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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 Psalm. [Maundy Thursday. Arise, O LORD, and judge my cause.]

Parisian. The poor * and needy shall give praise unto Thy Name, O LORD.

Ambrosian. As Psalm 72.

Monastic. As Gregorian. [Maundy Thursday. As Gregorian.]

Mozarabic. Remember Thy congregation, O LORD * which Thou hast created from the beginning.

There has been much discussion, ever since the time of Theodoret, as to the date and occasion of this Psalm. The views are practically four: (1) that it refers to some of the earlier spoilings of Jerusalem by Egyptians or Chaldeans, in the time of Rehoboam or of Ahaz; (2) that it speaks of the destruction of the first Temple by Nebuchadnezzar; (3) that it is Maccabean, and refers to the cruelties of Antiochus Epiphanes,—a view adopted by most modern critics; or (4) that it is simply prophetic of the final overthrow under the Romans. The last view is universally given up now. The objection to the second is, that the Psalm does not speak of the utter destruction of the Temple (as Psalm 79. docs) but only of its spoiling and profanation. The third opinion is difficult to reconcile either with the history of the Canon, or with the language in verse 10a, which implies a recent cessation of prophecy. But the order of Prophets had died out two centuries before the date of Antiochus Epiphanes, and we may therefore most probably adopt the second conjecture. The name of Asaph does not help to fix the date, as it appears certain that it was attached to Psalms of his descendants and successors in the office of choirmaster.

1 O GOD, wherefore art thou absent from us so long: why is thy wrath so hot against the sheep of thy pasture?

It is no murmuring or rebellion that prompts this question, nothing but a deep sense of desolation, and of inability to fathom GOD’S hidden purpose. (C.) Absent from us. It is far more. That would be painful enough, (G.) but the A. V. more truly reads, Wherefore hast Thou cast us off? and the Vulgate, Ut quid repulisti nos, is nearly the same. Yet the Apostle tells us that “GOD hath not cast away His people which He foreknew.”* It is in truth we who have gone from Him, for as the soul never quits the body till the body fails it, (Ay.) so GOD never leaves those who are willing to abide by Him. So long. Not for a brief time of trial and chastisement, as in former days, (G.) followed by the advent of a deliverer, Gideon, Samson, (Ay.) Samuel, David, but utterly, or, with the Vulgate, to the end, sparing neither age, nor sex, nor holy place, and delaying help till the end of the world. Whether we take it in its first sense, (P.) of the Jewish people, harassed by Assyrian or Roman foes, (D. C.) or of the Christian Church, beset by heretics, schismatics, unbelievers, and false brethren; or again, of each soul which thinks itself bereft of GOD’S help, we may find the answer in the question. To the end. He drives us to Him Who is the “end of the law for righteousness to them which believe,”* (A.) even to His SON JESUS CHRIST. O blessed casting off, which leads us to take refuge in those everlasting arms of infinite mercy! The sheep of Thy pasture. It is spoken of the Jews, (B.) whom He led as sheep by the hands of Moses and Aaron in the pastures of the Law, but far more deeply and truly of them who follow the Good Shepherd, and are nourished with His pasture, His own precious Body and Blood.*

2a (2) O think upon thy congregation: whom thou hast purchased, and redeemed of old.

2b (3) Think upon the tribe of thine inheritance: and mount Sion, wherein thou hast dwelt.

Thy congregation, or, with the LXX. Thy synagogue, not merely as the specific name of the Jewish Church, (Ay.) but as showing how GOD began the work of deliverance, by gathering together in Rameses the people previously scattered throughout the land of Egypt. Whom Thou hast purchased. Or, with LXX. and Vulgate, possessed. He Who is LORD of all, is more especially said to possess those who have freely bound themselves to obey Him. The word redeemed, which follows here in the Prayer Book version, properly belongs to the first clause of the next verse. Of old. Or, as the Vulgate, from the beginning. It cannot be the voice of the Gentiles, (A.) notes S. Augustine, but must refer to the seed of Abraham, the people of Israel, born of the Patriarchs, whose seed we are, (G.) in faith though not in flesh. The great German commentator goes further back, and reminds us of the distinction put ages before Abraham’s day between the descendants of Cain and the righteous progeny of Seth. O think upon the tribe of Thine inheritance. Here we should read, with the Vulgate, Remember the rod of Thine inheritance, which Thou hast redeemed. S. Augustine reminds us of that rod of Moses, (A.) wherewith the miracles of the Exodus were wrought. It thus comes to typify the Jewish people,* whom GOD used as His rod to scourge the seven nations of Canaan. And they add, (G) aptly enough, that so long as that rod was in the hand of Moses, so long as the Hebrew people obeyed the Law and the Prophets, the rod was straight, and waited for the promise of CHRIST. But when it left the hand of Moses, it became a serpent, from which Moses himself fled. And then, in a deeper and lovelier sense, the rod of GOD’S inheritance is “the Man Whose Name is the Branch,”* the “Rod out of the stem of Jesse,” Whom also “He hath appointed heir of all things.” He is the rod of Moses, because He is the sceptre of Israel, and yet more, because He is the brazen serpent lifted up in the wilderness, (G.) that those bitten by the fiery serpents might look on Him and live.*


