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Father Boylan’s Commentary on Hebrews 5:1-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 14, 2017

Jesus as a true High Priest possessing all the qualities demanded of the Aaronite High Priest
Hebrews 5:1-10

Heb 5:1 For every High Priest, being taken from among men, is appointed as a representative of men in the things that i;efer to God, that he may offer gifts and sacrifices for sins
Heb 5:2 as one who can be mild with’ the ignorant and erring, since he himself is encompassed with weakness,
Heb 5:3 and because lOf it must make offerings for sin on behalf of the people and on his own behalf.
Heb 5:4 And none taketh the honour but . one who has been called by God, just as Aaron

1 — 4. The first quality required in a true High priest is -similarity in nature with those for whom he acts as priest. Hence if Jesus were God and not also man, He would be inferior as a Mediator to the Jewish High Priests. To be a High Priest it was, therefore, necessary that He should become Man. In the second place, a High Priest should be capable of understanding and sympathizing with human frailties, and of distinguishing the different kinds of sins in regard to their malice and deliberation [1]. Thirdly a High Priest must have received a call to act as Priest. The author will proceed in the verses that follow (5 — 10) to show that all those qualities are fully present in Jesus.

[1] The Levitical theology distinguished carefully between sins of ignorance and sins which were committed ‘with raised-up hand’ (conscious opposition to the Law); for sins committed in ignorance (the agnomaton of Heb 9:7) atonement had to be made. (Cf. Leviticus 4:13ff and Lev 16).

A High Priest must be taken from among men, for only a man can be representative of men. The ‘gifts’ and ‘sacrifices’ cover the whole class of sacrificial offerings. As a rule the Jewish High Priest offered sacrifice only on Sabbaths and feast-days: but the author has here in view chiefly the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. (Cf. Leviticus ch. 1 6.)

The Greek word metrlopathein suggests the mean between apathy and unbridled passion: it implies calm understanding of, and kindness towards the erring.

The Jewish High Priest was clad with frailty as with a garment, and therefore, had to offer for himself, as well as for. others, on Atonement Day.

Since all men are sinful no man, as such, can have the right of mediating between -men and God. Even Aaron, the first High Priest, had to be called. Christ was sinless, and yet He did not of himself assume the rank of High Priest, but waited to be called or appointed; for as one standing between God’ and man the priest must be capable of representing mart, and must be also established by God as official mediator.

Heb 5:5  So, too, Christ hath not taken to Himself the honour of becoming High Priest, but He who said to Him: ‘Thou art my Son; this day I have begotten Thee.’
Heb 5:6  As He elsewhere saith: ‘Thou art Priest forever according; to the order of Melchisedech’.

No man can appoint himself a priest, or officialmediator, between God and men. Neither can men appoint a man to this office. The appointment, or call, must come from God. So, it was even with the Son of God. Jesus was necessarily made a Priest when He became man, for by His incarnation He became of necessity ‘ a Mediator between’ God and men. Though Jesus was Son of God from all eternity,  the words of Psalm 2 here addressed to Him by the Father: ‘Thou art my Son; this day I have begotten Thee,’ are taken as’ spoken to Him at the moment of the Incarnation. This declaration of the Father is, then, practically equivalent to a declaration of the Priesthood of Christ. The appointment of Jesus as Priest is clearer still in the text of Psalm 110:4: ‘Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.’ Though Jesus is here declared to be a Priest, not a High Priest, yet His Priesthood, as the Priesthood of the Son of God, could not be other than a High Priesthood. Though the following verses 9 and 10 seem to imply that it was not until after the Resurrection that the Priesthood of Jesus was made complete, the teaching of this Epistle is that the offering on Calvary was a genuinely priestly offering, and that therefore, Jesus performed priestly functions on, earth. Verse 10 may be taken as meaning that, though Jesus performed priestly functions on earth, yet the official seal was not set on His Priesthood, as it were, until after the Ascension. Christ is the Priest secundum ordinem Melchisedech, kata ten taxin melchisedek (Heb 7:17)

Taxin can mean ‘position’, ‘post’, ‘rank’, ‘prescript, ‘ordinance’ (Cf. 7:11. 15, 17); in the Psalm-text cited it, represents the Hebrew dibhrah which in the context of the Psalm, means ‘fashion’, ‘manner’. In ch. 7:15 of this Epistle the phrase is rendered in the Greek kata ten hoholoteta Melchisedek, ‘according to the likeness of Melchisedech’. In ch. 7:11 the taxin of Melchisedech is contrasted with the taxin; of Aaron, and seems to mean there a norm, or rule, governing the priesthood.

The Melchisedech-priesthood given to Jesus is peculiar in several ways(a) it is given to Jesus alone; (b) it is eternal; (c) it is associated with kingship. All, these things follow from an analysis of the Scripture references to Melchisedech (cf. ch. 7). Patristic writers have usually seen in the bread and wine offered by Melchisedech a type of the Eucharistic sacrifice, and a further point of resemblance  between the priesthoods of Christ and Melchisedech;, but the author does not make any use of this, point of comparison in this Epistle.

Heb 5:7 Who (i. e. Christ) in the ,days of His’ flesh offered up prayer and supplications to Him who could save Him from death, with a loud cry and tears, and was heard because of (His) reverential fear
Heb 5:8 and though He was Son, He learned obedience from that which He suffered:
Heb 5:9 and, Himself made perfect. He became for all who obey Him the author of eternal salvation,
Heb 5:10designated by God as High Priest ‘according to the order of Melchisedech’.

The expressions in verse 7 refer more naturally to the Agony in the Garden than to the Crucifixion. The verse is connected with the preceding by the thought that the urgency of Christ’s prayer in the Agony proves that He did not assume the rank of High Priest out of any spirit of overweening pride. In the Agony He was deeply humiliated. This verse and the following should be carefully, compared with the celebrated passage in Philippians 2:5 ff.

The ‘who’ obviously refers back to the chief subject of vv. 5—6. ‘Who could save Him from death ‘ suggests the object of Jesus’ petition: the resignation of Jesus to the Father’s will is also, probably, conveyed in the description of the
latter as dynamenon sozein auton (literally, able to save him).

apo tes eulabelas (translated above as because of his reverential fear) has been interpreted in two ways: (a) He was rescued from fear = away from fear, i. e. He was heard, and was rescued from the fear of death: (b) Fear =. reverential fear, i.e., He was heard because of the reverential fear through which He submitted Himself fully to the divine will. It was not so much for rescue from death as for perfect union with the divine will, that Jesus prayed in His Agony. Hence apo tes eulabelas states the reason why He was heard. He was heard inasmuch as the perfect union with the Father’s will which He sought was attained. The second interpretation is accepted-here in
translation.

Christ as man surrendered Himself absolutely to God, and thus did He, though He was the Creator of the world, learn obedience through, suffering. The perfect self-surrender of Christ made Him perfect, as Man, and His sacrifice of obedience became a source of grace and perfection -for His followers. The biblical designation of Christ’ as High Priest confirms all this. , As a High Priest He can atone for the sins of His people, and thus become the author or altios (source, cause, author) of their soterias (salvation)— their rescue from sin, and’ their investiture with grace. Notice how archiereus, ‘High Priest’, is here substituted for ‘priest’ in the Psalm-passage.

The prosagoreutheis (designated) of verse 1o is probably to be thought of as following the Resurrection. See above on verse 5.  Prosagoreutheis (designated) means not merely ‘named’, or ‘called’, but ‘recognized as’.

Telelotheis (made perfect) of verse 9 does not imply that Jesus as a person possessed originally no more than a relative moral perfection. Some commentators take the word as making a contrast with ‘the days of the flesh’ and as expressing, therefore, the heavenly glory of the Risen Christ; The word  does not necessarily imply a progress from a less perfect state: it may simply express the condition of one who has arrived at a goal, or of one who is mature.

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St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 1:29-34

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 14, 2017

29 The next day he seeth Jesus coming to him.

In a very little time, the Baptist is declared to be Prophet alike and Apostle. For Whom he was heralding as coming, Him now come he points out. Therefore, he bounded beyond even the measure of prophets, as the Saviour Himself saith when discoursing with the Jews concerning him, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A prophet, yea, I say unto you and more than a prophet. For they in their times prophesied that Christ should be revealed, but he, crying that He shall come, also pointed Him out come. For the next day, saith he, he seeth Jesus coming to him.

And saith, Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world.

No longer has prepare ye the way fit place, since He at length is seen and is before the eyes for Whom the preparation is made: the nature of the thing began to need other words. It needed to explain, Who He is Who is come, and to whom He maketh His descent Who hath come to us from Heaven. Behold, therefore, saith he, the Lamb of God Which taketh away the sin of the world, Whom the Prophet Isaiah did signify to us, saying, He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb: Whom of old, too, saith he, the law of Moses typified, but then it saved in part, not extending mercy to all (for it was a type and shadow): but now He Who of old was dimly pictured, the very Lamb, the spotless Sacrifice, is led to the slaughter for all, that He |132 might drive away the sin of the world, that He might overturn the destroyer of the earth, that dying for all He might bring to nought death, that He might undo the curse that is upon us, that He might at length end Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return, that He might become the second Adam, not of the earth, but from heaven, and might be the beginning of all good to the nature of man, deliverance from the imported corruption, Bestower of eternal life, foundation of our reconciliation to God, beginning of godliness and righteousness, way to the Kingdom of Heaven. For one Lamb died for all, saving the whole flock on earth to God the Father, One for all, that He might subject all to God, One for all, that He might gain all: that at length all should not henceforth live to themselves but to Him Which died for them and rose again. For since we were in many sins, and therefore due to death and corruption, the Father hath given the Son a redemption for us, One for all, since all are in Him, and He above all. One died for all, that all should live in Him. For death having swallowed up the Lamb for all, hath vomited forth all in Him and with Him. For all we were in Christ, Who on account of us and for us died and rose again. But sin being destroyed, how could it be that death which was of it and because of it should not altogether come to nothing? The root dying, how could the shoot yet survive? wherefore should we yet die, now that sin hath been destroyed? therefore jubilant in the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God we say: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? For all iniquity, as the Psalmist sings somewhere, shall stop her mouth, no longer able to accuse those who have sinned from infirmity. For it is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, that we might escape the curse from transgression.

30 This is He of Whom I said.

He leads the hearers to remembrance of his words, and yields to Christ the superiority in glory, accomplishing the work, not of love, but rather of truth and necessity. For the creature is subject, even if it willeth not, to the Creator?  |133 the bond to the Lord, the supplied to the Giver. But in what manner Christ was after John, but preferred before him, for He was before him, as himself confesseth, we have spoken sufficiently in what has preceded.

31 And I knew Him not, but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.

He that leaped in the depth of the womb of his mother at the voice of the Holy Virgin while yet bearing the Lord, prophet before the travail-pang, disciple in the womb, says of the Saviour, I knew Him not, and says truly, for he does not lie. For God knows all things of Himself and untaught, but the creature, by being taught. For the Spirit indwelling in the Saints, fulfils what is lacking, and gives to human nature His Own good, I mean, knowledge of things to come, and of the hidden mysteries. Therefore the holy Baptist saying that he does not know the Lord, will by no means speak untruly, in regard of the property of human nature, and the measure befitting the creature, but will attribute the knowledge of all things to God Alone, Who through the Holy Ghost enlighteneth man to the apprehension of hidden things. And very profitably doth he say that of himself he knew not Christ, but is come for that very purpose, to make Him manifest to Israel, that he may not seem to run of his own accord to bear testimony, nor be thought by any the minister of his own will, but the worker of the Divine dispensation, the minister of the Counsel from above revealing to him the Lamb Which taketh away the sin of the world.

In order therefore that the Jews may the more easily come to believe on our Saviour Christ, and may have the most worthy conception of Him, he says that having not known Him, he knows Him, that they may understand then at length God Who revealed Him, and awestruck at the judgment from above, may receive his word concerning Him, and, seeing the servant so great, may proportionally estimate the Dignity of the Master. For his saying, that he was come to make Him manifest to Israel, how does it not denote the care belonging to a servant? |134

32, 33  And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending  from Heaven like a dove, and It abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He That sent me to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, the Same is He Which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

Having said above that he knew Him not, he profitably explains and uncovers the Divine Mystery, both shewing that He Who told him was God the Father, and clearly relating the manner of the revelation. By all does he profit the mind of the headers; and whereby he says that the Mystery of Christ to men-ward was taught him of God, he shews that his opposers are fighting against the decree from above, and to their own peril arraying themselves against the mighty purpose of the Father. For this was the part of one skillfully persuading them to desist from their vain counsel, and to receive Him Who by the goodwill of the Father came for the salvation of all. He therefore testifieth, both that he saw the Spirit descending from Heaven upon Him, in the form of a Dove, and that It abode upon Him. Then besides, he says that himself was the ear-witness of Him Who sent him to baptize with water, that He upon Whom the Spirit came and abode upon Him is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. Most worthy of belief then the witness, supernatural the sign, above all the Father Who revealed.

And these things are thus. But perchance the heretic fond of carping will jump up, and with a big laugh, say; What again, sirs, say ye to this too, or what argument will ye bring |135 forth, wresting that which is written? Lo, he saith that the Spirit descendeth upon the Son; lo, He is anointed by God the Father; That Which He hath not, He receives forsooth, the Psalmist co-witnessing with us and saying, as to Him: Wherefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. How then will the Son any more be Consubstantial with the Perfect Father, not being Himself Perfect, and therefore anointed? To this then I think it right to say to those who overturn the holy doctrines of the Church, and pervert the truth of the Scriptures: Awake, ye drunkards, from your wine, that viewing the clear beauty of the truth, ye may be able with us to cry to the Son: Of a truth Thou art the Son of God. For if thou fully believe that He is by Nature God, how will He not have perfection? For time is it that ye now speak impiously against the Father Himself also: for whence must He needs, as thou sayest, have perfection? how will He not be brought down to the abasement of His Offspring, which according to you is imperfect, in that the Divine Essence in the Son has once received the power of not having Perfection, according to your unlearned and uninstructed reasoning? For we will not divide that Great and Untaint Nature into different Words, so that it should be imperfect perchance in one, and again Perfect in the other. Since the definition of human nature too is one in respect of all men, and equal in all of us, what man will be less, qua man? but neither will he be considered more so than another. And I suppose that one angel will differ in nothing from another angel in respect of their being what they are, angels to wit, from sameness of nature, being all linked with one another unto one nature. How then can the Nature Which is Divine and surpassing all, shew Itself in a state inferior to things originate in Its own special good, and endure a condition which the creature cannot endure? How will It be at all simple and uncompounded, if Perfection and imperfection appear in It? For It will be compounded of both, since Perfection is not of the same kind as imperfection. For if they be of the same kind, and there be no difference between them, every thing which is perfect will without |136 distinction be also imperfect: and if ought again be imperfect, this too will be perfect. And the charge against the Son will be nought, even though according to your surmisings He appear not Perfect: but neither will the Father Himself, though witnessed to in respect of His Perfection, surpass the Son, and there is an end of our dispute. But if much interval severs imperfection from perfection, and the Divine Nature admits both together, It is compound, and not simple.

But perchance some one will say, that contraries are incompatible, and not co-existent in one subject at the same time, as for instance in a body white and black skin together. Well, my friend, and very bravely hast thou backed up my argument. For if the Divine Nature be One, and there be none other than It, how, tell me, will It admit of contraries? How will things unlike to one another come together into one subject? But since the Father is by Nature God, the Son too is by Nature God. He will therefore in nothing differ, in respect of being Perfect, from the Father, since He is begotten of His Divine and most Perfect Essence. For must not He needs be Perfect Who is of a Perfect Parent, since He is both His exact Likeness, and the express Image of His Person, as it is written? But every one will I suppose consent and agree to this. Or let him come forward and say, how the Son is the exact Image of the Perfect Father, not having Perfection in His Own Nature, according to the uncounsel of some. For since He is the Impress and Image, He is Himself too perfect as He, Whose Image He is.

But, says one, John saw the Spirit descending from Heaven upon the Son, and He has Sanctification from without, for He receives it as not having it. Time then is it to call Him openly a creature, barely honoured with a little excellence, perfected and sanctified in equal rank with the rest, and having His supply of good things an acquired one. Then how does the Evangelist not lie, when he says, Of His fulness have all we received? For how will He be full in His Own Nature, Who Himself receiveth from Another? Or how |137 will God be at all conceived of as Father if the Only-Begotten is a creature, and not rather Son? For if this be so, both Himself will be falsely called Father, and the Son will not be Truth, having upon Him a spurious dignity, and a title of bare words. The whole therefore will come to nothing; the Father being neither truly father, nor the Son this by Nature, which He is said to be. But if God be truly Father, He surely has whereof He is Father, the Son, that is, of Himself.

