Ecclesiastes x.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Ointment. A fly cannot live in it. (Pliny, [Natural History?] xi. 19.) — Hence the smallest faults must be avoided, (Calmet) and superfluous cares, (St. Gregory) as well as the conversation of the wicked, (Thaumat.) particularly of heretics. (St. Augustine, contra Fulg. 14.) — Detractors may be compared to flies: they seek corruption, &c. A little leaven corrupteth the whole lump, 1 Corinthians v. 6. (Calmet) — The wicked infect their companions, and vice destroys all former virtues. (Worthington) — Wisdom, or “a small….folly is more precious than wisdom,” &c., of the world, 1 Corinthians i. 25., and iii. 18. Dulce est desipere in loco. (Horace, iv. ode 12.) — Hebrew, “folly spoils things more precious than wisdom.” A small fault is often attended with the worst consequences, (chap. ix. 18.) as David and Roboam experienced, 2 Kings xxiv., and 3 Kings xii. 14. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “a little wisdom is to be honoured above the great glory of foolishness.” Protestants, “dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking flavour; so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.” (Haydock)

Ver. 2. Hand, to do well or ill, Deuteronomy i. 39., and Jonas iv. 11. (Chaldean)

Ver. 3. Fools. People judge others by themselves. (Calmet) — Thus Nero could not believe that any were chaste. (Suetonius)

Ver. 4. Place. If the devil tempt or persuade thee to sin, repent and humble thyself; or if thou hast offended the great, shew submission.

Ver. 5. Prince, who seems to have been guilty of any indiscretion.

Ver. 6. Rich. Such were chosen magistrates, Exodus xviii. 21., and Proverbs xxviii. 16., and xxx. 21.

Ver. 8. Him. Those who disturb the state or the Church, shall be in danger.

Ver. 9. Stones. Landmarks or walls, Proverbs xxii. 18. — Them. God will punish his injustice, in meddling with another’s property.

Ver. 10. Made blunt. After being repeatedly sharpened, (Calmet) it will be more difficult to cut with it, and will expose the person to hurt himself, ver. 9. (Haydock) — Man, since original sin, is in a similar condition. — Wisdom. The wise perform great things even with bad tools. Hebrew, “wisdom is the best directress.” (Calmet)

Ver. 11. Silence. Protestants, “without enchantment, and a babbler is no better.” (Haydock) — But he compares the detractor to a serpent, (Calmet) as he infuses the poison into all who pay attention to him. (St. Jerome; St. Bernard)

Ver. 12. Grace. Pleasing and instructive. (Calmet)

Ver. 14. Tell him. How foolish, therefore, is it to speak about every thing!

Ver. 15. City. Being so stupid, that they know not, or will not take the pains to find what is most obvious. (Calmet) — Thus the pagan philosophers knew all but what they ought to have known; (St. Jerome) and many such wise worldlings never strive to discover the paths which lead to the city of eternal peace: like him who contemplated the stars, and fell into a ditch. (Calmet)

Ver. 16. When thy. Hebrew literally, “whose,” cujus, as [in] ver. 17. (Haydock) — St. Jerome give two senses to this passage, the literal and the mystical, according to his usual custom. The dominion of young men and of luxurious judges is reproved, as well as innovations in matters of religion, Isaias iii. 4. Those are blessed who have Christ for their head, descending from the patriarchs and saints, (over whom sin ruled not, and who of course were free) and from the blessed Virgin [Mary], who was “more free.” They have the apostles for princes, who sought not the pleasures of this world, but will be rewarded, in due time, and eat without confusion. (T. 7.) (Worthington) — Child. Minorities often prove dangerous to the state, while regents cannot agree. — Morning, as children eat at all times. This may relate to the ruler who is a child in age, or in knowledge, though it seems rather to refer to his counsellors, Isaias v. 11.

Ver. 17. Noble. Royal extraction, (Esthlon genesthai. Euripides, Hec.) and education, afford many advantages which others, who raise themselves to the throne, do not enjoy. Hebrew, “the son of those in white,” (Calmet) or “of heroes.” (Montanus) — Eurim, (Haydock) or Chorim seems to have given rise to the word Hero. The advantages of birth only make the defects of degenerate children more observable. (Calmet) — Heroum filii noxæ. “The sons of heroes are a nuisance,” (Haydock) was an ancient proverb. — Season. The time was not fixed; but it was deemed a mark of intemperance to eat before noon, when judges ought to have decided causes, Daniel xiii. 7., and Acts ii. 15.

Ver. 18. Through. If we neglect our own, or other’s soul, (Haydock) in the administration of Church, (St. Jerome) or state, all will go to ruin.

Ver. 19. Feast. As if they were born for this purpose, (Philippians iii. 19.; Calmet) fruges consumere nati. (Horace, i. ep. 2.) — Money. —

Scilicet uxorem cum dote fidemque et amicos,

Et genus, et formam regina pecunia donet. (Horace, i. ep. 6.)

— Hebrew, “money answers all purposes,” (Haydock) to procure meat, drink, &c. (Calmet)

Ver. 20. Said. Pigeons are taught to carry letters in the east, and Solomon alludes to this custom, or he makes use of this hyperbole to shew, that kings will discover the most secret inclinations by means of spies. We must not speak ill even of those who are worthy of blame, ver. 16. (Calmet)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Observations on wisdom and folly; ambition and detraction.

1 Dying flies spoil the sweetness of the ointment. Wisdom and glory is more precious than a small and short-lived folly.

2 The heart of a wise man is in his right hand, and the heart of a fool is in his left hand.

3 Yea, and the fool, when he walketh in the way, whereas be himself is a fool, esteemeth all men fools.

4 If the spirit of him that hath power, ascend upon thee, leave not thy place: because care will make the greatest sins to cease.

5 There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as it were by an error proceeding from the face of the prince:

6 A fool set in high dignity, and the rich sitting beneath.

7 I have seen servants upon horses: and princes walking on the ground as servants.

8 *He that diggeth a pit, shall fall into it: and he that breaketh a hedge, a serpent shall bite him.

9 He that removeth stones, shall be hurt by them: and he that cutteth trees, shall be wounded by them.

10 If the iron be blunt, and be not as before, but be made blunt, with much labour it shall be sharpened: and after industry shall follow wisdom.

11 If a serpent bite in silence, he is nothing better that backbiteth secretly.

12 The words of the mouth of a wise man are grace: but the lips of a fool shall throw him down headlong.

13 The beginning of his words is folly, and the end of his talk is a mischievous error.

14 A fool multiplieth words. A man cannot tell what hath been before him: and what shall be after him, who can tell him?

15 The labour of fools shall afflict them that know not how to go to the city.

16 Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and when thy princes eat in the morning.

17 Blessed is the land whose king is noble, and whose princes eat in due season for refreshment, and not for riotousness.

18 By slothfulness a building shall be brought down, and through the weakness of hands the house shall drop through.

19 For laughter they make bread, and wine, that the living may feast: and all things obey money.

20 Detract not the king, no not in thy thought; and speak not evil of the rich man in thy private chamber: because even the birds of the air will carry thy voice, and he that hath wings will tell what thou hast said.



8: Proverbs xxvi. 27.; Ecclesiasticus xxvii. 29.