Para sanar las dolencias

Del que mordido del aspid,

Al pecador se semeja,*

No siendo èl el pecador,

Convendrà que lo parezca.

And even as Moses fled from his rod, when it took the serpent form, so when the “beautiful Rod”* was lifted up to draw all men unto Him, His disciples forsook Him and fled. Again; because the words denote the Head, they include the members, and tell of that Church which GOD chose to be His inheritance, the rod which has budded and brought forth leaves, flowers, and fruit, while those of the twelve tribes remain barren. And with this sense the dearest meaning of the words which follow agrees: Which Thou hast redeemed with Thy most precious Blood. Redeemed from the spiritual Egypt, (D. C.) from worldly conversation, from sin and darkness, from many an error, from all its sins, and from the pains of hell. He has not redeemed it as one may buy the possession of some place or thing he has never seen, for there follows: And Mount Sion, wherein Thou hast dwelt. The primary meaning is of that Temple where the uncreated WORD dwelt in the Shechinah between the Cherubim, (Ay.) and next of that whole city where He, when Incarnate, went in and out before all the people, and then more fully of that Church Militant of “expectation,” wherein He condescends to tabernacle sacramentally. There He is indeed lifted on the tree of life in the midst of the garden, that rood to which we look for all our help. There too, as He gives His inner grace to each hungering and fainting soul, He is the Rod dipped in honey wherewith Jonathan, when he put it to his mouth, found his eyes enlightened.*

3 (4) Lift up thy feet, that thou mayest utterly destroy every enemy: which hath done evil in thy sanctuary.

Taking the words in this wise, we shall see Him invoked Who hath said of Himself: “I have trodden the wine-press alone; and of the people there was none with Me: for I will tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury,”* and will remember how He sent His chastisements on all those nations whom He permitted to scourge Jerusalem for her sins, and last and most terribly on the Jews themselves, who did evil in His sanctuary, when the chief priests and Pharisees gathered a council against Him. But the A. V. gives the true sense: Lift up Thy feet unto the perpetual desolations, that is, Come down, and behold the utter destruction which the enemy hath wrought in Thy holy place. Not so the LXX., Vulgate, and the Æthiopic. They read, Lift up Thine hands upon their insolences unto the end. That is, Put forth Thy might to punish. Their insolences, (Ay.) as well those of the heathen who have wasted Thy holy places, as of the people of Israel, whose sins have deserved such judgments. So say they all, most strangely passing over the deeper meaning or the words, which tell us how He did deal with the pride of His enemies, nailing it to His Cross, when He stretched out His hands thereupon all the day unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.* Yes, and unto the end, for He said, “It is finished.”* The Syriac Psalter reads in this place, Lift up Thy servants above them who are raised over us in might, foreshadowing the conquest of the Empire by the Cross. And this is the meaning which S. Augustine, (A.) though following a reading scarcely differing from the Vulgate, attaches to the passage. “Whose pride?” he asks; “Theirs by whom Jerusalem was overthrown, the Kings of the Gentiles. Well was His hand lifted up on their pride at the end, for they too have now known CHRIST. Now on the brows of monarchs the sign of the Cross is more precious than the jewels of a crown.” What mischief the enemy hath wrought in Thy holy place. They take it variously of the successive profanations of the Temple, (P.) by Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus, (L.) and Titus, and thence transfer the reference to the Christian Church, (D. C.) vexed first by heathen persecutors and then by Arian and other heretics. Lastly; it is explained tropologically of every friend of this world, who is therefore GOD’S enemy,* defiling with sin the heart which He had made His sanctuary by the waters of Baptism.

4 (5) Thine adversaries roar in the midst of thy congregations: and set up their banners for tokens.

