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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. Ferial. As preceding Psalm. [Whitsunday, (and Lyons.) Stablish the thing, O GOD, * which Thou hast wrought in us, from Thy holy temple, which is in Jerusalem. All. All.]

Monastic and Lyons. In the congregations * give thanks unto the LORD.

Parisian. The LORD * gave the word to the preachers. The GOD of Israel, He shall give power unto His people.

Ambrosian. As Psalm 66.

Mozarabic. First verse of the Psalm.

1 Let GOD arise, and let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.

That is, (Ay.) let CHRIST arise from death, that by exalting us He may scatter His enemies. Where note, that in the time of Moses, when the Tabernacle and Ark of the LORD were fashioned in the wilderness, at what time soever the Jews were about to fight with their foes, in order that they might triumph over them, the Ark of the LORD was uplifted by the Priests, and then Moses said, “Rise up, LORD, and let Thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee.”* Wherein was prefigured, that when CHRIST should rise from the dead, His visible enemies, the Jews, and His invisible ones, the evil spirits, should alike be scattered; the Jews over the face of the earth, the prince of this world cast out of the hearts where he once ruled. Flee before Him. Vulgate,* Before His Face. Not as though they could escape to any place where His Presence is not, but flee in terror, though knowing escape impossible. It is the prayer of the Church in times of coldness and backsliding, (G.) when the Truth has been crucified afresh, and laid in a tomb with a great stone rolled to its mouth, and when unfaithful priests, bishops, and judges are encouraging falsehood. Then let CHRIST arise in the holiness and constancy of His true saints and penitents, that His enemies may be scattered.

Cold, cold Church, in thy death-sleep lying,

Thy Lent is past, thy Passion here, but not thine Easter-day.

2 Like as the smoke vanisheth, so shalt thou drive them away: and like as wax melteth at the fire, so let the ungodly perish at the presence of GOD.

Smoke vanisheth in two ways, (G.) either by rising up on high, or being consumed by the intensity of flame. So the sinners will vanish, either by their own vanity, unable to accomplish their desire, or will be burnt up in the unending fire of the wrath to come. Wherefore, let their smoky wickedness vanish, either here by penitence, as we pray, or by punishment hereafter, as we foretell. As wax melteth at the fire. Our GOD is a consuming fire, burning up sin. When by the fire of His love He melts the hearts of sinners into penitential tears, they perish, so far as they are sinners, but they live, as redeemed men. And the Carmelite dwells at much length on the properties of wax, (Ay.) as symbolizing certain virtues. It denotes humility, because it is easily melted, and when so melted, instead of sinking, rises up and floats above other liquids. It signifies purity, because light is fed by it. and only the pure in heart can see GOD, Who is Light. It denotes love; for waxed cloth protects all things round which it is wrapped, and so a loving man guards his neighbour from harm. The love is faithful, as a wax seal protects the secrets of a letter. And we may add one point more, which Ayguan omits, that wax signifies docility, as it receives readily, and retains, the image impressed on it by its owner. (A.) The verse has a warning in it also. It tells of the terrible vengeance which will fall on the wicked in the Judgment-day, when the LORD appears in His glory.

3 But let the righteous be glad and rejoice before GOD: let them also be merry and joyful.

The Vulgate reads, Let the righteous feast, (Ay.) and it is explained of the Holy Eucharist in the Church Militant, and of everlasting glory in the Church Triumphant. (G.) And rejoice before God, because they are His guests, and He hath said, “Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved;”* and they fear not when He comes in to see them, because they know that they have the wedding garment on, and therefore will not be cast out. (D. C.) Rejoicing before GOD in this life means delighting in those things which please Him, and being glad, in the calmness of a good conscience, of virtuous actions and of His honour. In their Country, the Saints rejoice in the vision of the Divine Essence, for they see Him as He is.

4 O sing unto GOD, and sing praises unto his Name: magnify him that rideth upon the heavens, as it were upon an horse; praise him in his Name JAH, and rejoice before him.

The second clause of this verse here and in the Authorized Version differs widely from the LXX. (H.) and Vulgate, which read,* Make a road for Him Who ascendeth above the sunset. That sunset was His own death, over which He rose by His Resurrection.

Love’s redeeming work is done,*

Fought the fight, the battle won;

Lo! our Sun’s eclipse is o’er,

Lo! He sets in blood no more.

And because He comes also to ascend over the darkness of our hearts, (Ay.) and to lighten it with His rays, we are to make a road for Him, and to “prepare the way of the LORD,” by correcting our evil habits. The words are addressed to Angels as well as to men. For the Jewish Holy of holies was towards the west, and the text signifies the rising of the LORD above the place of human worship, to that of heavenly adoration; and the angelic hosts are called on to lift up the everlasting doors, that the King of Glory may come in. The Hebrew בָּעֲרָבוֹת, which the Vulgate renders above the sunset, and the English Versions, upon the heavens, (following the Targum and Talmud,) is explained by Symmachus, S. Jerome, and by modern critics, to mean in the wilderness; and the whole passage will thus be a parallel to the prophecy, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our GOD.”* The words as on a horse are peculiar to the Prayer Book Version, and are not added by any others. They may, however, serve to remind us of the Rider on the white horse, Whose Name is “Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war.”* Praise Him in His Name JAH, because He is Very GOD of Very GOD, and all power is given unto Him in heaven and earth.

5 He is a Father of the fatherless, and defendeth the cause of the widows: even GOD in his holy habitation.

The LXX. (H.) and Vulgate here prefix, They shall be troubled by the face of Him Who is a FATHER, &c. Because they have oppressed His suppliants. Who, then, are the orphans and widows whom He thus protects? (G.) The orphans are those who, born of their father the devil and of worldly desire, are now orphaned by abandoning their evil parents, and seeking a better FATHER, even GOD, and a tenderer Mother, His Church.* The widows are they who, once wedded to sins, now dead, have not yet the WORD for their Bridegroom, but who have come, like Ruth, to Bethlehem to seek for Him. The text has a more literal application, (A.) especially true of the early times of the Christian Church, when the sword which the LORD sent on earth cut asunder the ties of so many families, and when children were cast out by parents, and wives by husbands, for clinging to the Nazarene. Even God in His holy habitation. For out of these orphans and widows, that is, persons destitute of partnership in this world’s hope, the LORD for Himself doth build a temple, whereof in continuation He saith, The LORD is in His holy place.