Then how will the Godhead Holy by Nature beget that of Itself which is void of holiness, and bring forth Its own Fruit destitute of Its own inherent Properties? For if He hath sanctification from without, as they babbling say;—-they must needs confess, even against their will, that He Was not always holy, but became so afterwards, when the Spirit descended upon Him, as John saith. How then was the Son holy even before the Incarnation? for so did the Seraphim glorify Him, repeating the Holy, in order, from the first to the third time. If then He was holy, even before the Incarnation, yea rather being ever with the Father, how needed He a sanctifier, and this in the last times, when He became Man? I marvel how this too escapes them, with all their love of research. For must we not needs conceive, that the Son could at any time reject sanctification, if it be not in Him essentially, but came to Him as it does to us, or any other reasonable creature? But that which falls away from sanctification, will it not be altogether under the bonds of sin, and sink to the worse, no longer retaining power to be apart from vice? Therefore neither will the Son be found to be unchangeable, and the Psalmist will lie crying in the Spirit as to Him, But Thou art the Same.

Besides what has been already said, let this too be considered, for it brings in a kindred idea: All reasoning will demonstrate that the partaken is somewhat other by nature than the partaker. For if this be not true, but that shall in no wise differ from this, and is the same; that which partakes of ought partakes of itself, which is incredible even to think of (for how can any one be imagined to partake of |138 himself?). But if the things mentioned lie altogether in natural diversity one to another, and the necessity of reasoning separates them, let them who give the Spirit by participation to the Only-Begotten, see to what a depth of impiety they sink unawares. For if the Son is partaker of the Spirit, and the Spirit is by Nature holy, He Himself will not be by Nature holy, but is shewn to be hardly so through combination with another, transelemented by grace to the better, than that wherein He was at first. But let the fighter against God again see, into how great impiety the question casts him down. For first some change and turning, as we said before, will be found to exist respecting the Son. And being according to you changed, and having advanced unto the better, He will be shewn to be not only not inferior to the Father, but even somehow to have become superior: and how this is, we will say, taking it from the Divine Scripture. The divine Paul says somewhere of Him: Be each among you so 1 minded, according to what was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself. Since then even before the Incarnation, He was in the form and equality of the Father, but at the time of the Incarnation receiving the Spirit from Heaven was sanctified, according to them, and became by reason of this better alike and greater than Himself, He surpasses at length it is plain even the measure of His Father. And if on receiving the Spirit He mounted up unto dignity above that of the Father, then is the Spirit superior even to the Father Himself, seeing that He bestows on the Son the superiority over Him. Who then will not shudder at the mere hearing of this? For hard is it in truth even to go through such arguments, but no otherwise can the harm of their stubbornness be driven off. Therefore we will say again to them: If when the Word of God became Man, He is then also sanctified by receiving |139 the Spirit: but before the Incarnation was in the Form and Equality of the Father, not yet according to them sanctified, time is it they should boldly say, that God the Father is not holy, if the Word Who is in all things altogether Con-formal and Equal to Him, was not holy in the beginning, but barely in the last times became so. And again, if He is truly the Word of God, Who receiveth the Spirit, and is sanctified in His Own Nature, let our opponents say, whether in doing this, He became greater or less than Himself, or remained the Same. For if He hath nothing more from the Spirit, but remaineth the same as He was, be not offended at learning that It descended on Him. But if He was injured by receiving It, and became less, you will introduce to us the Word as passible, and will accuse the Essence of the Father as wronging rather than sanctifying. But if He became better by receiving the Spirit, but was in the Form and Equality of the Father, even before, according to you, He became bettered, the Father hath not attained unto the height of glory, but will be in that measure of it, in which the Son Who hath advanced to the better was Con-formal and Equal to Him. Convenient is it then, I deem, to say to the ill-instructed heretics, Behold o foolish people and without understanding, which have eyes, and see not; which have ears and hear not; for the god of this world hath indeed blinded the eyes of them, which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them: worthy of pity are they rather than of anger. For they understand not, what they read.

But that the reasoning is true, will be clear from hence, even if we have not, by our previous attempts, made the demonstration perfectly clear. Again shall this that is spoken by the mouth of Paul be brought forward: Be each among you, saith he, so minded, according to what was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the Form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, and took upon Him the Form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself. Lo, he much marvels at the Son, as being Equal and Con-formal |140 with God the Father, not, by reason of His Love to us, seizing this, but descending to lowliness, through the Form of a servant, emptied by reason of His Manhood. But if, sirs, He on receiving the Spirit were sanctified rather, when He became Man, and were, through the sanctification, rendered superior to Himself, into what kind of lowliness shall we see Him to have descended? How is That made low that was exalted, how did That descend that was sanctified, or how did it not rather ascend, and was exalted for the better? What emptiness hath filling through the Spirit? or how will He at all be thought to have been Incarnate for our sakes, Who underwent so great profit in respect of Himself? How did the Rich become poor for our sakes, who was enriched because of us? How was He rich even before His Advent, Who according to them received in it what He had not, to wit the Spirit? Or how will He not rather justly offer to us thank-offering for what by means of us He gained? Be astonished, as it is written, O ye heavens, at this: and be horribly afraid, saith the Lord: for the people of the heretics have in truth committed two evils, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm, and think it not grievous thus to incur such danger in the weightiest matters. For else would they, shedding bitter tears from their eyes, and lifting up a mighty voice on high, have approached, saying, Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, keep the door of my lips. Incline not my heart to words of wickedness. For words of wickedness in truth are their words, travailing with extremest mischief to the hearers. But we, having expelled their babbling from our heart, will walk in the right way of the faith, bearing in mind that which is written: Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Come then, and bringing into captivity our mind as to the subjects before us, let us subject it to the glory of the Only-Begotten, bringing all things wisely to His obedience, that is, to the mode of the Incarnation. For, being Rich, for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich. |141

Receive then, if you please, our proof through that also which is now before us, opening a forbearing ear to our words. The Divine Scripture testifies that man was made in the Image and Likeness of God Who is over all. And indeed, he who compiled the first book for us (Moses, who above all men was known to God) says, And God created man, in the Image of God created He him. But that through the Spirit he was sealed unto the Divine Image, himself again taught us, saying, And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. For the Spirit at once began both to put life into His formation and in a Divine manner to impress His own Image thereon. Thus the most excellent Artificer God, having formed the reasonable living creature upon the earth, gave him the saving commandment. And he was in Paradise, as it is written, still keeping the Gift, and eminent in the Divine Image of Him That made him, through the Holy Ghost That indwelt him. But when perverted by the wiles of the devil, he began to despise his Creator, and by trampling on the law assigned him, to grieve his Benefactor, He recalled the grace given to him, and he that was made unto life then first heard Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. And now the Likeness to God was through the inroad of sin defaced, and no longer was the Impress bright, but fainter and darkened because of the transgression. But when the race of man had reached to an innumerable multitude, and sin had dominion over them all, manifoldly despoiling each man’s soul, his nature was stripped of the ancient grace; the Spirit departed altogether, and the reasonable creature fell into extremest folly, ignorant even of its Creator. But the Artificer of all, having endured a long season, at length pities the corrupted world, and being Good hastened to gather together to those above His runaway flock upon earth; and decreed to trans-element human nature anew to the pristine Image through the Spirit. For no otherwise was it possible that the Divine Impress should again shine forth in him, as it did aforetime.

What then He contrives to this end, how He implanted in us the inviolate grace, or how the Spirit again took root in man, |142 in what manner nature was re-formed to its old condition, it is meet to say. The first man, being earthy, and of the earth, and having, placed in his own power, the choice between good and evil, being master of the inclination to each, was caught of bitter guile, and having inclined to disobedience, falls to the earth, the mother from whence he sprang, and over-mastered now at length by corruption and death, transmits the penalty to his whole race. The evil growing and multiplying in us, and our understanding ever descending to the worse, sin reigned, and thus at length the nature of man was shewn bared of the Holy Ghost Which indwelt him. For the Holy Spirit of wisdom will flee deceit, as it is written, nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin. Since then the first Adam preserved not the grace given him of God, God the Father was minded to send us from Heaven the second Adam. For He sendeth in our likeness His own Son Who is by Nature without variableness or change, and wholly unknowing of sin, that as by the disobedience of the first, we became subject to Divine wrath, so through the obedience of the Second, we might both escape the curse, and its evils might come to nought. But when the Word of God became Man, He received the Spirit from the Father as one of us, (not receiving ought for Himself individually, for He was the Giver of the Spirit); but that He Who knew no sin, might, by receiving It as Man, preserve It to our nature, and might again inroot in us the grace which had left us. For this reason, I deem, it was that the holy Baptist profitably added, I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven, and It abode upon Him. For It had fled from us by reason of sin, but He Who knew no sin, became as one of us, that the Spirit might be accustomed to abide in us, having no occasion of departure or withdrawal in Him.

Therefore through Himself He receives the Spirit for us, and renews to our nature, the ancient good. For thus is He also said for our sakes to become poor. For being rich, as God and lacking no good thing, He became Man lacking all things, to whom it is somewhere said and that very well, What hast thou that thou didst not receive? As then, being by |143 Nature Life, He died in the Flesh for our sakes, that He might overcome death for us, and raise up our whole nature together with Himself (for all we were in Him, in that He was made Man): so does He also receive the Spirit for our sakes, that He may sanctify our whole nature. For He came not to profit Himself, but to be to all us the Door and Beginning and Way of the Heavenly Goods. For if He had not pleased to receive, as Man, or to suffer too, as one of us, how could any one have shewn that He humbled Himself? or how would the Form of a servant have been fittingly kept, if nothing befitting a servant were written of Him? Let not then the all-wise account of the dispensation be pulled to pieces, whereof the divine Paul himself rightly cries in admiration: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. For wisdom indeed and God-befitting, is the great mystery of the Incarnation seen to be.

Such an apprehension of our Saviour do I suppose that we who choose to be pious, and rejoice in orthodox doctrines, ought to have. For we too will not descend to such lack of reason as to suppose that in the Son by Nature was the Spirit by participation and not rather essentially inherent even as in the Father Himself. For as of the Father, so also of the Son, is the Holy Ghost. So did we also read in the Divine Scriptures. For it says: After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus 2 suffered them not.

But if it seem good to any one, with over contentious zeal, to object to our words hereon, and to assert again, that the Spirit is in the Son by participation, or that, not being in Him before, He then came to be in Him, when He was baptized, in the period of His Incarnation, let him see, into what and how great absurdities he will fall. For first, the Saviour saith: Among them that are born of women there |144 hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist. And the word is true: but we see him who hath attained to the summit of glory and virtue that belong to us, honouring Christ with incomparable excellencies. For I am not worthy, says he, to stoop down and unloose the latchet of His shoes. How then is it not absurd, yea rather impious, to believe that John was filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb, because it is so written of him: and to suppose that his Master, yea rather the Master and Lord of all, then first received the Spirit, when He was baptized, albeit holy Gabriel says to the holy Virgin: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. And let the lover of learning see, with how great a meaning the word travaileth. For of John, it saith, he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost (for the Holy Ghost was in him as a gift, and not essentially), but of the Saviour, he no longer saith shall be filled, (in rightness of conception,) but that holy Thing which shall be born of thee. Nor did he add shall be, for It was always Holy by Nature, as God.

But since I deem that we ought to seek after what is profitable from all quarters; the voice of the archangel having been once brought forward, come, let us exercise ourselves a little in it. The Holy Ghost, says he, shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. Let him then, who from great unlearning, opposeth the right doctrines of the Church, tell us, whether even before the Incarnation the the Word of God the Father was Son, or had the glory in name only, but was a bastard, and falsely called. For if he say that He was not the Son at all, he will deny the Father (for of whom will He be the Father, if He have no Son?): and he will think contrary to all the Divine Scriptures. But if he confess that the Son even before the Incarnation both was and was called Son, how does the Archangel tell us that That which should be born of the holy Virgin shall |145 be called the Son of God, albeit He was this by Nature even long before? As therefore the Son being from eternity with the Father, as having Origin of Being, is at the time of His Incarnation called Son of God, from His appearing in the world with a Body; so, having in Himself Essentially His Own Spirit, He is said to receive It as Man, preserving to the Humanity the order befitting it, and with it appropriating for our sakes the things befitting it. But how can the Word be thought of at all apart from Its Own Spirit? For would it not be absurd to say, that the spirit of man, which is in him, according to the definition of nature, and for the completeness of the living-being, was separated from him? But I suppose that this is most evident to all. How then shall we sever the Spirit from the Son, Which is so inherent and essentially united, and through Him proceeding and being in Him by Nature, that It cannot be thought to be Other than He by reason both of Identity of working, and the very exact likeness of Nature. Hear what the Saviour saith to His own disciples, If ye love Me, keep My Commandments, and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you Another Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive. Lo, plainly He calls the Holy Ghost Spirit of Truth. But that He and none other than He is the Truth, hear Him again saying, I am the Truth. The Son by Nature then being and being called Truth, see how great Oneness with Him the Spirit hath. For the disciple John saith somewhere of our Saviour, This is He that came by water and blood and the spirit 3, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood: and it is the Spirit That beareth witness, because the Spirit is Truth. Therefore also, the Holy Ghost indwelling in our inner man, Christ Himself is said to dwell therein, and so it is. And indeed the blessed Paul most clearly teaching this, says, But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body |146 is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Apply, sir, a quick ear to what is said. Having named the Spirit of Christ That dwelleth in us, he straightway added, If Christ be in you, introducing the exact likeness of the Son with the Spirit, Which is His Own and proceeding from Him by Nature. Therefore He is called the Spirit of adoption also, and in Him we cry Abba, Father. And as the blessed John somewhere says, Hereby know we that He dwelleth in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit.

I think then that these things will suffice, to enable the children of the Church to repel the mischief of the heretics. But if any one be soused in the unmixed strong drink of their unlearning, and suppose that the Son then first received the Spirit, when He became Man: let him shew that the Word of God was not holy before the Incarnation, and we will hold our peace.

But one may well wonder that the holy Evangelist every where preserves with much observance what befits the Divine Nature. For since he said above, that no man hath seen God at any time, and now says that the blessed Baptist saw the Spirit descend from Heaven upon the Son, he adds of necessity, I saw the Spirit, but in the form of a Dove, not Himself by Nature, as He is, but shadowed in the gentlest animal; that in this again He might be shewn to preserve His Natural Affinity and Likeness to the Son, Who saith, Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. Therefore the Spirit will not fall away from being God by Nature: for the never having been seen at any time has been preserved to Him, save under the form of a dove, by reason of the need of the disciple. For the blessed Baptist says that the descent of the Spirit was given him by way of a sign and token, adding to his testimonies respecting our Saviour, He that sent me to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the Same is He Which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. Therefore I think we may fitly laugh to scorn those senseless heretics who take as matter of fact, that which was set forth by way of sign, even though |147 it took place as part of the oeconomy, as hath been already said, for the need’s sake of the human race.

