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

Gregorian. As preceding.

Parisian. First portion: The children * which were yet unborn; to the intent that when they came up, they might teach their children the same; that they might put their trust in GOD. Second portion: He took away * His people like sheep, and brought them out in hope.

Monastic. Incline * your ear to the words of My mouth.

Ambrosian. As preceding Psalm.

Lyons. First portion: As Monastic. Second portion: He chose the tribe of Judah, even the hill of Sion, which He loved.

Mozarabic. Incline your car to the words of My mouth, * My people, hear My law.

This long Psalm is unquestionably a religious protest from the Temple of Jerusalem against the schism of the Northern kingdom headed by the powerful tribe of Ephraim, at some period after the reign of Solomon. There are two occasions which seem to fit in with its language more than any others, to either of which it may be ascribed. The first is the outbreak of war between Abijah and Jeroboam I., and perhaps just after the great battle in which the latter was defeated. (2 Chron. 13) The second is the proclamation of Hezekiah, summoning all Israel and Judah to keep the Passover together at Jerusalem for the first time, since the revolt from Rehoboam. (2 Chron. 30) The former of these opinions is that preferred by most critics; but the mention of Asaph in the title does not interfere with either view, as the name undoubtedly denotes a family, and not a single person.

1 Hear my law, O my people: incline your ears unto the words of my mouth.

They begin by asking who is the speaker here. And the answers vary. Some, of whom the greatest are S. Augustine, Cassiodorus, and Dionysius the Carthusian, take it of the FATHER; S. Athanasius, S. Jerome, and Beda, with several others, (G.) of CHRIST; S. Bruno of the Church, the mystical synagogue; and others of Asaph himself, or David. My people, whom I have made Mine own by separating thee from the nations, (D. C.) and by delivering thee from Pharaoh’s power. Hear My law, (G.) not only that given on Sinai, especially the ten moral precepts, but the higher law (of which the earlier dispensation was but a figure) given after your rescue from the darkness of the spiritual Egypt by the offering of the true Paschal Lamb. Hear, ye on whom I have not laid the burden of the old Law, but to whom I have given a new law, written not on tables of stone, but on the tables of your hearts by My finger, in giving you the HOLY GHOST, to teach you all truth and to declare to you things to come. Incline your ears in faith to the words of My mouth, not going back, because they are hard to be understood, but saying with the Apostle, “LORD, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”*

2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will declare hard sentences of old;

We have an inspired commentary on these words in that chapter of the Gospels which itself contains seven parables. “All these things spake JESUS unto the multitude in parables;* and without a parable spake He not unto them: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Prophet, saying, I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.”* The passage is thus fatal to the bare literal interpretation of Holy Writ,* as it teaches us that all the events recorded therein have a deeper mystical intent underlying the narrative,* a truth on which S. Paul dwells more than once. I will open My mouth. This form of speech occurs but rarely in Scripture,* and always marks some important utterance to follow. Thus begins the account of Job’s words: “Then Job opened his mouth.” (Cd.) It is spoken again of CHRIST’S Sermon on the Mount,* of S. Philip’s instruction to the eunuch,* and of S. Peter’s recognition of the Gentiles.* Hard sentences of old. The Gospel gloss receives a supercommentary from the Apostle, (L.) exhaustive of the meaning: “The preaching of JESUS CHRIST,* according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the Prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting GOD, made known to all nations for the obedience of the faith.” Of old. The Vulgate reads from the beginning. Where note that CHRIST is the beginning and the end; because the beginning is infinite,* so must be the end. Wherefore, He is ever beginning, whether He begin or end. He ever beginneth, for He can lack no perfection, and therefore cometh to no defect, and He is thus perfect, because He is the Alpha and Omega.

3 Which we have heard and known: and such as our fathers have told us;

4 That we should not hide them from the children of the generations to come: but to show the honour of the LORD, his mighty and wonderful works that he hath done.

We have heard from the Prophets of the Old Testament, (C.) we have known by the revelation of CHRIST the WORD,* as it is written, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, (Ay.) and our hands have handled, of the WORD of Life.”* Our fathers have told us. According to the Commandment in the Law,* which bade them explain to their sons the testimonies, statutes, and judgments which the LORD enjoined them. That we should not hide them. The Vulgate reads, They have not been hidden from their sons in the other generation. They explain it, (C.) their sons by succession of teaching, not of race, the spiritual generation of the Christian Church. Another generation, (A.) notes S. Augustine, because regenerate. The honour of the Lord (where the Vulgate reads praises) denotes,* according to S. Albert, the increase and preservation of the children of Israel, and belongs to GOD’S attribute of goodness. The mighty works refer to the deliverance from Egypt, and belong to His power. The wonderful works to the miraculous feeding, expressive of His wisdom.

5 He made a covenant with Jacob, and gave Israel a law: which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children;

6a (6) That their posterity might know it: and the children which were yet unborn;

6b (7) To the intent that when they came up: they might show their children the same;

He made a covenant. The LXX. and Vulgate,* a little more forcibly, He raised up a covenant, or testimony. (A.) The earlier commentators agree in seeing here a reference to the Ark of the Covenant or testimony,* which was the visible witness to the Law, which had been witnessed before by Angels. (P.) Gerhohus, in a beautiful passage too long to extract, (G.) tells us that all the early Hebrew story, from the visions of Bethel and Peniel, was only the testimony borne by halting Jacob to the coming Lawgiver; and when He, the true Israel, the Prince with GOD, appeared, then mere testimony ceased, and the Law went forth from Sion, written with His finger on the hearts of His Apostles and elect. (R.) When they came up, out of their sins,* to be born anew in the laver of baptism, then they were to be taught fully the mysteries of GOD theretofore hidden from them. (D. C.) These are they of whom the Apostle speaks: “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until CHRIST be formed in you.”*

7 (8) That they might put their trust in GOD: and not to forget the works of GOD, but to keep his commandments;

8 (9) And not to be as their forefathers, a faithless and stubborn generation: a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit cleaveth not steadfastly unto GOD;

Cardinal Hugo tells us that the three theological virtues are summed up in the former of these verses.* Hope is expressly named; Faith keeps GOD’S doings in remembrance; Love seeks to obey Him for His own sake. The union and growth of these virtues in the soul is, then, the end proposed by the whole teaching of this psalm. (L.) They note the epithets of the ninth verse, and point out that all unbelievers against knowledge are included under them; Jews, being faithless and stubborn; heretics, choosing error, that set not their heart aright; and bad Christians, whose spirit cleaveth not steadfastly unto God.

9 (10) Like as the children of Ephraim: who being harnessed, and carrying bows, turned themselves back in the day of battle.