6 He is the GOD that maketh men to be of one mind in an house, and bringeth the prisoners out of captivity: but letteth the runagates continue in scarceness.

For by His inspiration the Prophets, (C.) and Evangelists, and Apostles all teach the same great truth, all tend to the one goal, (Ay.) and His will it is that His Church on earth should be at one, undivided by schisms and heresies, as it is written, “The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul.”* But as human pride and weakness mar that unity here, the words are most truly interpreted of the perfect harmony of heaven, where

Unum volunt, unum nolunt,*

Unitas est mentium.

Or we may take it, (Cd.) Who setteth the lonely in homes, and we shall see a reference to that great Christian family which gives new ties of kindred and affection to the desolate; and, with many Greek Fathers, to that Religious us Life, where virgin souls are united. One old Greek reading is very beautiful, men of one belt, which may be taken of the belt of warfare, (militare cingulum,) worn by CHRIST’S chosen soldiers, wherewith the loins are girt. The Targum interprets the passage thus: “GOD it is Who maketh one marriage union for a lawful son;” wherein we may read of the mystical union between CHRIST and the Church. And bringeth the prisoners out of captivity. The Vulgate differs slightly: Who hath brought out the prisoners in might. It is spoken first of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt; then of the miracles of JESUS, (D. C.) by healing those whom Satan had bound by disease or by possession; and next of His accomplishment of Zechariah’s prophecy, “As for thee also, by the blood of thy Covenant, I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water,”* what time He spoiled hell, and freed the Fathers of the elder Covenant from bondage. (A.) Fourthly, it denotes His deliverance of men who are bound and tied with the chains of their sins, and that in might, which before His gift of grace they had not. Wherefore the soul cries to Him:

Lux mea, pande fores, inamœnaque claustra resolve,*

Et sine sidereas ætheris ire vias.

And letteth the runagates continue in scarceness. This is not the meaning of the passage. The Authorized Version, with S. Jerome, rightly translates, The rebellious dwell in a dry land. And it may well be taken of the Israelites who perished in the wilderness during the forty years’ wandering, and thence of those members of the visible Church who do not persevere, and therefore attain not to the Land of Promise. But the LXX. and Vulgate read, Likewise they who rebel [exasperate or embitter,] who dwell in sepulchres. That is, observes S. Augustine, (A.) every way dead, taken up with dead works. For these men provoke Him to anger by withstanding righteousness; for those fettered men perchance would walk, and are not able, and are praying of GOD that they may be able, and are saying to Him, “O bring Thou me out of my troubles.”* It appears, then, that CHRIST draws His Church from three sources: from Jews, (P.) bound under the Law, whom He looses in His might; rebellious Gentile heathens, who persecute His followers; and those who, like S. Matthew and S. Mary Magdalene, were dead and buried in their sins. These He makes of one mind, to dwell in His house, under the Gospel law of grace.

7 O GOD when thou wentest forth before the people: when thou wentest through the wilderness,

8 The earth shook, and the heavens dropped at the presence of GOD: even as Sinai also was moved at the presence of GOD, who is the GOD of Israel.

Before the people. Visibly in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, during the forty years’ journey; visibly too in that Manhood which was a pillar of cloud, veiling from the eyes of man the fiery pillar of hidden Godhead, (A.) when He walked in the desert of this world, and when the earth shook at the tidings of His Coming, and at the preaching of His Apostles. The heavens also dropped. They dropped manna for the bodily wants of the people,* and holy laws and precepts to be the food of their souls. Regarding the manna,* a Jewish legend asserts that its fall was preceded by one dew, and succeeded by another, so that it lay enclosed between the two till sunrise,* when the upper veil of dew disappeared, leaving the manna exposed; a shadow, doubtless, of CHRIST, (Cd.) the True Manna, under the forms of bread and wine, so that when the sun of faith arises on the soul, the dew of mere human reason vanishes, and leaves His Presence clear to the believing heart. Even as Sinai also was moved at the Presence of God, Who is the God of Israel. The LXX. and Vulgate more briefly: From the Face of the God of Sinai, from the Face of the God of Israel. And they explain it thus: (Ay.) The heavens are the Apostles, dropping the gospel dews on the hard earth of sinful and heathen souls, taught by the same GOD Who gave the Law on Sinai, Who is the King of Israel, and Who gave the Gospel to His disciples; thus showing the perfect conformity between the Old and New Covenants. (A.) And as Mount Sinai is chief of its range of hills, so S. Augustine takes it as a type of that Hebrew of the Hebrews, after the Law a Pharisee, who laboured more than they all, after that he, in his journey to Damascus, had seen the Face of the GOD of Israel, and dropped upon the ground.

9 Thou, O GOD, sentest a gracious rain upon thine inheritance: and refreshedst it when it was weary.

The Targum declares that this means the peace and calm which GOD sent on Israel when it was faint and affrighted at the terrors which attended the giving of the Law.* It is more usually taken of the manna, and the shower of quails. The LXX. and Vulgate read, Thou shalt separate a voluntary rain for Thine inheritance, and it was made weak: but Thou hast perfected it. (D. C.) It is the rain of GOD’S free grace, sent upon His Church, feeble without that grace, but strengthened and made perfect by it. (Z.) It is also spoken of the free offer of the Gospel to the Gentiles, whom the FATHER hath given to the SON for His inheritance, who were once weak through idolatry and sin, but now have been perfected in faith.