This is the true rendering of this difficult verse,* and R. Kimchi aptly compares its first clause with the words of Jeremiah: “The LORD hath cast off His altar, He hath abhorred His sanctuary, He hath given up into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they have made a noise in the house of the LORD, as in the day of a solemn feast.”* And the obvious meaning is to contrast the tumult of a profane soldiery, heard in the sacred shrine, with the voice of priestly chant and supplication, which alone befits it. Again and again it has been true of times of suffering in the Church, when Roman soldiers rushed in on the worshippers in the catacombs, when Syrianus invaded the church of S. Theonas at Alexandria,* to seize S. Athanasius; worst of all, at that terrible Whitsuntide of 1453, when the armies of the false prophet burst into S. Sophia. But the LXX. and Vulgate, with the Syriac and Æthiopic, read, They which hate Thee have boasted in the midst of Thy festival. They remind us that it was in the midst of the Passover that Jerusalem was compassed with the armies of Titus, (A.) a fit punishment for the city which at that same time had crucified its King. S. Albert the Great applies the words to careless and indevout clerics,* who, when the restraint of Lent is over, jest and revel in the midst of the Paschal Festival, betwixt Mass and Vespers. They have not only boasted, but have set up their banners for tokens. The LXX. and Vulgate, with little difference of wording, read,* have set their signs as signs. The Jewish commentators explain this to mean that the Eastern conquerors of Jerusalem, seeing the event correspond with their divinations and oracles, asserted the truth of those signs given to Nebuchadnezzar when “he consulted with images, he looked in the liver, (P.) [and] at his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem.”* Others take it of the erection of idols in the place of the holy symbols, (G.) but most agree in seeing here the military standards, (Ay.) bearing the images of various animals on their tops, and planted by the invaders in the courts of the temple. And with this accords S. Jerome’s translation: They have set up their ensigns for a trophy. The Carthusian does not fail to remind us of the Arian processions with music and banners, (D. C.) and of that which was nearer to his own time, the military show of the Bohemian fanatics under the terrible John Ziska, that blind leader of the blind. They are not slow to mark how,* on the other hand, the Christian warriors can in their turn, (Cd.) set up their banners, those royal banners of their King—for tokens. And they quote the well-known words of Tertullian: “At every advance and movement, at all goings out and comings in, when dressing and putting on the shoes, when washing, at meals, on lighting of lamps, at bed-time, on sitting down, whatever act of our lives we are engaged in, we mark our forehead with the sign of the Cross.”*

5 (6) He that hewed timber afore out of the thick trees: was known to bring it to an excellent work.

6 (7) But now they break down all the carved work thereof: with axes and hammers.

As we read these words, the first meaning suggested is the contrast between the skilful labour of the Sidonian timberers whom Solomon employed to hew the cedars of Lebanon for his excellent work,* and the mere savage destructiveness of the heathen enemy. But this is certainly not the sense of the passage, nor is the A. V. nearer to it. The words imply that the strokes of the invaders fell thick and fast, like those of a woodman hewing down a stately tree. And so the Chaldee Targum runs: He bruises it with a hammer, like a man who lifts up his hand on the thickness of trees, that he may cut it down with axes. But the reading of the LXX. and Vulgate is at once utterly unlike either of these, obscure, and corrupt. In the first place, instead of being a new member of the Psalm, it belongs to the preceding verse, and runs thus: And they have not known, as at the going forth over the top (LXX. ὡς εἰς τὴν ἔξοδον (al. εἴσοδον) ὑπεράνω. Vulg. Sicut in exitu super summum.) They have not known that it was GOD’S work, (Ay.) not their own, when they set up their banners at the going forth of the gates of the conquered city, (R.) and over the top of her towers and fortifications, nay, of the very temple itself. A holy writer explains this whole passage of the harsh judgments of distrustful and censorious men. They have set up their signs, and have not known: they set up what they do not find,* they set up what they afterwards explain in a bad sense. He says, their signs; for it is themselves they set up for a sign, when they measure others by the rule of their own faultiness. He says, signs as meaning only signs, and not truth, signs not of certainty, but of suspicion. And they know not. Then follows: As in a copse of wood they have cut down with axes her doors there together,* with hatchet and mattock they have cast her down. The first words recall those sayings, “Now is the ax laid unto the root of the trees, therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire;”* and “If GOD spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He spare not thee.”* As in a copse of wood, (Ay.) as recklessly as a wood-cutter, or, by hewing down the doors, leaving the entrance into the city as undefended and open to every step as the paths of a forest. The reference to the doors,1* ornate and costly as they were, (B.) and overlaid with plates of gold, implies the destruction of the remainder, while there together (ἐπιτοαυτό, in idipsum) shows the deliberate hostility and combined attack of the enemy. With hatchet and mattock. The Latin Fathers dwell on the completeness of the destruction denoted by these words, (C.) saying, that the former tool is used to cut down large masses of timber, and the latter for further and more minute subdivision. The Greeks, (Z.) with the same general meaning, refer the first instrument to hewing down wood; the second to defacing stone. There is an unusual vein of literalism in all the commentators in dealing with this whole passage; and little is to be drawn from any save the Carmelite, (Ay.) who bids us note, that by the doors of the city we may understand the approaches to the heavenly kingdom. There are three such: the upper, the inner, and the outer. The first is opened by the free bounty of GOD. “He opened the doors of heaven—He rained down manna also upon them for to eat.”* The second is opened by preparation of the soul; “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.”* The third is opened by the condemnation of the proud; “I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates.”* But the first of these gates, that is, the heavenly one, is done away by thanklessness for the divine gifts, so that it is no longer open for the ungrateful, as it is written, “And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of GOD, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of GOD, and shut up the doors of the house of the LORD.”* Wherefore it is now said of the ungrateful, They have cut down her doors, and that with hatchet and mattock. By the hatchet, which hews great logs, understand thanklessness for spiritual gifts, but by the mattock, which cuts in small pieces, understand thanklessness for corporal benefits, which are small in comparison with spiritual ones.