34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

Sure is the witness; who, what he hath actually seen, that he also speaketh. For haply he was not ignorant of that which is written, That which thine eyes have seen, tell. I saw then, says he, the sign, and understood That Which was signified by it. I bear record that this is the Son of God, Who was proclaimed by the Law that is through Moses, and heralded by the voice of the holy Prophets. The blessed Evangelist seems to me again to say with some great confidence, This is the Son of God, that is, the One, the Only by Nature, the Heir of the Own Nature of the Father, to Whom we too, sons by adoption, are conformed and through Whom we are called by grace to the dignity of sonship. For as from God the Father every family in Heaven and earth is named, from His being properly, and first, and truly Father, so is all sonship too from the Son, by reason of His being properly and Alone truly Son, not bastard nor falsely-called, but of the Essence of God the Father, not by off-cutting or emanation or division or severance (for the Divine Nature is altogether Impassible): but as One of One, ever Co-existing and Co-eternal and Innate in Him Who begat Him, being in Him, and coming forth from Him, Indivisible and without Dimensions; since the Divinity is neither after the manner of a body, nor bounded by space, nor of nature such as to make progressive footsteps. But like as from fire proceedeth the heat that is in it, appearing to be separate from it in idea, and to be other than it, though it is of it and in it by nature, and proceedeth from it without suffering any harm in the way of offcutting, division, or emanation (for it is preserved whole in the whole fire): so shall we conceive of the Divine Offspring too, thinking thereon in a manner most worthy of God, and believing that the Son subsists of Himself, yet not excluding Him from the One Ineffable Godhead, nor saying that He is Other in substance than the Father. For then would He no longer be rightly conceived |148 of as Son, but something other than He, and a new god would arise, other than He That Only Is. For how shall not that which is not consubstantial with God by Nature, wholly fall away from being Very God? But since the blessed Baptist is both trustworthy, and of the greatest repute, and testifieth that This is the Son of God: we will confess the Son to be altogether Very God, and of the Essence of the Father. For this and nothing else, does the name of Sonship signify to us. (source)

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 78

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 31, 2016

God’s great benefits to the people of Israel, notwithstanding their ingratitude

Psa 78:1 Understanding for Asaph. Attend, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

David, being about to exhort the people, in rather a long discourse, endeavors, at the outset, to arrest their attention by saying he is going to speak on matters of utility and importance. “Attend to my law;” to my precepts, which, like good and most wise laws, will direct you to happiness. And he repeats the same at greater length when he says, “incline your ears;” and what he expressed at first by the words, “my law,” he now expresses by the words, “to the words of my mouth;” thereby insinuating that when he mentioned the law, he did not mean the law of Moses, though often called simply the law, but his own words, with which he meant to instruct and to exhort his people; in which sense Christ himself uses the term when he said, John 15, “But that the word may be fulfilled, which is written in their Law, they have hated me without cause.” To incline the ear, when applied to the people, means to hear with humility and obedience, but, when applied to God, means to hear with clemency and mercy. Some will have this Psalm spoken in the person of God, others, of Christ; but verse 3, “and our fathers have told us’ ” shows that David speaks in his own person, and no other.

Psa 78:2 I will open my mouth in parables: I will utter propositions from the beginning.

The reason why David asks that what he says may be listened to with attention and humility is, that he is about to enter on difficult and obscure matters, that require attention and humility. By parables is understood here proverbs or similes that are usually short and figurative. Propositions mean enigmas that are most obscure, for such is the meaning of the word in Hebrew, as is clear from that passage in the book of Judges, where Samson’s enigma, “out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness,” is called an enigma, and in Greek a problem. There are many proverbs and enigmas in this Psalm, as we shall see hereafter; but the one particularly alluded to here seems to be the kingdom of Christ, of which David’s kingdom is the figure; and the Church, of which Mount Sion is the figure. The words, “from the beginning,” looking at the text of the Psalm, would seem to apply to the date of the liberation of the people from the captivity of Egypt, when the people of Israel began to assume the form of a republic, and to be subject to laws and judges; and verse 5, “and he set up a testimony in Jacob; and made a law in Israel,” favors that view; but Mt. chap. 13, in quoting this passage, says that “the beginning” refers to the beginning of the world; for he says, “That the word might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world.” The meaning, then, is, I will lay before you ideas that were hidden, and like so many enigmas, from the beginning of the world; for, though the mysteries of Christ were at all times foretold and foreshadowed, still they were veiled, and openly revealed to very few. St. Paul, writing of them, says, Ephes. 3, “To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace to preach among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to enlighten all men what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God who created all things.”

Psa 78:3 How great things have we heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
Psa 78:4 They have not been hidden from their children, in another generation. Declaring the praises of the Lord, and his powers, and his wonders which he hath done.

Being about to write a history of matters that had within them mysteries hidden from the beginning of the world, he tells us he got the history of these from the fathers, who got them from their ancestors; I will, he says, utter propositions from the beginning. “What great things we have heard and known,” because “our fathers have told us,” both by their writings and word of mouth, for they did not wish them “to be hidden from their children” they were to leave after them “in another generation;” and what they had to tell was God’s praises and virtues; that is, his wonderful power and his wonderful works, for which he deserves the highest meed of praise. “They have not been hidden.” St. Matthew says “I will utter things hidden,” which would seem like a contradiction, but it is not, for the things that were done were not hidden from the children of those who related them, though their mystical signification was.

Psa 78:5 And he set up a testimony in Jacob: and made a law in Israel. How great things he commanded our fathers, that they should make the same known to their children:
Psa 78:6 That another generation might know them. The children that should be born and should rise up, and declare them to their children.

He now begins to relate the things done by God, as he heard from the fathers, and he places first the fact of God’s having given the people of Israel the law and the commandments through Moses, and having ordered that law to be given by the parents to their children, and so to be handed down to posterity. The law of God is called a “testimony,” because it testifies God’s will to man, as we have explained at length in Psalm 19, “Setting up a testimony in Jacob;” that is, God gave his law to the children of Jacob, who was also called Israel. The expression, “how great things he commanded,” means no more than what he commanded, according to the Hebrew, from which we gather that “the law” does not simply mean here, the decalogue, but all the commands, both moral, ceremonial, and judicial in the five books of Moses.

Psa 78:7 That they may put their hope in God and may not forget the works of God: and may seek his commandments.
Psa 78:8 That they may not become like their fathers, a perverse and exasperating generation. A generation that set not their heart aright: and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

He now explains why God gave the law to his people, and ordered the parents to teach it to children, and the children to hand it down to their posterity. To make them put no trust in false gods, or the idols of the gentiles, but to trust alone in the true God, who gave them a holy law from heaven, accompanied by great signs and prodigies; and also that they should not forget God’s wonderful doings in delivering them from the bondage of Pharao; furthermore, that they should anxiously seek to know, and studiously put into practice, God’s wishes; and, finally, that they should not imitate the ingratitude and the infidelity of their fathers, who, after all the favors conferred on them through Moses, proved most ungrateful. For, while they were in Egypt, they could hardly be brought to trust Moses, and after having left Egypt, they several times rebelled against Moses and against God; were forever murmuring, and (what is much worse) adoring the golden calf: “A generation that set not their heart aright,” did not keep their heart firmly directed to God, but rather regarded other help. “Whose spirit was not faithful to God,” for it often fell away from faith and obedience.

Psa 78:9 The sons of Ephraim who bend and shoot with the bow: they have turned back in the day of battle.

Many suppose that some unsuccessful battle of the tribe of Ephraim is alluded to here; now, there is no trace of any such battle in Holy Writ, nor is it probable that the prophet, in giving a general description of the vices of the people, miraculously brought out of Egypt, and freed from slavery, would digress to an isolated fact such as this. It is, therefore, much more probable that he explains, by a sort of simile, how inconstant the Hebrews were, in their faith and their obedience to God, making the meaning of the passage to be “the sons of Ephraim;” that is, the Israelites were like soldiers who began to fight with the enemy, and at once turned their backs and fled; so the Israelites, in the desert, more than once promised God they would obey him, and observe his commandments, and in a minute they would change their minds, think of returning to Egypt, and murmur against Moses and against God. David specifies the sons, that is, the tribe of Ephraim, by it meaning the whole assembly of the Israelites; for, next to Juda, the tribe of Ephraim was most numerous and powerful, and thus a rival of Juda, and in the Scripture Ephraim is generally censured, while Juda is praised; and thus the calamities of the whole people were attributed to Ephraim rather than to any of the other tribes, and in the end of this very Psalm, he says, “And chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but he chose the tribe of Juda.” See Osee the prophet.

Psa 78:10 They kept not the covenant of God: and in his law they would not walk.
Psa 78:11 And they forgot his benefits, and his wonders that he had shewn them.
Psa 78:12 Wonderful things did he do in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Tanis.

He now explains what he had figuratively expressed, that the children of Ephraim, the Israelites, were turned back; for when they undertook to obey God, they did not keep the compact, nor did they observe the law of God; and they at once forgot God’s kindness to them, and the wonderful works he did for them in Egypt, which had been related to them by their fathers. The field of Tanis means Egypt, of which Tanis was the royal residence, to show that the wonderful things done by Moses were not done in a nook or corner, but in a most public place, up to the king’s palace.

Psa 78:13 He divided the sea and brought them through: and he made the waters to stand as in a vessel.
Psa 78:14 And he conducted them with a cloud by day: and all the night with a light of fire.
Psa 78:15 He struck the rock in the wilderness: and gave them to drink, as out of the great deep.
Psa 78:16 He brought forth water out of the rock: and made streams run down as rivers.
Psa 78:17 And they added yet more sin against him: they provoked the most High to wrath in the place without water.

Having touched upon the wonderful things that were done in Egypt before Pharao; he now describes the other miracles that were performed in the departure of the Israelites, viz., the separation of the waters of the Red Sea, to afford them a dry passage through it; and, then, after their departure from Egypt, the miracles that were performed in the desert, viz., the pillar of cloud to precede, and show them the way by day, and the pillar of fire by night; and the abundance of water drawn from the rock to slake their thirst. And he adds, that, notwithstanding all those miracles, the incredulous people again provoked God to anger, when they found themselves without water in the desert, which had to be struck a second time for them from the rock; for the first supply of water was given them the year before, as we read in Num. 17, while mention is made of the second in Num. 20. “He made the waters to stand as in a vessel;” means, that God made the waters of the sea to stand up at both sides, as perpendicularly as if they were shut up in a vessel, while the children of Israel were passing through. “And gave them to drink as out of the great deep;” means, that when the rock was struck, as great a quantity of water issued from it as if the rock had been turned into a deep lake or a great ocean of water.

Psa 78:18 And they tempted God in their hearts, by asking meat for their desires.
Psa 78:19 And they spoke ill of God: they said: Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?
Psa 78:20 Because he struck the rock, and the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed. Can he also give bread, or provide a table for his people?
Psa 78:21 Therefore the Lord heard, and was angry: and a fire was kindled against Jacob, and wrath came up against Israel.
Psa 78:22 Because they believed not in God: and trusted not in his salvation.
Psa 78:23 And he had commanded the clouds from above, and had opened the doors of heaven.
Psa 78:24 And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them the bread of heaven.
Psa 78:25 Man ate the bread of angels: he sent them provisions in abundance.
Psa 78:26 He removed the south wind from heaven: and by his power brought in the southwest wind.
Psa 78:27 And he rained upon them flesh as dust: and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea.
Psa 78:28 And they fell in the midst of their camp, round about their pavilions.
Psa 78:29 So they did eat, and were filled exceedingly, and he gave them their desire:

The prophet unites the miracles of the bread from heaven and the water from the rock; they being types of Christ’s passion, and of the Eucharist, as the Lord himself explains in John 6, and the Apostle in 1 Cor. 10. Water from a rock, is the same as bringing wisdom from folly; for wisdom is no less opposed to folly than is a rock, a hard and solid substance, to water, which is a fluid. The mystery of the crucifixion is wisdom, it is the rock which was struck; a folly to the gentiles, and a scandal to the Jews; but the height of wisdom to the faithful, as St. Paul writes 1 Cor. 1, “For seeing that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God; it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.” Now the real bread from heaven was not the manna that fell from the sky, but the flesh of Christ that comes from the heaven of heavens, and gives life to the world. The manna, however, was a type of this true bread, and the prophet had that in view when he said, in the beginning of the Psalm, that he was about to speak in parables and propositions. Now to explain the passage. Having alluded to the miracle of the water brought from the rock and the infidelity of the people, he comes to the miracle of the bread and the meat, another incredulity of theirs. We must bear in mind that the Israelites got meat in a miraculous manner twice, once along with manna, Exodus 16, and a second time without any manna, Numbers 11; and that they got the meat and manna previous to the water from the rock, and the meat alone subsequent to the water. David, however, unites both miracles, and thus renders the matter somewhat confused; but, bearing what we said in mind, it will be easily understood. “And they tempted God in their hearts.” They wished to try if God was really omnipotent and was concerned for his people; and, therefore, “they asked meat for their desires;” bread and meat they were longing for, as we read in Exodus 16 and Num. 11. “And they spoke ill of God,” doubting whether he could give them to eat as well as he gave them to drink in the desert; this alludes to the second time they murmured, for the first murmur was previous to striking water from the rock. “Therefore the Lord heard” their murmurs, proceeding from their incredulity, “and was angry;” so that he sent fire into their camp, and destroyed numbers of them. Yet, he wished to convince an unfaithful people, and to prove his power; and, therefore, “he commanded the clouds from above, and had opened the doors of heaven. And had rained down manna upon them to eat; and had given them the bread of heaven. Man ate the bread of Angels.” This refers to the first time they murmured; for they got the manna before they got the water. The manna is called bread from heaven, having fallen from thence; and it is called the bread of Angels, being made and produced by them. The word manna is derived from two Hebrew words, that mean, “What is it?” which the Jews said when first they saw it.

Psa 78:30 they were not defrauded of that which they craved. As yet their meat was in their mouth:
Psa 78:31 And the wrath of God came upon them. And he slew the fat ones amongst them, and brought down the chosen men of Israel.
Psa 78:32 In all these things they sinned still: and they behaved not for his wondrous works.
Psa 78:33 And their days were consumed in vanity, and their years in haste.
Psa 78:34 When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned, and came to him early in the morning.
Psa 78:35 And they remembered that God was their helper: and the most high God their redeemer.
Psa 78:36 And they loved him with their mouth: and with their tongue they lied unto him:
Psa 78:37 But their heart was not right with him: nor were they counted faithful in his covenant.

The prophet goes on to show in these verses that God, to satisfy the Jews, showed his great power by great miracles; still, that he did not let their contumacy and infidelity go unpunished; and, that the Jews were brought to faith and to obedience, both by the miracles and the punishments inflicted on them, but still, without that perseverance, or that sincerity of heart that God required. “As yet their meat was in their mouth.” They had scarcely finished the quails, “and the wrath of God came upon them,” and destroyed such a number of them, that the place got the name of “The graves of lust.” The Scripture does not tell us how God destroyed them, but, it is likely, through some disease arising from gluttony. And the Lord singled out “the fat ones,” and “the chosen men of Israel;” those most devoted to pleasure, they who exulted in their youth and their strength; “and brought down,” laid them so prostrate by disease, that they could not possibly escape. All this came upon them by reason of their infidelity, for they did not believe that the quails were sent by providence, but came by chance. They were, therefore, punished so quickly, that “their days were consumed in vanity,” and “their years in haste;” for they passed away like a shadow or like smoke, without a trace after them. But they, “when he slew them,” when they were scourged by God, and put to death by him, “they returned” to their senses, and asked God’s help, and that “early in the morning;” as soon as ever they felt the scourge they came to implore God’s mercy, converted, but through fear; and their conversion was feigned, for “with their mouth they called to mind God’s previous goodness; but while they so professed their devotion to him, they lied in their heart; “for their heart was not right with him, nor were they counted faithful in his covenant.” Would that we Christians would not imitate this inconsistency of the Jews. How many among us, when in danger of death, promise God and his saints to amend our lives, and the moment they recover resume their old habits? But God will not be mocked; and such people will not escape his judgment.

Psa 78:38 But he is merciful, and will forgive their sins: and will not destroy them. And many a time did he turn away his anger: and did not kindle all his wrath.
Psa 78:39 And he remembered that they are flesh: a wind that goeth and returneth not.
Psa 78:40 How often did they provoke him in the desert: and move him to wrath in the place without water?
Psa 78:41 And they turned back and tempted God: and grieved the holy one of Israel.
Psa 78:42 They remembered not his hand, in the day that he redeemed them from the hand of him that afflicted them:

The prophet now compares God’s goodness with man’s wickedness, and says, that though God scourged his people, he did not forget his mercy; and, therefore, that he did not chastise them as heavily as their sins deserved, for he had mercy on them, and did not utterly destroy them. They certainly deserved utter extermination, but, through the mercy of God, some were spared; as, in fact, of those that left Egypt, two, Josue and Caleb, survived, types of the elect, who will be saved; for, as the Apostle says, “God hath not cast away his people, which he foreknew, but there is a remnant saved, according to the election of grace.” This verse, then, does not contradict the dispersion of the Jews that we daily see, for the promise was fulfilled in the Apostles, who were Jews; and, so far from being dispersed, have gathered together a great multitude of people, elect in God, a fact foretold by Osee, chap. 1, and explained by 1 St. Peter 2, where he says, “Who in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” The prophet goes on and says, “And many a time did he turn away his anger;” for he forgave a great share of the punishment due to their sins, and thus turned away his anger; because he “did not kindle all his wrath,” as he may justly have done. “And he remembered that they are flesh: a wind that goeth and returneth not.” In addition to his motives for mercy, man’s infirm nature, weakened by the fall of our first parents, mortal and subject to concupiscence, presented itself. For he knows what we are made of; “that they are flesh,” carnal, weak, and feeble; and that we are “a wind that goeth and returneth not;” that is, that our life is a passing one—passing from boyhood to youth, without ever coming back to boyhood; passing from youth to old age, without ever returning to youth, but quickly ending in death. Thus, it is like the flowers and other perishable things, and not like the sun, moon and stars that revolve in their orbits, and are always the same by reason of their being solid and eternal. By the word “wind” we are to understand that spirit or breath of life that quickens and enlivens us, which in its progress grows weaker, and is frail and changeable; and that such is the life of man, the prophet proves in the following verse, “How often did they provoke him in the desert? and move him to wrath in the place without water?” by their want of purpose, promising faith and obedience at one time, and, in a moment after, by heaping obloquy on him, and by rebellion; for, “they turned back” from all their faithful promises, “and tempted God,” to try if he were truly omnipotent; and thus “grieved” God, who is “the Holy One of Israel.” The God of Israel is called “the Holy One,” not only by David, but by Isaias, in various places; for God alone is truly holy, that is, pure and inviolate; while the gods of the gentiles are unclean demons. Finally, such was the fickleness and folly of the Jews so brought by God out of Egypt, that they at once forgot the countless and most wonderful signs and prodigies that God wrought in their favor while he was bringing them out from the bondage of Egypt.