10 Thy congregation shall dwell therein: for thou, O GOD, hast of thy goodness prepared for the poor.

The LXX. (L.) and Vulgate read, more literally, Thine animals dwell therein. And of this there are many explanations. One ingenious idea is that it means the twelve tribes, distinguished by their standards; as the lion of Judah, the hind of Naphtali, (Ay.) the wolf of Benjamin, and so forth. Another view is, that the living creatures seen by Ezekiel and by S. John, and therefore the Evangelists, are intended. But as the primary reference doubtless is to the flocks and herds, (Lu.) which had pasture secured to them by the seasonable rain in the wilderness, we shall best interpret it of those meek and lowly ones to whom CHRIST’S yoke is easy and His burden light, and who are nourished in His Church with the Word of Holy Writ and the Sacrament of the Eucharist, who are truly the “sheep of His pasture,”* and follow the Shepherd, because they know His voice. For Thou, O God, hast of Thy goodness [Vulg., sweetness] prepared for the poor.* And we therefore may say, with the Angelic Doctor, “I approach, as a sick man, to the Physician of Life; unclean, to the fount of mercy; blind, to the light of eternal glory; poor and needy, to the LORD of heaven and earth.” He hath prepared for the poor in another sense, nay, gone to prepare a place for them; for He hath said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”*

11 The LORD gave the word: great was the company of the preachers.

He did indeed give the WORD;* for He “so loved the world, that He gave His Only-begotten SON,” and spared Him not. Great was the company of the preachers. How great shall never be known until the graves open, and the sea gives up its dead; when the martyrs in the ten great persecutions of the Early Church take their stand with those who died in the middle ages by Danish, Arab, Turkish swords, and with those who, yet later, lay down to rest on the crosses of Japan; and when the confessors of every nation, every rank and age, who published the Gospel by word or by life, will offer their spiritual children before the throne of GOD. But the LXX. and Vulgate read, The Lord shall give the Word to them that preach the Gospel, with great might. (G.) It was soon to be fulfilled when He said, “I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.”* And therefore, after “they were filled with the HOLY GHOST, they spake the Word with boldness.”* And the great might expresses the miracles which the Apostles were empowered to work as proofs of their Divine mission; (Ay.) while, as S. Gregory the Great observes,* the spiritual miracles of overcoming sin, still worked by the Church in our own day, are equally marvellous, though not alike patent to the senses. S. Albert lays stress on the word give,* and points out that GOD’S gift should not be sold, but imparted as freely as He has bestowed it. And so the old rime of counsel to priests:

Gratis Eucharistiam plebi ministrate,*

Gratis et absolvite, gratis baptizate,

Vobis gratis cœlitus data gratis date,

Salutemque omnium sedulo curate.

It is to be noted, however, that the Hebrew חַמְבַשְּׂרוֹת is a feminine noun, and the passage ought to run, Great shall be the company of the women, messengers of victory. No longer a single Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Anna, marking generations far distant from one another, but that great army of Virgin martyrs which, with constancy and valour more than manlike, followed the standard of the King into the thickest battle, and taught the astonished heathen that His strength was made perfect in weakness.

Gaude, cœlestis curia,*

Quæ Virginum tot millia

Laureata suscepisti,

Et Regi regum junxisti.

Cujus ingressæ thalamum

Per cruorem purpureum,

Ut castitatis lilia

Pingunt, serenant omnia.

12 Kings with their armies did flee, and were discomfited: and they of the household divided the spoil.

Kings fled, when Maxentius turned before the troops of Constantine, when Eugenius, the last hope of Paganism, was routed by Theodosius at Aquileia, when Penda and his power fell at Winwidfield by the hands of Oswy, and they of the household, or, more literally, with the A. V., she of the household, she that tarried at home, in prayer and watching, the Church of GOD, shared the spoils of the victory He had won for her by other hands than her own. The LXX. and Vulgate read quite differently, The King of the powers of the beloved of the beloved, and [gives] to the beauty of the house to divide the spoils.* The Greek Fathers explain it in two ways. It may mean that the King of the armies of the beloved people, Who is Himself the Power of that people, gives them the spoils of His enemies. Or, He is Himself the Beloved, as being the Only-begotten of His FATHER, and then the powers or virtues of the Beloved will mean the heavenly graces with which He enables His army on earth to divide the spoils for the purpose of beautifying His house therewith.* It is no wonder, says Gerhohus, (G.) that the LORD gives the Word with much power. For He is able to do so, Who is King of the virtues of the Beloved, of the Beloved. He is twice called Beloved, just as in the Song of Songs He is twice styled fair by the Bride, who saith, “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair.”* For she is not content to call Him but once fair, but repeats it, either to denote His pre-eminent loveliness, or that His beauty in each of His natures is worthy of all admiration, in one that of His glorious Divinity, in the other that of His glorified humanity. By reason of which double beauty He is now twice called Beloved, or else because the FATHER loves Him according to both natures, and gave Him, already sharing all with Himself eternally, in His Divine nature, to be, in His assumed Manhood, King of all powers, not only earthly, but heavenly. And CHRIST, says another, hath made His house, that is, the Church, beautiful, by dividing to her spoils, stripped from conquered foes. What this is the Gospel adviseth us in the passage where we read, (A.) “How can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his vessels [Vulg.] except he first bind the strong man?”* CHRIST therefore hath bound the devil with spiritual bonds, and from him so bound He took away his vessels as spoils. These vessels the LORD cleansing by the remission of sins; sanctifying these spoils wrested from the foe laid prostrate and bound; these He hath divided to the beauty of His house: making “some Apostles, some prophets, some pastors, and teachers, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of CHRIST.”* And such is the beauty of the house whereto the spoils are divided, that a lover thereof with this fairness being enkindled, crieth out, “LORD, I have loved the beauty of Thy house.”*

13 Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove: that is covered with silver wings, and her feathers like gold.