7 (8) They have set fire upon thy holy places: and have defiled the dwelling-place of thy Name, even unto the ground.

Unto the ground, or, as the Vulgate reads, Thy sanctuary on the earth. And they delight in pointing out to us, (G.) those old commentators, that we have a sanctuary in heaven, which no evil can defile or draw near. They tell us, (Ay.) too, that GOD has three earthly tabernacles: His Virgin Mother, the Church, and every faithful soul; that the first is insulted by heretics, who deny her perpetual virginity; the second by sinners, who prefer to dwell in the tents of ungodliness to abiding humbly in the House of GOD; the third by those who deny the Resurrection and the Life everlasting. There is another sanctuary of GOD yet more holy than these, (P.) which was defiled with spitting and insult, which was smitten with hammers, which was cast to the ground, even the LORD JESUS Himself. And S. Albert reminds us that there is no pollution so deep as that of sin,* so that prelates and priests, who ought to be GOD’S sanctuaries, are defiled unto the ground when they pass from the contemplation of divine things down to mere earthly passions and desires.

8 (9) Yea, they said in their hearts, Let us make havock of them altogether: thus have they burnt up all the houses of GOD in the land.

The LXX. and Vulgate read this verse very differently: The kindred of them1 said together in their heart, Come, and let us make all the feasts of God to cease from the land. The first question they ask here is, Who are they who said this in their hearts? Is it to be taken of the invading heathen, or of the Jews? And the answer they give, (A.) for the most part, (C.) is the latter. Parez aptly states the reason, by referring to the arguments of the apostate Jews in the Maccabean era,* who urged that the superior prosperity and cultivation of the Greeks was a sufficient ground for adopting Pagan customs, (P.) and abandoning the Law of Moses. Others, (B.) however, see herein the policy of the invaders, who, unable to discover the object of Jewish worship, and seeing their own deities despised, determined to destroy every trace of the Hebrew religion, as being at the root of the national resistance. The houses of God. This rendering is in accord with that of Symmachus, which is synagogues, but the LXX. and Vulgate reading, festivals, which is also that of the Syriac and Æthiopic, appears to represent better the meaning of מוֹעֲדֵי (assemblies) which nowhere else in the Bible (unless perhaps in Lam. 2:6,) denotes a building. And we are taught by it of the perpetual striving of the world to break in upon the Sabbath rest of the Church, a rest never unquiet, never unbroken,* till we reach that Land where the true Sabbath remaineth to the people of GOD. So Adam of S. Victor:

The world,* the flesh, and Satan’s rage,

Their differing wars against us wage;

And when their phantom hosts come on,

The Sabbath of the heart is gone.

This triple league, with fierce dislike,

At holy festivals would strike;

And set the battle in array

To drive their peace from earth away.2

S. Albert remarks that our ghostly enemies strive to abolish all the festivals of our souls,* the Nativity of Baptism, or of penitence, the Resurrection from earthly things to seek things on high, the Ascension from one grade of holiness to another, the Pentecost of spiritual illumination and burning love of GOD.

9 (10) We see not our tokens, there is not one prophet more: no, not one is there among us, that understandeth any more.

