Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
This Book is called Ecclesiastes, or the preacher, (in Hebrew, Coheleth) because in it Solomon, as an excellent preacher, setteth forth the vanity of the things of this world, to withdraw the hearts and affections of men from such empty toys. (Challoner) --- Coheleth is a feminine noun, to indicate the elegance of the discourse. It is very difficult to discriminate the objections of free-thinkers from the real sentiments of the author. It is most generally supposed that Solomon wrote this after his repentance; but this is very uncertain. St. Jerome (in chap. xii. 12.) informs us that the collectors of the sacred books had some scruple about admitting this; and Luther speaks of it with great disrespect: (Coll. conviv.) but the Church has always maintained its authority. See Conc. v. Act. 4. Philast. 132. (Calmet) --- It refutes the false notions of worldlings, concerning felicity; and shews that it consists in the service of God and fruition. (Worthington)
Jerusalem. This clearly designates Solomon. See ver. 12., and chap. xii. 8.
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.)
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.
Ever. Its substance remains, though the form be changed. (Calmet) --- At the end of time, it will be purified to continue for ever. (Worthington)
Place daily. Its annual motion is then mentioned. (Calmet)
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)
Again. The sea furnishes vapours, &c. Homer (Iliad Greek: Ph.) expresses himself in the same manner.
Hearing. In all sciences there are many difficulties. If a man had arrived at perfect knowledge, his researches would cease.
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, [Summa Theologiae] p. 1. q. 73.) (Worthington) --- Natural and moral things continue much the same. (Menochius)
Things. Otherwise we should read of similar events to those which we behold. The same cause naturally produces the same effect.
Israel. This was the case with none of Solomon's descendants. (Calmet)
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.)
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.
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.
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)
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)