The Targum here mentions a Jewish legend that the Ephraimites sallied out of Egypt thirty years before the Exodus, (Ay.) and after a severe defeat from the first enemies they encountered, (C.) returned to their bondage.* Other literalist interpretations take the words of the pressure put on Aaron to make the golden calf; of the defeat by the Amalekites, (D. C.) at Hormah; of the slaughter of Ephraim’s sons by the Gittites;* and of the more fatal rout by the Philistines, when the Ark was taken, so that the Israelites, in that sense, kept not the covenant of the LORD;* and of the alliance of Ephraim and Syria against Jerusalem, (P.) in the days of Ahaz. The mystical explanations are not less various.* The Doctor of Grace tells us that the words are spoken of them who live by works, and not by faith, that the bows denote outward acts and that shooting with the bow, and then turning back in the battle, implies heeding and purposing in the day of hearing, and deserting in the day of temptation. (A.) S. Gregory the Great explains the passage of Doctors of the Church,* whom Ephraim, “fruitfulness,” denotes, shooting their arrows of rebuke with the elastic cord of the New Testament from the stiff bow of the Old, (B.) but often shrinking from the toil of resolute struggle against the sins and vices of the day.* Again, as Ephraim was set above his elder brother, Manasseh, so the Jewish people was chosen in preference to the Gentile nations, but fell away in its time of probation, despite the arrows of boastful promise to keep the statutes of the LORD. (Ay.) Or we may take it of the rich of this world, abounding in temporal fruitfulness, uttering crafty words of feigned religion, but turning back, and getting behind Satan, in the day of battle,* that is, in the very first approach of a struggle against sin, being too cowardly to await the actual conflict.

10 (11) They kept not the covenant of GOD: and would not walk in his law;

11 (12) But forgat what he had done: and the wonderful works that he had showed for them.

They kept not the covenant as they had promised, (Cd.) saying, “Speak thou unto us all that the LORD our GOD shall speak unto thee, and we will hear it, and do it.” (Lu.) And would not walk in His law, by making progress and persevering therein.* It is not their actions that are here blamed, but their will, since even when they did so walk, it was not heartily. Wherefore they are said not to have done it, because they did it not of good will and love, for there are men who do right, but would cease doing so if they dared. Fear, not love; necessity, not will;* the fear of punishment, not the desire of righteousness, compels them. Thus they go on from falling away and turning back, which may be mere weakness, into forgetting what GOD has done, which is black ingratitude and sin, especially as the works were wonderful and for them. So when CHRIST came, (G.) not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it, by making its moral precepts more stringent, the Jews hated Him, forgat all His wondrous works of healing and mercy, would not walk in His law, and slew Him.

12 (13) Marvellous things did he in the sight of our forefathers, in the land of Egypt: even in the field of Zoan.

Our forefathers. (A.) They raise the question here why the forefathers, but just blamed for unbelief, should be cited here as authorities. The Targum explains it of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to which S. Augustine objects that they were dead before the miracles in Egypt were wrought, though they may have been still present in spirit; and he prefers to understand it of Moses and Aaron. In the land of Egypt. That is, as they for the most part agree, in the spiritual darkness of this world, of which Egypt is a common type in the Bible. In the field of Zoan. The name in the LXX. and Vulgate here is Tanis, a mere linguistic corruption. The word means “low country,” and the expositors, understanding it as “lowly command,” (A.) allegorize it freely. S. Augustine takes it of the lesson of humility given us in the dark world, that we may be exalted in the world to come. Cassiodorus points the remark by citing the words of CHRIST, (C.) “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”* And this law He gave to our fathers His first disciples, when He wrought His miracles in their sight. (G.) He who is the GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the LORD of Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, of whom they were the types. Apostles, because as He told Abraham to go forth from his own country, so He sent His Apostles throughout the world, wherefore S. Peter said, “Lo, we have left all, and followed Thee.” Martyrs, because they devoted themselves freely to death as His Sacrifice, like Isaac. Confessors, because Leah and Rachel, Jacob’s two wives, denote the active and the contemplative life. S. Albert explains Tanis or Zoan of the Blessed Virgin, compared to a plain or field, because it is healthy, smooth,* wide, and fruitful, while she was sinless, gentle, loving, the Mother of the Divine Food; and that field Zoan,* the “lowly command,” because she said, “Be it unto me according to thy word;” and again, “He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden.”

13 (14) He divided the sea, and let them go through: he made the waters to stand on an heap.

He not only brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea, (A.) but brought His spiritual Israel through the waters of Baptism, (G.) reddened with His own Blood, making the flowing and ebbing tides of carnal desire stand still. (Ay.) On a heap, The LXX. and Vulgate read, As in a leathern bottle, because on the one hand these desires are swollen, and on the other, they are so restrained by GOD’S grace as to be unable to flow out and drown the soul.

14 (15) In the day-time also he led them with a cloud: and all the night through with a light of fire.

The cloud is the Incarnation of CHRIST, (A.) whereby He led His people, during the day-time of the world, visible to them in the lowliness of His Flesh. (G.) But in the night, when no man can work, that terrible night of the Judgment,* He will appear as “a consuming fire” in the awful might of His Godhead. (C.) Or, the cloud of the day-time is the shadowy type of the earlier dispensation, the fire of the night, the revelation of the antitype, CHRIST Himself, in the evening of the world. Again, the cloud may denote the Sacramental veils under which He is now hidden, the fire, (Ay.) the open vision yet to come. Once more, the cloud typified Him of Whom it is written, “Thou hast been a shadow from the heat,”* and Who, that He might bestow that shadow, was willing to be planted as a tree in this world, so that the Bride cries: “I sat down under His shadow with great delight.” (D. C.) And then the first words tell us of the cool refreshment of His divine grace; and the latter, speaking of the Light of Light, express the glory of wisdom, the enlightenment of the inner man by CHRIST in all trouble and distress, seeing that He is ever near the afflicted. S. Cyril of Alexandria inverts one of the foregoing explanations, saying that CHRIST led the Jews in the darkness by fire,* that is, by a law of threatenings and punishment,* but that He leads Christians in the light by the watery clouds of Baptism.

15 (16) He clave the hard rocks in the wilderness: and gave them drink thereof, as it had been out of the great depth.

16 (17) He brought waters out of the stony rock: so that it gushed out like the rivers.

Wherever they went,” (G.) observes Gerhohus, “He brought waters for them out of the Rock, which followed them. Not that the rock moved from its place, but the water which flowed therefrom followed them. And one has expressed this wondrous mystery very well in verse, saying:

Bis silicem virgâ Dux perculit atque Propheta,

Ictio bina Ducis sunt duo ligna Crucis,

Fons est de petrâ populo datus absque metretâ,

Larga salus homini corpore de Domini,

For the smitten Rock is CHRIST crucified, from Whose right side flowed pure and living water, of which whoso drinks, it shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. This we say of the SPIRIT,* Whom they that believe in Him receive. And this SPIRIT was certainly typified in that visible water which flowed from the right side of the Temple, to wit, of CHRIST’S Body.* For CHRIST had as it were two sides: the left, according to time, of His weakness and mortality; the right, according to time, of His glorified Humanity. From the left side water did not issue, so long as JESUS was not yet glorified; but His right side poured out water for the salvation of His people, because He, crowned with the glory and honour of the Resurrection, on the very day of His Resurrection and glory breathed on the Apostles, saying, ‘Receive ye the HOLY GHOST:* whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.’ Also, when crowned with the diadem of the Ascension, He poured forth the water of the HOLY GHOST in such abundance that the Apostles and Disciples, drinking thereof, were accounted drunken, and said to be full of new wine.” In the wilderness. In Judea, forsaken of GOD for its sins, as one will have it; on the Cross, where He was desolate and unfriended, (D. C.) as the Carthusian more touchingly explains it. But the majority keep to the usual allegory of the world, as opposed to the Laud of Promise. He brought waters out of the stony rock. (Ay.) Smiting our hard hearts with His Cross, He caused floods of penitential tears to burst forth. So runs that ancient Western collect: “Almighty and most merciful GOD,* Who broughtest a well of living water out of the rock for Thy thirsting people; bring forth tears of compunction from our hard hearts, that we may lament our sins, and of Thy pity, obtain pardon thereof.”* Like the rivers:

Prestad me, fuentes e rios,

Vuestras eternas corrientes,

Aunque en estas cinco fuentes

Las hallan los ojos mios.

