.

Ver. 6. Wise man. Much prudence is requisite to correct with fruit, and to persuade the sinner that he is under a mistake. C.

Ver. 7. Laughter. It is loud and soon over. Eccli. xxi. 23. Lu. xxvi. 5. C.

Ver. 8. Oppression. Lit. “calumny.” The most perfect can hardly bear it. Heb. “oppression (or calumny of others. C.) will make the wise insane, and a present will ruin the heart.” Mont. — Avarice blinds us. H. — Deut. xvi. 19. “a corrupt judge examines ill the truth.”

Ver. 9. Speech. Heb. “thing.” The best projects often are seen to fail. — Beginning, as the auditor is on longer kept in suspense. — Presumptuous. Rashness must not be confounded with courage. C. — Hasty and immoderate anger is hurtful. W.

Ver. 10. Bosom, as in its proper place. The wise may feel its impressions, but he immediately makes resistance.

Ver. 11. Foolish. Men endeavour to excuse themselves by the manners of the age. But there have always been both good and evil. C. i. 10. C. — Corruption was prevalent in former times as well as now. M.

Ver. 12. With. Heb. also, “above, or much as riches.” C. — These are impediments in the hands of the reprobate, while they promote virtue in the good.” S. Amb. Lu. viii. n. 85. — The man who has only wisdom, cannot do as much good as those who are also rich. C. — The moderate use of riches helps the servants of God, while they do not set their hearts upon them. W. — The sun, to men on earth.

Ver. 13. Them. Money may procure necessaries for the body; (H.) but wisdom gives a long and happy life. Prov. iv. 10. Bar. iii. 28. C.

Ver. 14. Despised. God never neglects first. Trid. Ses. vi. 11. — He detests sin, and at last abandons the obstinate, though he never fails to offer sufficient graces. A person who is of an unhealthy constitution, or involved in sin, cannot be cured by man alone. Yet we must not cease to preach, &c. while we expect all from God, who gives the increase. 1 Cor. iii. 7.

Ver. 15. Complaint. Prosperity and adversity succeed each other, that we may be neither elated nor dejected too much. S. Bern. ep. xxxvi. — If we enjoy the advantages of nature, we must be thankful; if we feel pain, we must cheerfully submit to God’s will. H.

Ver. 16. Vanity, during this miserable life. — Wickedness. This seemed more incongruous under the old law, when long life was promised to the just, (C. Ps. lxxii. 3. Ex. xx. 12.) though it chiefly regarded heaven. H.

Ver. 17. Over just, viz. By an excessive rigour in censuring the ways of God in bearing with the wicked. Ch. — Give not way to scruples, (S. Bern.) nor to self-conceit. Alcuin. — Become. Heb. “perish,” being oppressed with majesty. Lorin. T. C.

Ver. 18. Overmuch. No sin can be tolerated. C. — But as all offend in many things, (v. 21. H.) they are encouraged to rise again with diligence and sorrow.

Ver. 19. From him. Who is otherwise withdrawn, &c. Heb. “take hold of this, and not neglect that: for he who feareth God, will walk with all them.” He will avoid all extremes both of virtue and vice. C. — Prot. and Mont. “he shall come forth of them all,” and advance towards heaven. H.

Ver. 20. City. It has the advantage over more strength. C. ix. 16.

Ver. 21. Not. 1 Jo. i. 8. Crates said it was “impossible to find one who falls not.” Laert. vi. H. — We must not flatter ourselves with impeccability, v. 18. C. — See Seneca. Clem. i. 6. Peccavimus omnes, &c. and de Ira. i. 28. M.

Ver. 23. Thy. We must be satisfied with a good conscience, as we cannot control the thoughts and words of all. S. Amb. Of. i. 1.

Ver. 24. Me. This is a proof of having made great progress in wisdom, since the half-learned are the most presumptuous. C.

Ver. 25. Much. Prot. “the which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?” H.

Ver. 26. Reason. Of all things. In this natural wisdom consists. Sept. “and number.” He examined the pretensions of philosophy, which attempted thus to predict future events; but found that it was all deceit, like a harlot. Olympiod. — He explored the qualities of different things, as an arithmetician counts numbers. M.

Ver. 27. Her. He speaks by experience, (S. Jer.) as none perhaps ever fell more terribly victims of impure love. C. — Though a plurality of wives was then permitted, Solomon did wrong in marrying strangers; and in suffering himself to be deluded by them, so as to erect temples to their respective idols. H. — All the attractions of women are replete with danger, and can only be overcome by God’s grace, and by flight. 1 Cor. iv. 8. Prov. vii. 22. and xxii. 14. C.

Ver. 29. Man. The superior part of the soul rarely thinks of good; but the sensual part always inclines to evil. W. — Solomon found danger from all women, (S. Jer.) and there is none who may not prove fatal to those who are off their guard. C. — Yet some are doubtless innocent, like the bless Virgin. H.

Ver. 30. Right. He fell by his own free-will. S. Aug. de Civ. Dei. xiv. 11. W. — The great corruption of the world is not, therefore, to be attributed to God. Eph. iv. 23. Our first parents were led by curiosity to examine whether the fruit was good, &c. (S. Cyr. Cat. ii. Chal. Boss.) or mankind, in general, make useless enquiries. — And he. Heb. and Sept. “they,” &c. C. — Of the word. That is, of this obscure and difficult matter (Ch). if this sentence have any connection with the preceding. It is placed at the head of the next chapter in Heb. C.