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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.

Gregorian. As preceding.

Parisian. Let the poor and needy * give praise unto Thy Name, O LORD.

Ambrosian. As preceding.

Monastic. Be Thou our help, O LORD, * in trouble.

Lyons. The same.

Mozarabic. First verse of the Psalm.

1 O GOD, thou hast cast us out, and scattered us abroad: thou hast also been displeased; O turn thee unto us again.

The mournful character of this Psalm, contrary to what might be looked for from its title, has been noted by all the Fathers who have treated of it. The title itself has been dwelt upon and allegorized by S. Hilary, S. Augustine, Cassiodorus, and many others, but their happiest interpretations have been summed up as above by Beda. It is the key-note by which they pitched their explanation of the brief psalm which succeeds. (L.) And first then, let Lorinus tell us why this is not a triumphal chant, but rather a wail. David, looking back to the former times on the sins of the people, enumerates the punishments of old time which GOD inflicted upon it, giving it over in His anger to its enemies, although He freed it at length in mercy. Thus the discourse seems not to be touching the Egyptian captivity, nor that yet to come in Babylon, but concerning the various wars with which the Hebrews were harassed in the promised land by divers nations, (D. C.) especially the Philistines. Thou hast cast us out from Thy protection, and destroyed us (Vulg.) by suffering our foes to pass our borders, waste our cities, and slay our countrymen. Thou hast also been displeased with us, because of our sins. For the kingdom of Israel was much troubled in the time of the Judges. And it holds true of more than this; for GOD, (B.) because of Adam’s sin, hath cast us out of Paradise, and destroyed us by subjecting us to heat and cold, hunger and thirst, disease, sorrow, and death; and this not unjustly, but in His righteous vengeance against those sins with which Thou art displeased. And as it is spoken firstly of the Jewish people,* so it applies to the Christian Church, when GOD tries her by suffering. For in no other sense does He cast her out, for S. Paul says, “GOD hath not cast away His people which He foreknew.”* Whence also the Voice speaks to the Prophet Jeremy, “I have set thee to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”* As though He had said, “Destroy vices and sins, build up virtues.” He casts us out and destroys us when we sin, He has mercy and builds us up when we return to Him in penitence. Where note, observes S. Bonaventure,* that GOD casts out the bad, by depriving them of grace, whence it is said, “They are cast down, and shall not be able to stand.”* He will cast them out in time to come, when He shall say, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.”* He casts out the good, by exposing them to passions, delivered. whence they say, “Our soul is escaped even as a bird.”* By depriving them of temporal blessings, whence, “My GOD, my GOD, why hast Thou forsaken me?”* He casts out the bad from spiritual charges, whence it is written, “Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to Me.”*

O turn Thee unto us again. This is the cry of the penitent in all ages, knowing that only “in the light of the King’s countenance is life.”* And He Who bore the weapons of our warfare for us, and Who made Himself our servant, tells us that it is we, and not He, that need to be turned. Wherefore He speaks to each of us who longs to strike a blow for liberty, “Do all that is in thine heart; turn thee, behold I am with thee according to thy heart.”* But the LXX. and Vulgate have here not a prayer, but a thankful confession of His goodness. They read, Thou hast pitied us. Wherefore that Eternal FATHER of all, Who hath said, “I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal,”* so casts us out and destroys us, as yet to pity us in His anger. For He destroyed the temple of Jerusalem, but gave instead the Heavenly City to the Saints. (H.) He cast out from the working of the law, but, justifying the ungodly by faith, gave him the justification of faith; He dissolved the earthly kingdom, but made us kings in heaven. So mercy hath followed on displeasure, whilst an exceeding weight of eternal blessings compensates for the loss of earthly things present. And so too speaks Bernard of Morlaix:

O retributio! stat brevis actio, vita perennis:*

O retributio! cœlica mansio stat lue plenis.