These words may be taken in various ways. In their most obvious sense, (L.) they are a lamentation on the part of the Jews that their case appears utterly helpless, that they have no celestial aid, no inspired teaching, and then this is a piteous cry for relief, such as had been granted by Divine miraculous interposition many times before. The tokens or signs will then denote such chastisements as those which fell on Pharaoh, (G.) Sennacherib, and Heliodorus. Again; the signs may refer to the symbolical Hebrew ritual of priesthood and sacrifice, the type of better things to come, (P.) but now itself vanished before the appearance of those better things. Or the words may denote unbelief, not sorrow, and be uttered by apostate Jews as a reason for ceasing their accustomed worship. GOD had ceased to favour them, and had begun to show preference for the Gentiles, and therefore it was better to adopt Pagan usages. Some do not fail to point out, (G.) moreover, that the Jews did see, but did not understand, the tokens which GOD sent by His SON, (L.) that there was no need of a Prophet after He of whom the seers spoke had come. And the failure of the Temple miracles, acknowledged by the Rabbins, is set down by them to the time of Simeon the Just, who is said to be he that uttered the Nunc dimittis. The Greek Fathers point out that the chief aggravation of the final overthrow of Jerusalem,* is that no series of prophets, such as comforted the exiles of the Babylonian captivity, has been granted to the Jews. S. Albert reminds us that we, of the modern Church, may truly say, We see not our tokens, the poverty, the stern self-denial, the humility of the early Christians. Nor miracles,* nor prophecies either, such as were vouchsafed to our fathers, adds the Carthusian, (D. C.) wherefore our chiefest need is patience with steadfast faith, and we must say, as did the Maccabees, “We are ready to die, rather than to transgress the laws of our fathers,”* remembering that it is added in the same place, “The king of the world shall raise us up, who have died for His laws, into everlasting life.” There are yet other signs more important still which we lack,* the Tau, or Cross, and the marts of the LORD JESUS, and therefore we have no true prophet to declare by word and deed the vileness of this world, the loveliness of that to come, so that we have reason to fear that GOD will not know us any more (LXX. and Vulgate,) but will say to us in the Doom, “Verily, I say unto you, I know you not.”*

10 (11) O GOD, how long shall the adversary do this dishonour: how long shall the enemy blaspheme thy Name, for ever?

The cry goes up because the faithful and the unbelieving alike suffer in the persecution; (B.) the grain is beaten as well as the chaff, (D. C.) and so long as the righteous suffer, GOD’S Name is blasphemed by His enemies, who declare that He has either not the power or not the will to deliver His people; and, moreover, it is written, “He that heareth you heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent Me.”* How long then, for ever? Yes, (G.) answers Gerhohus, not so far as the grain is concerned, but as far as the chaff.

11 (12) Why withdrawest thou thy hand: why pluckest thou not thy right hand out of thy bosom to consume the enemy?

The last words of the verse as here read are not in the Hebrew, the A. V., nor in any of the old Versions. Nor does the negative occur. The true meaning is that of the A. V.: Pluck Thy right hand out of Thy bosom. But the LXX. and Vulgate read the latter clause thus: And Thy right hand out of the midst of Thy bosom unto the end. Many Latin Fathers see in these words the rejection of the Jewish people, (A.) who, (G.) till their final sin, were GOD’S right hand. And they remind us how the hand of Moses, when he took it out of his bosom, became leprous as snow, and did not become clean till he had put it in again. So the Jewish Synagogue, when it refused and slew its King, plucked its hand out of the bosom of GOD, and became outcast and leprous.* Accordingly, the prayer goes up to GOD to put that polluted hand back into the bosom of His love, and to make it clean once more, washed in the Blood of CHRIST. The Greek Fathers understand the passage differently: The bosom, (Z.) they say, is the treasure of GOD’S bounty, the right hand the operation of His Providence, whereby He distributes His gifts, and it is then a prayer to Him to open His hand and fill all things living with plenteousness.* Another interpretation, which has found favour with the Jews, is, Why pluckest Thou not the enemies out of Thy sanctuary, that holy land which they pollute with their presence?*

12 (13) For GOD is my King of old: the help that is done upon earth he doeth it himself.

Here is the triumphal answer to all the complaint in the earlier part of the Psalm. While I am crying as if forsaken, (A.) God, my King before the worlds, hath wrought salvation in the midst of the earth. While we Jews are sleeping, and looking for signs in the night, the Gentiles are awake, and rejoicing in that salvation. CHRIST is my King, not merely since He appeared on earth, but from everlasting, because He is consubstantial with the FATHER, (G.) and is begotten by Him before the worlds. In the midst of the earth. They take it in three ways. By His Incarnation in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. (Ay.) So the hymn:

Tota descendit deitas

In templum tui pectoris,*

De terrâ tui corporis

Nobis est orta veritas,

Et æterna divinitas

Incepit esse temporis.