This difficult verse is otherwise turned by the LXX. and Vulgate. They read: If ye sleep in the midst of the lots (κλήρων), the wings of a dove are silvered, and the hinder parts of her back are in the paleness (LXX. greenness) of gold. Modern critics, agreeing with the Chaldee Targum, instead of pots or lots, read sheepfolds. The obscurity of the passage has given birth to a great variety of interpretations. (A.) S. Augustine says that the lots probably mean the two Testaments, and that sleeping in the midst of them implies resting on their authority. And the reason he gives for this interpretation is, that inheritances are given by testament, and the Greek word for inheritance is κληρονομία, derived from κλῆρος, the word of the LXX.* in this passage. Another says that the lots are the contemplative and active lives, and that by observing a due medium between these, the beauty of the Church will be raised to the highest point.* S. Jerome, agreeing with S. Augustine in the explanation of the lots, differs in his reason. He points out that the Holy Dove appears in both Testaments, silver-winged in the outer letter, golden in the mystical sense.* S. Gregory the Great explains sleeping to be quiescence from all evil, the silver wings of the Church to be the clear preaching of the Gospel, while the golden back denotes the prize, yet richer and more glorious than even the promises, (G.) which awaits believers. Gerhohus, keeping to the idea of the two Testaments, blended with that of the two great commandments, compares this passage with the description of Solomon’s chariot or bed, whose pillars were silver, whose bottom was gold, and whose midst was paved with love,* and sees in both a picture of the Church adorned and glorified by the loving deeds of her children. (Ay.) The Carmelite sees here a type of the Mother of GOD, the Undefiled Dove whom the HOLY SPIRIT made His Spouse. Her wings are lowliness and purity, silvered in that she was the Mother of the Incarnate WORD; golden in her perfect and spotless virginity; silver in grace and knowledge; golden, bright and yet pale, in wisdom and patience. Again; the whole passage may mean that no temporary repose, no abasement nor persecution, can stay the upward flight or mar the beauty of GOD’S Church. So the heathen poet, uttering more than he knew, sings,

Volitet crebras intacta per urbes

Alba Palæstino sancta columba Syro.*

14 When the Almighty scattered kings for their sake: then were they as white as snow in Salmon.

The words recall that famous “Alleluia Battle,” when the Pictish hosts fled before the shout uplifted by the British army, as it stood upon the hills, clad in the white chrisom-robe of baptism, no unfit type of those armies in heaven, which, on white horses, and clothed in fine linen, white and clean, follow Him Who is called Faithful and True.* The Vulgate reading, however, but little different from that of the LXX. is, When the Heavenly One parteth (discernit) Kings over her, they shall be white with snow in Salmon. That is, (Ay.) when GOD distributes His Apostles and their successors over the Church, then the Gentiles who were in Salmon, the mount of shade or darkness, shall be made whiter than snow by remission of sins and faith received in Baptism. (A.) S. Augustine, while accepting part of this explanation, differs in his comment on the words in Salmon. He says that shade denotes the grace of GOD, as distinguished from human merit, the shadow of our Beloved which protects us from all carnal heat and from the flame of spiritual sins. As shade comes from light and a body, so grace comes from the WORD, Who is the Light, and from His human Body. And as He shelters His faithful, He is rightly called Salmon.

15 As the hill of Basan, so is GOD’S hill: even an high hill, as the hill of Basan.

The LXX. and Vulgate translate Bashan (“fertile”) as an adjective, and read, The mountain of God is a fat mountain, a mountain curdled, a fat mountain. (A.) What mountain ought we to understand by the mountain of God, a mountain fruitful, a mountain full of curds, but the same LORD CHRIST, of Whom also another Prophet saith, “In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains?”* He is Himself the Mountain full of curds, because of the babes to be fed with grace as though it were with milk, a mountain rich to strengthen and enrich them by the excellence of the gifts. For even the milk itself, of which curd is made, in a wonderful manner signifieth grace, for it floweth out of the overflowing of the mother’s bowels, and of a sweet compassion unto babes it is freely poured forth. The Greek Fathers, whom Ayguan follows, interpret the mountain as the Church, and dwell on the word curdled as denoting the firmness of Christian dogma, (Z.) which does not remain in a state of flux, but forms solid food for the soul. Modern critics translate a mountain of many heights, not having one summit only, and thus, if taken of CHRIST, it implies the perfection of all the Divine attributes in Him; if of the Church, it expresses the various forms of saintliness, penitential, active, contemplative, and the like.

16 Why hop ye so, ye high hills? this is GOD’S hill, in the which it pleaseth Him to dwell: yea, the LORD will abide in it for ever.

It should rather be, Why look ye askance? And it will naturally refer first to the rejection of CHRIST by the chief priests, by Herod, and by Pilate, and then to the contempt poured on the Christian Church by Jews, confident in their own spiritual supremacy, and by Pagans, trusting, if Romans, to their temporal dominion, if Greeks, to their intellectual gifts. But the Vulgate reads, Why do ye imagine curdled hills [to be God’s hills?] That is, observes S. Augustine, why should ye compare any of the Saints, however illustrious, to their Master, any hill to that Mountain which is established on the tops of the mountains? Or, again, why should you suppose that there are other mountains of curds, other Churches besides the one Catholic Church, in which the abundance of divine grace can be found? This is God’s hill, in the which it pleaseth Him to dwell, yea, the Lord will abide in it for ever. If we take the hill of CHRIST, then we are taught that the FATHER abideth in Him, and that (C.) “in Him dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”* If of the Church, we recall CHRIST’S promise, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,”* and the continual presence of the HOLY SPIRIT in the Christian body.

17 The chariots of GOD are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: and the LORD is among them, as in the holy place of Sinai.

