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A Commentary On The Psalms From Primitive and Mediæval Writers Volumes 1 To 4 by Rev. J.M. Neale D.D.

TITLE: To the chief musician on Neginoth, Maschil. A Psalm of David when the Ziphims came and said to Saul, “Doth not David hide himself with us?” Otherwise: to the Supreme: for the stringed instruments: an instructive of David, when the Ziphites went and said, “Doth not David hide himself with us?” The literal sense is given in the words: “Then came up the Ziphites to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself with us in strongholds in the wood, in the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of Jeshimon? See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hideth himself, and come ye again to me with the certainty, and I will go with you: and it shall come to pass, if he be in the land, that I will search him out throughout all the thousands of Judah.”* S. Augustine gives the mystical sense thus: Saul, the persecutor of David, as bearing the figure of a temporal kingdom, belonging not to life but to death, is a type of Satan. David, hiding from his persecutors in a certain village, Ziph, is a type of CHRIST, or of the Body of CHRIST. What then of the Ziphites? These Ziphites, when they had learned that David had hidden himself among them, betrayed him to the king his persecutor, saying, “Doth not David hide himself with us?” The word Ziphites is by interpretation, men flourishing. Certain enemies, then, to holy David, were flourishing while he was hiding. We may find them in mankind, if we are willing to understand this Psalm. First find David hiding, and we shall find his enemies flourishing. “For ye are dead,” saith the Apostle to the members of CHRIST, “and your life is hid with CHRIST in GOD.”* These men that are hiding, when shall they be flourishing? “When CHRIST Who is your life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.”* Or we may take it of our LORD, Who chose rather to hide among the Jews, and when questioned by Pontius Pilate answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.”* Therefore here He was hidden; and all good men are hidden here; because their good is concealed, within, in the heart, where are faith, charity, hope, where also is their treasure.

1 Save me, O GOD, for thy Name’s sake: and avenge me in thy strength.

That Name, and the salvation by that Name, often and often we have heard of before; often and often shall we in these self-same Psalms; and, as S. Peter Chrysologus says, GOD forbid there ever should be a time when, if we have not that Name in our mouths, at all events when we have it not in our heart of hearts! It may well go on, Avenge me in Thy strength. (Ay.) Because as those loving mediaeval writers tell us, Of all strength love is the greatest: “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.”* In Thy strength. And what is that strength save the weakness of the Cross! where defeat is victory, where shame is glory, where reprobation is coronation, where, finally, death is life.

2 Hear my prayer, O GOD: and hearken unto the words of my mouth.

3 For strangers are risen up against me: and tyrants, which have not GOD before their eyes, seek after my soul.

It is well said, (D. C.) Hear my prayer. Hear, the weaker word: but hearken: that is, so hear as to listen to, so listen to as to grant, the words of my mouth: my Mouth, indeed, my Mediator, my Daysman, my Advocate, hearken unto the words of The WORD; to the words of Him the true Aaron, of whom Thou hast said, “Is not Aaron thy Brother? I know that He can speak well.”* For strangers. Here that word, as we know from the title of the Psalm, means those of David’s own people. So join the two expressions together in their higher sense; strangers, my own rebellious will and passions, have risen up against me: a word which one never could use except of a civil war or domestic rebellion. (B.) And tyrants: tyrants as being all the servants of, as all deriving their strength from, that one tyrant; the tyrant in opposition to THE King;* the rebellious chief of Babylon in contradistinction to the peaceful Monarch in Jerusalem.

4 Behold, GOD is my helper: the LORD is with them that uphold my soul.

In which sense shall we take it? Of the synagogue, looking for, and yearning after, in the midst, and in spite of, all her troubles, the Advent?* Or of our LORD Himself, staying Himself on the love of the FATHER, as with that thought of the twelve legions of Angels;* as with that declaration, “I know that Thou hearest Me always?”* Or lastly, shall we take it of the Church, knowing that, as the FATHER was the Helper of the LORD,* so That FATHER and That LORD will be her aiders, and against whatever enemies will uphold her soul?

5 He shall reward evil unto mine enemies: destroy thou them in thy truth.

S. Augustine probably using a bad copy of the Latin translation, reads in virtute instead of in veritate; and therefore gives an interpretation which, however true in itself, is not the meaning of the Psalm.1 Destroy Thou them in Thy Truth.* That dear truth on which my present Christian life hangs; “Resist the devil, and he shall flee from you;” that future dear truth, “And the GOD of all grace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.”

6 An offering of a free heart will I give thee, and praise thy Name, O LORD: because it is so comfortable.

7 For he hath delivered me out of all my trouble: and mine eye hath seen his desire upon mine enemies.

And so again here, those ponderous commentators of the sixteenth century, Lutherans and Calvinists, who yet from the old stream of tradition derive so much beauty, find an argument against vows of any kind; because, as it seems, day by day, and hour by hour, the offering is to be free, (L.) which it cannot be if it is compelled. But with a deeper truth,* Doctors and Councils of the Middle Ages use the same verse against those who devoted children to the religious life before they had the power of understanding what such a life meant. And S. Jerome, the strongest advocate of that life among all the primitive Fathers, who sometimes, with respect to marriage almost trembles on the verge of heresy, dwells in the same sense on this Psalm.

It is a verse that seems fated to be fought over; for a totally different controversy finds it a battle field; in the widest sense, Jansenism and Pelagianism; in the narrower, Augustinianism and semi-Pelagianism. It is a verse very dear to S. Prosper.* And one cannot but remark, that of all the translations which could express the meaning of the last clause of the sixth verse, our own only Prayer Book version is so much the most telling. Who would set the For it is good of the Authorised translation, the quoniam bonum est of the Vulgate, the ὅτι ἀγαθόν of the LXX., even the Slavonic   compared to that word which is not only so perfectly English, but which shows how the English language gives the dearest and deepest senses of inspired writings—comfortable? And then, for the conclusion, let us hear our dear LORD Speak in His own Person. (D. C.) Thou hast delivered Me. Thou hast delivered Me indeed from the false witnesses that agreed not together; Thou hast delivered Me from Annas, from Caiaphas, from Herod, from Pontius Pilate; Thou hast delivered Me from the scourging and coronation, and the shame, and the Crucifixion; and Mine eye hath seen his desire upon Mine enemies. And what was that desire? What save that petition,* “FATHER, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And yet the word itself is even stronger in the original: Thou hast banqueted mine eyes. And only remember how many of those that then stood round the Cross and mocked, will hereafter be found written among the number of them that have been invited to sit down at the eternal marriage feast.

And therefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, Who is our Helper; and to the SON, for Whose Name’s sake we are saved; and to the HOLY GHOST, in Whose strength we are avenged;

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.








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