17 (18) Yet for all this they sinned more against him: and provoked the most Highest in the wilderness.

Their additional sin, observes S. Augustine, (A.) was unbelief, wherefore it is said that they provoked GOD in drought,1 because, though their bodies drank of the water from the rock, (G.) their minds remained parched and dry of all spiritual grace. And as even Moses failed in belief at this time and place, saying, “Must we fetch you water out of this rock?”* so the Scribes and Pharisees, smiting the true Rock with the two beams of the Cross, believed not that living water would flow out. The punishment of Moses and Aaron for their sin was exclusion from the Promised Land;”* unto whom I sware in My wrath: that they should not enter into My rest,” and the punishment of the unbelieving Jews is exclusion from the Paradise of GOD.* And they too provoke GOD in the dry place who through hardness of heart refuse to weep for their sins.

18 (19) They tempted GOD in their hearts: and required meat for their lust.

Note, (R.) observes Remigius, that the tempting consisted in asking with their lips for that which they thought beyond GOD’S power to give them, and thus the Psalmist condemns all untrustful prayer.* One mediæval commentator applies this text to monks seeking mitigation of their fasts and rules of diet from their superiors, without adequate cause. The Carthusian, (D. C.) more deeply, extends it to all Christians who neglect the SAVIOUR’S counsel:* “Seek ye first the kingdom of GOD and His righteousness;” and, “Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” but are anxiously disquieted about mere temporal things. (Ay.) They remind us, as. to tempting, (L.) that the act is ascribed to GOD, to man, and to the devil, and in all cases it implies making trial of the person tempted. It is never taken in a good sense when man is said to tempt GOD, by making unnecessary trial of His power, goodness, or wisdom, it is never in a bad sense when GOD is said to tempt man, it may be good or bad when one man tempts another, and it is always evil when the devil tempts man.

19 (20) They spake against GOD also, saying: Shall GOD prepare a table in the wilderness?

20 (21) He smote the stony rock indeed, that the water gushed out, and the streams flowed withal: but can he give bread also, or provide flesh for his people?

Gerhohus acutely remarks that the form their unbelief took was ascribing the miracle of the water to natural causes. (G.) They admitted the fact, but denied its true character, and now demanded a test from Moses; (C.) and he thus pierces more deeply into the nature of their sin than those who see here a denial of GOD’S omnipotence.* The words have been also most aptly applied to those unbelievers who said, “How can this Man give us His Flesh to eat?”* and then to the heretics of a later day,* acknowledging one Baptism for the remission of sins, but denying the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, Another acute criticism of Gerhohus deserves citation. (G.) He observes that two objections have been brought against the order of events in this Psalm; first, that the literal manna preceded the striking of the rock; and next, that the institution of the Holy Eucharist preceded the issue of water from CHRIST’S side. He replies that the Prophet has done it rightly, because the Passion, whose power and virtue underlie the Sacrament, and give it efficacy, began before the Last Supper, because the Betrayal had taken place, and the horror of the Agony was drawing near; and Christians now must be baptized into the Passion and Death of CHRIST before they can approach to feed on His Flesh and Blood at the Holy Altar, the Table which He has prepared for His people in the wilderness of this world. Yet another interpretation may be added, taking the words of those who disbelieve in the full remission of sins. They allow that GOD can touch a hard heart, and dissolve it into tears of remorse; they doubt His power to strengthen the penitent in perseverance, and to feed his soul with divine grace unto the end.

21 (22) When the LORD heard this, he was wroth: so the fire was kindled in Jacob, and there came up heavy displeasure against Israel.

22 (23) Because they believed not in GOD: and put not their trust in his help.

For He was wroth, (C.) the Vulgate reads He delayed. And they explain it that in His longsuffering He deferred the punishment deserved, nay, even heard their petition. And this longsuffering of the LORD is most plainly evident, observes the Carthusian, under the New Law. (D. C.) Heathen philosophers knew somewhat of GOD’S majesty; Jews knew His righteousness, but only Christians know His patience. (L.) So the fire was kindled in Jacob.* They take it literally of the burning at Taberah when the people complained, and then of avenging wrath in general. (R.) But Remigius and Richard of Hampole agree in seeing here the fire of appetite kindled in the hearts of the murmurers by their own act, on account of which displeasure came up, so as to reach the very chief of the people. The English hermit continues his explanation by pointing out that when Jacob (that is, all Christians bound to wrestle against sin,) is kindled with earthly passion, then wrath ascends upon Israel, on those priests and prelates whose duty it is to warn and correct by precept and example.* In His help. The A. V. more correctly, agreeing with the LXX. and Vulgate, In His salvation: and thus the words tell us of that day when the firebrand of the Roman soldier caught the golden window of the Temple,* and the doom of Israel was accomplished because it believed not in GOD’S Salvation, the Crucified Son of David. Cardinal Hugo explains this whole passage,* like the previous verses, as referring to the impugners of the Holy Eucharist; and the Carthusian takes it of all sinful Christians, (D. C.) unrepentant even when the Church has been scourged by infidels, heretics, and tyrants, for their sins.

23 (24) So he commanded the clouds above: and opened the doors of heaven.

This, (C.) observes Cassiodorus, is one of the parables and hard sentences of the Psalm, and denotes the command given to the clouds, His preachers, to declare, through the Holy Scriptures, (D. C.) which are the doors of heaven,* the advent of the SAVIOUR, Who comes to be received as the Manna of our souls, in the mystery of Communion. They take the clouds also of the Angels, employed as messengers of the Incarnation, as when S. Gabriel came to Nazareth, and the heavenly host appeared to the shepherds of Bethlehem, and the doors of heaven are then explained as the mouth of the Apostles, opened to preach Wisdom, or, more literally, as denoting the everlasting doors lifted up to allow the egress of the angelic herald. And Rupert beautifully explains these doors of the body and soul of the Virgin Mother of GOD. The LORD opened her soul to receive His command in faith, and her womb that His Only-begotten might come forth:

Tu Regis alti janua

Et porta lucis fulgida;*

Vitam datam per Virginem

Gentes redemptæ plaudite!

24 (25) He rained down manna also upon them for to eat: and gave them bread from heaven.

25 (26) So man did cat angels’ food: for he sent them meat enough.

The Greek Fathers remind us that the literal manna is said by CHRIST not to have come from heaven,* when the Jews quoted this very text:* “Verily, (Z.) verily,* I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven, but My FATHER giveth you the true bread from heaven,” and that manna is called Angels’ food, not because the Angels eat of it, but because they ministered it. And the Chaldee Targum, paraphrasing thus, “food which came down from the dwelling-place of Angels,” (D. C.) partly supports this teaching. The Latin Fathers, however, seasonably remind us that CHRIST, the true Manna, is rightly called Angels’ food, because the heavenly powers derive their life and vigour from contemplating Him in open vision. So S. Peter Damiani:

Where the Sacred Body lieth,* eagle souls together speed,

There the Saints and there the Angels find refreshment in their need,

And the sons of earth and heaven on that One Bread ever feed.