It is taken first of the glorious hosts which surround the Heavenly King,* as He sits on the throne, “the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof;”* Ezekiel saw the chariot, the four mystic living creatures, advancing on the wheels which the Spirit moved;* Daniel counted the horsemen, “Thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.”*

About His chariot numberless were poured,*

Cherub and Seraph, Potentates, and Thrones,

And Virtues, winged Spirits, and Chariots winged,

From the armoury of GOD, where stand of old Myriads.

And the chariots of GOD are also His Saints on earth; (A.) those who are fastened to the easy yoke of CHRIST, and have Him as their charioteer, (Z.) guiding them with the reins of faith. Especially it is true of those who preach the Word, (G.) and thus carry GOD Himself into the hearts of their converts. Twenty thousand. The LXX. and Vulgate do not express this precisely. They say ten thousand multiplied (μυριοπλάσιον decem millibus multiplex,) and thus there is no exact mystical signification of the number given by the old commentators. The following interpretation, however, is according to the rule of such explanations. Because the number fire denotes the five bodily senses; ten, as its double, implies the two sexes, men and women.* A thousand is the accepted sign of universality, and therefore the number ten thousand would denote the Catholic Church of mankind. But it has been held by many Fathers that the number of redeemed men will exactly fill up the gaps in the heavenly ranks left by the fall of the rebel Angels, of whose chief, the great dragon, it is written, “His tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.”* Ten thousand, then, represents also the number of the fallen Angels, and thus the faithful two-thirds are denoted by twenty thousand, leaving the full total of the Church triumphant thirty thousand, the factor three signifying the mystery of the Holy Trinity; ten the redeemed of both sexes endowed with spiritual bodies; and a thousand implying the perfection and immortality of the Communion of Saints. The Vulgate, instead of “thousands of Angels,” reads, thousands of rejoicing ones, because what they do is done not sorrowfully or on compulsion, but with ready and devout cheerfulness, because, rejoicing in hope, and patient in tribulation, though they be sometimes sorrowful, yet they are always glad in Him Whose chariot they are. And the Lord is among them, as in the holy place of Sinai. That is, the invisible Presence of GOD in His Church is as real and majestic as the vision on Sinai during the giving of the Law. And this comes out more forcibly in the Vulgate, in Sinai in the holy place, which means, either that GOD has come from Sinai to Sion, (L.) (an interpretation accordant with Heb. 12:22,) or that Sinai itself has, in a figure, been transferred into the sanctuary.

18 Thou art gone up on high, thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men: yea, even for thine enemies, that the LORD GOD might dwell among them.

On high, first on the Cross, and then into Heaven; nay, (Z.) adds another, to the highest of the seven heavens, that of the Holy Trinity, (Ay.) leaving behind Him the heavens of air, of æther, of fire, of stars, of crystal, and the empyrean itself. Thou hast led captivity captive, overcoming the devil and his angels on the Cross, (Z.) drawing to Thyself, there uplifted, the nations erewhile bound and chained in their sins, and bringing with Thee, (Ay.) at Thy Resurrection, the Patriarchs and Fathers who waited in Hades. And received gifts for men, the sevenfold gifts of the HOLY SPIRIT, sent down on the Apostles at Pentecost. For Thine enemies. Vulgate, for unbelievers. Because the gifts were not confined to the twelve on whom the fiery tongues came at first, but were poured out on those Jews who had before rejected CHRIST, and even on the Gentiles of the heathen world; and this in order that the Lord God, the HOLY SPIRIT, might dwell among them, and make their bodies His temple. Wherefore, S. Paul, when citing this verse, reads,“He gave gifts to men,”* showing that all which CHRIST received in the Man, in His human nature, He accepted in order to give it to us, for “of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.”*

19 Praised be the LORD daily: even the GOD who helpeth us, and poureth his benefits upon us.

The Vulgate reads in the second clause, The God of our salvation shall make our journey prosperous, (D. C.) that is, observes the Carthusian, He will show us the safe and happy road to eternal life, by enlightening our hearts, and directing our works towards our last end, as He Himself speaks, “I will cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.”* For man cannot walk in the right way unless grace be his leader. S. Jerome translates, more exactly, The God of our salvation shall carry us. It comes to the same thing,* remarks Cardinal Bellarmine, for he goes on prosperously whom GOD carries.

20 He is our GOD, even the GOD of whom cometh salvation: GOD is the LORD, by whom we escape death.

In this triple ascription of praise is shadowed the mystery of the Holy Trinity. GOD the FATHER is our GOD, by eternal right; GOD the SON is our GOD Who brought us salvation; GOD the HOLY GHOST the LORD and Giver of Life. The Vulgate reads in the last clause, The issues of death are of the Lord, (A.) the Lord, that is, of JEHOVAH Adonai. As though he were saying, Why art thou indignant, O lot of humanity, that thou hast the outgoing of death? Even thy LORD’S outgoing was no other than that of death. Rather, therefore, be comforted than indignant; patiently, therefore, let us suffer even death, by the example of Him. Who, though by no sin was He debtor to death, and was the LORD, from Whom no one could take away life, but Himself laid it down, yet had Himself the outgoing of death. (G.) And the true outgoing of death, that by which we pass from it, and not unto it, is His too, namely, His Resurrection.

21 GOD shall wound the head of his enemies: and the hairy scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his wickedness.

It is spoken,* observes S. Athanasius, of the crushing of serpents, and therefore tells of Him Who bruised the serpent’s head, and Who also punished that generation of vipers, the Jewish priests and rulers, by bringing on them the destruction of Jerusalem, (Ay.) which, remarks Ayguan, was the hairy scalp, (G.) the adorned and fortified head of their kingdom. Again; GOD wounds the head of His enemies by bringing them to repentance. (Z.) Once more; some read, God shall wound the head of His enemies which walk upon the hairy scalp in their sins, which is explained of the evil spirits trampling upon men whom they have made their slaves. The hairy scalp has also been explained of subtil questions, as minute and subdivided as hairs, the investigation of which leads often unto sin, or of the little sins themselves to which men give way, as thinking them to have no binding power.