Psa 78:43 How he wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Tanis.
Psa 78:44 And he turned their rivers into blood, and their showers that they might not drink.
Psa 78:45 He sent amongst them divers sorts of flies, which devoured them: and frogs which destroyed them.
Psa 78:46 And he gave up their fruits to the blast, and their labours to the locust.
Psa 78:47 And he destroyed their vineyards with hail, and their mulberry trees with hoarfrost.
Psa 78:48 And he gave up their cattle to the hail, and their stock to the fire.
Psa 78:49 And he sent upon them the wrath of his indignation: indignation and wrath and trouble, which he sent by evil angels.
Psa 78:50 He made a way for a path to his anger: he spared not their souls from death, and their cattle he shut up in death.
Psa 78:51 And he killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt: the firstfruits of all their labour in the tabernacles of Cham.
Psa 78:52 And he took away his own people as sheep: and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
Psa 78:53 And he brought them out in hope and they feared not: and the sea overwhelmed their enemies.

Having said, in verse 42, that the Jews forgot all the miracles God wrought in their favor, when he was bringing them out of the land of Egypt, he now describes, in the above verses, how God afflicted Pharao, until he ultimately overwhelmed him and his whole army in the sea, all of which is to be found in Exodus, from chaps. 7 to 14. Now, David does not record all the miracles, he merely gives the principal ones, and that in a different order from that in which they happened. “They remembered not,” meaning the Jews in the wilderness, “his hand,” the power of the Lord that delivered them from Pharao in his persecution. “How he wrought his signs in Egypt.” They did not remember the wonderful miracles, signs of his power, that he wrought in Egypt, especially those he did in the fairest part of it, Tanis, nigh the royal residence. “And he turned,” for he turned “their rivers into blood, and their showers that they might not drink,” Exod., chap. 7. By the rivers of Egypt we understand the branches of the Nile that flow through it; by their showers we are not to understand the rain that falls, which seldom happens in Egypt, but the water itself, and it is not unusual with David to repeat the same idea, and thus, what he calls their rivers in the first part of the verse, he calls showers in the second. “He sent among them diverse sort of flies which devoured them, and frogs which destroyed them,” Exod., chap. 8. He goes on to enumerate the principal scourges inflicted on the Egyptians; and, finally, to include any he may have omitted, as, in fact, he did, he says in verse 49, “And he sent upon them the wrath of his indignation: indignation and wrath and troubles which he sent by evil angels.” Touching, in the latter part of it, on the most grievous of all the plagues, the slaughter of the first born by the destroying angel. From this, we infer, that the plagues of Egypt, especially the slaughter of the first born, was effected through the agency of the fallen angels, who cannot injure us, but as far as God will suffer them, they being his ministers. The holy Angels even may be called evil angels, from the punishments they inflict when God so employs them. The impure demons may also be called evil angels, they being so in reality, and hostile to man, and God employs both; for, through the former he punished the Sodomites, by fire from heaven; and through the latter, with similar fire, he chastised Job. “He made a way for a path to his anger.” A beautiful figure. It means, God’s anger prompting him to revenge, was restrained by his mercy, urging him not to destroy them entirely, but at length he set aside his mercy, and “made a way for a path to his anger,” and he did not spare them, for he killed all the first born of men and beasts, which were the first fruits of their labor; that is, of the Egyptians, for men generally labor in rearing their children and their cattle, but the first of their labor is directed to their first born, which thus get the appellation of the first fruits of their labor. “In the tabernacle of Cham;” means, in Egypt, which was so called after Mizraim the son of Cham, the son of Noe, he having been the first to inhabit and possess Egypt. “And he took away his own people like sheep.” Upon the slaughter of the first born of Egypt, Pharao allowed the Jews to go away, and then God brought them into the desert of Arabia. “And he brought them out in hope, and they feared not;” they went out with great confidence, “and the sea overwhelmed their enemies;” the last plague inflicted on the Egyptians, and the end of the captivity of the children of Israel.

Psa 78:54 And he brought them into the mountain of his sanctuary: the mountain which his right hand had purchased. And he cast out the Gentiles before them: and by lot divided to them their land by a line of distribution.
Psa 78:55 And he made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tabernacles.
Psa 78:56 Yet they tempted, and provoked the most high God: and they kept not his testimonies.
Psa 78:57 And they turned away, and kept not the covenant: even like their fathers they were turned aside as a crooked bow.
Psa 78:58 They provoked him to anger on their hills: and moved him to jealousy with their graven things.

The prophet now passes to the facts related in the books of Josue and Judges, and shows that the Jews were brought by God into the land of promise, which he calls “the mountain of his sanctuary,” because it was a mountainous country, and one which God had sanctified and dedicated to himself to be worshipped there by his people; he also calls it “the mountain which his right hand had purchased,” because God caused the Israelites under Josue, to conquer the old inhabitants who were most devoted to idolatry, and to banish them by the aid of most signal miracles. He adds, however, that the Jews so introduced by God into the land of promise, proved to be not a whit better than their fathers who had perished in the desert, for they too “tempted and provoked the Most High God,” by abandoning his worship, and by the service of idols. The expression, “They were turned aside as a crooked bow,” means that they were like a bow out of shape, sending the arrows where they should not be sent; for the Jews promised to observe God’s commandments, and apparently directed their arrows to the worship of the true God, while they were, meanwhile, offering sacrifices to false gods; which the prophet expresses in plain language, when he says, “They provoked him to anger on their hills; and moved him to jealousy with their graven things:” for it was on lofty hills, especially wooded ones, that they erected altars to their idols, and sacrificed thereon to them.

Psa 78:59 God heard, and despised them, and he reduced Israel exceedingly as it were to nothing.
Psa 78:60 And he put away the tabernacle of Silo, his tabernacle where he dwelt among men.
Psa 78:61 And he delivered their strength into captivity: and their beauty into the hands of the enemy.
Psa 78:62 And he shut up his people under the sword: and he despised his inheritance.
Psa 78:63 Fire consumed their young men: and their maidens were not lamented.
Psa 78:64 Their priests fell by the sword: and their widows did not mourn.

The prophet now enters into the vengeance inflicted by God on the sins of his people, making special mention of the time when the Philistines routed the Jewish army, and carried the Ark of the Lord away with them, after having slain the priests who were in charge of it, 1 Sam 4. “God heard,” or rather he knew the sins of his people crying unto heaven, “and despised them,” as an useless people, and deserving of death, “and he reduced Israel exceedingly,” humbled them to nothing, allowing their enemies to triumph over them. “And he put away the tabernacle of Silo.” He rejected the tabernacle containing the Ark, which was then in Silo, in which tabernacle, God, to a certain extent “dwelt among men;” because from thence he gave his answers to men. “And he delivered their strength into captivity, and their beauty into the hands of the enemy;” he allowed that people that he had chosen for his inheritance, as his own and favored people to be surrounded and circumvented by the swords of the enemy. “Fire consumed their young men;” the fire of war, or the fire of God’s anger destroyed the flower of them, for such are always the young; “and their maidens were not lamented,” because there was nobody left to deplore them. “Their priests fell by the sword,” Ophni and Phinees the sons of Heli, who are specially named among the dead; “and their widows did not mourn,” for all were occupied in their own private and peculiar losses.

Psa 78:65 And the Lord was awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that hath been surfeited with wine.
Psa 78:66 And he smote his enemies on the hinder parts: he put them to an everlasting reproach.
Psa 78:67 And he rejected the tabernacle of Joseph: and chose not the tribe of Ephraim:
Psa 78:68 But he chose the tribe of Juda, mount Sion which he loved.
Psa 78:69 And he built his sanctuary as of unicorns, in the land which he founded for ever.
Psa 78:70 And he chose his servant David, and took him from the flocks of sheep: he brought him from following the ewes great with young,
Psa 78:71 To feed Jacob his servant and Israel his inheritance.
Psa 78:72 And he fed them in the innocence of his heart: and conducted them by the skilfulness of his hands.

In this, the latter part of the Psalm, David shows that God was pleased at his people being punished as they were, inasmuch as their sins called for such punishment; but that he was not pleased with the pride and malice of the Philistines, who so afflicted them; and, therefore, that he signally punished the Philistines, as we read in the same second book of Samuel chap. 5. God often uses the wickedness of some to punish others, and then punishes the wicked for doing so, not looking to the good effected through them, but to the malicious motives that prompted them, in which he had no share. He then goes on to say that God would not have the tabernacle any longer in Silo, a city of the tribe of Ephraim, nor that the supreme power should be in the tribe of Joseph; but that he wished the tabernacle to be placed on mount Sion, and that the supreme rule should belong to the tribe of Juda, from which tribe he had chosen David to be king over his people; a prophecy regarding Christ and his Church, as we said in the beginning of the Psalm. For, as St. Augustine well remarks, God did not reject Joseph, and select Juda by reason of their personal merits; had he done so, he would have chosen Joseph, who excelled very much, whether one regards his chastity, his patience, his wisdom, his prudence, or his love of his enemies; but he chose Juda on account of David, and David on account of Christ, and he destroyed the synagogue to build up the Church. To come now to the explanation of the text. “And the Lord was awaked as one out of sleep.” The Philistines had overpowered the Jews, not by their own strength, nor by reason of want of strength on the part of the Lord, but because he slept, and slept, too, “like a mighty man that hath been surfeited with wine;” wine makes one sleep. But when he was awaked from that sleep, he made a grand display of his power against the Philistines. God is said, figuratively, to sleep when he does not seem to notice the evil doings of the wicked; and he is said to sleep “like one surfeited with wine,” when he deals with the most grievous sinners as if he were in a profound sleep, and was insensible to the grievous injuries offered him, such as the taking away of the Ark. “And he smote his enemies on the hinder parts.” He afflicted them with a most painful disease, that of the emerods in their private parts; “he put them to an everlasting reproach;” for God, in his wisdom, caused them to make golden emerods, and hang them on the Ark, to their own everlasting shame, to hand down the disease with which God had afflicted them. “And he rejected the tabernacle of Joseph;” he would not have the tabernacle in which was kept the Ark, to remain any longer in Silo, a city in the tribe of Ephraim, the son of Joseph; “and chose not the tribe of Ephraim;” when about to establish a sovereignty in his people, he did not choose a king from Ephraim, the most numerous and powerful of the tribes, “But he chose the tribe of Juda, mount Sion which he loved.” He chose the tribe of Juda, from which his rulers were to be selected, and mount Sion on which to place his tabernacle, and afterwards his temple, to hold his Ark, and to offer his sacrifices therein. “And he built his sanctuary as of unicorns in the land which he founded forever;” God built on mount Sion, or in Jerusalem, which is to exist, his sanctuary, as firm as the horn of a unicorn. Here is the principle, or parable, or, rather, enigma, which the prophet promised in the beginning of the Psalm; for the sanctuary of the Old Testament was not as firm as the horn of a unicorn, only inasmuch as it was the type of the sanctuary of the New Testament; nor was mount Sion or Jerusalem founded, (for it was soon after destroyed,) only inasmuch as it was the type of the Church of Christ, “against which the gates of hell shall not prevail,” and whose worship and sacraments will suffer no change to the end of the world. “And he chose his servant David, and took him from the flocks of sheep; he brought him from following the ewes great with young.” He passes over the reign of Saul, for it was to be a short time, and, in a manner, extorted from God by the clamors of the people; but he mentions the kingdom of David, who was a type of Christ, and which, through the pure will of God, was to last. He, therefore, “chose his servant David” from a humble position, for fear he should attribute his elevation to any merits of his own; “he took him from the flocks of sheep;” from being a shepherd, as he really was, “to feed Jacob his servant, and Israel his inheritance;” from feeding sheep, took him to feed men; for he placed him over the kingdom of Israel and of Jacob, his people and his inheritance. “And he fed them in the innocence of his heart; and conducted them by the skillfulness of his hands.” The event proved the soundness of God’s judgment, for David fed and governed God’s people in the innocence of his heart, and the wisdom of his acts. In the innocence of his heart, because, with a pure and immaculate heart, he never sought his own glory, but that of God; not his own benefit, but that of the people; he was more anxious to serve than to rule; he fed the sheep, not as his own, but as belonging to his Master, as a servant, and not as an heir. In his wisdom, or, as he expresses it, “in the skillfulness of his hands,” he guided the people; because, whatever he did, he did it on due reflection, not rashly, not without taking counsel, or inconsiderately. All which perfections, however applicable they may be to David, are, absolutely speaking, to be found completely in Christ alone. Had David been so perfect in them, he would not have been so severely condemned for coveting the wife of another, for the commission of murder and adultery, for wantonly making a census of the people; for condemning Mephiboseth, and giving his property to the false informer, without any manner of trial. Christ, though, was truly innocent in heart, and wise in his works, “for he committed no sin, nor was there guile found in his mouth;” and he alone could boldly say, “Which of you shall convince me of sin?”

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 95

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 31, 2016

An invitation to adore and serve God, and to hear his voice

Psa 95:1 Come let us praise the Lord with joy: let us joyfully sing to God our saviour.

An invitation and an exhortation to praise God. The word “come” contains an exhortation, exciting them to join heart and lips in praising God; just as the word is used in Genesis, where the people, exciting and encouraging each other, say, “Come, let as make bricks;” and “Come, let us make a city and a tower;” and, in the same chapter, the Lord says, “Come, let us go down, and there confound their tongue.” “Let us praise the Lord with joy.” He invites them first to exult in the spirit, and then to compress their joy in song; for song is of little value unless the mind be previously raised up to God in interior joy and admiration. Hence, it is written of the Lord himself, that “he rejoiced in the Holy Ghost, and said, I give thanks to thee, O Father;” and the Mother of the Lord said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced.” The prophet, then, says, “Come, let us praise the Lord with joy.” Let us all unite in praising the Lord, giving full expression to our joy, and chanting hymns of praise to him who is our hope and salvation.

Psa 95:2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; and make a joyful noise to him with psalms.

This verse may be understood in two ways—one making the prophet summon us to rise early in the morning to praise God, as if he said, Before others rise let us be first before God; and in such spirit does the Church put this Psalm in the beginning of matins. The second explanation makes the prophet tell us to unite an avowal of our own misery with God’s mercy, making us come before him by acknowledging our sins, previous to his sitting in judgment on them, and punishing us for them; “and make a joyful noise with psalms,” in praising the great mercy so extended to us.

Psa 95:3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

He assigns five reasons why God should be praised by us. The first is, because our Lord is a great God, far above all other gods; and he is a great King, far higher than all other kings, who are sometimes called gods.

Psa 95:4 For in his hand are all the ends of the earth: and the heights of the mountains are his.

The second reason is, because God’s power is supreme throughout the entire world, whether as to its length, or breadth, or height; and, therefore, all who inhabit the earth are subject to him, and owe him the sacrifice of praise. “For in his hand,” in his power, “are all the ends of the earth;” the whole world to its extreme boundaries; “and the heights of the mountains are his;” not only does the whole length and breadth of the land belong to him, but even up to the top of the highest mountains are subject to him. In a very old manuscript, after these words is read a verse from the preceding Psalm, “For the Lord will not cast off his people;” which verse is daily read in the divine office, but it is not in the Hebrew, the Greek, nor in the Vulgate. In the same copy, instead of the words, “the heights of the mountains are his,” the version is, “he sees the heights of the mountains;” indicating God’s elevation and power.