2 Thou hast moved the land, and divided it: heal the sores thereof, for it shaketh.

It is spoken of the fiery trials of Christians, when GOD moved all the whole Church and troubled it by the fierce persecutions of tyrants, (P.) so that the cry of the faithful went up that He would heal its sores, because it shook under the storm, though it could not be overthrown, because founded on the rock. And so the cry of the suffering Egyptian Church is heard still in the words of her primeval Liturgy. “Help them that are in prison,* or in mines, or in courts of justice, or with sentence given against them, or in bitter slavery, or tribute, have mercy on all, free all; for Thou art our GOD, He that sets free the bound, He that raises those that are in misery, the Hope of the hopeless, the succour of the defenceless, the Resurrection of the fallen, the harbour of the tempest-tossed, the avenger of the afflicted.” It is also spoken of sinful man, who is of the earth, earthy. GOD moves and breaks up the hard soil of the heart by His husbandmen,* the preachers of the Gospel, convincing the guilty of sin, and making them shake with fear of judgment to come. (Ay.) And only He who has made us sore with that sword of the Spirit which He wields, can heal us again with His grace.

3 Thou hast showed thy people heavy things: thou hast given us a drink of deadly wine.

Or, hard things. (R.) For CHRIST, by His teachings and His sufferings, has shown His people an example which they find hard and painful to follow so long as they are not conformed to Him. Hard for His whole mystical Body, the Church, in time of persecution, which “all that live godly in CHRIST JESUS shall suffer.”* (D. C.) Hard for the individual soul, which has to learn that GOD “scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.”* Wherefore we read of the sinner crying out,

Woe is me! what is existence below,

Trouble on trouble,* and blow upon blow;

What is in this world save sorrowful years,

Much tribulation, and plentiful tears?

And the Master answers:

Wouldst thou but ponder the promise I make,

Willingly, joyfully, pain wouldst thou take;

That in My kingdom the joys thou may’st see

Of the Confessors who suffered for Me.

Thou hast given us a drink of deadly wine. Not so, for the “wine of the wrath of GOD, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation,”* is for the finally impenitent only. The Bible Version is nearer the Hebrew, and terms it “wine of astonishment,” (יַיִן תַּרְעֵלָה) or intoxication. And then it may be taken of that Cup of the Passion promised to the sons of Zebedee, that which so numbs the sense of pain, that the Martyrs are ready to bear all so long as they may drink it, saying, “They have stricken me, and I was not sick: they have beaten me, and I felt it not; when shall I awake, I will seek it yet again.”* And so S. Bonaventure, singing of the sorrows of the Passion:

Hæc omnia nos satient,*

Et dulciter inebrient.

Or, if we take the LXX. and Vulgate, wine of compunction or of goading, we get another beautiful meaning. Of goading is what? Not of killing; (A.) for it was not a killing that destroyeth, but a medicine that smarteth. And more; we goad oxen that they may advance in the furrows; and the stimulant for Christians in their path is the wine of GOD, the wondrous chalice of the Holy Eucharist.

4 Thou hast given a token for such as fear thee: that they may triumph because of the truth.

And that Cup is the token, as it is written in another Psalm of the other species of the Sacrament, “He hath given meat to them that fear Him, He shall ever be mindful of His covenant.”* And so runs the hymn:

Bread of the world, in mercy broken,

Wine of the world, in mercy shed;

By Whom the words of life were spoken,

And in Whose death our sins are dead;

Look on the heart by sorrow broken,

Look on the tears by sinners shed,

And be Thy feast to us the token,

That by Thy grace our souls are fed.

The quasi-Jerome explains this token of Holy Baptism,* the especial sign given to them who seek to serve the LORD. But the majority take it of the various warnings given to the Apostles of impending persecution. That they may triumph because of the truth. If we take this of the Holy Eucharist, it will denote the reward of them who believe CHRIST’S words touching It, as the hymn runs:

Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius,*

Nihil veritatis Verbo verius:

and who object not, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?”* but hear the promise to the Church of Pergamus, “To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the hidden manna.”* But if we follow the Bible Version and the Targum, we shall get a fresh idea. Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. What that banner is, the Church proclaims in her hymn for Passion Sunday:

The Royal Banners forward go,*

The Cross shines forth in mystic glow.

And again, in another hymn:

Crux cœlestis, signum victoriæ,*

Belli robur, et palma gloriæ.

