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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.




              I will give great thanks unto the LORD * with my mouth.


Ambrosian. As preceding Psalm.

Parisian. My heart is ready, O GOD; I will arise early, * I will give thanks unto Thee, O LORD.

Mozarabic. I will arise early, * and will give thanks unto the LORD.


This Psalm, being merely a cento, made up of Ps. 57:6–10, and 60:5–12, has been already treated in those two places, so that it remains to add here only a very few additional comments.

1 O GOD, my heart is ready, my heart is ready: I will sing and give praise with the best member that I have.

The words are spoken by the LORD JESUS, (C.) Who alone can truly say with this double repetition, My heart is ready, because He, being free from all taint of sin, is ever in perfect conformity with His FATHER’S will, and able to praise Him perfectly in word and act; which, however, we also can do,* when our sins are remitted through His bounty. My heart is ready, for My will is prepared to undergo the Passion for the salvation of mankind, and that not by force or compulsion, but freely and voluntarily. I, the Shepherd, will die for My sheep; and not with grief, but with cheerfulness; and then I will give praise with My glory,* (A. V., LXX., Vulg.) in the brightness of My Resurrection, for which I am ready, as I was ready for the Passion which preceded it.

2 Awake, thou lute, and harp: I myself will awake right early.

Here the FATHER answers the call of the SON, or else the SON Himself, in His Godhead, addresses His human Body. In the former view the soul of CHRIST is compared to the psaltery, (LXX., Vulg.) the sound of which comes from above, and His Body to the harp, whose strings are vibrated from below. In the latter, (C.) the two epithets are applied to different aspects of CHRIST’S humanity, as the psaltery, with its ten strings, denotes His holiness of life in perfect fulfilment of the precepts of the moral law, while the harp is taken as typifying His sufferings; (Ay.) or, as another will have it, the psaltery is the dogmatic teaching of the Gospel as to divine mysteries, the harp its moral precepts, and the example of CHRIST’S life and Passion. And to this call, the SON answers, I myself will awake right early.* And that not merely in reference to the Resurrection before the dawn, as they mostly take it, but because CHRIST, as the Sun of Righteousness, ever arises on the Christian soul, so that there is never night there, but always day.

3 I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the people: I will sing praises unto thee among the nations.

I will give thanks, (confitebor) denoting personal speech. (C.) CHRIST declares that He will give thanks amongst the people, because He sojourned in bodily presence amongst the Jews: (D. C.) I will play (psallam) among the nations, tells us that He dealt not in this direct fashion with the Gentiles, but made the music of His Gospel audible to them by His instruments, (B.) the Apostles: and again, while the Jews merely listened to His words, the Gentiles carried them out in action.

4 For thy mercy is greater than the heavens: and thy truth reacheth unto the clouds.

His mercy is greater than the heavens, (C.) because it is only by His sustaining grace that the Angels themselves are preserved in holiness and security; His truth reacheth unto the clouds, far beneath those heavens, because He intrusts the doctrines of His revelation to the preachers of the Word, that they may pour them down in rain upon the earth, to make it fruitful in the harvest of souls.* And CHRIST, Who is the FATHER’S mercy and truth, once lower than the Angels in His humiliation, is now greater than them all in majesty, and hath come to His clouds,* the Apostles, to fill them with all divine mysteries. His mercy, in salvation, exceeds the deservings of the righteous; His truth, in punishing, awaits those who abide in wilful darkness.

5 Set up thyself, O GOD, above the heavens: and thy glory above all the earth.

6 That thy beloved may be delivered: let thy right hand save them, and hear thou me.

It is not only a prayer for the glorification of CHRIST (whence the use of this Psalm on Ascension Day in the Church of England), but for His manifestation of that glory, for some proof of His might which may help His suffering and timid sheep. (C.) When He was exalted upon the Cross, He drew all men to Him, but it needed His exaltation to heaven to deliver His beloved from doubt,* and fear, and carnal views of His kingdom, to permit the Pentecostal descent of the HOLY GHOST, to inspire those preachers who should make His glory known,* not merely in the narrow circuit of Judea, but over all the earth; that all His beloved, in any distress or anxiety,* might call on Him, the Right Hand of the FATHER, to save them with His own Right Hand of atoning propitiation, hearing their prayer at every time of the day.

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

CHRIST divided Shechem, the “shoulder,” (C.) after His Resurrection, when, bestowing the keys of the kingdom of heaven on the College of the Apostles in the person of S. Peter, He shared with them that government of His Church, that key of the house of David laid upon His shoulder, which He had previously retained in His own hands. He meted out the valley of Succoth, or of “booths,”* or “tabernacles,” when He bestowed on the lowliest Christians, in their earthly bodies of this mortal warfare, a portion of the gifts and graces of the HOLY GHOST.

8a (8) Gilead is mine, and Manasses is mine: Ephraim also is the strength of my head.