By His Passion at Jerusalem, once believed to be the very centre of the world. Thus we read:

Golgotha locus est, capitis Calvaria quondam,*

Lingua paterna prior sic illum nomine dixit,

Hic medium terræ est, hic est victoria signum.

By His descent into hell,* to deliver the captives there. Only once, warns S. Bernard, was that visitation made. It can never be again. In hell there is no more offering for sin, for it was CHRIST’S soul, not His Blood, which descended thither. His Blood hath watered the dry earth, and made it glad, and established peace between it and heaven; and therefore it is here we must be reconciled to GOD.

13 (14) Thou didst divide the sea through thy power: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.

14 (15) Thou smotest the heads of Leviathan in pieces: and gavest him to be meat for the people in the wilderness.

The primary reference is, of course, to the passage of the Red Sea, and the overthrow of the Egyptian power; typified here, as in other places, by the crocodile or Leviathan. But the reading of the LXX. and Vulgate in the first clause of verse 13 is a little different. It runs, (G.) Thou hast strengthened the sea in thy power, and implies, no doubt, the miracle whereby “the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left.”* S. Augustine (A.) explains it mystically that the Jews were the dry land; and the Gentiles, in the bitterness of unbelief, the sea. Now that sea has been confined by GOD’S power,* and the pride of demons, the heads of the dragons, whereby the Gentiles were once possessed, He hath now broken in the waters of Baptism. Another Saint, of a much later age, interprets the heads of the dragons as sins, broken in the waters of penitential tears.* S. Gregory, amplifying the first part of S. Augustine’s explanation, teaches that the sea denotes this present world, wherein men’s hearts are tossed on the billows of care, of pride, and of adversity. But now those seas are stablished by GOD’S power; for, since the Incarnation of the LORD, the hearts of those of this world, once at discord, now believe in concord, and Peter walks upon the waters, since CHRIST is preached, and the people hear in meekness. Others, while interpreting the waters as those of Baptism, (L.) dwell on the word strengthened as denoting the certainty of that Sacrament, whoever and whatever the minister of it may be, provided the true matter and form be used. The properties of the dragons, by which they become fit emblems of evil spirits, are thus summed up by Cardinal Hugo:

Sibilat, ignivomus, eremi Babylonis, arenæ;

Et maris incubitor, cristatus, edax, volat, ingens;

Os breve, cauda ligans elephantem, pervigil, astu

Aspiciens, pugnans, sensus petit, est capitosus.

Thou smotest the heads of Leviathan in pieces. Here, for Leviathan, (A.) the LXX. and Vulgate read the dragon, that is, the chief of all evil spirits, the beginning of sin; and these words denote the fulfilment of the prophecy, that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head.* And gavest him to be meat for the people in the wilderness. The Talmudists have interpreted this text with a literalism more extravagant than any allegory. According to them, Leviathan is a huge sea-serpent, which encompasses the earth, (exactly like the Eddaic Jormungandr,) and strives to swallow the sun. At the last day, (L.) it, and Behemoth, and the huge bird Barjuchna, are to be killed, and served up as a banquet for the children of Israel. The interpretation at other hands is widely different. With some, the people of the wilderness mean the Hebrews, who are said to have spoiled the corpses of the Egyptian warriors as they lay upon the shore. Others,* and most modern critics,* explain it of birds and beasts of prey, comparing texts where the word people is applied to the lower animals. The LXX., Vulgate, and Æthiopic, however, read, to the peoples of the Æthiopians.* The literal interpretation,* that the loss of the Egyptian army made the nation an easy prey to the neighbouring powers, (A.) may be briefly mentioned. The mystical explanations are full. The Æthiopians are they who were once black and defiled with sin; who “were sometimes darkness, but now light in the LORD.”* And Leviathan has been given them for meat, (C.) because GOD has given power over the devil into the hands of His faithful, and especially to the martyrs, (B.) so that they should not only devour him up, but by drawing away his members from him by conversion, actually incorporate them into the body of the Church, (A.) which thus grows by feeding on Leviathan. This mystery was foreshadowed under the Law by Moses grinding the golden calf into powder,* and compelling the children of Israel to swallow it; and again under the Gospel,* when S. Peter in his vision was told to “kill and eat.”* And in this wise Aaron’s rod hath swallowed up those of the magicians.

15 (16) Thou broughtest out fountains and waters out of the hard rocks: thou driedst up mighty waters.

