Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Few. As none can arrive at the perfect knowledge of God, they should be reserved in speaking of Him. (Worthington) — De Deo etiam vera loqui periculosum. (Cicero, de Nat.) — In prayer, (Calmet) we must not pretend to give him any information, like the heathens, Matthew vi. 7. (Haydock)
Ver. 2. Folly. Under anxiety a person is naturally disturbed with dreams, in which some true ideas may present themselves; in like manner, as a great talker will say some things respecting God, which may not be reprehensible, though the greatest part of his discourse will be nothing to the purpose. This is another abuse. All must speak of God and religion, though few are able to do it, with propriety! (Calmet)
Ver. 3. Pay it. Deuteronomy xxiii. Vows must be fulfilled. (Worthington) — God requires that we should keep the commandments; (Luke x. 28.) and if we engage ourselves to perform some work of supererogation, he expects that we should be faithful. To vow is of counsel; but to comply with it is of precept. An abuse too common among the Jews is here condemned. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. Sin by making a vow, above thy strength, (Chaldean; Pineda) or by speaking what may excite the passions. (Thaumat.; Bossuet) — Angel guardian assigned to each one, (Worthington) or the priest, who took cognizance of vows. (Calmet) — Providence, or “foresight” in me to avoid the evil. Hebrew and Septuagint, “it is an error,” (Haydock) or sin of ignorance, for which certain victims were specified, Leviticus v. 4. The neglect of vows could not be thus expiated. (Calmet) — Use no allurements to lust. (Menochius)
Ver. 6. Number. Those who observe dreams, are filled with apprehension. The Jews were very subject to this superstition. (Calmet) — As dreams are vain, so are many words or excuses to evade a vow. (Junius; Grotius) — Such pretences must not be made. (St. Jerome) (Menochius)
Ver. 7. These. God will bring the wicked to judgment, (Calmet) and shew for what design he left them in power. (Haydock)
Ver. 8. Him. An appeal may be made to the king or to God. Reges in ipsos imperium est Jovis. (Horace, iii. ode 1.) — Hebrew, “the king serves, (Montanus) or is served by the field.” (Protestants) (Haydock) — All have a mutual dependence on each other, and thus the vanity of men and the order of Providence appear. (Calmet)
Ver. 9. Money. Avarice is like a dropsy, (Calmet) or poison, infecting all the person. (Sallust.) — The miser is the slave, and not the possessor, of his riches, (St. Chrysostom) like Tantalus, who could not drink, though in the midst of waters. (Horace, i. Sat. 1.) — Nescis quo valeat nummus, quem prębeat usum.
Ver. 10. Them. He shews the vanity of the great.
Ver. 11. Sleep. Is not the health and content of the poor to be preferred?
Ver. 12. Owner. When they are taken away, they bring greater sorrow, (Calmet) and even when present, they fill the mind with anxiety. (Haydock)
Ver. 13. Affliction. Hebrew, “by an evil affair,” or accident. (Calmet) — Who. Hebrew, “and there is nothing in his hand.” (Haydock) — As temporal riches prove detrimental to their owners, so do false philosophy and heresy to those who follow them. (St. Jerome) (Worthington)
Ver. 14. Labour. All must die in this manner. But it is most afflicting that he was formerly rich, and must leave his son indigent. (Calmet)
Ver. 16. Sorrow. The person whose riches have been taken away, had made a bad use of them, (Calmet) living like a miser. It would be more rational to indulge in the pleasures which they afford, though this is also vain, chap. iii. 14.
Ver. 19. Delight, while he observes due moderation. His life passes away sweetly. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Caution in words. Vows are to be paid. Riches are often pernicious: the moderate use of them is the gift of God.
1 Speak not any thing rashly, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter a word before God. For God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
2 Dreams follow many cares: and in many words shall be found folly.
3 If thou hast vowed any thing to God, defer not to pay it: for an unfaithful and foolish promise displeaseth him: but whatsoever thou hast vowed, pay it:
4 And it is much better not to vow, than after a vow not to perform the things promised.
5 Give not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin: and say not before the angel: There is no providence; lest God be angry at thy words, and destroy all the works of thy hands.
6 Where there are many dreams, there are many vanities, and words without number: but do thou fear God.
7 If thou shalt see the oppressions of the poor, and violent judgments, and justice perverted in the province, wonder not at this matter: for he that is high hath another higher, and there are others still higher than these.
8 Moreover, there is the king that reigneth over all the land subject to him.
9 A covetous man shall not be satisfied with money: and he that loveth riches, shall reap no fruit from them: so this also is vanity.
10 Where there are great riches, there are also many to eat them. And what doth it profit the owner, but that he seeth the riches with his eyes?
11 Sleep is sweet to a labouring man, whether he eat little or much: but the fulness of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
12 *There is also another grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches kept to the hurt of the owner.
13 For they are lost with very great affliction: he hath begotten a son, who shall be in extremity of want.
14 *As he came forth naked from his mother’s womb, so shall he return, and shall take nothing away with him of his labour.
15 A most deplorable evil: as he came, so shall he return. What then doth it profit him that he hath laboured for the wind?
16 All the days of his life he eateth in darkness, and in many cares, and in misery, and sorrow.
17 This, therefore, hath seemed good to me, that a man should eat and drink, and enjoy the fruit of his labour, wherewith he hath laboured under the sun, all the days of his life, which God hath given him: and this is his portion.
18 And every man to whom God hath given riches, and substance, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to enjoy his portion, and to rejoice of his labour: this is the gift of God.
19 For he shall not much remember the days of his life, because God entertaineth his heart with delight.
12: Job xx. 20.
14: Job i. 21.; 1 Timothy vi. 7.