Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Most. Septuagint, “he whose face is impudent, shall be hated.” The truly wise and virtuous man is always polite and affable. (Calmet) — As we may form a probable conjecture of a person’s disposition from his countenance, so we may judge of men’s virtue by their actions. They are right and meritorious when the intention is good, (Worthington) and the works themselves blameless.
Ver. 2. I. Protestants add, counsel thee, to keep, &c. “Obey the king and God.” (Haydock) (1 Peter 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 Kings vi. 3., and 1 Paralipomenon 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, Proverbs xvi. 14.
Ver. 5. Answer. Hebrew, “judgment.” He knows when to reprove even kings with effect; like Nathan, Elias, or St. Ambrose, 2 Kings xii. 1., and 3 Kings xviii. 17.
Ver. 6. Man. Solomon often reminds him of his misery. Septuagint and Theodotion, “man is possessed of much knowledge,” as they read dahth for rahth. (Calmet)
Ver. 7. Past. Protestants and Septuagint, “that shall be.” (Haydock)
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, Apocalypse xvi. 15., Ecclesiasticus v. 4., and 2 Peter 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. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “the sinner has done evil from that time, and for a long while,” (Tirinus) &c. See St. Jerome. (Haydock)
Ver. 13. Let. Or, Hebrew, “it shall not,” &c. (Protestants) (Haydock) — Faith evinces that the wicked will be punished. — But. Hebrew, “like a shadow.” Septuagint, “under the shade,” in prosperity.
Ver. 14. Vain, or afflicting. Hence some have denied Providence, Jeremias xii. 1. (Calmet)
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. (Challoner) (Chap. ii. 24., and iii. 12., and Ecclesiasticus xv.) (Calmet) — Felicity is not attached to temporal prosperity, nor are the afflicted always miserable. (Worthington)
Ver. 16. Distraction of politicians, (Grotius) 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, Romans xi. 33. (St. Jerome) (Calmet) — Say. Septuagint, “speak what thing soever, that he may know he,” &c. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
True wisdom is to observe God’s commandments. The ways of God are unsearchable.
1 The wisdom of a man shineth in his countenance, *and the most mighty will change his face.
2 I observe the mouth of the king, and the commandments of the oath of God.
3 Be not hasty to depart from his face, and do not continue in an evil work: for he will do all that pleaseth him:
4 And his word is full of power: neither can any man say to him: Why dost thou so?
5 He that keepeth the commandments, shall find no evil. The heart of a wise man understandeth time and answer.
6 There is a time and opportunity for every business, and great affliction for man:
7 Because he is ignorant of things past, and things to come he cannot know by any messenger.
8 It is not in man’s power to stop the spirit, neither hath he power in the day of death, neither is he suffered to rest when war is at hand, neither shall wickedness save the wicked.
9 All these things I have considered, and applied my heart to all the works that are done under the sun. Sometimes one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.
10 I saw the wicked buried: who also, when they were yet living, were in the holy place, and were praised in the city as men of just works: but this also is vanity.
11 For, because sentence is not speedily pronounced against the evil, the children of men commit evils without any fear.
12 But though a sinner do evil a hundred times, and by patience be borne withal, I know from thence that it shall be well with them that fear God, who dread his face.
13 But let it not be well with the wicked, neither let his days be prolonged, but as a shadow let them pass away that fear not the face of the Lord.
14 There is also another vanity, which is done upon the earth. There are just men to whom evils happen, as though they had done the works of the wicked: and there are wicked men, who are as secure, as though they had the deeds of the just: but this also I judge most vain.
15 Therefore I commended mirth, because there was no good for a man under the sun, but to eat, and drink, and be merry: and that he should take nothing else with him of his labour in the days of his life, which God hath given him under the sun.
16 And I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to understand the distraction that is upon earth: for there are some that day and night take no sleep with their eyes.
17 And I understood that man can find no reason of all those works of God that are done under the sun: and the more he shall labour to seek, so much the less shall he find: yea, though the wise man shall say, that he knoweth it, he shall not be able to find it.
1: Ecclesiastes ii. 14.