But the LXX. and Vulgate are totally different from the English in the latter clause of this verse; they read: “Thou hast given a token to them that fear thee, that they may flee from the face of the bow.”1 And that bow, (A.) observes S. Augustine, is the Judgment of GOD. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the House of GOD, and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of GOD?”* The bow is bended, still in menacing posture it is, not yet in aiming. And see what there is in the bow: is there not an arrow to be shot forward? The string, however, is stretched back in a contrary direction to that in which it is to be shot; and the more the stretching thereof hath gone backward, with the greater swiftness it starteth forward. The more the judgment is deferred, with so much the greater swiftness it is to come.* Therefore even for temporal tribulations let us give GOD thanks, because He hath given to His people a sign, that they should flee from the face of the bow. And that too remembering, (G.) as Gerhohus aptly points out, that “Thy arrows are very sharp, and the people shall be subdued unto Thee, even in the midst among the king’s enemies.”*

5 Therefore were thy beloved delivered: help me with thy right hand, and hear me.

Rather, (Z.) with A. V., LXX., and Vulgate, That Thy beloved may be delivered, which is the reason why the token is given, as declared in the vision of Ezekiel. “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others He said in my hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity. Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark.”* And the mark is the Thau,* or Cross set on us not with ink, but with the Blood of CHRIST and with the HOLY GHOST. (G.) Help me with Thy right hand. Not with Thy left hand, says Gerhohus, wherein are riches and glory, but with Thy right hand, wherein is length of days. Give me then little or much, or nought, from Thy left hand, according to Thy will, as Thou knowest to be expedient for me. But open Thy right hand abundantly, and fill all things living with plenteousness of blessing, whereby Thy blessed elect and beloved may be set at Thy right hand in the Judgment. (R.) And hearken unto me, praying for perseverance in the right way.

6 GOD hath spoken in his holiness, I will rejoice, and divide Sichem: and mete out the valley of Succoth.

He hath spoken in the Person of His Holy One, (C.) when “the Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among us,”* and that by the truths of the Gospel. And the Incarnate Word says, I will rejoice. (H.) For two reasons, because His “delight is in the law”* of His FATHER, and therefore He “rejoiceth as a giant to run His course,”* and also because He rejoices as the Bridegroom in the triumphs of His Bride the Church, (D. C.) and in pouring His blessing on her children. And so it is written, “Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good.”* And divide Sichem. Where note that Shechem was the first resting-place of Abraham in Canaan.* Afterwards it was bought by Jacob with money, then further “taken out of the hand of the Amorite with his sword and his bow.* Lying between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, it was the place where the Israelites heard the second promulgation of the Law.* It was the scene of the first schism and rebellion against the commonwealth of Israel,* when Abimelech was made king there, and also of the second,* when Jeroboam I. revolted from Rehoboam.* And it appears again in the Gospels as Sychar, the place of Jacob’s Well, where the LORD talked with the woman of Samaria.* In this last page in the Scripture history of the place many commentators have seen the fulfilment of the prediction. (H.) Others, with S. Hilary, take it to mean the division of the Judgment Day, fitly shadowed by the blessings and warnings of the Law pronounced from the two mountains which bordered the valley. And others again have found in the meaning of the word Shechem, (A.) which is “shoulder,” a reference to the burden which CHRIST shares with His people. It is, says Cassiodorus, (C.) the burden of divine devotion, which is granted to all by heavenly division. This is the burden, without which we fall, bearing which we stand upright, of which it is written, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”* And mete out the valley of Succoth. As Shechem, given up from the time of the Captivity to an alien and idolatrous race, typifies the Gentile Church, so the valley of Succoth, where Jacob made “booths”* (Succoth) for his cattle, denotes the Hebrews subject to CHRIST. In the mention of the valley,* Cardinal Hugo finds a reference to the Christian grace of humility, and in that of the booths or tabernacles, the tents of the great army of the Church militant, of which Balaam spoke in prophecy, “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob!”*

7 Gilead is mine, and Manasses is mine: Ephraim also is the strength of my head; Judah is my lawgiver;

And in those words Gilead is mine, the Church has always set forth the glory of the Martyrs, for Gilead means the “Heap of Witness.” So then, taking it in close union with the preceding verse, we may say with a poet of our own, as he dilates on the bliss of the “cloud of witnesses:”*

Here may the band, that now in triumph shines,*

And that (before they were invested thus)

In earthly bodies carried heavenly minds,

Pitch round about, in order glorious,

Their sunny tents, and houses luminous;

All their eternal days in songs employing,

Joying their end, without end of their joying;

While their Almighty Prince destruction is destroying.