22 The LORD hath said, I will bring my people again, as I did from Basan: mine own will I bring again, as I did sometime from the deep of the sea.

The Vulgate reading is, I will turn from Basan, and that of SS. Hilary and Augustine, with the Ambrosian Psalter, I shall be turned from Basan.* They explain Basan variously as meaning confusion, that of this world, from which CHRIST delivered us on the Cross, (Z.) or the confusion of idolatry and sin; or thirst, (A.) from which, as S. Augustine notes, the LORD turns them who hunger and thirst after righteousness. And with this latter interpretation, some take the succeeding words, I will turn into the depths of the sea, (G.) that is, I will send the plenteous rain so abundantly on Mine inheritance, as to make a sea of the dry land. It maybe also spoken of GOD’S mercy to sinners drowning in the depth of their sins, or dissolved into an ocean of penitential tears. The interpretation given by S. Athanasius enables us to use the true meaning of Basan (“fertile,”) though he was unaware of it.* He takes Basan to be the Cross, that truly fertile Tree of which Venantius Fortunatus sings:

Faithful Cross! above all other,

One and only noble Tree!*

None in foliage, none in blossom,

None in fruit thy peers may be:

and interprets the passage of CHRIST’S descent from the Cross down into the depths of hell to spoil it, and lead it captive. (H.) S. Hilary, also interpreting it of CHRIST, says that the depth, of the sea denotes the sorrows which He bore in His life of Passion, when He brought His people out of the Basan of confusion into the Land of Promise.

23 That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies: and that the tongue of thy dogs may be red through the same.

When He trod the winepress alone, and trampled His ghostly foes in His fury, then their blood was sprinkled on His garments.* When He loosed the armies of Vespasian and Hadrian against the rebellious nation, (H.) His foot was dipped in the blood of His human enemies. And He avenged Himself again, when the Roman Empire, (L.) which had so long persecuted the Saints, fell before the barbarian invaders. The LXX. and Vulgate, however, read only That Thy foot may be dipped in blood. And they say Thy foot means the preachers of the Gospel, (A.) who became as it were the feet of CHRIST, (G.) by carrying Him into all lands, and who, sealing their witness with martyrdom, are dipped in their own blood. That the tongue of Thy dogs may be red through the same.* Here too the Vulgate reading is different; it is, That the tongue of Thy dogs from enemies [may be dipped] in the same. They take it of CHRIST’S enemies, such as S. Paul, who have become His faithful dogs, to guard the flock they once harassed, (A.) and to preach His Name. S. Augustine reminds us of Gideon’s three hundred, who lapped like dogs, and who overthrew the army of Midian, and he points out that the letter T, which, in the Greek alphabet, is the symbol of the number three hundred,* is also the sign of the Cross. And as CHRIST dipped His foot in the Blood of His own Passion, so all Christians should dip their feet, the goings of their souls, in that same tide, by confession of the LORD’S Cross, and by washing away their sins, carrying about in their bodies His dying. Their tongues also, by drinking the Chalice of His most precious Blood, and by open acknowledgment of His redeeming love.

24 It is well seen, O GOD, how thou goest: how thou, my GOD and King, goest in the sanctuary.

More exactly, with the A. V. and Vulgate, They have seen Thy goings. They saw them when the Angels brought the glad tidings of great joy at His Nativity, (Ay.) when the Wise Men presented their gifts at the Epiphany, when He passed through the land preaching, and working miracles. They saw His goings along the Way of Sorrows, His elevation on the Cross, His passage to the tomb, (H.) His Resurrection, His Ascension into heaven, (A.) and they will see His terrible coming again to judgment. Thy goings, my God and King, Who art in the holy place. So the LXX. and Vulgate. And it is David’s confession of CHRIST, (Z.) Who, Very GOD, and King of Israel, is exalted to the FATHER’S right hand in heaven. He is also in His holy place on earth, that Church of which He is the Head, where His goings may be seen in the tokens of holiness exhibited by those who follow His steps, as the march of a general may be known even by those who merely watch the advance of the rear-guard.

25 The singers go before, the minstrels follow after: in the midst are the damsels playing with the timbrels.

If we take the first half of the verse as it stands in our version, and explain it by the usual rules of mystical interpretation, it will denote the preaching of the Word in the first place, and, following on that, the union of praise and active works in the lives of Christians who hearken to such preaching. But the LXX. and Vulgate read, The princes went before, joined with the minstrels, in the midst of the damsels who play on timbrels. If we take the words of the triumphal Ascension of CHRIST,* then the Princes will be the Angels who formed His court, the minstrels the train of ransomed Fathers, saying, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates.”* The damsels playing on the timbrels are explained to be Saints who have attained the grace of spiritual beauty by mortifying the deeds of the body. (B) For the timbrel or drum is formed of the skin of a dead animal, tightly strained, and then giving out a musical sound when struck, and thus typifies the harmony which comes after the death of carnal sin. The text also applies to the Church on earth, and the Princes then are the Apostles, who went first, joined with those whom they had won to CHRIST, (D. C.) and who praised Him thenceforth by word and action, while the damsels denote the Virgins of the Religious Life, who continually celebrate the praises of GOD. And as Miriam led the songs of the Hebrew maidens at the Red Sea triumph,* so the chant of Christian Virgins is led by that other Miriam whom S. Augustine calls “our timbrelplayer,” whose song of praise still resounds daily throughout the earth, and of whom it is said that in Paradise,

Our Lady sings Magnificat

With tones surpassing sweet,

And all the Virgins bear their part,

Sitting about her feet.

26 Give thanks, O Israel, unto GOD the LORD in the congregations: from the ground of the heart.

The A. V. is here to be followed, Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, from the fountains of Israel. He says, in the Churches, notes S. Augustine, (A.) lest any should suppose that choral bands of revellers are meant. Rather Churches are intended by the damsels, decked with new graces, playing on timbrels with spiritual tunefulness. And the fountains of Israel are the Apostles, according to that saying, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”* Wherefore also it is written that when Israel camped in Elim, there were in that place, “twelve wells of water.”*

27 There is little Benjamin their ruler, and the princes of Judah their counsel: the princes of Zabulon, and the princes of Nephthali.

