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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. Sing ye * to GOD our strength. [Corpus Christi: The LORD fed us * with the fatness of wheat, and with honey out of the rock did He satisfy us.]

Monastic. As Gregorian.

Parisian. Hear,* O My people, and I will testify unto thee, I am the LORD thy GOD. [Corpus Christi: He fed them with the fatness of wheat, and with honey out of the rock did He satisfy them.]

Lyons. As Gregorian.

Ambrosian. Be merciful * unto our sins, O LORD. [Circumcision: Thou shalt not worship any other God, I am the LORD thy GOD.]

Mozarabic. As Gregorian.

1 Sing we merrily unto GOD our strength: make a cheerful noise unto the GOD of Jacob.1

The words are in the first instance addressed by Asaph,* chief precentor of the Temple, to the musicians and singers, as directions for their guidance and encouragement on the occasion of a great festival, (A.) and then they apply to the whole body of the faithful, teaching them the duty of speaking to themselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in their hearts unto the LORD.* The Psalm itself forms the natural continuation of the preceding one,* wherein the Church sends up her cry for the Advent of CHRIST. Now she, as it were, beholds Him coming, and making an end, and therefore calls on His true followers to abandon all worldly thoughts and cares, and to rejoice in the LORD alway.* Ye, then, who heretofore have been exulting in the world your deceiver, (R.) and in the devil your deserter, and in the belly, your seducer, exult henceforth in GOD your strength. And even if your voice and powers should fail you in the loud singing which is GOD’S due, yet, as He may be praised in many ways, rejoice (Vulg. S. Hieron.) in your inward heart, and He will accept such service with equal readiness. Further, the GOD in Whom you are called to rejoice is the GOD of Jacob, (D. C.) of the wrestler, the GOD of those who will strive in prayer and struggle against sin, not of the sluggard and fainthearted.

2 Take the psalm, bring hither the tabret: the merry harp with the lute.

S. Augustine, commenting on the contrast between the Words take and give, (A.) (albeit such an opposition barely exists in the Hebrew), explains the first clause of this verse as an allegory of the mutual relations between a Christian teacher and his flock. The hearers are to take the psalm, to receive the living, oral instruction from his mouth; and in their turn, they are to bring the tabret, or rather, kettle-drum, which, being made of the skin of a dead animal, denotes carnal things; that is, they are to minister to their teacher’s bodily needs, according to that saying of the Apostle: “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?”* S. Bruno works out this idea more deeply.* Take from GOD Himself that psalm, which of yourselves you cannot have, the quickening spirit of innocence and holiness which comes of His mercy alone. Give Him the tabret,* that is, mortification of your flesh by fasts and vigils, typified by the slain beast whose skin produces the sound.* Cardinal Hugo sums up the reasons why the drum is a type of bodily mortification,* in his usual fashion, with a distich:

Terret aves, tenuis, fragilis, cava, mortua, lenis,

Tensa, cutis, lignis, verbere, sicca, sonans.

Slender, frail, hollow, dead, smooth, scaring birds,

Strained skin and wood, dry, sounding with a blow.

They are more nearly agreed in explaining the latter clause; the pleasant psaltery with the harp. (Vulg. LXX.) The psaltery, observes S. Augustine, (A.) differs from the harp in having its sounding-board above the strings, which we strike from below; whereas the sounding-board of the harp is lower than the strings. The first, then, means the preaching of GOD’S Word, and is thus described as pleasant, while the latter denotes our good works done on earth, necessary to fulfil that pleasantness.* And in this wise the divinely quickened human spirit is, as it were, the psaltery made vocal with GOD’S psalm, and thus pleasant to Him, while the lowliness wherewith He is obeyed is shadowed by the harp, sounding from below. (Ay.) Ayguan gives a slightly different turn to the thought, by pointing out that the psaltery or decachord, with its ten strings struck by the hand, is a type of the Ten Commandments carried out in action.