Psa 95:5 For the sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.

The third reason is, because our God is Lord, not only of the land but of the sea; for it is he who made it, and surrounded it with its sands that confine it as if in a bowl. It is, therefore, most meet that mankind, who derive so many benefits from the sea, should thank and praise him who gave it to them.

Psa 95:6 Come let us adore and fall down: and weep before the Lord that made us.

The fourth reason is, because the same Lord that created the earth and the sea created us men, too, though we are daily offending our Creator by our sins. Come let us adore and fall down and weep, deploring our ingratitude and our sins, “before the Lord that made us;” and, therefore, our Lord by every title, to whom we owe implicit obedience.

Psa 95:7 For he is the Lord our God: and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

This is the fifth and last reason, because the Lord not only made us, but he governs us by a special providence, as a shepherd would the flock that belonged to himself. St. Augustine notices an elegant transposition of words here, for instead of saying we are the people of his hand, and the sheep of his pasture, he connects people with pasture, and sheep with hand; to give us to understand that the people, in respect of God, are like sheep that need a shepherd; yet, still, that they are not sheep devoid of reason, that need to be driven with a staff; and they are called the sheep of his hand, either because he made them, or because he guides them with his hand; for though God’s people have shepherds and teachers to feed and to direct them, still God has a peculiar care for them, and does not let them suffer from the negligence or the ignorance, or even the malice of the pastors. Whence we infer that God’s people should put great confidence in God, their supreme Pastor, and have recourse to him, through prayer, when they fall in with an unworthy pastor, for God himself says, “I will feed my sheep,” Ezek. 34.

Psa 95:8 To day if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts:

This is the second part of the Psalm, in which the prophet exhorts God’s people to praise God, not only by word of mouth, but also by their works. Now, the most agreeable sacrifice we can offer to God is the observance of his commandments, according to 1 Kings 15, “Doth the Lord desire holocausts and victims, and not rather that the voice of the Lord should be obeyed?” He introduces God speaking here, in order to give greater effect to his exhortation; for the use of the pronoun “his” would lead one to suppose it was other than God was speaking; still, in the Scripture, it is not unusual for God so to speak of himself as in the passage last quoted, “Doth the Lord desire holocausts?” for it is God himself who puts the question; so also the Holy Ghost in this passage says, “Today if you shall hear his voice,” if you will hear my voice, who am your Lord, “harden not your hearts.” The word “today” means, at present; and, as the Apostle, Heb. 3, explains, holds good or stands “whilst today is named;” that is, during the whole time of this life, for after this life time will be no longer, it will be eternity. The word “if” seems to mean, that God does not speak to us every moment, but that he advises in fitting time and place, either through his preachers, or through the reading of the Scriptures, or in some other mode to make his will known to us. The expression, “harden not your hearts,” signifies that the hearing of the voice of the Lord is of very little value, unless it penetrate the very inmost recesses of our hearts. The hardening of the heart is sometimes ascribed to God, sometimes to man, for the Lord says, Exod. 7, “I will harden Pharao’s heart;” and yet, in 1 Sam 6, it is said, “Why do you harden your hearts, as Egypt and Pharao hardened their hearts?” Now, God hardens the heart, not by the infusion of malice, but by withholding his mercy; for as St. Augustine says, God hardens, by deserting, by not helping; a thing he can do in his secret dispensations, but not by way of injustice. God is said to harden the heart justly, when he does not, by his grace, soften the reprobate; and man hardens his own heart when he resists the voice and the inspirations of God, according to Acts 7, “You always resist the Holy Ghost;” and by the passing pleasure of sin, which the Apostle calls “the deceitfulness of sin,” when he says, “Lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin,” which induces man to resist God, and to close the ears of his conscience against him.

Psa 95:9 As in the provocation, according to the day of temptation in the wilderness: where your fathers tempted me, they proved me, and saw my works.

He gives an example of the obduracy. For the fathers of old, who were led out of Egypt by Moses, while they were on the way, and were passing through the desert, hardened their hearts, and refused to believe in God’s promises or to obey him, more than once; and, therefore, they tempted him and got a proof of, and saw, his wonderful works; such as the manna that rained from heaven, and the water that spouted from the rock. He then says, “As in the provocation,” when they provoked God to anger; “according to the day of temptation in the wilderness,” at the time they were in the habit of tempting him, for it is not necessary to point out any one specific day, because they frequently rebelled against, and tempted, him; and the day, therefore, comprehends the whole term of their journey through the desert. “Where your fathers tempted me;” when they wanted to find out if I were truly God, and whether I could procure bread and water for them in the desert, of which the place seemed totally void. “They proved me, and saw my works,” where they had a proof of my omnipotence, seeing the things done by me could be done only by one truly divine, truly omnipotent.

Psa 95:10 Forty years long was I offended with that generation, and I said: These always err in heart.

He tells the length of time during which he was provoked and tempted. “Forty years long,” during the whole time that he was conducting them through the desert to the land of promise; “and I said, These always err in heart;” are carried away by various desires, and, therefore, wander and stray from the right path of salvation.

Psa 95:11 And these men have not known my ways: so I swore in my wrath that they shall not enter into my rest.

He explains why they should have erred in their heart, “because they have not known my ways,” my laws which are the straight path, and anyone walking therein cannot possibly go astray; and when he says they have not known his laws, he means knowing them so as to observe them. The meaning, then, is, They who always err in heart have not known my ways, that lead to rest, and, therefore, have not come into rest. “So I swore in my wrath that they shall not enter into it.” The rest, in a historical sense, was the land of promise, which very few of those who left Egypt saw at all, as the Lord swore, Num. 14, “As I live, saith the Lord; according as you have spoken in my hearing, so will I do to you. In the wilderness shall your carcasses lie.” In a higher sense, the rest means, that heavenly country, where alone is perfect rest and peace.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 105

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 31, 2016

A thanksgiving to God for His benefits to his people of Israel

Psa 105:1 Give glory to the Lord, and call upon his name: declare his deeds among the Gentiles.

The prophet, in the spirit of his fervor, invites God’s people to praise and invoke God, and to announce his wonderful works to other nations, that his praise and worship may be extended thereby. The true lover does not wish the praise and knowledge of his beloved should be confined to himself, but wishes that many, nay even all, should know her perfections and praise them. He, therefore, says, “Give glory to the Lord,” give him the just tribute of praise, “and call upon his name,” to help you to do it properly; for without his assistance you will not be able to accomplish it. “Declare his deeds among the gentiles;” speak in all directions among the gentiles of the wonderful works of God, that they, too, from a knowledge of his works, may begin to know, praise, and invoke their Creator.

Psa 105:2 Sing to him, yea sing praises to him: relate all his wondrous works.

An explanation of the previous verse, as much as to say, you are not only to sing to him, but also to sing with musical instruments, praising him in word and deed, by extolling him in your words and living up to the standard laid down by him as your rule of life, “relate all his wonderful works,” a repetition of the latter part of the previous verse; that is, announce to the gentiles God’s works, all of which are most astounding and sublime.

Psa 105:3 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.

Having invited them to an expression of praise, united with chant, he now invites them to rejoice and be glad internally, first saying, “Glory ye in his holy name.” Glory in your heart for having come to the knowledge of God, the author of all good. “Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.” Do not seek the Lord in grief and sorrow, but in joy and gladness; for the getting hold of him surpasses all other earthly treasures.

Psa 105:4 Seek ye the lord, and be strengthened: seek his face evermore.

He impresses on us the necessity of having constant recourse to God, “seek his face evermore.” If we refer this advice to those of the Old Testament, the meaning would be, seek to have God always present with you; through his grace and his favors endeavor that he may always look upon you with an eye of benignity—that he may pour his blessings from heaven on you—that he may not turn away his face, in his anger, from you, despise or afflict you. But, if we refer this passage, as we ought, to the new dispensation, the meaning will be, “Seek his face evermore.” Be always ascending in your hearts, in loving and longing for the face of the Lord, until you shall have got to see it in some measure. And, as nobody looks for what he knows nothing of, St. Augustine very properly says that they “who seek the face of the Lord” have already found him through faith, while they are still looking for him through hope and desire. Hence we infer that they who have no faith, or do not exercise that faith, do not seek the face of the Lord; and, therefore, that the beginning of the seeking the face of the Lord is to take its rise from the exercise of faith, by thinking and meditating on the excellence of the supreme good, and by firmly persuading themselves, from the Scriptures, that true happiness, such as can completely satisfy our desire, is not to be had but in beholding the infinite beauty of God, to which man can arrive if he seek the face of God as he ought. Now, to do that two things are necessary, viz., to remove all obstacles, and make use of the necessary means, as the Apostle informs Titus, “Renouncing impiety and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and justly, and piously in this world, waiting for the blessed hope.” The obstacles, then, are bad desires and an attachment to the things of this world; for in proportion to the absence of avarice is the increase of charity. They, then, who desire to be rich, and to amass wealth, administer not to the sufferer in his necessity, and, the slaves of gluttony or luxury, they do not ascend to seek the face of the Lord; but they descend, are farther removed from it, because, instead of removing, they multiply the impediments. True justice, or, in other words, the fulfillment of the law of God, is the means of finding the face of the Lord, as the Lord says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice,” the one as the end, the other as the means; and, “If thou will enter into life, keep the commandments.” The one, then, that always seeks the face of the Lord is he who exercises his faith in reflection and meditation, who mortifies his members in this world, and, having abnegated all secular desires, always lives with a pure heart and good conscience, always longing to behold the face of God.

Psa 105:5 Remember his marvellous works which he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth.

He tells us now for what we are to praise God, and points out a sort of ladder by which we may ascend to the love, and a desire for God, to which two things he invited us in the preceding verses. The subject of God’s praise are his wonderful works, that indicate to us his omnipotence, his supreme wisdom, and his most sweet goodness, which, if faithfully turned in the mind and reflected on, will elevate it to the love of, and a longing for God. “Remember his marvelous works, which he hath done.” Bring before your memory, and think on all the wonderful things you know to have been done by God; “His wonders and the judgments of his mouth.” The prodigies he effected through Moses, Josue, Samuel, that could never have been done by natural means; and “the judgments of his month;” the dreadful scourges inflicted on Pharao and others, who persecuted his people, being both prodigies and judgments, inasmuch as they were wrought on Pharao for his pride.

Psa 105:6 O ye seed of Abraham his servant; ye sons of Jacob his chosen.

An explanation of the preceding verse; as if he said, I address you, ye Jews, who are “the seed of Abraham, and sons of Jacob;” you who have descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and not from Esau or Ismael; for you are “his servants, his chosen,” God having chosen you as his own servants, to give you his law, and to teach you how he should be worshipped. St. Augustine observes, that, however applicable this may be to the children in the flesh of Abraham and Jacob, it is more applicable to the children by faith; for the Apostle says, Rom. 4, “And he (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the justice of the faith, which is in uncircumcision, that he might be the father of all the believers uncircumcised, that to them also it may be reputed to justice, and might be the father of circumcision, not to them only that are of the circumcision, but to them also who follow the steps of the faith that our father Abraham had, being as yet uncircumcised;” and again, chap. 9, “For all are not Israelites that are of Israel, neither are all they who are the seed of Abraham children, but in Isaac shall thy seed be called; that is to say, not they who are the children of the flesh are the children of God; but they that are the children of the promise are counted for the seed;” and again, in Galatians 3, “Know ye, therefore, that they who are of faith are the children of Abraham, and the Scripture, foreseeing that God justifies the gentiles by faith, told Abraham before: In thee shall all nations be blessed; therefore they who are of the faith shall be blessed with the faithful Abraham;” and he concludes the chapter thus, “And if you be of Christ, then you are the seed of Abraham, heirs according to the promise.”

Psa 105:7 He is the Lord our God: his judgments are in all the earth.
Psa 105:8 He hath remembered his covenant for ever: the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.

He now begins to narrate the wonderful works of God, beginning with the fact of God, the ruler of the universe, having chosen Abraham, and having entered into an everlasting compact with him of giving the land of promise forever to his seed, which promise was fulfilled in Christ, whose kingdom will have no end, while the children of Abraham have lost the possession of Palestine. “He is the Lord our God, his judgments are in all the earth;” God, whose judgments are all over the world, and who, as supreme King and Monarch, judges all; he, that very same great God, “hath remembered his covenant forever;” remembered the covenant he made, and which he intended should last forever, “the word which he commanded to a thousand generations;” that is, forever.

Psa 105:9 Which he made to Abraham; and his oath to Isaac:
Psa 105:10 And he appointed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting testament:
Psa 105:11 Saying: To thee will I give the land of Chanaan, the lot of your inheritance.
Psa 105:12 When they were but a small number: yea very few, and sojourners therein:

In order to confirm the truth of his assertion, he repeats it, and explains it at greater length, saying, “Which he made to Abraham;” he remembered the promise he made to Abraham, and confirmed the same promise “by his oath to Isaac.” And he appointed “the same” sworn promise “to Jacob for a law;” a decree, a statute, and as “an everlasting testament;” a treaty to hold forever. The words of promise contained in that treaty were, “I will give thee the land of Chanaan;” the land of promise, then inhabited by the Chanaanites; “the lot of your inheritance;” to be held by your children as their inheritance, usually distributed by lot, which promise was made to Abraham, in Gen. 26, to Isaac, in Gen. 28, and to Jacob, in Gen. 28. These promises were made to the Jews, “when they were but a small number;” very few, indeed; “and sojourners;” birds of passage, mere strangers in the same land, which leads us the more to admire the counsel, power, and wisdom of God, and his great regard for the patriarchs, in choosing out of the whole world one family, and that a poor one, and promising them, and afterwards fulfilling his promise of giving them a most extensive country, the seat of many kings. Much more wonderful is it that the same God should have chosen the little flock of the elect from out of the whole human race, to give them the kingdom of heaven, of which the land of promise was but a figure, as an eternal inheritance.

Psa 105:13 And they passed from nation to nation, and from one kingdom to another people.
Psa 105:14 He suffered no man to hurt them: and he reproved kings for their sakes.
Psa 105:15 Touch ye not my anointed: and do no evil to my prophets.

The prophet now records another of God’s favors, in having guarded and protected the patriarchs by a singular providence. He alludes to Abraham, who was twice in danger by reason of the beauty of his wife; to Isaac, who also was near suffering in that way; and to Jacob, who was all but ruined, first by Laban, then by Esau, and they all escaped through God’s singular care of them. “And they passed,” the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with their families, “from nation to nation;” from one province to another, “and from one kingdom to another people;” from the kingdom to the people of the kingdom of Egypt. “He suffered no man to hurt them;” nay more, “he reproved kings for their sake;” for instance, Pharao, the king of Egypt, and Abimelech, king of Gerara, for he said to those kings, “Touch ye not my anointed,” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; “and do no evil to my prophets;” to the three aforesaid, who are also my prophets, and by virtue thereof, anointed and consecrated to me. Do not molest them, trouble them, or do them any manner of harm. There can be no doubt of the three above named holy patriarchs having been prophets also, for Abraham foresaw the captivity of the people of Israel in Egypt, its duration, and its termination; as we read in Gen. 15. Isaac, shortly before his death, predicted to his son Esau, that he would be subservient to his younger brother Jacob, and that at one time he would shake off his yoke, all which regarded their posterity and not themselves; see Gen. 27. Jacob uttered several prophecies concerning each of his sons, especially Juda, from whose tribe he prophesied the Messias would come. Thus those patriarchs are very properly called prophets, and they are said to be “anointed,” not that they were visibly anointed with oil, as were the priests, kings, and sometimes the prophets in after times; but, because they had the internal and spiritual unction of the spirit poured upon them, of which Isaias says, “The spirit of the Lord is upon one, because the Lord hath anointed me.”

Psa 105:16 And he called a famine upon the land: and he broke in pieces all the support of bread.
Psa 105:17 He sent a man before them: Joseph, who was sold for a slave.
Psa 105:18 They humbled his feet in fetters: the iron pierced his soul,
Psa 105:19 Until his word came. The word of the Lord inflamed him.
Psa 105:20 The king sent, and he released him: the ruler of the people, and he set him at liberty.
Psa 105:21 He made him master of his house, and ruler of all his possession.
Psa 105:22 That he might instruct his princes as himself, and teach his ancients wisdom.
Psa 105:23 And Israel went into Egypt: and Jacob was a sojourner in the land of Cham.

