King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Ecclesiastes 8

Commendations of wisdom. (1-5) To prepare for sudden evils and death. (6-8) It shall be well with the righteous, and ill with the wicked. (9-13) Mysteries of Providence. (14-17)

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Commendations of wisdom

1 Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.

2 I counsel thee to keep the king’s commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God.

3 Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.

4 Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?

5 Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.

To prepare for sudden evils and death

6 Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.

7 For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?

8 There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.

It shall be well with the righteous, and ill with the wicked

9 All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.

10 And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.

11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

12 Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:

13 But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.

Mysteries of Providence

14 There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity.

15 Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.

16 When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)

17 Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Most. Sept. “he whose face is impudent, shall be hated.” The truly wise and virtuous man is always polite and affable. C. — As we may form a probable conjecture of a person’s disposition from his countenance, so we may judge of man’s virtue by their actions. They are right and meritorious when the intention is good, (W.) and the works themselves blameless.

Ver. 2. I. Prot. add, “counsel thee, to keep, &c. “Obey the king and God.” H. 1 Pet. ii. 17. — Solomon proposes his own example, or speaks in the name of the just. — God. The law of Moses, confirmed with an oath, or the engagement to be faithful to the king. 2 K. v. 3. 1 Par. xxix. 24.

Ver. 3. Face. This courtiers observe, while many Christians neglect God. — Work. Defend not what has been said or done amiss.

Ver. 4. So? The eastern kings rule with absolute sway. Prov. xvi. 14.

Ver. 5. Answer. Heb. “judgment.” He knows when to reprove even kings with effect; like Nathan, Elias, or S. Ambrose. 2 K. xii. 1. and 3 K. xviii. 17.

Ver. 6. Man. Solomon often reminds him of his misery. Sept. and Theod. “man is possessed of much knowledge,” as they read dahth for rahth. C.

Ver. 7. Past. Prot. and Sept. “that shall be.” H.

Ver. 8. Spirit from leaving the body, or the wind from blowing. There is no quarter given by death; so the wicked cannot escape vengeance.

Ver. 9. Hurt. Those who are despised in elevated situations, might have been happy in obscurity.

Ver. 10. Works. In life and death hypocrites are mixed with the unjust; and this excites indignation.

Ver. 11. Fear. Thus they abuse the patience of God, and grow worse, because he is good. His time will come. Apoc. xvi. 15 Eccli. v. 4. 2 Pet. iii. 10.

Ver. 12. Face. If God shew such clemency to the wicked, will he disregard his servants? Greek interpreters have read in a different meaning. C. — Sept. “the sinner has done evil from that time, and for a long while,” (T.) &c. See S. Jer. H.

Ver. 13. Let. Or, Heb. “it shall not,” &c. Prot. H. — Faith evinces that the wicked will be punished. — But. Heb. “like a shadow.” Sept. “under the shade,” in prosperity.

Ver. 14. Vain, or afflicting. Hence some have denied Providence. Jer. xii. 1. C.

Ver. 15. No good for a man, &c. Some commentators think the wise man here speaks in the person of the libertine, representing the objections of these men against divine Providence, and the inferences they draw from thence, which he takes care afterwards to refute. But it may also be said, that his meaning is to commend the moderate use of the goods of this world, preferably to the cares and solicitudes of worldlings, their attachment to vanity and curiosity, and presumptuously diving into the unsearchable ways of divine providence. Ch. C. ii. 24. and iii. 12. Eccli. xv. C. — Felicity is not attached to temporal prosperity, nor are the afflicted always miserable. W.

Ver. 16. Distraction of politicians, (Grot.) and of all human affairs.

Ver. 17. Reason. We know in general that God does all for his own glory, and for the welfare of his elect. But we cannot account for his treatment of mankind in particular cases. Rom. xi. 33. S. Jer. C. — Say. Sept. “speak what thing soever, that he may know he,” &c. H.