3 Blow up the trumpet in the new-moon: even in the time appointed, and upon our solemn feast day.

There has been much discussion among modern critics, as to the special festival referred to here.* Some, dwelling on the allusion, later in the Psalm,* to the Exodus, will have it that the Passover is meant. But there seems no adequate reason for departing from the Chaldee, which expressly names the new moon of the month Tizri,* the first day of the Jewish civil year, as it also was of the Sabbatical year, and of the year of jubilee, although occurring in the seventh month of the ordinary ecclesiastical computation. This day is particularly described in the Law as a “day of blowing the trumpets,”* a ceremony which formed no part of the Paschal feast, and the Jews, always singularly tenacious of ancient tradition, still actually use the present Psalm in the office of this day. The solemnities of the seventh month did not end, however, with the Feast of Trumpets. The tenth day was the great Day of Atonement, when the most august of the Mosaic sacrifices took place, and on the fifteenth day (that of the full moon [medio mense, S. Hieron.] held by the best critics to be the true rendering of בַּכֶּסֶה, not time appointed),* came the chiefest festival of the Law,* the Feast of Tabernacles, which is the solemn feast-day of the Psalm, and is described as the feast in more than one place in Scripture.* It was the greatest festival,* because it denoted the perfect rest of the Land of Promise,* (whereas the Passover indicated merely the escape from the house of bondage,* and the first setting out in quest of Canaan,) thus typifying for Christians the eternal peace of Heaven, won by the bloodshedding of the Lamb of GOD. Reasons have been sought for the special significance of trumpets at the great festival,* and two in particular are dwelt on by Jewish writers.* One, that trumpets of horn were used in memory of the oblation of Isaac,* when the substituted ram was caught by his horns in a thicket;1 the other, that the giving of the Law is commemorated, as we read, “When the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder,* Moses spake, and GOD answered him by a voice.” So again, the Divine utterance is similarly described in the Apocalypse: “I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega.”* And thrice the trumpet-sound is mentioned,* by the LORD Himself and His Apostle,* as the signal of the second Advent to Judgment.*

A favourite exposition, then, of this verse with the early commentators, (A.) is that it is a call to loud proclamation of the Gospel (according to the saying, “Lift up thy voice like a trumpet”*) in the new life which CHRIST has given us, a life not without its anxieties and changes here, (Ay.) and thus aptly denoted by the moon. Or, as another yet more beautifully takes it, the new moon is the Church, enlightened by CHRIST her true Sun. In this the trumpet-call of preachers began,* on our solemn feast day of the Resurrection, (Z.) the renewal of our creation, and yet again, still louder, when the fiery tongues of Pentecost came down. And then we may take it by anagoge,* of that great rejoicing which shall be at the consummation of all things, when the Archangel himself will sound the trumpet, when a new heaven appears, when the Feasts of Tabernacles and of Dedication shall be united in one, what time the great Voice shall say, “Behold, the tabernacle of GOD is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and GOD Himself shall be with them, and be their GOD.”* And, coming to the individual soul, we are well reminded that the two silver trumpets of the Jewish camp called the people to banquets,* to battles, and to sacred festivals, and that in like manner the preaching of the Gospel calls believers to the Holy Eucharist, to resistance against temptation and sin, and to the unending bliss of heaven. Not merely by the mouth of the priesthood, but by that of every believer who has seen a new light rest on his soul, who has kept the solemn feast-day of the indwelling of the HOLY GHOST within him, and who may well say, (D. C.) “O come hither, and hearken, all ye that fear GOD; and I will tell you what He hath done for my soul.”*

4 For this was made a statute for Israel: and a law of the GOD of Jacob.

For the word מִשְׁפָּט law, the LXX. and Vulgate more literally read judgment, which draws the following comment from S. Augustine: (A.) Where there is a statute, there is judgment. For they who sinned under the Law shall be judged by the Law. And the LORD CHRIST, WORD made flesh, is the Giver of the statute, “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind.”* Thus we are warned that the Lawgiver and the Judge are one,* and that the commands He lays upon us are not merely subject of meditation for Israel, the contemplative saints, but for practical operation by Jacob, the saints of active life,* and as the final test for all at the Doom. In the literal sense, the clause reminds the hearers that no new rule, nor one of human invention,* is being laid down, but that a Divine and ancient precept is enforced, when all people are called on to make GOD’S promises known.