This is the third favor conferred by God on his people, in which we find a great field for praising the wonderful wisdom of God, who, from such a mass of evil, could bring such an amount of good. He gives an account of the great famine that overshadowed the earth in the time of Jacob, when he and all his family migrated into Egypt; see Gen. 37, etc. “And he called a famine upon the land.” God, in his providence, caused a dreadful famine, by reason of a dearth of corn, to overspread the earth. He speaks figuratively when he says, “called a famine,” as if it were an army he would call from one place to another, to let us see how obedient all things are to God, and how they answered at his nod and bidding; as also to let us see that things we suppose to happen by chance, are so ordained by God, for his own wise purposes. He repeats the same at greater length when he says, “And he broke in pieces all the support of bread.” That famine was caused by God’s having destroyed the bread they had to support them, for during a period of seven years not a grain of corn ripened in the country; as we read in Genesis: “He sent a man before them, Joseph;” on the occasion of the approaching famine, God sent into Egypt before the children of Israel, “a man,” a great man, “Joseph,” for the purpose of delivering Israel and all his family from the famine. History tells us that Joseph, through the envy of his brethren, was sold as a slave to some merchants on their way to Egypt; but David says he was sent there by God, who in his providence suffered him to be sold and transported into Egypt, for the purpose of afterwards introducing Jacob and his sons there in a most wonderful manner. He tells us how Joseph was sent there when he says, “he was sold for a slave,” by his brethren, to merchants on their way to Egypt. “They humbled his feet in fetters.” No sooner had Joseph got into Egypt than he was accused of criminality with his master’s wife, was thrown into prison for it, and had his feet bound with fetters of iron. “The iron pierced his soul until his word came.” His chains being heavy on him, afflicted and weighed him down, until “his word, that is, his prophecy of the butler’s, his fellow captive, being released in a few days, “came,” was accomplished, and that led to his own liberation; see Genesis. “The word of the Lord inflamed him.” That word or prophecy of Joseph was not his own; it was the word of the Lord, inspired and suggested by him. “The king sent and he released him: the ruler of the people and he set him at liberty.” King Pharao having heard from his butler of Joseph’s wisdom, sent to the prison, knocked off his manacles, and let him out free. “He made him master of his house, and ruler of all his possession.” He not only set him free, but he placed him over his own family and over the entire kingdom, to administer it, “that he might instruct his princes as himself, and teach his ancients wisdom.” King Pharao placed Joseph over his kingdom, not only for the purpose of administering to the bodily wants of his subjects during the famine, but also for the purpose of instructing his ministers and counselors in that science of government in which he seemed to be such an adept. “And Israel went into Egypt.” It was on this occasion that the patriarch Jacob came into Egypt; “and Jacob was a sojourner in the land of Cham;” and thus, Jacob, or rather those descended from him, began to dwell in Egypt, called the land of Cham, by reason of Mizraim, the son of Cham, the son of Noe, having been the first to dwell therein.

Psa 105:24 And he increased his people exceedingly: and strengthened them over their enemies.
Psa 105:25 He turned their heart to hate his people: and to deal deceitfully with his servants.
Psa 105:26 He sent Moses his servant: Aaron the man whom he had chosen.
Psa 105:27 He gave them power to shew them signs, and his wonders in the land of Cham.

Next comes the fourth favor, conferred by God on his people, in causing them, through his divine providence, so to increase and multiply in Egypt; and, when they were grievously oppressed by Pharao, in sending Moses and Aaron, with great power, to work signs and prodigies, the consequence of which was the glorious departure of God’s people from out of Egypt. He, therefore, says, “And he increased his people exceedingly; and strengthened them over their enemies.” The meaning of this may be learned from that passage in Exodus, where it is read, “The children of Israel increased and sprung up into multitudes, and growing exceedingly strong, they filled the land. In the meantime, there arose a new king over Egypt, that knew not Joseph, and he said to his people: Behold, the people of the children of Israel are numerous and stronger than we.” “He turned their heart,” of the Egyptians, “to hate his people; and to deal deceitfully with his servants;” to oppress them by fraud and cunning. Now, God is said to have “turned the hearts” of the Egyptians; not that he implanted any evil designs therein, (for God is not the author of sin) but by pouring down favors on his people, and causing them to multiply in so extraordinary a degree, he more or less gave occasion to the perverted hearts of the Egyptians to envy their neighbors’ prosperity, and plot their ruin. And God, when he did so favor his people, fully knew and foresaw the envy and the hatred it would beget among the Egyptians; because he had a right, and he wished it, to turn their perverse thoughts, which he had not created, to good account, in punishing themselves, and delivering his people from captivity. “He sent Moses his servant, Aaron, the man whom he hath chosen;” when the people began to be so punished, he sent Moses and Aaron to Pharao. “He gave them power to show signs, and his wonders in the land of Cham.” When he sent Moses and Aaron to deliver his people, he gave them power to perform miracles in the land of Egypt, that the children of Israel, as well as the Egyptians, might believe that they were sent by him, and that they should obey them as the messengers of the true and Almighty God.

Psa 105:28 He sent darkness, and made it obscure: and grieved not his words.

He describes, in this and the eight following verses, the prodigies in detail that were performed in Egypt, through which God scourged Pharao and the Egyptians. He does not enumerate all the plagues, nor does he observe the order they are related in Exodus; because he is not writing a history, but chanting a hymn, as we already observed in Psalm 79. He begins, then, with the miraculous darkness that overspread all Egypt for three entire days, it being one of the last recorded in Exodus. “He sent darkness, and made it obscure.” Covered the whole of Egypt with such darkness that the people did not know each other, and were afraid to move. “And grieved not his words.” Moses and Aaron did boldly what God desired them, and gave him no reason for being grieved at their noncompliance with his commands.

Psa 105:29 He turned their waters into blood, and destroyed their fish.
Psa 105:30 Their land brought forth frogs, in the inner chambers of their kings.
Psa 105:31 He spoke, and there came divers sorts of flies and sciniphs in all their coasts.
Psa 105:32 He gave them hail for rain, a burning fire in the land.
Psa 105:33 And he destroyed their vineyards and their fig trees: and he broke in pieces the trees of their coasts.
Psa 105:34 He spoke, and the locust came, and the bruchus, of which there was no number.
Psa 105:35 And they devoured all the grass in their land, and consumed all the fruit of their ground.
Psa 105:36 And he slew all the firstborn in their land: the firstfruits of all their labour.

All this relating to the plagues of Egypt has been explained in the notes on Psalm 78, which see.

Psa 105:37 And he brought them out with silver and gold: and there was not among their tribes one that was feeble.

Favor the fifth, conferred by God on his people; for he not only delivered them from the captivity of Pharao, but he loaded them with riches on their departure; for he ordered the men among the Jews to borrow from the men among the Egyptians, and the Jewish women to borrow of the Egyptian women their gold and silver vessels, their jewels, precious stones, and robes; and he so lulled the Egyptians asleep that they lent them without any difficulty; and to this the prophet alludes when he says, “And he brought them out with silver and gold;” with an immense quantity of gold and silver vessels, and other valuables they had borrowed of the Egyptians. Did they not, then, violate the precept, “Thou shalt not steal?” It would have been theft, had not God, the absolute master and owner of all things, transferred the dominion of these valuables from the Egyptians to the Hebrews; and with that, these valuables hardly requited the Jews for the years of toil and labor they had been forced, in their bondage, to yield to the Egyptians; to which Wisdom seems to allude, in chap. 10, when he says, “And she rendered to the just the wages of their labors, and conducted them in a wonderful way.” Another additional favor was, that while the Egyptians were afflicted with various diseases, and ultimately all their first born were slain, the children of Israel remained unhurt and unharmed by the plague; to which the prophet alludes when he sings, “And there was not among their tribes one that was feeble.”

Psa 105:38 Egypt was glad when they departed: for the fear of them lay upon them.

In addition to the favor just mentioned, there was this, that the Egyptians did not seek to stop the Jews in their departure, nor did they endeavor to get the gold and silver, and other valuables they had lent, back from them; they rather hurried them away, and rejoiced at their departure, fearing some greater misfortune would come upon them, perhaps the destruction of the whole community, as well as of their first born, were the Jews to remain with them any longer; for thus we read in Exodus, “And the Egyptians pressed the people to go forth out of the land speedily, saying: We shall all die.”

Psa 105:39 He spread a cloud for their protection, and fire to give them light in the night.

The sixth favor was the pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night, that God, through the agency of his Angels, set up to guide them when they were going out of the land of Egypt. That cloud was not for their protection from the sun, as the words would seem to imply, but as a guide before them; for we read in Exodus, “And the Lord went before them to show the way by day in a pillar of cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire, that he might be the guide of their journey at both times.” There never failed the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, before the people. What, then, is the meaning of, “He spread a cloud for their protection?” This is explained in Exodus 14. When Pharao and his army pursued the Hebrews, the Angel of the Lord put a cloud between them, so that they could not see each other, nor come near each other, and in that manner the cloud protected them.

Psa 105:40 They asked, and the quail came: and he filled them with the bread of heaven.

This is the seventh favor conferred by God on them, the feeding them with bread from heaven, the manna, that daily fell from heaven, and the quails that God supplied them with. It should be remarked that God sent quails to them on two occasions, and that they were severely punished for having asked for them on one occasion, as recorded in Num. 11. That was not the occasion alluded to here, it was the one in Exod. 16, and recorded by the prophet here as one of God’s favors.

Psa 105:41 He opened the rock, and waters flowed: rivers ran down in the dry land.

See Exod. 17, and Num. 20.

Psa 105:42 Because he remembered his holy word, which he had spoken to his servant Abraham.

All past and future favors, such as the aforesaid, are justly ascribed to the promise God made to his servant Abraham, for though they were not specifically mentioned in detail, they are all contained in the words he said to Abraham, Gen. 15, “Know thou beforehand that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land not their own, and they shall bring them under bondage, and afflict them four hundred years. But I will judge the nation which they shall serve; and after this they shall come out with great substance.”

Psa 105:43 And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness.

Favor the ninth, when, after the destruction of Pharao and his host in the Red Sea, God brought forth his people from bondage, singing with great joy and exaltation, “Let us sing to the Lord; for he is gloriously magnified,”

Psa 105:44 And he gave them the lands of the Gentiles: and they possessed the labours of the people:

The last favor was the introduction of the Jews under Josue, into the lands that belonged to the gentiles, whom they expelled, and got possession of the cities built by, and fields reclaimed by, the labor of those people. We read, in Acts 13, that they were seven in number.

Psa 105:45 That they might observe his justifications, and seek after his law.

All that God requires, in return for so many favors, is the observance of his law; which obedience will prove to be of the greatest value to themselves, for it always leads to fresh favors, of far greater value than the land of promise. By “justifications” are meant the ceremonial and judicial law, and by “law” is meant the moral law, which is reduced to one precept, charity.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 29

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 31, 2016

An invitation to glorify God, with a commemoration of his mighty works

Psa 29:1 A psalm for David, at the finishing of the tabernacle. Bring to the Lord, O ye children of God: bring to the Lord the offspring of rams.

The prophet, being about to chant the praises of the divine power, stirs up God’s peculiar people, to whom he was known, for “God is known in Judea, in Israel great is his name,” Psalm 73, to honor that power with the victims of the season, the hymns of their voice, and the prostration of their bodies. Taking the summons to refer to a later period, the explanation would be, that when about to chant the praises of the divinity, the perfecter of the tabernacle, that is, of the Church, who is the mother of all God’s children, he invites those children, so called by the inspiration of heaven, to offer to God sacrifice of praise. “Bring to the Lord, O ye children of God, the offspring of rams;” you that have been made children of God by the blood of the immaculate Lamb, bring your own lambs, bring the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, as he further explains in the following verse.

Psa 29:2 Bring to the Lord glory and honour: bring to the Lord glory to his name: adore ye the Lord in his holy court.

The prophet tells us what sort of sacrifice we should offer to God, namely, “Glory and honor;” that is, in your words and your works glorify the Lord; and not only in your words and works, but even in the carriage of your person, which should be so reverential as to make it appear to all that you acknowledge him as your supreme Master, and that you adore him as such. “Bring to the Lord glory to his name.”

Bring glory to the Lord, that is, to his name, by celebrating the name, fame, and knowledge of the Lord. “Adore ye the Lord in his holy court.” The holy court may mean either the vestibule of the Jewish tabernacle, to which all could resort, while the priests alone were permitted to enter the tabernacle; or the Catholic Church, which is like the porch or vestibule of the heavenly tabernacle. All, good and bad, are promiscuously permitted to enter the Church, but they alone will enter the heavenly tabernacle who can say to Christ, “Thou hast made us a kingdom and priests to our God.”

Psa 29:3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of majesty hath thundered, The Lord is upon many waters.

He now explains why he invited us to celebrate and praise the power of God, and the reason is, because the “voice of the Lord” has a wonderful influence on the elements of nature, as well as on the spiritual fabric of the Church. He then describes God’s action on the waters, on the air, on the fire, and, finally, on the earth; these four elements being the principal ones of this world here below, as known to us. God’s action on the water is described in the first chapter of Genesis, where it is said that “The spirit of the Lord moved over the waters;” “And God said, Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” “God also said, Let the waters that are under the heavens be gathered together in one place, and let the dry land appear.” Then was “the voice of the Lord upon the waters,” when God commanded a division in them, and, on their division, their retirement into one place, to the caverns of the earth, so that the earth may be habitable. That voice or command of God is called thunder; for, as thunder prostrates and makes us submit and obey, so, at the command of God, the waters retired, and betook themselves into lower places. This voice and thunder of God “was upon the waters,” because at that time water covered the whole surface of the earth, and there was, therefore, an immense abyss of water on the earth. This is more clearly described in Psalm 104, where he says, “The deep, like a garment, is its clothing; above the mountains shall the waters stand;” that is, the earth was covered all over by an immense body of water, so as even to cover the mountains. “At thy rebuke they shall flee; at the voice of thy thunder they shall fear. The mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which thou hast founded for them;” that is, at God’s command the waters retired as they would from a thunderbolt; and then there appeared the mountains raised up and the plains depressed. “Thou hast set bounds to them which they shall not pass over; neither shall they return to cover the earth.” At the voice of the Lord, not only have the waters retired and left the earth dry and habitable, but by reason of the same voice, a limit has been put to them which they will never dare to transgress. Another interpretation refers this passage to the beginning of the preaching of the gospel, which had its first rise when God, on the baptism of Christ in the Jordan, announced to the whole world that Jesus Christ was his Son, which is, as it were, the compendium of the Gospel. “The voice of the Lord on the waters” would then mean that magnificent declaration of God, on the baptism of Christ, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And then “The God of majesty thundered, and thundered upon many waters,” because then was instituted baptism, and all the waters of the world got the power of regenerating the children of God.

Psa 29:4 The voice of the Lord is in power; the voice of the Lord in magnificence.

The praise here attributed to God’s voice can be well applied to either interpretation. For the voice of the Lord, in the first stages of creation, ordering the waters to divide, to betake themselves to the lower caverns of the earth, never to return, was not an empty or idle command, or without producing its effect; as thunder, that, generally speaking, does no more than make a great noise, but was full of nerve, efficacious and glorious, and produced the effect required. So also the voice of the Gospel, intoned by God himself, taken up by Christ and his apostles, was not an empty parade of words, like that of many philosophers and orators, but was most effective, being confirmed by signs and miracles. The efficacy of the preaching is conveyed in the words, “in power;” the splendor and glory of the miracles, in the word, “magnificence,” as St. Paul has it, 1 Cor. 2, “My preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in the showing of the spirit and power;” and, 1 Thess. chap. 1, “For our gospel hath not been to you in word only, but in power also, and in the Holy Ghost.”

Psa 29:5 The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars: yea, the Lord shall break the cedars of Libanus.

According to the first interpretation, the prophet passes now from the action of God upon the waters to his action on the air; and he tells us that “the voice of the Lord,” namely, his orders, raise the winds and the storms, which, in Psalm 148, he calls, “Stormy winds which fulfill his word.” How wonderful is God’s power! that can give such force and strength to a thing apparently so weak and feeble, that will, in one moment, tear up and lay prostrate the largest trees, that many men could not accomplish in many days. He quotes “cedars,” and the “cedars of Libanus,” they being the largest, deepest rooted, and longest lived trees in the world. According to the second explanation, the cedars of Libanus are those high people who, by reason of their power, their wisdom, or their eloquence, are so very high in their own estimation; or, in reference to the fragrance of the cedar, those people who are entirely devoted to pleasure and gluttony; or, in reference to density of foliage and endurance, those who are perverse and obstinate in error. All such cedars will be broken to pieces by the preaching of the Gospel, and brought down to Christian mildness and humility, and to the bringing forth fruits worthy of penance. History abounds in such examples.