He who is a Prince of the Apostles, though he calls himself the least, the Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin, is here indicated. The LXX. and Vulgate read, (A.) Benjamin the younger in a trance. (Ay.) Younger, because S. Paul was called later than the other Apostles; in a trance, because of that vision which he saw on the journey to Damascus, or the unspeakable things he beheld when caught up to the third heaven. The names of the other tribes occurring in this verse are said by S. Athanasius (with whom S. Augustine agrees) to refer to various Apostles.* SS. Peter, Andrew, James, and John being of Zebulun and Naphtali; S. Matthew, and the other Apostles, of the tribe of Judah. S. Jerome reads here, The princes of Judah in their purple, and it is taken of their resisting unto blood,

They who nobly died believing:*

Martyrs purpled in their gore.

Mystically, Benjamin, the SON of GOD’S Right Hand, is their Ruler. Judah, denoting praise, comes next, as confession of GOD’S Name is the truest counsel for Christians; then follows (by seniority) Naphtali, wrestling with GOD in prayer, wrestling against, the world, the flesh, and the devil for victory; and last, Zebulun, dwelling, denotes the final rest of the people of GOD, when the Bride shall say, “Now will my Husband dwell with me.”* Princes, says S. Augustine, of confession, of strength, of breadth, princes of faith, of hope, of love. (A.) And thus, remarks another, they may be taken of the Apostles, by whom the praise and confession of CHRIST was spread abroad, (G.) of the Martyrs who contended for the faith unto torture and death, and of the Doctors who, dwelling in the peaceful days of the Church, kept the flock safe from the assaults of heresy.

28 Thy GOD hath sent forth strength for thee: stablish the thing, O GOD, that thou hast wrought in us.

29 For thy temple’s sake at Jerusalem: so shall kings bring presents unto thee.

The Vulgate reads, Command, O God, Thy might. It is, says Gerhohus, (G.) a prayer to the FATHER to send His Might, His Only-begotten, to save us, knowing assuredly that “He that spared not His own SON, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”* And we then turn to GOD the HOLY GHOST, (Ay.) to confirm and stablish what the SON, as commanded by the FATHER, hath wrought in us. Where note, that GOD confirms His elect in many ways. By endurance of suffering, “The GOD of all grace, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”* He confirms by Apostolic preaching, for the Apostles and their fellows “exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.”* He confirms by the Catholic Faith, as S. Paul says, “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be established, that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”* He. confirms, by the operation of the Holy Eucharist, “Wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and bread to strengthen man’s heart.”* By the grace of the HOLY GHOST, “Stablish me with Thy free Spirit.”* And by true repentance, as the LORD spake to S. Peter, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”* The Carthusian takes the Might of God to be the help of Angels, and if we do so interpret it, (D. C.) we shall take it chiefly of the errand of Gabriel, (the “Strength of GOD,”) to Nazareth.

Mittit ad Virginem

Non quemvis angelum,*

Sed fortitudinem

Suam, Archangelum

Amator hominis.

From Thy temple, which is in Jerusalem, is the Vulgate reading, that is, from heaven, send Thy Might, CHRIST, or His Angels, (G.) to us. Or, let the waters of salvation pass, as in Ezekiel’s vision, from the earthly Jerusalem over the face of the world. So shall kings bring presents unto thee. Temporal kings will do it by becoming nursing fathers of the Church; (G.) spiritual rulers by offering spiritual gifts, which must, in order to be acceptable, come first from GOD’S temple in Jerusalem, the vision of peace, before they can be presented in His temple of expectation in Sion. And this is most true of the Holy Eucharist, which derives its sacrificial value not from the earthly species of Bread and Wine, but from the heavenly substance of the Body and Blood of CHRIST, sent down by the power of the HOLY GHOST.

30 When the company of the spearmen, and multitude of the mighty are scattered abroad among the beasts of the people, so that they humbly bring pieces of silver: and when he hath scattered the people that delight in war.

The first clause of this difficult verse stands nowhere else as above. The LXX., the Vulgate, and the margin of the A. V. agree with modern criticism in translating it, Rebuke the beasts of the reed. The reference is in the first place to the Egyptian King, typified by the crocodile dwelling in the reedy banks of the Nile, and thence we may apply it, (H.) as S. Hilary does, to the evil spirits, to whose chief an Angel said, “The LORD rebuke thee.”* S. Augustine, playing on the meaning of reed, used as a pen, (A.) declares that the beasts of the reed are heretics who pervert the Scriptures by their writings, and “wrest them to their own destruction.”* Gerhohus gives another reason for accepting this interpretation, namely, that heretics are as a reed shaken by every wind of doctrine. (G.) The next clause runs in the LXX. and Vulgate, The assembly of the bulls amongst the cows of the peoples: or, as S. Jerome, the A. V., and modern critics, read, the calves of the peoples. S. Augustine, carrying on his reference to heretics, (A.) sees in the bulls a type of the obstinate and determined enemies of the truth: and in the cows the weaker souls which are content to follow their lead. “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”* The Carmelite, who sees in the beasts of the reed the persecuting Roman Empire, (Ay.) refers the bulls who mix with the cows to those tempters who endeavoured to make the Christians give up their faith by means of rewards and fair promises rather than by open violence. And Euthymius explains it of the Jewish priests and rulers urging on the multitude at their will. (Z.) So that they humbly bring pieces of silver; that is, by way of tribute, submitting themselves to the kingdom of CHRIST. This is the most probable meaning of this obscure passage, which has been most variously rendered. The LXX. reads: That they who are tried with silver may not be shut out; and the Vulgate, conversely, That they may shut out those who, &c. S. Augustine’s explanation of the words is singularly far-fetched. Those proved with silver are such as have been tested with the sayings of GOD, for “The words of the LORD are pure words, even as the silver, which from the earth is tried, and purified seven times in the fire.”* May be excluded means, may appear, may stand forth. Whence also in the silversmith’s art, they are called exclusores, who out of a shapeless lump are skilled to mould the form of a vessel. This power of showing the beauty which lies hid in Scripture belongs only to a few, and they are forced to their work by the reed of opposing heretics, the beasts of the reed, the bulls of the people. Others, (H.) as S. Hilary, are content with the simpler explanation that the enemies of the faith desire to exclude those who have been purified, like silver, from the dross of earthly vices. S. Jerome translates, who kick against the silver wheels; others, who walk proudly in silver ornaments; others again, who strike silver cymbals; but the true meaning is, as noted above, that of bringing tribute. In the last clause the LXX. and Vulgate read, Scatter the people that desire war.* It holds of the Jews, who delighted to war against CHRIST; of His spiritual enemies; of the Romans. pre-eminently the warlike people, (Ay.) at last converted to the faith they had opposed, and becoming its missionaries; and finally, of all oppressors and heretics, (D. C.) who disturb the peace of the Church.