5 This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony: when he came out of the land of Egypt, and had heard a strange language.

There is more than one difficulty in this verse, although its apparent meaning is obvious here and in all the principal versions. The sense on the surface, as taken by the majority of ancient commentators, and not a few modern ones, refers to the Exodus, and the intercourse with foreign nations which followed on it. But the Chaldee paraphrast, R. Kimchi, and the best recent critics,* understand it otherwise. The first explains the whole passage of the patriarch Joseph, not of the Jewish nation (especially the powerful tribe of Ephraim, as represented by him); and paraphrases thus: “He laid a testimony upon Joseph, that he should not draw nigh unto his master’s wife, in the day when he went out of the house of bondage, and ruled over the whole land of Egypt,” on the anniversary, as a Rabbinical tradition alleges, of Isaac’s deliverance. (Ay.) And this fits in with the words of Gen. 41:45, “Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.”* R. Kimchi, followed by some eminent moderns, takes the second clause thus: When God went out against the land of Egypt, for the slaughter of the first-born, as it is written, “About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt.”* Further, the last clause of the verse in the Hebrew is in the first person, not (as the previous one), in the third, and runs, I heard the voice of one un known. This would present no difficulty, were it not that in the immediately following verse the first person recurs, personifying GOD Himself, Who cannot be meant as the speaker of these particular words. The passage is thus a very difficult one,* and is variously explained,* either as spoken in the person of Israel dwelling amongst the alien Egyptians, for whom they needed an interpreter;* or, again, as referring to the Divine voice made known in the plains of Egypt and afterwards heard from Sinai; or,* lastly, that it is a sudden exclamation of the Psalmist,* announcing his reception of the oracle of GOD, given in the succeeding verses,* according to the analogy of the vision of Eliphaz the Temanite.* Turning now to the mystical exposition, let us hear S. Augustine: Joseph is interpreted increase. (A.) And as Joseph was sold into Egypt, so CHRIST cometh to the Gentiles. Joseph was exalted there after his troubles, and CHRIST is glorified with us after the passion of the Martyrs. The Gentiles, then, belong to our true Joseph, and are fitly styled increase, because “the children of the desolate are many more than of her which hath an husband.”* The testimony of Joseph coming out of Egypt, means the vow of those who pass through the Red sea of Baptism, ruddy with the Blood of CHRIST, and are thus freed from those sins, their enemies, which would soon destroy them. On the other side of that flood, the Catechumens will learn mysteries now hidden from them, and will hear a tongue which they know not, (C.) the precepts of the New Testament, delivered, literally, in a language differing from that of the Law.* Cardinal Hugo most beautifully reminds us that Joseph himself never left Egypt alive, but that only his bones were carried up into the Land of Promise, whence this verse may well be taken of the Martyrs, who despise the life of this world, and dying to it, pass to their true country, there to learn the Unknown Song. (L.) Yet another reminds us of the great increase of the Church on that first Day of Pentecost, when the Apostles were heard speaking in unknown tongues, according to the exact dialect of each hearer in the crowd.