And Manasses is mine. And as Manasseh (“forgetfulness”) was so named by Joseph, because, said he, “GOD hath made me forget all my toil,”* so this is spoken of CHRIST, Who saith to the penitent sinner, “I will not remember thy sins,”* Who saith to the soul which He would win for Himself, “Forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house,”* Who saith to His (A.) Church purified by affliction, “Thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.”* And Manasses is His also,* because His contemplative saints “press towards the mark of their high calling,”* forgetting those things which are behind.* As also do the Confessors, who abandon wealth and home for the Gospel. (L.) Ephraim also is the strength of my head. And that because the Gentiles, though the younger in the Church, are its strength, as Ephraim was preferred to his elder brother Manasses. Again, as Ephraim denotes “fruitfulness,” it will imply the Saints of active life. So the Holy Eastern Church in her august Liturgy prays,* “Remember, LORD, them that bear fruit, and do good deeds in Thy holy Church, and that remember the poor.” Yet again, hear S. Augustine: Ephraim is interpreted fruitfulness. (A.) Mine, he saith, is fruitfulness, and this fruitfulness is the strength of my Head. For my Head is CHRIST. And whence is fruitfulness the strength of Him? Because unless a grain were to fall into the earth it would not be multiplied, alone it would remain. Fall then to earth did CHRIST in His Passion, and there followed fruitbearing in the Resurrection. Judah is my lawgiver. My king, say the LXX. and Vulgate. My sceptre, or else my leading-staff of battle, in stricter accordance with the Hebrew. However we take it, the reference is alike to the LORD, Who sprang out of Judah,”* Who is alike “King of the Jews,”* the “Sceptre”* which rose out of Israel, Who “alone did lead”* His people, and Who is the Mediator, in Whose hand the Law was given.* And so it is written of the Ascension of the LORD,* “Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.”*

8 Moab is my wash-pot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe: Philistia, be thou glad of me.

Where note that the humbling of Moab follows immediately on the exaltation of Judah, as in Balaam’s prophecy. “A Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite all the corners of Moab.”* But the LXX. and Vulgate both read here, Moab is the pot of my hope. Wherein Dionysius à Rykel sees a prophecy of the descent of CHRIST, (D. C.) the “Hope of Israel,”* from Ruth the Moabitess, a vessel elected of GOD. Nor let it be thought unfit, he adds, that CHRIST should be denoted by Moab. For Moab, by interpretation, is “from the father,”1 by which CHRIST may be understood, Who said of Himself, “I came forth from the FATHER.”* If we take here the reading of the Syriac Psalter, Moab is the washing of my feet, we shall be reminded of the lowliness with which the LORD washed the feet of His Apostles. And whereas the Law declares, “A Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD,”* the Æthiopic Psalter here singularly reads, Moab is my priest, my hope, pointing to that prophecy of Isaiah concerning the Gentiles, “I will also take of them for priests and Levites.”* But others also explain the pot, of those tried by the fire of suffering at the hands of the evil (of whom a pot is a frequent Scriptural type) till, when all the scum has been removed, only wholesome and refreshing food remains in the vessel. Over Edom will I Cast out my shoe. (B.) And here the commentators have devised various reasons for this casting out of the shoe.* Some interpret it as a sign of claiming the inheritance of the land, others conversely (with reference to Ruth 4:7,) as a renunciation of such a claim. Again, it is explained as a token of superiority, as though Edom were compelled to feel the shoe of his conqueror on his neck, or, more peacefully,* to become the disciple of a Master “Whose shoes”* he is “not worthy to bear.”* Mystically, it is explained by S. Gregory the Great: What is meant by Edom, save the Gentiles, what by the shoe, save the taking of mortality? The LORD, therefore, declares that He casts His shoe over Edom, by making Himself known in the flesh to the Gentiles. (Ay.) Where note, that by the shoe, which is made of the skins of dead animals, our mortal nature is typified, which CHRIST took, the latchet of which is that unspeakable union of the Word to human nature, so great a mystery that the Baptist, unable to fathom it, confesses, “Whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”* And the holy author of the “Pricke of Conscience” adds yet another interpretation, that CHRIST sends His messengers,* “shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace,”* into heathen lands. Wherefore is said, “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter.”* Philistia, be thou glad of me. Here, as constantly, the LXX. and Vulgate turn the proper name into a common one, and render it the aliens, and further translate the remainder, are subjected to me. And thus it speaks of the conversion of the Gentiles to the Gospel, so that they should be “no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of GOD.”*