The words out of the hard rocks are not in the Hebrew, nor in any of the other versions; but they represent accurately enough the meaning of the verb בָּקַעְתָּ, (Ay.) which implies splitting or rending something hard. The commentators dwell for a little on the events of Horeb, Kadesh, and Jordan, (A.) and on the contrasted exhibition of Almighty power, softening that which is hard, and solidifying that which is fluid; and then turn to the hidden sense. Fountains and torrents are both produced by GOD in mens hearts. The fountain is the “well of water springing up into everlasting life,”* the Word of GOD in holy and steadfast souls; while the torrent, impetuous in winter, but dry in summer, denotes those who are eager in words and preaching, but who lack perseverance and sanctity. Thou driedst up mighty waters. Or, (A.) as the LXX. and Vulgate, the waters of Ethan.1 And they take it diversely of the power of the devil, (B.) of idolatry, and of Gentile philosophy and learning,* all subdued and dried up before the advance of the hosts of the LORD.

16 (17) The day is thine, and the night is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun.

17 (18) Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.

They pass at once from the natural to the spiritual creation, (A.) and tell us how GOD rules alike over the spiritual, who are the day, and the carnal, who are the night, over the unwise and imperfect Christians, who are but the dawn of light, (Ay.) and over those perfected in the wisdom and faith of CHRIST, who are like the sun. Another reading, instead of light or dawn, is moon, (C.) which Cassiodorus follows, and reminds us of that saying of the Wise Man, “A fool changeth as the moon.”* Thou hast set all the borders of the earth, by appointing Apostles and Prelates, as boundaries, to mark the limits of our obligations, lest we should transgress. Or, set all the borders of the earth, (C.) by giving each man his special talent to use for the service of GOD. Summer and winter. The first tells of those who are ardent and zealous in faith, (G.) from whom Confessors and Martyrs come. Winter, or with the LXX. and Vulgate, spring, (C.) denotes those of a colder and less devotional temperament, who are yet servants of GOD. And others contrast here the active and contemplative lives,* giving the higher place to the latter. The Carthusian has yet another explanation. The sun is the glorified Manhood of CHRIST, (D. C.) the dawn His Virgin Mother, of whom is written, “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning?”* the borders of the earth are GOD’S elect in this world; spring, with its leafy promise, denotes the merit of good works; summer, with its fruits, the everlasting reward awaiting them.

18 (19) Remember this, O LORD, how the enemy hath rebuked: and how the foolish people hath blasphemed thy Name.

The word how is not in the Hebrew, nor in the old versions; and the verse thus seems made up of two separate members. They ask, accordingly, What is this which GOD is called on to remember? The Roman Psalter, (Ay.) the Æthiopic, Arabic, and some recensions of the LXX. add the words Thy creation or creature, (G.) and it is explained by some to mean the Jewish nation; while others, (Z.) as the Greek Fathers, refer it to the congregation spoken of in a former verse. Again,* it is taken of the works of GOD’S power or bounty, which He is asked to remember; that is, (L.) to exhibit once more in the time of need. And lastly, there are some who explain it in the same sense as the Prayer Book Version. The latter clauses are taken first of the heathen raging against the worship of the GOD of Israel, and then of the Jewish people itself, (Ay.) become the enemy of its King, and blaspheming His Name with slander and reproaches.

19 (20) O deliver not the soul of thy turtle-dove unto the multitude of the enemies: and forget not the congregation of the poor for ever.

Here we have the cry of the afflicted Church; of her whom her Bridegroom calls, “My sister, My love, My dove, My undefiled,”* imploring to be delivered from all her foes, ghostly and earthly. She is His sister, as has well been said, because she is of His Blood; His love, because reconciled by His death; His dove,* because dowered with the HOLY GHOST; His undefiled, as washed in the Sacrament of Baptism. It is rightly said, the soul of Thy turtle-dove. For GOD gives no promise that He will not give the body of His Church, or of His individual Saints, up to those who can kill, or, at least, sorely hurt it; but the soul is His darling, and He will rescue it. So we read in the passion of a Virgin Martyr:

Eager for peace, she breathed the fire,*

And so she went to rest:

Forth from her lips, most pure and white,

There sprang a snowy dove,

And shooting on its heavenward flight,

It sought the realms above;

So swift, so pure, so innocent,

It was Eulalia’s soul that went

To seek its native firmament,

The dwelling-place of Love.