How CHRIST is fitly compared to Manna, we may read in the eloquent words of the Carmelite. (Ay.) “As the manna came down like dew or rain, so CHRIST descended upon earth into the Virgin like the rain into a fleece of wool. As the manna was like coriander seed, a fragrant herb, so CHRIST was the fruit of the Blessed Virgin, a sweet and fruitful plant, as she herself rightly speaks,* As the vine brought I forth pleasant savour.’ It is said to have been white, because of His purity, which He ever retained, for ‘He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.’ It is said to have been beaten in a mortar, because of the pains which He endured. Its taste was like honey, because of His spiritual sweetness. And it is particularly stated that the children of Israel gathered it every day except on the Sabbath. Where note, that the six days wherein it was gathered denote our toilsome life in this world, and by the Sabbath we understand that blessed life which is free from labour. So long as we live in this world, then, we need this spiritual food of CHRIST’S Body. Therefore It is daily sacrificed in the Church, and is received for the support of devout believers. Wherefore It is that daily bread for which we daily ask, saying, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ But in the life of blessedness, there will be no need of this Sacrament, because we shall see Him as He is. Therefore it is said, that the manna was not gathered on the Sabbath, but that a double portion was gathered on the sixth day, to signify that this food, given to the righteous at their end, not merely increases their merit, but leads them to the kingdom. And it seems wonderful that all meted the same measure, so that he who gathered much had no more, and he who gathered little, no less; which figured that in the Sacrament whole CHRIST is contained in the whole, and the whole in each part, so that he who receives an entire Host, receives just as much as he who takes a part, and conversely.* It is said to have been collected to the amount of an omer, which is a measure of three pints, to denote that we have to take account of three things in that Sacrament, to wit, the Body, Soul, and Divinity, which are united. And observe, that the children of Israel said, when they saw that food, Man hu, which is, being interpreted, What is this? For if we ponder on what this Sacrament contains, we shall find many wonders, surpassing all natural thought.” To set down here all that Saints of old have loved to say on this great mystery, (A.) in hymn, and liturgy, and comment, would be impossible. Enough, if we cite a very few. Thus, in accordance with that belief expressed by so many Saints, that the Angels throng round the Altar when the Holy Sacrifice is being offered,* we have the Prayer of the Cherubic Hymn from the ancient Church of Jerusalem:

King of Kings,* yet born of Mary, as of old on earth He stood,

LORD of Lords, in human vesture,—in the Body and the Blood,

He will give to all the faithful His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven spreads its vanguard on the way,

As the Light of Light descendeth from the realms of endless day,

That the powers of hell may vanish as the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six-winged Seraph, Cherubim with sleepless eye,

Veil their faces to the Presence, as with ceaseless voice they cry,

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, LORD Most High!

They tell us, (Cd.) too, of the purity and holiness, like that of Angels, which befits those who would receive that Food, even Him Who feedeth among the lilies. “Hadst thou the purity of Angels,* and the holiness of S. John the Baptist,” says one whose golden words have strengthened countless devout souls, “thou wouldest not be worthy to receive or handle this Sacrament. For it is due to no human merits that man may hallow and touch the Sacrament of CHRIST, and take the Bread of Angels for his food.” The word which all the old Versions agree in rendering Angels is, more literally, mighty ones. Fitly is that meat called “the food of mighty men” which strengthened so many athletes in the arena of martyrdom, which gave women and children the valour of heroes, so that of their last struggle they might say,

O that Bread! that Bread of Angels!

O that Corn of mighty men!

Never, never had we tasted

Of its mightiness as then!

He sent them meat enough. The LXX. agreeing with modern critics, translate by ἐπισιτισμόν, food for the journey, a fitting name for the mystic food, whether as the cake baken on the coals of bitter suffering,* in the strength of which Elijah went through the wilderness forty days and forty nights unto the mount of GOD, typifying the pilgrimage of all Christian souls, or as the viaticum in that yet more awful journey when the soul goes forth alone. The Vulgate reads cibaria, in the plural,* and Rupert reminds us, that though CHRIST be the One Bread, yet as He gives Himself freely like the rain, in all lands and nations and countless churches, we may well say foods, (D. C.) multiplied as He is unspeakably to be the nourishment of His people. (B.)

O esca viatorum,

O panis Angelorum,

O Manna coelitum,

Esurientes ciba,

Dulcedine non priva

Cor te quærentium.

Enough, for all, and that to the end of the world.

26 (27) He caused the east wind to blow under heaven: and through his power he brought in the south-west wind.

In the first clause S. Jerome’s version reads, (Ay.) He took away the east wind, that is,* made it cease to blow, in order that the westerly wind from the Red Sea might bring over the quails from Africa. And it is explained mystically of GOD sometimes punishing man by taking from him the wholesome but painful wind of discipline, (Cd.) and giving him the softer but dangerous airs of temporal prosperity.* Another interpretation sees here the rejection of the Jewish people, and the bringing in the Gentiles in their room. (D. C.) The Vulgate reading, transtulit, is explained by the Carthusian to denote the sending forth preachers, whom the winds typify, through the world; the south wind (Vulg. Auster) denoting the most saintly and lofty teachers of the Gospel, and the south-west wind a lower and less mystical class.* Cardinal Hugo, keeping still the Eucharistic Sacrifice in view, understands here the breath of the HOLY SPIRIT effecting the consecration, and the attendant ranks of angels which accompany the rite.

27 (28) He rained flesh upon them as thick as dust: and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea.

Flesh, (B.) in that He taught them the doctrine of the Incarnate WORD; and that like dust, either because He was light in arising, because of His holiness, and free from all the waters of sin, or because He was humbled even to the dust for our sakes. Feathered fowls.* Cardinal Hugo explains it of the Angels who bore the soul of CHRIST from heaven to earth at the Incarnation. (G.) Gerhohus takes it of the winged words of doctrine, clean or unclean, according as they are Catholic or heretical. Ayguan, (Ay.) interpreting the flesh as bodily troubles, takes the fowls to be spiritual consolations, arising up from those very troubles, and bearing our souls upwards towards GOD. Another will have it that both clauses denote earthly pleasures:* the flesh which brings us to the dust; the frivolous enjoyment, which, uplifting us for a brief moment, brings at last to barrenness and bitterness, denoted by the sand of the sea. Once more, the feathered fowls have been explained in a good sense, as contemplative Saints, friends of GOD, (D. C.) whom He rains upon the Church to be the pastors of souls.

28 (29) He let it fall among their tents: even round about their habitation.

Their tents, (Z.) implying the general diffusion of the gift throughout the host of Israel; their habitation, showing that each person in the camp had his own private share. Thus it tells us of the Flesh of CHRIST given to the Churches at large, and also to be the food of individual Christians. Their tents, again, (D. C.) as so often, denoting the militant Saints of active life; their habitation the stiller retreat of the contemplative, both filled alike with the bounty of GOD.

29 (30) So they did eat, and were well filled; for he gave them their own desire: they were not disappointed of their lust.

They remind us that in the eagerness of the Jews for earthly food,* and the full contentment of their longing, we may see the Christian desire for spiritual delights, and especially for Communion with CHRIST in His own Sacrament. He gives them Himself, the Desire of all nations; He does not disappoint them, for He is more than they can imagine or hope.