9 Who will lead me into the strong city: who will bring me into Edom?

S. Augustine, translating thus, the city of standing round, (A.) explains the verse of the great heathen population lying all round the small Jewish people, and later, round the Christian Church. (D. C.) The Carthusian sees a reference to the conversion of Rome, emphatically the strong city, by the preaching of the Prince of the Apostles, and also to that text of Isaiah, “The lofty city, He layeth it low.”* Others, as Cassiodorus, Ayguan, and Richard of Hampole, see in the strong city the heavenly Jerusalem, the longing of pilgrims here on earth,

Urbs cœlestis, Urbs beata,*

Supra Petram collocata,

Urbs in portu satis tuto,

De longinquo te saluto,

Te saluto, te suspiro,

Te affecto, te require

Who will bring us in? Let another sweet singer answer the question:

CHRISTE, Palma bellatorum, hoc in municipium,*

Introduc me, post solutum militare cingulum;

Fac consortem donativi beatorum civium.

But why, after expressing a desire for the Celestial city, come back to Edom, which typifies earth? Because, observes Ayguan, (Ay.) the number of the Gentiles must be filled up, before the kingdom of GOD can come, and the Church prays that she may be brought into Edom, in order to hasten that blessed time.

10 Hast not thou cast us out, O GOD: wilt not thou, O GOD, go out with our hosts?

This is the cry of the Martyrs, (A.) who die without seeing the dominion of the Church widened by their valour, or any such results as came of the wars of Moses and Joshua, and David. Was He then by any means forsaking, because He was not marching forth with their hosts? By not marching forth with their hosts, did He not the more lead down the Church even unto Idumæa, lead down the Church into the city of standing round? For if the Church chose to war and to use the sword, she would seem to be fighting for life present; but because she was despising life present, therefore there was made a heap of witness for the life which shall be.

11 O be thou our help in trouble: for vain is the help of man.

And therefore it is not for life, abundance, peace, or any such gifts which man can take away or leave with us, (B.) that the Church prays, but only that He will bring her safe through the water-floods, and bestow those blessings which are eternal, that our very tribulations may be the way of our salvation.

12 Through GOD will we do great acts: for it is he that shall tread down our enemies.

Wherefore the Holy Eastern Church speaks thus in her Great Compline that defiance of the infidel which she chants as a war-song in Lent alone.

GOD is with us, know it,* ye nations, and be made weak.

For GOD is with us.

Hear ye, to the ends of the earth.

For GOD is with us.

Though ye were strong, ye were made weak.

For GOD is with us.

And if again ye shall strengthen yourselves, again shall ye be weakened.

For GOD is with us.

And if ye shall devise any counsel, the LORD will scatter it.

For GOD is with us.

And if ye speak any word, it shall not abide in you.

For GOD is with us.

And we will not be afraid of your fear, neither will we be troubled,

For GOD is with us.

And therefore:

Glory be to the FATHER, Who delivereth His beloved; and to the SON, Who is the Right Hand of the FATHER, wherewith He helps His people; and to the HOLY GHOST, Who is Himself the Love wherewith GOD loves His elect.

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

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