6 I eased his shoulder from the burden: and his hands were delivered from making the pots.

Here the Voice of God Himself declares His benefits towards His people. But this direct address is lost in the LXX. and Vulgate, which read, He removed his back from the burdens. The sense is the same, and we are well reminded by the Doctor of Grace that none can do this thing save He Who saith, (A.) “Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;”* Who alone takes the grievous load of sin away from those who seek His aid. In the second clause the LXX. and Vulgate read, His hands served in the basket; doubtless the baskets of osier or of palm-leaves still used in Egypt for carrying loads, (A.) and employed like the hod of European bricklayers, and also for carrying manure to the fields. The term thus embraces all servile labour, from which CHRIST sets us free. And the basket will then be an emblem of the despised and lowly in this world, whom the LORD nevertheless fills with the fragments of His Flesh; and when He chose His twelve humble Apostles, He then filled twelve baskets with good things from His own table. (C.) Further, as baskets are used for carrying away the accumulated dust and filth of houses, so those who are still living in sin are said to have their hands toiling in baskets, which toil ends when CHRIST delivers them from that bondage. And if we keep to the idea of the building labour imposed on the Hebrews,* we shall remember that sinners, while in the darkness of Egypt, are busily engaged in rearing up the walls of the mystical Babylon, contrary to that prayer of the Church, “Build Thou the walls of Jerusalem.”* There are some who take the latter clause of the verse in a good sense, as the occupation to which the ransomed slaves voluntarily turned,* and thus one reminds us that spiritual persons, busied in hearing confession, toil in the baskets, by cleansing the hearts of sinners from defilement:* while another will have it that the basket is a type of charity, because it contains and embraces many things, and those whom GOD sets free must needs toil therein to please Him. But these interpretations will not stand with the literal sense of the passage.* More to the point is the remark that this verse gives the reason for the sounding of trumpets, the warrior instrument, forbidden to slaves.* As freemen and warriors, the Hebrews were at liberty to sound it, and its notes therefore fitly ushered in the year of Jubilee, when all debts were cancelled and all bondmen were released.

7a (7) Thou calledst upon me in troubles, and I delivered thee: and heard thee what time as the storm fell upon thee.

Observe how troubles are the necessary forerunners of deliverance, for, as a great Saint teaches us,* a grain of wheat shut up in the husk, cannot come out till it is ground, and so man can scarcely be set free from worldly difficulties, which, like husks, entangle him, unless he be chastened with some trouble.* Not a light one either, for, as S. Augustine says very well, When you are under medical treatment, and feel the fire and steel, you cry out, but the surgeon does not listen to your wishes, he heeds only your cure. It is thus, then, that GOD hears us in trouble and delivers us, for He Himself sends the trouble as the very means to make us call on Him and thus gain our safety.* And in this sense one, at whose feet tens of thousands have been glad to sit, tells us, “When any tribulation comes on thee, then CHRIST meets thee with His Cross, and shows thee the way to the kingdom of heaven, whither thou oughtest to go.” Therefore the time of trouble is the time of life, according to the pithy Jewish proverb, “When Israel is in the brick-kiln, then comes Moses.”

What time as the storm fell on thee. The A. V. correctly, and nearly in accord with the LXX. and Vulgate, reads, I answered thee in the secret place of thunder. (L.) That is, as they diversely take it, either in the actual passage of the Red Sea, when GOD looked out of the pillar of cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, or when He spoke to Israel out of the thick darkness amidst thunders from Sinai. And this latter is the Chaldee view,* for the paraphrase runs, “I heard thee in the hidden place of the house of My majesty, when the fiery wheels sounded before Me.” (A.) GOD hears us too in the secret place of tempest,* when storms of temptation and trial are raging within our hearts,* and the waves of sin appear likely to wash over us. Some take the clause as though it meant in a place hidden from the storm,1 and then tell us of the calm which reigned in the souls of the Martyrs,* while the fiercest whirlwinds of heathen rage broke upon their bodies.

7b (8) I proved thee also: at the waters of strife.

The literal reference is to the murmuring of the people in Kadesh,* when Moses had to bring water for them out of the rock,* and in the double name given to the scene we find the two members of the verse, Massa telling that Israel was proved, and Meribah that the test ended in strife. For strife, the LXX. and Vulgate read contradiction or gainsaying.* And this is mystically explained in three ways. It is taken of the waters of Baptism, (P.) in which Christians are called on to renounce and gainsay all evil, (C.) and thereby to be in their turn contradicted by unbelievers; of the trials of the Church by the gainsaying of heathen persecutors without or heretical teachers within, necessary for the proving of the Saints; (A.) or, most deeply of all, that it is uttered of Him Who was a sign to be spoken against,* Who stretched out His hands all day upon the Cross to a disobedient and gainsaying people, Who suffered the stream of water and blood to flow from His pierced side when He proved His nation, and was answered with strife. And yet again, as another teaches us,* the billows of passion and bitter thoughts which well in our hearts, are waters of strife, which only CHRIST can lull and calm, by treading them under His feet, as He comes to us in the darkness.