Psa 29:6 And shall reduce them to pieces, as a calf of Libanus, and as the beloved son of unicorns.

According to the first explanation, the meaning of this passage is very easy and very beautiful, when explained through the Hebrew, and it means, The voice of the Lord will not only break the cedars of Libanus, but will even tear up entire cedars from the roots, and make them bound like so many calves. And not only the calves, but even the mountains themselves, will be made to bound like a young unicorn. Similar to it is the expression in Psalm 114, “The mountains skipped like rams, and the hills like the lambs of sheep.” According to the second interpretation, the meaning would be, The sound of the Gospel will not only break the cedars of Libanus, that is, men, however proud and high they may be, and bring them down to the humility of the Christian religion; but will even tear up the same cedars from the roots, and make them bound to another place; that is, will entirely detach them from all earthly affections, and bring them to nearly an angelic life; a thing clearly carried out in the apostles, who became so religious and so perfect upon earth, as to appear more like Angels than like men. And it is not one isolated cedar, but a whole forest of them, that the preaching of the gospel causes to bound and leap; that means, that it is not an individual or two that will be brought to faith, religion, and perfection, but whole masses and congregations. “And as the beloved sons of unicorns,” a most graceful animal in its movements, light and agile; such will be the avidity of all tribes and nations to obey the Gospel. According to the second interpretation, the meaning would be, The preaching of the Gospel will not only humble the powerful and the wise, but it will break them into pieces, and make them as small as a calf on Libanus. By the calf we properly understand Christ, who was not only humble and mild as a suckling calf, but was also offered up in sacrifice to God. “And as the beloved sons of unicorns;” that means, when those proud cedars of Libanus shall have been destroyed, the beloved Christ, the most beloved of his father, the desired of all nations, will appear, no longer the helpless calf, but the son of a most valiant unicorn. The majesty of God and the omnipotence of Christ then began for the first time to show itself, when, through the preaching of the fishermen, the orators, the philosophers, nay, the very kings of the world, began to believe in Christ. On the strength of the unicorn, see Job 36:7.

Psa 29:7 The voice of the Lord divideth the flame of fire:

The prophet now passes from the action of God on the air to his action on the fire, and says, “His voice,” that is, his power and authority, “divideth the flames of fire,” which he does when, at his command, the thunderbolts of heaven, the most destructive and dreadful weapons that can be used against man, issue, as it were, from the forges of heaven, and are “divided,” to intimate how sharp and acute they are, as Moses expresses, when he makes the Lord say, “If I shall whet my sword as lightning.” According to the second interpretation, the voice of the Lord is the preaching of the Gospel, which divides the flames of fire, because the Holy Ghost sends various shafts in various ways through the hearts of men; and it was in such “cloven tongues, as it were of fire,” that the Holy Ghost settled on the apostles on the day of Pentecost.

Psa 29:8 The voice of the Lord shaketh the desert: and the Lord shall shake the desert of Cades.

His action on the earth is now the subject. The Hebrew for shaking implies more than mere shaking; it implies a shaking, previous to parturition, or the production of something. Thus, God’s wonderful power is brought out when he appears to be able not only to lay waste and denude the forests of Libanus, and make it a desert; but when he can from the very desert call up trees and animals, making it thus to shake with parturition. We have something like this idea in Psalm 107, “He hath turned rivers into a wilderness: a fruitful land into barrenness. He hath turned a wilderness into pools of water. And hath placed there the hungry: and they made a city for their habitation. And they sowed fields, and planted vineyards.” According to the second interpretation, the meaning would be, The barbarians who were, up to that time, so backward in the cultivation of their souls, and in the grace of God, so that, compared to other nations, they might have been called deserted, would also he brought to the light of the Gospel.

Psa 29:9 The voice of the Lord prepareth the stags: and he will discover the thick woods: and in his temple all shall speak his glory.

According to the first interpretation, the prophet, having praised God’s power in all the elements, water, air, fire, and earth, turns now to animals and plants, and afterwards to man. “The voice of the Lord prepareth the stags.” See God’s dealing with them! Job, chap. 39, tells us they bring forth their young with the greatest difficulty, and the reason seems to be that they bring them forth in a most perfect state, so that the moment they leave the mother’s womb they go to pasture, and never more trouble the mother, as we read in the same passage. “Preparing the stags,” then, means helping them in their difficult parturition, through which they could never pass, had not Providence mercifully helped them through it. “And he will discover the thick woods.” In the Hebrew it is, “Will open the woods,” and the meaning is, that nothing can be concealed or hidden from God, for he penetrates everything, acts upon everything, not only on animals, but on plants and trees, and men, too; and, therefore, he follows up by, “And in his temple all shall speak his glory.” All creatures in the universe, for the universe is God’s temple, will praise and glorify him.

According to the second interpretation, it would be thus, “The voice of the Lord prepareth the stags.” The preaching of the Gospel prepares devoted souls, aiming at perfection, and blasting with their spirit the poisoned serpents, to produce wonderful things; for what can be more wonderful, or more surprising, than for a weak, infirm man to do any thing deserving of life everlasting. And since the voice of the Lord causes such wonderful works, it will, therefore, “Discover the thick woods;” that is, on the day of judgment, “It will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart,” 1 Cor. 4; and then will God’s justice appear in that great theatre or temple, and will be recognized by the wicked, as well as by the just; for then will “Every knee be bent to Christ;” and all, whether with or against their will, shall exclaim, “Thou art just, O Lord, and right is thy judgment;” and thus, “All in his temple shall speak his glory.”

Psa 29:10 The Lord maketh the flood to dwell: and the Lord shall sit king for ever.
Psa 29:11 The Lord will give strength to his people: the Lord will bless his people with peace.

According to the first interpretation, the meaning is, that a reason is assigned here for all things giving glory to God, for “He maketh the flood to dwell;” he pours out his wholesome rain in such abundance on the earth, as to supply all the vegetable world with nutrition, which, in their turn, give support to animal life; and “the Lord shall sit king forever;” for it is he that guides, governs, and directs all these matters.

According to the second interpretation, when the Lord, on the day of judgment, shall have “discovered the thick woods,” and his justice shall have been praised by all, then he will “make a flood to dwell,” inundating the wicked with all manner of evils; and thus, all resistance being broken down, the whole power of demons, bad men, and all power in general being swept away, “the Lord shall sit King forever.” Some will have the flood here spoken of to refer to the deluge, others to baptism; and those who so explain it being of great weight and high position, I will not contradict them. “The Lord will give strength to his people: the Lord will bless his people with peace.”

The conclusion of the Psalm, in which, according to the first interpretation, having praised God for his dealings with all the inferior things and creatures of the world, he now praises him for “giving strength to his people;” nerve and strength to subdue all their enemies, and then to rest in profound and undisturbed peace. According to the second interpretation, herein is a promise of “strength” to resist temptation in this our pilgrimage, and a “Blessing;” namely, everlasting life in the world to come. Some pious people have remarked the significance of the words, the “Voice of the Lord,” being repeated exactly seven times in this chapter, and that this has reference to the seven Sacraments. Thus, the voice of the Lord “On the waters” alludes to Baptism; “In power,” confirmation, “In magnificence,” the Eucharist; “Breaking the cedars”, Penance; “Shaking the desert,” Orders; “Dividing the flame of fire;” Matrimony; “Prepareth the stags,” Extreme Unction.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 30

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 31, 2016

David praiseth God for his deliverance, and his merciful dealings with him

1 I will extol thee, O Lord, for thou hast upheld me: and hast not made my enemies to rejoice over me.

David, now established on his throne, after fortifying the citadel of Sion, and the city having been called after his name, finally, having built a most magnificent palace, and acknowledging God to be the author of so many favors, offers him the tribute of praise, saying, “I will extol thee, O Lord.” Exalted as thou art incapable of being more exalted; yet, to those who are not so fully cognizant of thy greatness, I will, as far as in me lies, by my preaching, “extol thee,” so that all may acknowledge thee to be the supreme Lord of all. “For thou hast upheld me,” raised me from nothing, from the lowest depths, even to the throne of thy kingdom. You have extolled me and I will therefore extol you; attributing my exaltation, not to my own merits, but to your greatness; you have exalted me, and I will humble myself in order to exalt you. “And hast not made my enemies to rejoice over me.” The consequence of such exaltation was, that his enemies, who were most numerous, and were for a long time seeking for his death, got no reason to be glad of his death, which they most eagerly looked for; but, on the contrary, had much source of grief at his exaltation, which with all their might they sought to obstruct.

In a prophetic sense, David speaks in the person of Christ; and of all the elect in general, as well as in particular, who, he foresaw, would be exalted in the kingdom of heaven, himself included. “I will extol thee, O Lord, for thou hast upheld me;” that means, how truly, O Lord, internally and externally will I extol thee, for my exaltation has led me to some idea of your immense sublimity; for, from the lowest earth, from the depth of misery, from mortality itself, thou hast raised me up and upheld me to the glory of resurrection and immortality, and thus to a heavenly and everlasting kingdom. “And hast not made my enemies to rejoice over me;” you have not indulged them in their impious desires of effecting my eternal destruction, a thing ardently sought for by the evil spirits in this and in the other world. The Jews, it is true, rejoiced when they extorted the sentence of death against Christ from Pilate; and the wicked not infrequently rejoice when they can deprive their neighbors of their properties, their riches, or even their lives; but their joy is short lived, followed by interminable punishment, so that it may rather be called the dream of joy than the reality of it.

2 O Lord my God, I have cried to thee, and thou hast healed me.
3 Thou hast brought forth, O Lord, my soul from hell: thou hast saved me from them that go down into the pit.

The prophet brings to his memory how he was angustiated, previous to his getting possession of the kingdom, to show how true was his statement, that “His enemies were not made to rejoice over him.” “O Lord my God, I have cried to thee;” when I was in frequent danger of death, and sick at heart in consequence, you, O my God, have healed me, and so delivered me from impending death, as if you had taken me out of hell itself. “Thou hast saved me from them that go down into the pit;” means the very same, but that it is a little more obscure. The meaning is, You have raised me from the dead, which may with propriety be applied to David, who had suffered such persecution, and was driven to death’s door thereby. In a prophetic sense, it applies literally to Christ. “Thou hast healed me” of the wounds I suffered on the cross. “Brought my soul from hell,” from Limbo, and “saved me” by my resurrection. All the saints can equally exclaim on the last day, “Thou hast healed me,” most completely, in soul and body; “And brought my soul from hell,” for you have not let me into the hell of the damned. “And saved me from them that go down into the pit,” inasmuch as you have given me salvation, and life everlasting. The same idea turns up in Psalm 102, “Who healeth all thy diseases, who redeemeth thy life from destruction.”

4 Sing to the Lord, O ye his saints: and give praise to the memory of his holiness.

Looking at the innumerable temporal blessings David had received from God, and the everlasting blessings his saints had received, he thinks it unbecoming in himself alone to thank God, and therefore invites all who had received similar favors to join him in praise. “Give praise to the memory of his holiness” means, praise his holy memory; just as “in his holy mountain” means the mountain of his holiness, by a Hebraism that uses the genitive for the ablative case; and the meaning is, praise him, praise his holy memory, because his remembrance of you was a holy one, a pious one, a paternal one, bent on rewarding you instead of punishing you. And, in truth, it is owing to God’s great goodness alone, which we should ever gratefully bear in mind, that while we, who always need his help, so often forget him, he, who wants nothing from us, should constantly bear us in mind; which he did in a most singular manner, when he sent his only Son to become our Savior; and, therefore, no wonder David should exclaim, in Psalm 8, “What is man that thou art mindful of him?”

5 For wrath is in his indignation; and life in his good will. In the evening weeping shall have place, and in the morning gladness.

He assigns a reason for having said that the holy recollection of God ought to be praised, because when God punishes us, he does so by reason of the “indignation” one’s sins provoke, that is, through a strict sense of justice; but in other respects, in his will and election it is to us life, not punishment. By anger then, we understand punishment and chastisement, called anger from its proceeding from anger. By indignation, is to be understood, according to St. Basil, the just judgment of God, “In the evening, weeping shall have place, and in the morning, gladness.” He proves that God’s anger towards the elect is only temporary, because to the lamentation produced by castigation and penance, joy will immediately succeed; and praise and thanksgiving is always connected with forgiveness and reconciliation, for between the evening and morning, that is, between day and night, nothing intervenes. Observe the propriety of attributing grief to the night, joy to the day, because, when we fall into sin, the light of divine grace abandons us; when we get to be reconciled, it comes back to us. Again, our passage through this world, in which we are mourning for our sins, groaning and sighing for our true country, heaven, is our night, in which we have no glimpse of God, the sun of justice; but the life to come, which 1 St. Peter, chap. 1, describes as one in which we shall “Rejoice with an unspeakable and glorified joy,” will be our day, because we shall see God face to face. This was fulfilled to the letter in Christ, who in the evening died in pain and suffering, in the morning rose in triumph and joy.

6 And in my abundance I said: I shall never be moved.

The alternations of anger and of life, of weeping and of gladness, alluded to in general by the prophet in the preceding verses, are now explained in detail; the prophet speaking sometimes in his own person, sometimes in that of the elect. First, speaking of himself, he says, that previous to his being put over the kingdom, such was his wealth, and in such peace did he possess it, that he thought his happiness should be everlasting. He would appear to allude to the time when, after having slain Goliath, he was in the highest favor with the king, the king’s son, and the whole mass of the people, to such an extent, that he was elected to be a tribune, and got the king’s daughter in marriage; and of that time he says, “In my abundance I said:” when I was so fortunate, and had such an abundance of everything, “I shall never be moved.” My happiness seems so firmly established that it must be everlasting.

7 O Lord, in thy favour, thou gavest strength to my beauty. Thou turnedst away thy face from me, and I became troubled.

He assigns a reason for his having said, “I shall never be moved;” because you, O my God, givest “strength,” nerve, and power, “to my beauty,” to my happiness; “in thy favor,” because such was your will, wish, and decree. “Thou turned away thy face from me, and I became troubled.” Now come the reverses. In the midst of all the aforesaid happiness, “thou turned away thy face from me;” you allowed me to incur the king’s displeasure, “and I became troubled,” suffered banishment, had to fly, ran several risks of death, and many other misfortunes. All these risks and dangers are more applicable, however, to the elect, in their troubles and peregrinations here below. Any one of the elect can justly say: In my abundance, that is, while God favored me with much grace, and his spiritual favors, I said I will never be moved. So said Peter, one of his principal elect, when he said, “Even though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee.” “O Lord, in thy favor thou gavest strength to my beauty;” that is, my strength was not my own but yours; for the whole beauty of my soul had its rise from the light of your justice and wisdom, and was kept up and maintained by your assistance. “You turned your face away from me.” To punish my presumption, you abandoned me, left me to myself; and, at once, I collapsed, fell, and “became troubled.” As regards Christ, these verses will apply to him, speaking in the person of his Church, his members, or even as speaking in his own person. For, as he said on the cross, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” so he could say, “Thou turned thy face away from me,” not because he was an enemy, but because he seemed to desert him in his passion; and then the meaning would be, “And in my abundance I said:” My human nature, having been endowed with the choicest graces, far and away beyond any other mortal, inasmuch as it was hypostatically united to God, the fountain of all grace, said, “I shall never be moved:” nothing can harm, hurt, or disturb me. “O Lord, in thy favor:” that means, to my beauty and my excellence, already superior to that of all men and Angels, you have added strength and power; that is, the indissoluble tie of the hypostatic union, and that “in thy favor,” which no one can resist. “Thou turned away thy face from me.” Notwithstanding that indissoluble tie of the hypostatic union, and without injuring “the strength of my beauty,” you “turned away your face from me:” from defending me, but it was for the salvation of mankind; and you wished the cup of my most bitter passion not to pass from me, that I may free mankind; therefore, “I became troubled:” began to fear, to grow weary, and to be sad, and I exclaimed, “My soul is sorrowful unto death.” We are not to infer from this that Christ had to suffer anything he did not expect, or of which he had no previous knowledge, for nothing could have injured or have harmed him against his own will; but he suffered the persecutions freely, and thus “troubled” himself. And, as Christ said to his Father, “Thou turned away thy face from me,” so he could say to himself, I have turned away the face of my divinity from helping my humanity, and thus willingly and knowingly I have been troubled.