30–31 (31) But while the meat was yet in their mouths, the heavy wrath of GOD came upon them, and slew the wealthiest of them: yea, and smote down the chosen men that were in Israel.

Not in the mouths of the elect, (D. C.) but of them who eat unworthily, into whom Satan enters, as he did into the traitor Judas, and of whom the Apostle says, “Whosoever shall eat this bread or drink this cup of the LORD unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and Blood of the LORD.”* And slew the wealthiest of them. The A. V. more exactly reads, as does the Vulgate, the fattest of them. That is, continues the Carthusian, He slays spiritually them who receive CHRIST carnally, by taking from them charity and grace. For, as the Apostle says,* “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the LORD’S Body.” And smote down (Vulg., hindered) the chosen men that were in Israel. He excluded those who seemed to be eminent in the Church from entering the heavenly kingdom, because of unworthy communion; for the word chosen does not always in Holy Writ imply election to everlasting life.* The slaying applies sometimes even to temporal chastisements, since the Apostle adds to the previous sayings, “For this cause many are weak and sickly amongst you,* and many sleep.”

32 But for all this they sinned yet more: and believed not his wondrous works.

33 Therefore their days did he consume in vanity: and their years in trouble.

They refer the words in the first place to the evil report brought back by the spies, (Ay.) and to the consequent reluctance of the Israelites to attempt the conquest of Canaan; (P.) followed as it was by the punishment of the forced wandering in the desert, till all the adults save Caleb and Joshua were consumed in vanity, that is, cut off in the vain and endless toil of the wilderness; thus losing, as Parez adds, the hope revealed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of being buried in the land where Messiah should make His grave,* that they might share in His Resurrection; a hope which induced Joseph to command the removal of his bones from Egypt.* In trouble. The LXX., Syriac, and Vulgate read with speed. And they explain it of the sudden judgments which fell on them, as in the matter of Korah, and of the fiery serpents, (Ay.) Exactly like this was the unbelief of the Jews in the time of CHRIST, refusing to believe, though they saw so many signs and wonders wrought by Him. Wherefore it is said,* “But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him: that the saying of Esaias the Prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, LORD, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the LORD been revealed?”* They preferred to go back into the Egypt of the carnal and ceremonial law, (P.) and their doom is to perish in the spiritual wilderness, finding no entrance into the rest of the people of GOD. (z.) Vanity and speed are rightly conjoined here, remarks Euthymius, because all who live easy and frivolous lives find the years pass swiftly by them; while those who labour intently in the paths of virtue find their time long by reason of their toil.

34 When he slew them, they sought him: and turned them early, and inquired after GOD.

GOD,” observes Lactantius, rebuking the heathen,* “passes away most readily from men’s recollection, just when they ought to give honour to Divine mercy, as enjoying His bounties. But if any heavy trouble come upon them—if the terrors of war resound—if deadly pestilence brood over them—if long drought deny sustenance to the corn—if wild storms or hail come upon them—they have recourse to GOD; they ask His aid; GOD is besought to help.… They never remember GOD save when they are in distress; but when fear is over and perils are gone, then they hurry eagerly to the temples of the gods. To these they make libations and sacrifices, and offer crowns. But GOD, Whom they besought in their need, they do not thank by so much as a word.”

Here, too, a false repentance is set before us. They sought Him, (Ay.) not for the sake of eternal life, (A.) but fearing to end the vapour too soon. It was not they whom He slew that sought Him, but those who feared to be slain in like manner. But the Scripture speaks thus because they were one people, (G.) and it is spoken as of one body. Early, like hirelings obliged to come at a fixed hour, but not like men ready to endure the burden and heat of the day, far less to persevere until the evening, like that true labourer of GOD of whom it is written, “Man goeth forth to his work, and to his labour, until the evening.”* And inquired after God. The Vulgate reads, came unto Him. How may this be? asks Gerhohus. Is He, Who is everywhere, to be approached on foot, in chariots or on horses, in ships, or any like means? Nay, only by the movements of the heart can we come to GOD or depart from Him.

35 And they remembered that GOD was their strength: and that the high GOD was their Redeemer.

It would not be said here,* tersely remarks a Saint,* that they remembered, (P.) if they had not first forgotten. Their strength, or, as LXX. and Vulgate, their helper, against Amalek, their redeemer from Pharaoh. Where note that the title Redeemer is here given to the FATHER, (C.) as it is also in another place to the SON,* “If the SON therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed;” and in a third passage to the HOLY GHOST, “for the law of the SPIRIT of life in CHRIST JESUS hath made me free from the law of sin and death;”* wherefore the attributes of power and redemption are common to the Holy Trinity. Moreover, the SON is our Helper, (B.) by co-operating with our good works, as He was our Redeemer on the Cross.

36 Nevertheless, they did but flatter him with their mouth: and dissembled with him in their tongue.

37 For their heart was not whole with him: neither continued they steadfast in his covenant.

The old Versions, (Ay.) yet more forcibly, read, They loved Him in their mouth. This false love, offered to Him before Whom all the secrets of the heart are bare, endured till the time of CHRIST. Wherefore He Himself saith, “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,* This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me.”* Isaiah foresaw, comments S. Hrabanus, the deceits wherewith the Jews should craftily war against the Gospel, and he speaks in the person of the LORD. For they honoured CHRIST with their lips when they said, “Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of GOD in truth;”* but their heart was far from Him, when they “sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of His words.”* And if we take the passage to refer to false Christians, especially to the traitor Apostle, we may dwell on the reading of the Illyrian Psalter, They kissed Him with their lips. Their heart was not right, remarks Gerhohus, (G.) precisely because it was not with Him. And they were not steadfast in His covenant, (P.) because they failed to keep the precepts of the Law, even under the terrible sanctions of the blessings and curses.* Nor were they faithful in the inheritance of the New Testament, (A.) faith in which, though veiled, was found amongst the elect even then; and now that it is revealed, it is not found in many of the called. A German commentator sums up this verse with a quaint old Teutonic saw:

Lieben ohne Treu,*

Beichten ohne Reu,

Und beten ohne Innigkeit,

Die drei Ding sind verlohrne Arbeit.1

38a (38) But he was so merciful, that he forgave their misdeeds: and destroyed them not.

38b (39) Yea, many a time turned he his wrath away: and would not suffer his whole displeasure to arise.

GOD is merciful to both good and bad, “for He maketh His sun to rise upon the evil and the good, (Ay.) and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust;” and this as regards temporal blessings. But this is the mercy of His left hand, not of His right; temporal, not spiritual; since it is common to good and bad. In this wise GOD was merciful to that nation, in that He did not root it out from the earth, as it deserved. The spiritual mercy, that of His right hand, whereby sins are remitted and eternal blessings are conferred, is quite other. That He did not bestow on that evil generation, for the greater part of them perished in the wilderness, for murmuring and rebelling against GOD. Therefore, when it is said that He forgave their misdeeds, it is not to be understood of their evil fathers, but of the children who succeeded them, such as David, Hezekiah, Josiah, and Daniel, and other righteous men, to whose misdeeds GOD was merciful when they sinned, as clearly appears in the case of David. And destroyed them not. It is well said, many a time.* Once He spared them at the intreaty of Moses, (L.) after the sin of the Golden Calf;* a second time at Taberah; thirdly,* when Aaron stood with his censer between the living and the dead; fourthly, by means of the brazen serpent; fifthly, by suffering the younger generation to enter Canaan. (G.) And even when the sins continued, He reserved the root of the tree whose branches He lopped, (B.) from which shot forth the Apostles and the first company of believers, (R.) not suffering His whole displeasure to arise. Even still He holds to His pledge, keeping a remnant of the Jews undestroyed, that they may turn at the last to CHRIST.