8 (9) Hear, O my people, and I will assure thee, O Israel: if thou wilt hearken unto me,

9 (10) There shall no strange god be in thee: neither shalt thou worship any other god.

Lorinus dwells at some length on the prominence which even Pagan religions gave to this precept, (L.) by discouraging the worship of alien deities, and aptly cites, amidst a crowd of other testimonies, that Law of the Twelve Tables: “Let them not worship foreign gods. Let no one have gods apart, nor new ones. Let them not even privately worship gods brought from abroad, unless invited by the State; and let them worship those which have always been held celestial.” But the particular turn given by the LXX., Vulgate, and Arabic versions to the word זָר, strange, which they render new, recent, (a sense which the word does admit in Isaiah 28:21,) gives occasion to much comment, justified in its scope by the parallel passage in the Song of Moses: “They sacrificed unto devils, not to GOD; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.”* A new god, notes S. Augustine, is one made in time; but our GOD is not new, (A.) for He is from eternity to eternity. And our CHRIST may be new as Man, but everlasting as GOD. For what is there before the beginning? And yet “in the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with GOD, and the WORD was GOD.”* And He, our CHRIST, is the WORD made flesh, that He might dwell amongst us. Heathen idols are costly, are of silver and gold, precious and shining, but they are new, fresh out of a workshop. The Arian Christ is new, for he exists only in time, and is posterior to the FATHER. The God of the Manichees is new, for he is an unsuccessful struggler against the powers of darkness and corruption, and not the Almighty,* the Uncreated Light, the perfectly Holy. Christians, too, may err in the same spirit, though not in the same way, by making idols of their appetites, (Lu.) their sins, or even of any of GOD’S temporal gifts. And as none of these, for the most part, holds its worshipper long faithful, so the act of change from one to another sets up a new god on the deposition of the old. (L.) Yet again, it may be fitly taken of new heresies, alien from the Catholic faith, which result, sooner or later, in leading their followers away from GOD. And it is in warning of the deep spiritual blessing of cleaving to Him, that He says I will assure thee, or as the A. V. more forcibly and exactly,* with LXX. and Vulgate, turns it, I will testify unto thee:* that is, I will solemnly pledge the fulfilment of My promises, swearing by Myself. And so runs a similar passage of Holy Writ: “The Angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then thou shalt also judge My house.”* And what that means, we may learn from yet another place: “Verily, I say unto you, That ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”*

10 (11) I am the LORD thy GOD, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I shall fill it.

Literally, it is spoken of the miraculous food for those who had left behind them the flesh-pots of Egypt and gone out into the wilderness at the voice of GOD. Spiritually, they tell us that it is spoken of the soul rather than of the body. I Myself, thy LORD and GOD, have brought thee out of the darkness and bondage of thy sins, open thou thy mouth wide,* as the young of a bird open their beaks to receive the food their parents bring them, and I shall Jill it with good things. Open it wide, by breaking down the vain idols within thine heart, which cramp and narrow thee, and give thyself room to love and praise Me. Open it wide, (A.) by preaching the Gospel loudly and clearly, by warning sinners plainly, by praising GOD worthily, and I will fill thee with all spiritual grace. And thus we see the meaning of those Words of the Apostle, “O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.… Be ye also enlarged, (C.) be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.”* I will fill it,* not merely with grace, but with Myself. For, as S. Augustine most deeply says, “A soul which is capable of containing GOD, nothing less than GOD can fill.”* Wherefore He gives Himself as our Food in the Holy Sacrament,* and truly is it said of the Christian mouth which has fed upon such dainties, “Full of grace are thy lips, because GOD hath blessed thee for ever.”* He bids us open our mouths wide in yet another way,* by asking boldly in prayer for whatever we need, (Ay.) assuring us that the greater and more aspiring are our petitions, the more abundantly shall they be fulfilled. We have, further, in this verse, two things to note particularly.* First, the easiness of GOD’S conditions; for there is nothing less troublesome than opening the mouth. He does not say, “Stretch out thy hands to labour, and I will fill them,” but only, Open thy mouth wide. Next, the lavishness of GOD’S promise. He does not say, “Open thy mouth, and I will put somewhat therein, and will not suffer it to be empty,” but I will fill it, however widely thou mayest open it, doing far beyond all thou canst ever hope for. And so the Apostle confesses, saying, “Unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, unto Him be glory in the Church by CHRIST JESUS throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”* What, then, asks Richard of S. Victor, is this mouth of the inner man,* save the heart’s longing? But all the dainties of Egypt cannot fill this mouth, for all the riches of the world are not enough to content carnal desire. See how small a part of the human body the fleshly mouth is, and what a narrow opening. Who can fail to see that it is so small that one morsel of bread is enough to fill it? But the whole world is not so much to the desire of the heart, as the morsel of bread is to the bodily mouth, for the one does fill, but the other does not. And thus we come back to that saying of S. Augustine, that nothing save GOD Himself can satisfy our craving. So it is quaintly expressed by an old writer:

The whole round world is not enough to fill

The heart’s three corners, but it craveth still;*

Only the Trinity, that made it, can

Suffice the vast triangled heart of man.

But observe, (L.) that the Words are spoken only to those who have come out of the land of Egypt.* While they remain in darkness, they cannot see the food offered to their lips, till they hearken to the Wise Man, “Open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.”* While we continue in sin, we cannot avail ourselves of the promise, but when we once fight against the foes of our souls, we can say with Hannah, “My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies, because I rejoice in Thy salvation.”*

11 (12) But my people would not hear my voice: and Israel would not obey me.

12 (13) So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lusts: and let them follow their own imaginations.

It is not only disobedience, but ingratitude which GOD charges on His rebellious people. Servants and slaves count it an honour when their masters deign to converse familiarly with them,* but Israel, mere dust and ashes, stops his ears against the voice of the GOD of all gods. Not once only, as the Rabbins point out, but in the wilderness, in the days of the Judges, in the times of the kings after David and Solomon,* until they were driven into exile and their temples burnt, they would not hear. Observe, too, that as the charge seems brought especially against the house of Joseph,* so it was the tribe of Ephraim which formed the mainstay of the idolatrous northern kingdom, after the rebellion against Rehoboam. But the Words are still more forcibly applied to the rejection of CHRIST by the Jews. Beforetime, they had stopped their ears against the voices of the Prophets, (P.) they had beaten and slain the messengers of the LORD of the vineyard, but now their cry was, “This is the heir, come, let us kill Him.”* Nor are they alone in their sin. Again and again He is rejected still by His people, (Lu.) those whom He purchased with His own Blood. He stands at the door and knocks, saying, “Open, O man, recognize the voice of the LORD thy GOD; I will that thou open for Me to enter, and thou wilt not. Evil is that servant who will not shelter his Master.”

So I gave them up to their own hearts’ lusts. The apertures of the “press” are now opened, to let the dregs and lees fall out, that they may be cast away. (A.) For I gave them up, the LXX. and Vulgate, with little difference of meaning, read I sent them away, loosing, as it were, the reins which held them in check, and suffering them to run riot at their will. And this appears more than once in Holy Writ as the sternest of GOD’S earthly judgments.* “I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery,”* is the warning spoken by the Prophet, and the Apostle confirms him, adding “Even as they did not like to retain GOD in their knowledge, GOD gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.”* Wherefore is added, I let them follow their own imaginations, or, as the LXX. and Vulgate read,* They will go in their own inventions or desires; thereby heaping up fresh indignation for themselves, by adding sin upon sin to their previous wickedness.

13 (14) O that my people would have hearkened unto me: for if Israel had walked in my ways,

14 (15) I should soon have put down their enemies: and turned my hand against their adversaries.