Yet, again, as the Dove implies the HOLY GHOST Himself, this may well be a prayer that we “quench not the SPIRIT”* by those works of the flesh which lust against Him, and are at enmity with Him.* But this, the preferable sense of the Hebrew, is lost in the old versions, and they read in the first clause, Deliver not to the beasts the souls which confess Thee. Lorinus mentions that this text was twisted by various Gnostic heretics, (L.) as Manichæans and Albigenses, to imply the transmigration of human souls into the forms of brutes. The majority of commentators here follow S. Augustine, (A.) and interpret the passage as a prayer to be delivered from the evil spirits. Forget not the congregation of the poor for ever. They take it diversely of the poor in spirit, trodden down in this world, but looking humbly to GOD in hope; and of the Jewish nation, poor indeed, as having rejected the true riches, but not utterly cast away from its FATHER’S love. As a prayer for the departing Christian soul, (Ay.) fleeing away as a dove to be at rest, this verse forms the Versicle and Response after the Psalms of the Third Nocturn of the Office for the Dead.

20 (21) Look upon the covenant: for all the earth is full of darkness, and cruel habitations.

Have regard, (A.) not to the Old Covenant or Testament, but to the New; not to the promise of the earthly Canaan, but to the gift of salvation in the kingdom of heaven. The second clause should run, as in the A. V., (G.) The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty. The mystical reference will then be to the secret machinations of the devil and his ministers, ghostly or human, to destroy the souls which CHRIST came to save; and He is implored, therefore, by the Blood of His Covenant, to “send forth His prisoners out of the pit where is no water:”* truly a dark place of the earth, where afflicted souls are cruelly tortured. But the LXX. and Vulgate read, They that are darkened have been filled with the houses of the iniquities of the earth. They are darkened, because, “when they knew GOD, they glorified Him not as GOD, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, (G.) and their foolish heart was darkened.”* Darkened, moreover, with earthly desires and possessions, while their houses of iniquity are those foolish hearts, given up to sin, wherein their thoughts ever dwell. Euthymius refers the whole passage more especially to the Jews, (Z.) whom he calls the dark ones of the earth, now filled, nay, more than filled, with their own iniquity.

21 (22) O let not the simple go away ashamed: but let the poor and needy give praise unto thy Name.

They take it differently, (A.) of those who are humble and poor, knowing themselves to be such, and make their prayer to GOD, (Ay.) as devout Christians; and of those who do not know themselves to be in utter poverty, as the Jews. It is thus a prayer for the fuller acceptance of the former, and for the conversion of the latter. Let us see how glorious is that poverty, (C.) exclaims Cassiodorus, how happy is that neediness to be accounted, which even in silence praises the LORD, and celebrates Him with the might of its patience. If the proud man make music, he is silent; but the poor and needy praise the LORD, even when they seem to be still. O priceless good! if we ponder it within. The poor is GOD’S, the rich belongs to this world; the one is the possession of the Everlasting King, the other that of passing time.

22 (23) Arise, O GOD, maintain thine own cause: remember how the foolish man blasphemeth thee daily.

23 (24) Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the presumption of them that hate thee increaseth ever more and more.

They read, (L.) some of them, my cause; others, our cause: it is all one. The cause of GOD is that of every soul which trusts in Him, (P.) that of the whole company of the faithful. Arise, and come in the flesh to help us; or, arise, not merely sitting on Thy throne in heaven, but lifting Thyself up in might, (G.) to help Thy people. So the hymn,

En a dextris DEI stantem

JESUM pro te dimicantem,*

Stephane, considera.

The foolish man. The Greeks, (Z.) with singular baldness, take this to mean Titus, or any boastful Roman soldier, exulting in the victory of his gods. The Latins, (L.) more deeply, take it of the unbelieving Jewish people, here represented as one person. Thine enemies. There are several variants here. Thy suppliants is the Gallican reading; them that pray to Thee, the Italic, the Illyrian, and S. Augustine; the Roman and Cassiodorus, them that seek Thee, which is retained in the introit of the Roman Missal for the thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost. Of them that hate Thee. Here the Schoolmen raise the question,* How can GOD, Who is the Supreme Good, and altogether lovely, (Ay.) be the object of hate? And they answer that He cannot be so in His Essence; but that certain results of His justice and holiness, taking the form of prohibition, prevention, and punishment of sin, are hateful to evil-doers, and that He is said, in this secondary sense, to be hated. Increaseth. The Vulgate reads,* ascendeth. That is, goeth up unto Thee, into Thine ears, that Thou mayest note and punish it; or ascendeth up higher and higher,* that it may be cast down more terribly in the Doom. With this last meaning we may compare those terrible words of the Apocalypse, “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever; and they have no rest day or night who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.”*


Glory be to the FATHER, Who hath given His judgment to the SON; glory be to the SON, Who hath judged the city of Jerusalem, and Who will yet judge the whole Church; glory be to the HOLY GHOST, Who in His just judgment shall protect those poor in spirit, of whom it is said, The poor and needy shall give praise unto Thy Name.

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

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