The Doctor of Grace warns us that this text has been abused by those who, (A.) desirous of continuing in sin, exalt GOD’S mercy at the expense of His justice. But, rejoins he, if, to speak in their own words, GOD will perhaps not destroy even bad men, He will certainly not destroy good men. Why then do we not rather choose that wherein there is no doubt? For they that lie to Him in their tongue, while their heart holds somewhat else, think and wish even GOD to be a liar, when He threatens them with everlasting punishment. But as they do not deceive Him with their lie, so He does not deceive them with His truth.

39 (40) For he considered that they were but flesh: and that they were even a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

Two things are set before us here:* GOD’S clemency, for He considered; and man’s wretchedness. The latter is twofold. He is but flesh, and therefore liable to sin. He is a spirit that passeth away from GOD and holiness,* and has no power to come again; as it is written, “None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life.”* No power of himself, (A.) doubtless, adds S. Augustine, but he can be called back by grace. And that fitly; for man, who fell at another’s tempting, (G.) may well be restored by another’s help. But he who fell by his own pride may rise again, if he can,* with no helper; but because he cannot, he may be styled as truly as man is (nay, more truly) a spirit that passeth away, and cometh not again, even as the Truth said unto him, “Get thee hence, Satan.”* It was not said to him, as in the Song of Songs to the faithful soul, the Bride of GOD, “Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee.”* And the words are also a terse definition of death, telling us how the spirit passeth away from this world, and cometh not again, (Ay.) but leaves the flesh here behind.

And what’s a life? a weary pilgrimage,

Whose glory in one day doth fill thy stage

With childhood, manhood, and decrepit age.*

And what’s a life? the flourishing array

Of the proud summer meadow, which to-day

Wears her green blush, and is to-morrow hay.

And what’s a life? a blast sustained with clothing,

Maintained with food, retained with vile self-loathing,

Then, weary of itself, again to nothing.

40 (41) Many a time did they provoke him in the wilderness: and grieved him in the desert.

Already, (Ay.) when they were but in the second year of their wanderings, GOD complained that they had tempted Him “ten times;”* and it may thence be gathered how often they did so during the eight and thirty years which followed. The ten occasions were—(1) Murmuring at the three days’ thirst,* after the passage of the Red Sea; (2) Complaining for lack of food; (3) The second demand for water, at Rephidim; (4) The Golden Calf; (5) The demand for flesh-meat; (6) The attempt to return into Egypt after the report of the spies; (7) The mutiny after the death of Korah; (8) The complaint because of the judgment of the mutineers; (9) The third demand for water, at Kadesh; (10) The revolt at Mount Hor, punished with fiery serpents. The place where they committed their sin was an aggravation of it, because it was precisely in the wilderness, with no human help near, (G.) that they ought to have felt most dependence on and trust in GOD.* The words hold true still of all who are far from the spiritual Church,* wandering in the wilderness of their sins, in the dry place unwatered by the streams of grace.

41 (42) They turned back, and tempted GOD: and moved the Holy One in Israel.

Turned. Whence and whither? From good to evil. Moved. The LXX. and Vulgate read exasperated. But the A. V. reads limited, that is, set bounds to His omnipotence. The Hebrew is הִתְווּ, the Hiphil of תָּוָה, which is properly “to mark with a Thau,” the sign of the Cross. Hence the Targum explains the passage signed Him with a sign, which Delitzsch adopts in the sense of casting a stigma on Him.* Most of the old Versions and of modern critics agree with the Vulgate,* taking תָּוָה in the sense of the Syriac ܬܘ݀ܐ; but Gerhohus,* keeping to the hint given by the Chaldee, boldly paraphrases, (G.) They crucified the Holy One in Israel; (L.) and thus limited Him, the Omnipresent, to the narrow bounds of the Rood.

42 (43) They thought not of his hand: and of the day when he delivered them from the hand of the enemy.

43 (44) How he had wrought his miracles in Egypt: and his wonders in the field of Zoan.

So, (Lu.) too, bad Christians have thought not of His hand, nailed for them on the Cross, that day when He delivered them, after having wrought His miracles in the darkness of this world, of which Egypt is the type, (R.) and shown His wonders in Zoan, the low estate” of His humble Manhood, the “lowliness” of His Maiden Mother, the mean origin of His princes, the Apostles.* Hereupon there follows a list of plagues sent on the Egyptians, agreeing in number with those recorded in Exodus, (A.) but differing in details and order. The three omissions are the lice, the boils, and the darkness; the additions are the caterpillar or “blight,” (Vulg. ærugo,) the frost, and the hot thunderbolts—a special agent of destruction, and not a mere accompaniment of the storms. (L.) Lorinus applies here the canon of S. Jerome, that when in Holy Writ the topic is the praise of GOD, the historical order is frequently departed from, and a rhetorical one adopted instead, inverting the sequence of events. The actual order of the ten plagues may be recalled by Cardinal Hugo’s mnemonic verses:*

Sanguis, rana, cyniph, muscæ, pecus, ulcera, grando,

Bruchus, caligo, mors, invaluere necando.

44 (45) He turned their waters into blood: so that they might not drink of the rivers.

The especial appropriateness of the plagues which fell on the Egyptians to the circumstances and the religion of the country, (A.) has often been dwelt on. Their mystical import has not been less discussed. The first plague, of blood, is thus interpreted as the punishment for breach of the first Commandment, denoting, as it does,* the change of men’s thoughts from pure and lofty ideas of GOD to carnal and animal ones, leading to debased idolatry. (Ay.) Again, it is taken as the token of Divine anger for the decree enjoining the drowning of the Hebrew infants. Rupert combines these two ideas,* explaining the passage of idolatrous persecutors, who shed the blood of the Saints, and whose punishment is to be blood-drinking, not for one or two days, but a whole week, that is, through eternity. Cardinal Hugo takes it in two ways: first, of those who give themselves up to flesh and blood, so that all things turn into condemnation for them; and secondly, of the tasteless water of the old Law, changed into the Blood of the New Covenant, ruddy from the veins of CHRIST.* Once more, another mediæval writer speaks thus: “There is a conversion of water into blood, but that is confined to the Egyptians. There is another conversion of water into wine, but that is at a marriage. And there is a. third conversion, of wine into blood, but that is in the LORD’S Supper.* The first conversion, of water into blood, is said to mean that the water of deadly wisdom, the wisdom of this world, the prudence of the flesh, turns into blood; that is, into death for them who walk according to the flesh. For the prudence of the flesh is death, and the wisdom of the flesh is at enmity with GOD. The Prophet, censuring men of this stamp, saith, ‘What hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink muddy water?1 or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?’* For all earthly wisdom, whereof the Egyptians (the friends of this world, GOD’S enemies) drink, is hateful to GOD. Therefore the water of Egypt is that which is turned into blood, because its blood is on them who drink it. The second change is of water into wine, and this seems to denote conversion, to wit, of fear into the love of righteousness. This change takes place at a marriage, because the Church is betrothed to GOD in faith and righteousness, that righteousness which is of faith in JESUS CHRIST. The third change, of wine into blood, is when righteousness so delights the soul, that one is ready to contend for it unto blood and death; and this is the perfection of righteousness.”