Lorinus points out how the wording of these verses asserts the freedom of the human will, (L.) as the only other explanation possible is to charge GOD with ignorance of the future, and although his argument is to a great extent based on the word perhaps, which the Vulgate inserts in verse 14, yet the meaning he enforces is sufficiently borne out by the actual text. And S. Augustine wisely teaches us that the words also make against false excuses. (A.) Israel might say, I sin, it is true, but not willingly, rather by reason of compulsion from the devil it is that I follow my own imaginations. But if Israel would but hear the voice of the LORD, He would soon put down all such spiritual enemies, and give us the victory. Observe further, that the two clauses of the former verse are not mere repetition, but denote two distinct stages of obedience. (Ay.) Hearing the word, without walking in its ways, is of no use. Herod listened gladly to John Baptist, but obeyed the daughter of Herodias rather than him. Felix communed often with Paul during two years,* but though trembling at the Apostle’s reasoning as to righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, yet took not on him at last the Gospel yoke.

I should soon have put down their enemies. For soon, the LXX. reads, In the nothing, the Vulgate, not very differently, for nothing (pro nihilo).* That is, as they variously explain it, (and first rightly) as a very easy thing; or else, unto nothing, by utterly destroying them; or yet again, freely, that is, without any merit or price on the part of Israel as a reason for having GOD as its champion, in contrast, as is well pointed out,* to the great trouble and outlay in hiring allies and buying off invaders, which the Jews were compelled to be at when left to their own devices on several occasions in their history. And turned My hand against their adversaries. They take the Hand of GOD, for the most part, as denoting merely His power. One special force is, however, given to it, by interpreting it of the LORD JESUS. (P.) The words will then point to His offer to the Jews of the headship over the nations, not only during His own three years of preaching, but by the voice of His Apostles for nearly forty more; until, on their final refusal to hear, the Romans were suffered to take away their place and nation, and the kingdom of the Church was transferred to the Gentiles.

15 (16) The haters of the LORD should have been found liars: but their time should have endured for ever.

The first clause ought to run,* The haters of the Lord should have lied unto him, that is, unto Israel; crouching before the chosen people with unwilling and hypocritical submission, and denying all intention of war or resistance. But the LXX. and Vulgate reading, The enemies of the Lord have lied unto Him, (C.) is explained differently from this. It is, writes one of the earlier commentators, spoken of false believers, not of the heathen, who cannot be said to lie to GOD, inasmuch as they have given Him no pledges, but the unfaithful, who have broken their promises, shall be cast into hell, where their time shall endure for ever. (A.) And that because they take up again those things which they renounced in baptism; the world, the flesh, and the devil, so that their last end is worse than the first.* This interpretation squares in the latter clause with the view of some Rabbins and modern critics that the whole verse refers to GOD’S enemies, and that the time of their punishment is unending,* in that no restoration will be vouchsafed them. But others take it as the Prayer Book version, and as contrasting the enduring prosperity of GOD’S people with the sufferings of their adversaries. And then we may explain it, (L.) as not a few do, of the lying of the Jews in promising obedience to the Messiah, (P.) and yet denying Him when He came, so as to be rejected, and their dispensation brought to a close, while that of the Gospel endures for ever, not only to the end of the world, but through the ages of eternity.

16 (17) He should have fed them also with the finest wheat-flour: and with honey out of the stony rock should I have satisfied thee.

The literal reference is to the produce of Canaan,* to its rich harvests of corn, and to the honey made by the wild bees in the clefts of the rocks, which serve them as hives;* though some are found to refer the words as they run in the LXX. and Vulgate,* He fed them with the fat of wheat and satisfied them with honey out of the rock, (Ay.) to the manna in the wilderness and the sweet water brought forth by the stroke of Moses’ rod. But, (A.) save for a glance at one meaning of honey as denoting the sweetness of Divine wisdom, the expositors all agree in taking this verse mystically of the Blessed Sacrament, the fine wheat-offering and sweet banquet of all believing souls, springing in both kinds from the Rock, which is CHRIST.* So the Angelic Doctor: “As the Rock signifieth the incorruptible Body of CHRIST, so the honey from the Rock is the sweet Blood of CHRIST, which the faithful suck in from CHRIST’S Body.”


Glory be to the FATHER, our Strength; glory be to the SON, Who feeds us with the fatness of wheat; Glory be to the HOLY GHOST, Who fills our mouth with a merry song unto the GOD of Jacob.

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

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