31 Then shall the princes come out of Egypt: the Morians’ land shall soon stretch out her hands unto GOD.

The Vulgate reads, Ambassadors shall come. They tell a legend, how that Philo of Alexandria, sent on a mission to the Court of the Emperor Caius, met S. Peter in Rome, and learnt from him the Faith, (Ay.) which he then followed in his country, under the guidance of S. Mark, thus fulfilling the prophecy, It needs not, however, to dwell on a mere tradition such as this, for the long array of Christian nobles who came out of Egypt is enough, and more than enough, to bear out the prediction. Martyrs, such as SS. Mark, Anianus, Peter, Leonidas, Plutarch, and Potamiæna; Doctors, as SS. Pantænus, Clement. Athanasius, Cyril; Confessors, as SS. Antony, Pachomius, Hilarion, Pambo, and other Fathers of the Desert, adorn the roll-call of the Saints. The Morians land, or, as the Vulgate, Æthiopia, stretched out her hands to GOD when the treasurer of Queen Candace took S. Philip up into his chariot, and asked him of Isaiah’s prophecy, and thus learnt the Gospel sooner than they of Egypt.* And still, even in her degradation, the ancient Church of Æthiopia loves to recall these words. Four times in the pro-anaphoral portion of her Liturgy she prays to CHRIST to “Stretch forth His Hand,” to hallow the paten, the chalice,* the Communion spoon, and the ark. And, mystically, the ambassadors coming out of Egypt denote the Apostles passing from the bondage of the Synagogue, (G.) while Æthiopia tells of those who were black with sin, but now are made white as snow in Salmon.

32 Sing unto GOD, O ye kingdoms of the earth: O sing praises unto the LORD.

33 Who sitteth in the heavens over all from the beginning: lo, he doth send out his voice, yea, and that a mighty voice.

The LXX. and Vulgate read, Who hath ascended over the heaven of heaven to the East. That is, (A.) to the right hand of His FATHER, for He Who visited us as the Day-spring from on high, hath returned to the throne of His glory. And so S. Ambrose in the great Christmas hymn:

From GOD the FATHER He proceeds,*

To GOD the FATHER back He speeds;

Proceeds,—as far as very hell,

Speeds back,—to light ineffable.

Or, as some read, (Ay.) from the East, that is, from the Mount of Olives, on the East of Jerusalem, (C.) or from Jerusalem itself.* And it may be taken of the far more wide and rapid spread of Christianity towards the West than in the Eastern parts of the world. He shall send out His voice, (A.) yea, and that a mighty voice. He that like a lamb before his shearer was dumb, shall send out His voice, and not the voice of weakness, as though to be judged, but the voice of power, as about to be Judge.“Our GOD shall come, and shall not keep silence.”* And the might of His Voice may be known by its effects,* for it will raise the dead.

34 Ascribe ye the power to GOD over Israel: his worship, and strength is in the clouds.

Glorify Him, Christian Saints, (Ay.) more than His own people Israel did when He came to them. (D. C.) Glorify Him because of His bounties to Israel, to His chosen Apostles and servants. (A.) Or, construing the words in a different order, (G.) Over Israel is His magnificence, as He shall be throned in glory above the true Israelites, His faithful disciples. In the clouds. They who did “fly as a cloud,”* bearing the gracious rain of the Gospel to the dry places of the earth, shall shine above others with the brightness of the sun, and glow with many colours, yea, with the seven splendours of the HOLY GHOST.

35 O GOD, wonderful art thou in thy holy places: even the GOD of Israel; he will give strength and power his people; blessed be GOD unto.

They all take it to be Wonderful in His Saints, wonderful in them before the Law, in Enoch, whom He translated, in Noah, whom He saved in the Ark, in Abraham, whom He called. (D. C.) Wonderful in His people whom He brought out of Egypt: to whom He appeared in terror and majesty on Sinai; in Joshua, at whose bidding the sun and moon stood still; in Elijah, Elisha, and others under the Law. But most wonderful in the time of grace, in His incomprehensible working and abiding in Christians, and especially in the Sacrament of the Altar. He will give strength and power unto His people. In this life He gives strength to resist sin, to endure shame, torture, and death, power to attain to righteousness by grace, to work mighty works, to declare the Gospel fully. He gave strength and power in the fiery tongues of Pentecost, (Z.) when the Apostles were endued with power from on high. (A.) And He will give the power of His Resurrection to us at His Second coming,* that this mortal may put on immortality.

And therefore: because of all these His wondrous works, blessed be God.

Glory be to the FATHER, Who gave the WORD to the company of the preachers; and to the SON, the WORD Who is preached; and to the HOLY GHOST, the Power of Both, given in gifts to men.

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








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