What is this silent might,

Making our darkness light,*

New wine our waters, heavenly Blood our wine?

CHRIST, with His Mother dear,

And all His Saints, is here,

And where they dwell is Heaven, and what they touch, divine.

45 (46) He sent lice among them, and devoured them up: and frogs to destroy them.

The A. V. here, instead of lice,* reads divers sorts of flies, which represents a reading suggested by S. Jerome in the LXX., κοινόμυιαν,* instead of the usual one, κυνόμυιαν or dog-fly. The Hebrew word is עָרֹב, a mixture; and the very ancient tradition mentioned in the Book of Wisdom, and accepted by Josephus, R. Jonathan, R. Aben Ezra, and R. Ishaki,* alleges the plague to have been not of flies, but of wild beasts. Gesenius, however, giving the sense of to suck to the radical עָרַב, follows Bochart in accepting the LXX.* interpretation, which is also that of the Roman, Gallican, Arabic, and Illyrian Psalters. S. Isidore, holding this view, urges that the fly, as a restless insect,* was the fit punishment for restless and unquiet minds; and the Carmelite adds, that the dog-fly aptly denotes the animal passions and pursuits of the Egyptians. So far back as Origen’s time the text was applied in this sense against the Cynics. (Ay.) S. Augustine notes the fact that dogs are born blind,* so that they cannot see their parents; (A.) and Rupert, therefore, takes this, the fourth plague,* as punishment for breach of the fourth Commandment, (according to the Latin reckoning,) which extends,* the Gloss tells us, to those who despise the prelates of the Church. Frogs denote talkative vanity,* especially, as some will have it, (B.) the idle fables of heathen poetry and philosophy; and thus the peril of sins of the tongue is pointed out,* in particular those committed by heretics in their resistance to the Gospel, (D. C.) by the word destroy. S. Gregory Nyssen, however, takes frogs,* as denizens of the mud, to denote persons of voluptuous and self-indulgent life, whom the very waters do not cleanse. Ayguan expands this idea, taking the frogs to mean the three chief sins of the modern world, pride, luxury,* and avarice.* The frog dwells in foul and muddy waters, (Ay.) which denote luxury. Next, the belly of the frog is far larger than any other part of its body, and keeps close to the ground; thus signifying those who are greedy of earthly riches. Thirdly, the frog advances by leaps; and this is a type of those who attempt to lift themselves to high position by a sudden bound, unwilling to pass by the true mean of the middle space, whereby honour is won. Wherefore of these three sins it is said, “I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon.”*

46 (47) He gave their fruit unto the caterpillar: and their labour unto the grasshopper.

The LXX. reads ἐρυσίβη, or blight, with which the Vulgate arugo agrees. (A.) Aquila and S. Jerome have bruchus,* and the probable meaning of חָסִיל is the wingless locust, or the larva of the locust. The blight, says a Saint, is hidden sin, and particularly the sin of self-sufficiency, which kills the soul when it seems to be healthiest, The grasshopper, or rather the locust, observes S. Augustine, is malice hurting with the mouth, that is, with false witness. And Rupert, taking the same view, teaches that it especially denotes the false witness of heretics, saying, that as the locusts were carried into Egypt, not by their own flight, but by a wind, so those who quote Scripture against the truth are not borne, as they suppose, on the wings of knowledge, but by the wind of spiritual pride, to the subversion of their hearers, (C.) and their own destruction.* And others refer the term chiefly to envious detractors. (D. C.)

47 (48) He destroyed their vines with hailstones: and their mulberry-trees with the frost.

By this plague is shown,” says the Carmelite,* “how GOD alarms the life of the evil by the words of His preachers, (Ay.) and calls them back to grace. Wherefore Gregory saith, By hail or snow, cold and hard,* we understand the hearts of the evil. But since Almighty GOD chooses His Saints from such, and knows well how many elect He possesses who are as yet exposed amidst the life of the evil, He fittingly describes Himself as having His treasures in snow and hail. These elect He brings out at His command, and by heavenly grace makes them white with the purity of righteousness. Saul was hail and snow at first by his cold insensibility; but he was made to be snow and hail against the breasts of his adversaries, by the whiteness of his righteousness and by the smiting of his vigorous speech. O what a treasure GOD had then in snow and hail, when the LORD saw him, His secretly elect, living in the life of evil! O what hail was that He took in His hand to smite full many a breast of the adversaries, hail wherewith He laid low so many hearts that resisted Him! Let no man, then, be uplifted because of his own works, nor despair of them whom he sees to be still cold, because he does not see the treasures in the snow and hail.” The LORD destroys vines with hailstones when He strikes at carnal pleasures with the wise sayings of preachers. Others, following S. Augustine, take the verse in a bad sense, (A.) of the sins of violence and coldness. (D. C.) So the tyrannical and rapacious, while oppressing others, slay their own souls, and destroy their own former good works with the frost of hatred and ill-will, which is iciness of the soul.* The Vulgate for vines reads vineyards, and then we may take the vineyard to be the Church, and the mulberry-trees its Priests; for they should bear fruit, at first white in purity of life; then red, in fervour of charity; and lastly black, in mortification of the flesh. Of these it is written, “To the end they might provoke the elephants to fight, they showed them the blood of grapes and mulberries.”* Frost, arising from the waters, is the love of riches, which is fatal to the priesthood; and hail denotes their quarrels and dissensions.

48 (49) He smote their cattle also with hailstones: and their flocks with hot thunderbolts.

By the death of beasts,” remarks S. Augustine, (A.) “was typified, so far as I can judge, the loss of chastity. For concupiscence, whereby offspring ariseth, we have in common with beasts. To have this, therefore, tamed and ordered, is the virtue of chastity.” By the death of irrational cattle, (Ay.) consequently, the fate of those is denoted who live like beasts, not restraining their unlawful passions with the bridle of continence. Their flocks. The LXX. and Vulgate read,* their possession. And this possession, say they, is the orderly condition of the mind or soul, which is wasted with fire, (Vulg.) when delivered over to the flames of passion or luxury. (A.) S. Augustine, noting that this plague is not specified in Exodus, suggests that it denotes fierce anger, which may lead even to homicide.

49 (50) He cast upon them, the furiousness of his wrath, anger; displeasure, and trouble: and sent evil angels among them.

S. Augustine comments at much length on this passage, (A.) touching the punitive ministry of good and evil angels, pointing out that both have great sway over the powers of nature, and that evil spirits are sometimes permitted by GOD to exhibit this influence of theirs. They may tempt also, as in the cases of Job and Ahab; and may, as well as good angels, be employed as the executioners of GOD’S wrath. And he decides that evil angels were the instruments of the slaughter of the beasts and the first-born in Egypt, and also of the hardening of the Egyptian hearts, inasmuch as they were suffered to suggest sin to those whom GOD had forsaken because of their unbelief. But when GOD punishes the righteous with temporal penalties,* He does it by the hands of His good angels. The Greek Fathers, however, say that the angels are here called evil, (Z.) not by reason of their nature, but merely as bringing evils on the heads of sinners.