8 To thee, O Lord, will I cry: and I will make supplication to my God.
9 What profit is there in my blood, whilst I go down to corruption? Shall dust confess to thee, or declare thy truth?

These expressions are to be taken in the past, and not in the future tense; a thing not uncommon among the Hebrews. David then, in a historic sense, states that, in the time of his tribulation and danger, he cried out to the Lord, and, among other things, threw out to him, that his death would be of no use to the Lord, for, once dead, he could praise him no more. “To thee, O Lord, will I cry.” When I became troubled, by the aversion of your face from me, I did not despair of your mercy, but “I cried out to thee;” and in terms of deprecation said, “What profit is there in my blood?” That is, what will the spilling of my blood profit you, when my enemies shall have put me to death, and I shall have come to rottenness in the grave? Dust can offer you no tribute of praise. According to a prophetic and higher interpretation it means, that Christ, in his passion, cried out and prayed to the Lord, which was fulfilled at the time he, according to the apostle, Hebrews 5, “With a strong cry and tears, offered up prayers and supplications to him that was able to save him from death.” It was at that time he said, “What profit is there in my blood whilst I go down to corruption?” That is, how will my spilling my blood on the cross conduce to the glory of God or the salvation of mankind, if my body like that of all other mortals, is to rot and perish in the grave? For, as the apostle says, 1 Cor. 15, “If Christ be not risen again your faith is vain;” and Christ himself could not have returned to announce God’s truth to his apostles; nor could poor mortals, who are but dust and ashes, become spiritual, become children of God; to confess to him, and announce his truth to others, that is, the justice and the fidelity of God.

These words may be applied to each of the elect, who, touched with sorrow for having fallen into sin, cried out to God for pardon, that they may be able to confess to him, and announce to other sinners how true he is to his promises.

10 The Lord hath heard, and hath had mercy on me: the Lord became my helper.

This verse clearly shows that the preceding verses should have been understood in the past instead of the future tense. The prophet asserts here, both in his own person, that of Christ, and that of the elect, that his cry was heard by God.

11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into joy: thou hast cut my sackcloth, and hast compassed me with gladness:

Here is the effect of his having been heard. David, from a wretched exile, becomes a powerful king. Christ rises from the dead, thus gaining a victory over death itself. Every one of the elect, on arriving at their heavenly kingdom from this valley of tears, can most justly exclaim, “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into joy, thou hast cut my sack cloth, and hast compassed me with gladness.” You have changed my garb of mourning into that of joy, and you have not taken it simply off, but “hast cut” it, entirely destroyed it, as a sign that I am not to put it on again. The “sack cloth” means that wretched garb of mortality and misery that has been entirely destroyed, of no longer use to the saints, much less to Christ, who, “Rising from the dead, dies no more.”

12 To the end that my glory may sing to thee, and I may not regret: O Lord my God, I will give praise to thee for ever.

The final end of the glory of Christ and his saints is the praise of God: “Blessed are those who dwell in thy house, forever and ever they will praise thee.” Let my glory, then, not my groans, for fear of death or of sin, sing to thee.

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Catholic Scripture Manual on Mark 2:13-17

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 31, 2016

Text in red, if any, are my additions.

Mar 2:13 And he went forth again to the sea side: and all the multitude came to him. And he taught them.

He went forth, from the home in Capharnaum (Capernuam) to the sea-shore.

Mar 2:14 And when he was passing by, he saw Levi, the son of Alpheus, sitting at the receipt of custom; and he saith to him: Follow me. And rising up, he followed him.

Levi. This was St Matthew s name before his call to the Apostleship. In like manner, Simon received the name of Peter, and Saul’s name was changed to Paul.

son of Alpheus. Not the same as Alpheus the father of St James the
Less. In the lists of the Apostles, St Matthew and St James the Less
are never classed together, whereas in the case of Apostles who were brothers, the names follow one another.

receipt of custom. The toll-house where taxes on exports and imports were levied. Capharnaum was a thriving business town, whence roads to Tyre, Damascus and Jerusalem, etc., branched off (see Geog. Notes, p. 82).

sitting at the receipt of custom. Therefore Levi was one of the despised class of publicans, classed by the Jews with harlots, heathens and sinners. (See Publicans, Part IV.)

Follow me. Jesus called Levi in spite of his position and bad reputation. It is probable that Levi had previously heard of, or witnessed our Lord’s miracles, and also listened to His discourses, since Jesus had already wrought mighty works in and near Capharnaum.

Mar 2:15 And it came to pass as he sat at meat in his house, many Publicans and sinners sat down together with Jesus and his disciples. For they, with Jesus who also followed him. For they were many, who also followed him.

as he sat at meat in his house. St Luke tells us that Levi made him a great feast in his own house; and there was a great company of
publicans and of others, that were at table with them (St Luke 5:29). It was doubtless a farewell banquet to his old friends, publicans and sinners.

Mar 2:16 And the scribes and the Pharisees, seeing that he ate with publicans and sinners, said to his disciples: Why doth your master eat and drink with publicans and sinners?

seeing that he ate, etc. These Pharisees would not, of course, have sat down and eaten with Levi and his friends, for this would have rendered them “unclean” according to their traditions. They merely came in, as the Oriental custom permitted, to watch the feast.

sinners. Lax Jews, not necessarily Gentiles.

said to his disciples. They may have feared to address our Lord directly, or thought it would be easy to triumph over His disciples, whom they knew to be poor, ignorant men.

Mar 2:17 Jesus hearing this, saith to them: They that are well have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. For I came not to call the just, but sinners.

I came not to call, etc. Jesus explains that He frequented sinners that He might convert them, just as a physician visits the sick that he may heal them.

to call the just, said ironically to the Pharisees who were “just” in
their own estimation. Also Jesus was always ready to leave the ninety-nine that He might seek the sheep that was lost (see Mt 18:12-14; Lk 15:3-7).

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Catholic Scripture Manual on Mark 2:1-12

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 31, 2016

Mar 2:1 And again he entered into Capharnaum after some days.

And again he entered Capharnaum (Capernuam). Probably when the recent ex citement had calmed down.

into Capharnaum. St Matthew adds His own city. Nazareth was His
native town, but Capharnaum was frequently His dwelling-place during His public life, and this would naturally be considered “His own city.” Doubtless when there, He often stayed in the house of St Peter.

After some days. These he had spent (outside of towns) in desert places (Mk 1:45), and in His ministrations elsewhere in Galilee.

Mar 2:2 And it was heard that he was in the house. And many came together, so that there was no room: no, not even at the door. And he spoke to them the word.
Mar 2:3 And they came to him, bringing one sick of the palsy, who was carried by four.

It was heard, etc. Hence we may infer that our Lord had come back privately into Capharnaum.

Many came together. St Luke describes the crowd, And it came to
pass on a certain day, as he sat teaching, that there were also Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, that were come out of every town of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem (Lk 5:17).

No room, not even at the door. Our Lord would probably be in a
humble house, and the family room would be on the ground floor and
easy of access. The Orientals were accustomed to enter freely into each other’s dwellings.

the word. Jesus was preaching when the paralytic was let down at His feet. St Matthew and St Luke omit the following details which are peculiar to St Mark:

(a) The paralytic was carried by four
(b) There was a great crowd at the door
(c) They opened the roof.

Mar 2:4 And when they could not offer him unto him for the multitude, they uncovered the roof where he was: and opening it, they let down the bed wherein the man sick of the palsy lay.

uncovered the roof where he was. Oriental houses of the poorer classes have flat roofs. Large beams were placed across at intervals of several feet. Rough ceiling joists were fixed over these. A layer of small poles or brushwood, arranged close together, completed the framework. These three layers were covered with earth or gravel, on which grass grew or flowers were cultivated. Sometimes slabs of stone were placed next to the joists instead of brushwood. The
layer of earth was rolled flat and gradually hardened. Therefore the sick man’s friends would have had to get on to the roof by the outside staircase.

St Luke mentions that they went up upon the roof. They could uncover the roof by scraping away the earth or gravel, and by removing a few slabs or small poles and some of the joists, they could easily let the man down between the beams.

the bed wherein, etc. This was a common pallet or mat used by the poorest. It was just large enough for one person, and could be rolled up when not in use. This explains how the four bearers could let down the sick man either by holding the corners, if, as was usual, the rooms were not more than a few feet high, or by means of ropes. Such a bed could be easily carried away by one person.

Mar 2:5 And when Jesus had seen their faith, he saith to the sick of the palsy: Son, thy sins are forgiven thee.

their faith, i.e. the faith of the bearers and of the sick man himself. The bearers showed their faith by their persistence in overcoming the obstacles which prevented them from approaching our Lord. The man showed his faith in allowing himself to be thus brought. He believed that our Lord could and would heal him. When God grants blessings to those for whom we pray, He rewards our prayer and faith as well as that of the person for whom we pray, but no grace can be received by one who does not ask or desire it, at least, implicitly.

Son. St Luke gives the word man here. St Matthew adds, be of good
heart (Mt 9:2). Our Lord thus showed His love, and animated the sick man’s confidence. Possibly the thought of his sins made the man sad.

thy sins are forgiven thee. The Jews believed that every temporal
calamity or affliction was sent as a punishment for sin, e.g. And there
were present at that very time some that told Him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices (St Luke 13:1). Jesus answered: Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him (St John 9:3). Jesus, in remitting sin, was verifying St John the Baptist’s words. The next day John saw Jesus coming to him, and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world (St John 1:29), and proving Himself to be the Christ since He exercised the prerogatives of the Messiah. Because his soul hath laboured, he shall see and be filled: by his knowledge shall this my just servant justify many, and lie shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I distribute to him very many, and he shall divide the spoils of the strong, because he hath delivered his soul unto death, and was reputed with the wicked : and he hath borne the sins of many and hath prayed for the transgressors (Isa 53:11-12) (see also Jer 31:34, Mic 7:18). None of the Prophets had ever absolved from sin. The sick man must have had true contrition for his sins and earnestly desired forgiveness, otherwise Jesus would not have absolved him.

Mar 2:6 And there were some of the scribes sitting there and thinking in their hearts:

some of the scribes …. thinking in their hearts: likewise the
Pharisees as we learn from St Luke 5:21. The Jews had already
determined to kill Him (St John 5:18), and the Scribes and Pharisees
were there as spies watching our Lord, that they might accuse Him to the synagogue. This is the first of the many conspiracies against our Lord.

Mar 2:7 Why doth this man speak thus? He blasphemeth. Who can forgive sins, but God only?

blasphemeth. By asserting a power which God alone has, viz., that of forgiving sins. To the Scribes who denied our Lord’s divinity, His
word seemed a breach of the second commandment.

Men are guilty of blasphemy

(1) When they speak against God or deny His attributes.
(2) When they ascribe these attributes to creatures.

Mar 2:8 Which Jesus presently knowing in his spirit that they so thought within themselves, saith to them: Why think you these things in your hearts?

knowing in his spirit. It was by His divine Spirit that He read the thoughts of His enemies. He thus proved His divinity, and therefore
His power to forgive sins, for who can forgive sins but God alone? The prophets often knew things by God’s revelations, as when Eliseus (Elisha) convicted Giezi (Gehazi) of lying and disobedience, but Jesus needed no interior illumination (see 2 Kings 5:1-27, esp. 15-27). As God, all was open to Him. Under the new law by the Sacrament of Order, priests receive this divine mission of absolving sinners in God’s name, but under the old law, although the confession of certain sins was enjoined, the Jewish priest had no power to absolve.

Mar 2:9 Which is easier, to say to the sick of the palsy: Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say: Arise, take up thy bed and walk?

Which is easier. It was easier, as regards convincing men of His divine power, to claim to forgive sins, than to restore a sick man to health, since no one could assure himself if the sins were really forgiven or not, whereas all could see a visible miracle of healing. To do the latter Jesus must be God, hence He could forgive sins.

Mar 2:10 But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins (he saith to the sick of the palsy):

Son of man. This title is mostly found on the lips of our Lord Himself. The sacred writers rarely apply it to Him. It occurs fourteen times in St Mark’s Gospel. This same title is applied to the Messiah by Daniel 7:13, I beheld therefore in the vision of the night, and lo, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven. Jesus uses it to express His perfect humanity. It is also used by St Stephen, who, being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said: Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:55). See also Rev 1:13, 14:14.

on earth. The Son of man on earth could forgive sins, as could the Son of God in Heaven.

power . … to forgive sins. Jesus forgave authoritatively and meritoriously. His priests absolve penitents ministerially.

Mar 2:11 I say to thee: Arise. Take up thy bed and go into thy house.

take up thy bed. The bed or mat was easily rolled up. This proved the man’s perfect cure, as a palsied man cannot even lift a cup to his lips.

Mar 2:12 And immediately he arose and, taking up his bed, went his way in the sight of all: so that all wondered and glorified God, saying: We never saw the like.

immediately. It was a sudden cure, not a gradual return to health ;
so it was in the case of the leper and of St Peter’s mother-in-law. This miracle was worked instantaneously, completely, and publicly.

in the sight of all. They now made way for him to leave.

all wondered. St Matthew gives, the multitudes …. feared and
glorified God (Mt 9:8), that is the common people, for the Scribes and Pharisees still refused to believe.

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Catholic Scripture Manual on Mark 1:40-45

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 31, 2016

Text in red, if any, are my additions.

Mar 1:40 And there came a leper to him, beseeching him and kneeling down, said to him: If thou wilt thou canst make me clean.

A leper. One afflicted with leprosy a terrible skin disease, and
very common in the East.

The Jews called it “The Finger of God” or “the Stroke.” It is rarely cured, at least in its most malignant forms. It is also extremely loathsome in its worst stages. Scales cover the body, and the members gradually drop off. It resembles a universal cancer. Leprosy is a type of sin. Lepers were considered unclean in general, and were forbidden to approach the dwellings of those not so affected. It should be noted that the biblical use of the term λεπρος (lepros) and it’s cognates does not necessarily indicate that one was afflicted with actual leprosy (today called “Hanson’s Disease”).

Beseeching, kneeling down. One of St Mark s vivid touches.

If thou wilt. The leper’s prayer shows modesty, humility, confidence, submission to God’s will, and a firm faith in Christ’s healing power.

Mar 1:41 And Jesus, having compassion on him, stretched forth his hand and touching him saith to him: I will. Be thou made clean.
Mar 1:42 And when he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him: and he was made clean.

having compassion. A detail peculiar to St Mark.

stretched forth his hand. Jesus touched the leper in spite of the Mosaic prohibition, possibly:

(a) to show that He was “the Lord of the law.”
(b) To prove the virtue of His human nature.
(c) To show His loving compassion for the leper.

Priests were allowed to touch the lepers in pronouncing them clean, and Jesus is our High Priest. Although the Jews were forbidden to touch a corpse, yet Eliseus (Elisha) touched the dead child whom he restored to life (2 Kings 4:4), thus showing that divine miracles are above ritual precepts.

Mar 1:43 And he strictly charged him and forthwith sent him away.

charged him, i.e. He charged him that he should tell no man (St Luke 5:14). Jesus strictly commanded the leper not to noise abroad the miracle. He did not wish to confirm, the Jews in their idea concerning the temporal reign of the Messiah. On other occasions our Lord commanded silence respecting miraculous cures (see page 49).

Jesus in dismissing the leper bids him practice:

1. Humility, see thou tell no man.
2. Obedience, go, shew thyself to the priests.
3. Gratitude, offer for thy cleansing, etc.

Mar 1:44 And he saith to him: See thou tell no one; but go, shew thyself to the high priest and offer for thy cleansing the things that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.

to the high-priest. These words may refer to the one who presided
over the priests then serving in their weekly course, or to the high-priest himself.

the things that Moses commanded. Two living sparrows, cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop (a kind of wild marjoram).

Mar 1:45 But he being gone out, began to publish and to blaze abroad the word: so that he could not openly go into the city. but was without in desert places. And they flocked to him from all sides.

began to publish, etc. Did the leper sin by so doing 1 Probably not, as it is most likely that he regarded the prohibition as being prompted by our Lord’s humility. Doubtless the man in his excitement
could not refrain from expressing joy and gratitude; moreover, even if he himself had not published it, the leper’s friends and acquaintances must have perceived his sudden return to perfect health.

not openly go into the city, on account of the crowd, which, attracted by the fame of His miracles, continually followed Him, and impeded His journey.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Notes on Mark, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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