9 Judah is my law-giver,

Here we have the twofold possessions of Israel, the cis-Jordanic and trans-Jordanic regions, described by the names of their most powerful occupants,* typifying the union of active and contemplative Saints, and of Martyrs and Confessors in the one Church. Gilead, (B.) the “heap of witness,” besides denoting the Martyrs, as already mentioned under Ps. 60:7, also stands for the Doctors and teachers of the Church, (C.) who bear testimony by their discourses and their lives to the Gospel of CHRIST; while Manasses, “forgetfulness,” represents that Jewish people which forgat CHRIST, and all His benefits, but yet remains His,* and will one day return to Him; and the name also denotes those sinners who, like the prodigal son, forget for a while their FATHER which is in heaven, but come back at last, weary of their profitless wanderings. Ephraim, “fruitfulness,” is the strength of His head, (Ay.) because those who are abundant in good works and humility become the diadem of CHRIST, “for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign in His land.”* (D. C.) Judah is My King. They point to the meaning of Judah, “praise,” as showing that the Confessors,* who praise GOD by their lives, rule His Church; or, they take it as “confession,”* as teaching us that none are dearer to GOD or more honoured in heaven than truly penitent sinners, who make confession and strive after amendment. And one will have it that the description of the prowess of Judas Maccabeus is an apt type of the effects of confession: “for he pursued the wicked, and sought them out, and burnt up those that vexed his people; wherefore the wicked shrank for fear of him, and all the workers of iniquity were troubled, because salvation prospered in his hand.”*

Moab is my wash-pot: over Edom will I cast out my shoe; upon Philistia will I triumph.

The figure is that of the conqueror, returning from battle, and using Moab as the foot-bath wherein he washes off the blood and dust and sweat, while he flings his shoes to Edom, waiting humbly, as a slave, upon his orders, and utters a shout of victory as the Philistine captives are marched past. The whole verse relates to CHRIST’S conquest of the Gentiles, as the previous ones set forth His hereditary claim upon the allegiance of the Jews.* S. Basil the Great suggests that the wash-pot denotes that Moab,* once under the ban of exclusion from the congregation of the LORD unto the tenth generation, should be washed clean from all pollution in the laver of Baptism; while another Greek Father,* taking Moab as the type of all heathens, declares that they shall be made to glow and boil with the fervour of Divine grace. The change in the condition of Moab may not inaptly be illustrated by that story of Amasis,* king of Egypt, who found himself treated with some disrespect because of his lowly origin, and by way of showing his subjects their folly, cast an image of a god out of the metal of a golden wash-pot which he had used for his feet, which image they worshipped with great reverence, and were then reminded by him that as it was now a sacred idol, not a menial vessel, so he had ceased to be a plebeian,* and must be honoured as a king. (R.) Over Edom, the “red land” of sinful heathenism, CHRIST casts abroad the knowledge of the Gospel, the mystery of His Incarnation, so that the aliens became His friends (Vulg.) and are subject unto Him (LXX.), for His “Name shall be great among the Gentiles.”*

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

It is spoken in the person of CHRIST, (C.) in His desire to spoil Hell,* to enter the strong man’s house, breaking the gates of brass, and smiting the bars of iron in sunder, and then returning thence to Edom, back to the Gentile earth, to have it for His own as a possession.

11 Hast not thou forsaken us, O GOD: and wilt not thou, O GOD, go forth with our hosts?

We should do better to read, (Ay.) in the first clause, (with A. V., LXX., and Vulg.) Wilt not Thou, O God, Who hast cast us off? The Head, speaking in the person of His members, answers His own question, alleging that none but GOD can achieve the task of conquering hell and converting heathendom. So He spake by the Prophet: “I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with Me; and I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold; therefore Mine own arm brought salvation unto Me.”* GOD,* Who once cast us off, (Vulg. A. V.) driving us from Paradise, and suffering us to be persecuted by tyrants in later days,* will not reject us now, but will go forth with our hosts, co-operating in all our strivings after good, enabling His preachers to force their way into the strongly-fenced city of a sinner’s heart, to conquer the Edom of earthly passions, in themselves and others, that they may enter as conquerors also into another and mightier City, “with a wall great and high, having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels,”* into a Land purchased by the red Blood of Jesus.

12 O help us against the enemy: for vain is the help of man.

13 Through GOD we shall do great acts: and it is he that shall tread down our enemies.

For against the enemy the A. V. here reads,* agreeing with LXX. and Vulgate, and with the Prayer Book version of Ps. 60:11, from trouble, (D. C.) whence the commentators take occasion to tell us that trouble itself is often the source whence GOD helps us, when we least suppose so. The whole passage may be taken either of CHRIST, praying to the FATHER for the victorious termination of His Passion,* or else of the Church, asking for deliverance from persecution, and freely trusting in His help only,* as amply sufficient to achieve triumph, after all human aid, arms, warriors, allies, had been proved of no avail. But He will tread down our enemies,* our sins and evil habits, when we call Him to our aid; as He will surely tread down all the enemies of righteousness, devils, and wicked men, in His final judgment.


Glory be to the FATHER, Who delivereth His beloved; glory be to the SON, His Right Hand, set up above the heavens; glory be to the HOLY GHOST, through Whom we shall do great acts.

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

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