50 (51) He made a way to his indignation, and spared not their soul from death: but gave their life over to the pestilence;

51 (52) And smote all the first-born in Egypt: the most principal and mightiest in the dwellings of Ham.

The words He made a way denote that there could have been no approach made even to punish sinners, (C.) unless they were first deprived of the protection of GOD,* so that the enemy had power to hurt them. (G.) And that way was GOD’S hidden justice, whereby He might have chastised the Egyptians for the sin of their will; but He made that way broad and conspicuous, by permitting them to commit sins of act, drawing down fearful vengeance. Wherefore it is said that He spared not their souls from death, because He allowed those souls to sink into the death of sin even before He smote their bodies, giving their life over to the pestilence. The LXX. and Vulgate read this clause, And shut up their cattle in death. (B.) Literally, by the hail and murrain; spiritually, by slaying their virtues of meekness and obedience, (D. C.) and by eternal condemnation of their carnal desires and works.* And smote all the first-born in Egypt. (A.) They refer it to a mightier overthrow than that in the Book of Exodus—to the victory of the Incarnate SAVIOUR over the devil and his angels,* and over the false teachers who are their allies.* And He has made us partakers of this victory by causing us also to renounce the devil, his pomps, and his angels. That, too, adds Rupert,* by slaying original sin, the parent of so many offences, after the immolation of the true Paschal Lamb. They point out also that the words denote the spiritual chastisement of unfaithful Christians, when GOD deprives them of His grace. For the first-born mean those things which claim the highest love and reverence, (C.) such as the two great commandments of love of GOD and love of one’s neighbour, or as faith and righteousness. (R.) Faith when formed is, as it were, the first-born of the soul, and GOD slays it when men persist in abiding in Egypt, the darkness of this world. (D. C.) The Carmelite is even more mystical in his view. Taking this plague as vengeance for breach of the tenth commandment, (Ay.) he says that they who covet, wish to be the heirs of those whose goods they desire, and therefore wish them to have no other heirs, no first-born. This is, in its degree, a sin like the slaughter of the Hebrew children: and GOD punishes it by slaying faith, the firstborn of spiritual works, in the souls of the covetous. The most principal and the mightiest in the dwellings of Ham. (L.) The LXX. and Vulgate read, The first-fruits of all their labour in the tabernacles of Ham. There is a contest between the commentators as to whether these words refer to children, to the fruits of the earth, (Lu.) or to the first-born of cattle. There is more agreement as to the mystical signification,* which is, (D. C.) that GOD slays the fervour of charity and the principal virtues in souls which persist in dwelling amongst the ungodly.

52 (53) But as for his own people, he led them forth like sheep: and carried them in the wilderness like a flock.

53 (54) He brought them out safely, that they should not fear: and overwhelmed their enemies with the sea.

He led them forth. The LXX. and Vulgate, (G.) more emphatically, He took them away. That is, (P.) away from the jaws of the lion and the wolf, from the power of the devil, from worldly conversation, from evil companionship, (D. C.) as He saith by Hosea, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death.”* And He hath elsewhere spoken of the elect, “Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”* This the SAVIOUR doth whenever He pours the grace of conversion into man. (L.) There is a wild Jewish legend that a sheep appeared of a sudden to the people of the Exodus, spoke with human voice, and pointed out the way; and that these words of the Psalmist refer to that event, true enough in a higher sense. Ayguan’s gloss, (Ay.) that they recall the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb, which opened the road from Egypt, may be mentioned, but will hardly be adopted. (D. C.) And carried them. The A. V., better, guided them, as the Good Shepherd, in the wilderness, of this world’s exile, whereof the forty years’ wandering was a type, like a flock, because of the unity of that Church which He founded,* and that flock one of sheep, because the sheep, (Ay.) by their inoffensiveness, their patience, their silence, (D. C.) and their usefulness to man, aptly signify devout and faithful souls, which their Shepherd feeds with the priceless food of His own precious Body and Blood. Safely. The LXX. and Vulgate read, In hope. Rightly,* for hope is the chariot whereon GOD brings His elect to Himself across the wilderness of penitence, as Joseph sent for Jacob. The hope of the Israelites was the Land of Promise, ours is the better Country. (A.) We are being led home in hope, “for by hope we are saved.”* That they should not fear. It is written in the Book of Exodus, that when Pharaoh pursued the children of Israel,* “they were sore afraid.” R. Kimchi answers that their fear lasted but a moment,* and was calmed by the words of Moses, “Fear ye not; stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD.” Ayguan’s reply is, that there are two kinds of fear:* one which causes abandonment of a plan, (Ay.) and the other which is less effective; and that only this slighter fear affected the Israelites. (D. C.) And then it is taken of the constancy of Martyrs and Confessors in resisting suffering, losses, and temptations, because of the hope within them.

Fides spe corroborate,

Caritate radicata,*

Fulget in martyribus,

Corda DEO præparata,

Passione sociata,

Præstant sacris legibus.

And overwhelmed their enemies with the sea, (C.) by destroying our ghostly foes, (R.) and blotting out our sins in the cleansing waters of Baptism.

54 (55) And brought them within the borders of his sanctuary: even to his mountain which he purchased with his right hand.

The borders. So the Hebrew and S. Jerome. (L.) But the LXX. and Vulgate read, The mountain of His sanctification, not improbably from the copyists of the former confounding ὄρος and ὄρος. The words imply first the entrance into Canaan generally, and then the special conquest of Jerusalem itself. And the mountainous character of Palestine, especially on its Lebanon border, enables some of the commentators, though following the Vulgate text, to give this true explanation. Others apply the first clause to Jerusalem, whose “foundation is upon the holy hills,” (C.) and the latter to Mount Sion, or Moriah,* whereon the Temple stood. The mystical interpretation presents no difficulty.* The Church into which GOD leads His elect is mountainous,* because He hallows them by confession, praise, contemplation, and employment about heavenly things. The arrival at the borders denotes the life of less perfect Christians, the ascent of the mountain the victory of the Saints, of whom is written, “LORD, who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle, and who shall rest upon Thy holy hill?”* And this mountain He purchased with His right hand,* when He stretched that hand out to be nailed upon the Cross. Wherefore He says of this especial glory vouchsafed to His dearest ones, “Moreover, I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with My sword and with My bow.”*

55 (56) He cast out the heathen also before them caused their land to be divided among them for an heritage, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.

Here, as so often,* they dwell on the seven Canaanitish nations as typical of the seven deadly sins, assigning them, however, somewhat variously; and show how every penitent soul is like Mary Magdalene, out of whom CHRIST cast seven devils. Less mystical, though not less true, is the gloss of Cassiodorus, (R.) that the words tell us of the disappearance of barbarous Pagan customs before the civilizing advance of the Gospel, (C.) whereby, as another points out, Christians now dwell in lands formerly occupied by idolaters. (D. C.) Caused their land to be divided. This clause is more fully expressed by the LXX. and Vulgate, (C.) He divided by lot to them in the line of distribution. Cassiodorus, agreeing herein with a suggestion of the Pseudo-Dionysius,* that lot sometimes means a splendour or appointment of the SPIRIT, takes these words to denote the various degrees of gift, reward, and beatitude in the kingdom of heaven.

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