Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Any. God suffereth the innocent to be oppressed for a time, that they may merit a greater reward, Psalm lxxii.
Ver. 3. Born. It is better to have no existence than to be in eternal misery, Matthew xxvi. 24. But the affliction of the just procureth glory for them. (Worthington) — The pagan sages observed, that it was “best for mortals not to be born; and if they were, to die very soon.” (Chalcid. and Theognis.) — But they considered only temporal inconveniences. Religion has in view the danger of sin, and the desire of eternal happiness, Romans vii. 24.
Ver. 4. Industries, or Hebrew, “righteous actions.” If one be poor, he is in distress; if rich, he is exposed to envy; so that all is vanity. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. Flesh, which he will not labour to sustain; (Haydock) or he repines at his own past misconduct, and at the affluence of others.
Ver. 6. Mind. These are the words of the slothful, (Calmet) or of truth. (Haydock) (Proverbs xvii. 1.) — The indolent will not observe moderation in the application of this sentence. (Menochius)
Ver. 8. Things? He acts as if he were to live for ever, or feared to be starved.
Ver. 9. Therefore is not in Hebrew, &c. The miser had better have some society. It is advantageous; though to refrain from its comforts, out of piety, is not blamed. The solitary must be “an angel or a devil.” (Calmet) — Society. Besides the advantages of friendship, this implies that a person must have Jesus Christ with him, that he may rise from sin and death by his assistance. (St. Jerome) (Worthington)
Ver. 10. Fall into sickness, poverty, or sin. The saints have withdrawn people from the dangers of the world into monasteries, where they may fight together against the devil.
Ver. 12. Cord. True charity increaseth in strength as it does in number, (St. Jerome; Worthington) though friendship may not admit of more than two persons. (Haydock) — Some explain this triple cord of the blessed Trinity, or of the three monastic vows [poverty, chastity, and obedience], the theological virtues [faith, hope, and charity], or the parts of penance, &c.
Ver. 13. Foolish. Great wisdom and prudence is required of kings; who, like others, are exposed to many vicissitudes.
Ver. 14. Prison. The exaltation of Joseph, Mardochai, and Daniel, was remarkable. (Calmet) — Si fortuna volet, fies de Rhetore Consul. (Juvenal, Sat. vii.)
Ver. 15. Second heir. (Menochius) — “They adore the rising (Papinius) more than the setting sun;[“] (Plut.[Plutarch?] Pomp.) and a person is no sooner on the throne than his successor begins to be courted: (ver. 16.) so inconstant are mortals! (Calmet)
Ver. 16. In him. Many are perfectly unacquainted with the king, who finds so many admirers about his person, and even of these the greatest part begin to be presently disgusted, and wish for another change.
Ver. 17. Keep. Here many begin the fifth chap., as Solomon alters his style, and gives many important instructions. (Calmet) — For. Hebrew, “rather than that fools should offer sacrifice, since they know not that they are doing wrong.” (Montanus) — Do not imitate hypocrites, (Haydock) who have the appearance of sanctity, while they despise God’s orders, Jeremias vii. 2. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Other instances of human miseries.
1 I turned myself to other things, and I saw the oppressions that are done under the sun, and the tears of the innocent, and they had no comforter: and they were not able to resist their violence, being destitute of help from any.
2 And I praised the dead rather than the living:
3 And I judged him happier than them both, that is not yet born, nor hath seen the evils that are done under the sun.
4 Again I considered all the labours of men, and I remarked that their industries are exposed to the envy of their neighhour: so in this also there is vanity, and fruitless care.
5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh, saying:
6 Better is a handful with rest, than both hands full with labour, and vexation of mind.
7 Considering I found also another vanity under the sun:
8 There is but one, and he hath not a second, no child, no brother, and yet he ceaseth not to labour, neither are his eyes satisfied with riches, neither doth he reflect, saying: For whom do I labour, and defraud my soul of good things? In this also is vanity, and a grievous vexation.
9 It is better, therefore, that two should be together, than one: for they have the advantage of their society:
10 If one fall, he shall be supported by the other: woe to him that is alone, for when he falleth, he hath none to lift him up.
11 And if two lie together, they shall warm one another: how shall one alone be warmed?
12 And if a man prevail against one, two shall withstand him: a threefold cord is not easily broken.
13 Better is a child that is poor and wise, than a king that is old and foolish, who knoweth not to foresee for hereafter.
14 Because out of prison and chains sometimes a man cometh forth to a kingdom: and another born king is consumed with poverty.
15 I saw all men living, that walk under the sun with the second young man, who shall rise up in his place.
16 The number of the people, of all that were before him, is infinite: and they that shall come afterwards, shall not rejoice in him: but this also is vanity, and vexation of spirit.
17 Keep thy foot, when thou goest into the house of God, and draw nigh to hear. *For much better is obedience, than the victims of fools, who know not what evil they do.
17: 1 Kings xv. 22.; Osee vi. 6.