Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Jerusalem. This clearly designates Solomon. See ver. 12., and chap. xii. 8.
Ver. 2. Vanities. Most vain and despicable, (Calmet) and frustrating the expectations of men. (Menochius) — St. Augustine reads vanitantium, and infers that this vanity of sublunary things is an effect of man’s sin. Yet he afterwards discovered that he had read incorrectly. (Retractions i. 7.)
Ver. 3. Labour. People fight for a mere point; for such is the earth compared with the universe. (Seneca, q. Nat.) Hoc est punctum, &c., Matthew xvi. 26.
Ver. 4. Ever. Its substance remains, though the form be changed. (Calmet) — At the end of time, it will be purified to continue for ever. (Worthington)
Ver. 5. Place daily. Its annual motion is then mentioned. (Calmet)
Ver. 6. Spirit. The sun, (St. Jerome) which is like the soul of the world, and which some have falsely asserted to be animated; or rather (Calmet) the wind is meant, as one rises in different parts of the world when another falls. (Pliny, [Natural History?] ii. 27.) (Menochius)
Ver. 7. Again. The sea furnishes vapours, &c. Homer (Iliad Ph.) expresses himself in the same manner.
Ver. 8. Hearing. In all sciences there are many difficulties. If a man had arrived at perfect knowledge, his researches would cease.
Ver. 10. New. Such vicissitudes have occurred before, though we must not infer that the world is eternal; or that there have been many others before this, as Origen would suppose. (Prin. iii. 5., &c.) (Calmet) — Men’s souls, which are created daily, are nevertheless of the same sort as Adam’s was; and creatures proceed from others of the same species, which have been from the beginning. (St. Thomas Aquinas p. 1. q. 73.) (Worthington) — Natural and moral things continue much the same. (Menochius)
Ver. 11. Things. Otherwise we should read of similar events to those which we behold. The same cause naturally produces the same effect.
Ver. 12. Israel. This was the case with none of Solomon’s descendants. (Calmet)
Ver. 14. Vexation. Hebrew also, “food of wind;” (Symmachus) or “choice of the spirit.” (Septuagint) People are eager to become learned, and yet find no satisfaction. (Haydock) — All natural things are insufficient to procure felicity. (Worthington)
O Curas hominum! O quantum est in rebus inane! (Persius.)
Ver. 15. Perverse. Habitual and obstinate sinners. (Calmet) — Fools, who follow the broad road. (Haydock) — Hebrew and Septuagint, “the defect cannot be numbered.” We know not to what a height the soul of man might have risen, if he had continued faithful.
Ver. 16. Learned. Solomon was blessed both with a natural genius, which he improved by study, and also he had the gift of supernatural wisdom. Yet he declares that all is vanity and pain.
Ver. 17. Errors. Septuagint, “parables and science.” But to discern the mistakes of men is a part of wisdom, (Calmet) and Grabe substitutes “wanderings,” instead of “parables,” after Theodotion, as Hebrew ealluth (Haydock) means “errors,” (Calmet) or “follies.” (Montanus)
Ver. 18. Labour. He is bound to do more for heaven, as he is convinced of his own defects, and of the strict judgments of God. Wisdom is not true happiness, but the means to obtain it. (Worthington) — The more a person knows, the more he is convinced of his own ignorance, (Calmet) and filled with grief, that wisdom should be so much concealed. (St. Jerome) — Those who are learned, feel indignant that their disciples should be so dull. (Menochius)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The vanity of all temporal things.
1 The words of Ecclesiastes, the son of David, king of Jerusalem.
2 Vanity of vanities, said Ecclesiastes, vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.
3 What hath a man more of all his labour, that he taketh under the sun?
4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth standeth for ever.
5 The sun riseth and goeth down, and returneth to his place: and there rising again,
6 Maketh his round by the South, and turneth again to the North: the spirit goeth forward, surveying all places round about, and returneth to his circuits.
7 All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea doth not overflow: unto the place from whence the rivers come, they return to flow again.
8 All things are hard: man cannot explain them by word. The eye is not filled with seeing, neither is the ear filled with hearing.
9 What is it that hath been? the same thing that shall be. What is it that hath been done? the same that shall be done.
10 Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold, this is new: for it hath already gone before, in the ages that were before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things: nor indeed of those things which hereafter are to come, shall there be any remembrance with them that shall be in the latter end.
12 I, Ecclesiastes, was king over Israel, in Jerusalem.
13 And I proposed in my mind to seek and search out wisely concerning all things that are done under the sun. This painful occupation hath God given to the children of men, to be exercised therein.
14 I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold all is vanity, and vexation of spirit.
15 The perverse are hard to be corrected, and the number of fools is infinite.
16 I have spoken in my heart, saying: Behold, I am become great, and have gone beyond all in wisdom, that were before me in Jerusalem: and my mind hath contemplated many things wisely, and I have learned.
17 And I have given my heart to know prudence, and learning, and errors, and folly: and I have perceived that in these also there was labour, and vexation of spirit,
18 Because in much wisdom there is much indignation: and he that addeth knowledge, addeth also labour.