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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 31

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 25, 2017


1 King David, in his flight from Absalom, destitute of all earthly assistance, appeals to God, and says, “In thee have I hoped,” and I am therefore confident, as you are all powerful, and most true to me, that you will not disappoint me in my hope. Agreeable to such hope, therefore, “Deliver me in thy justice;” that justice that prompts you to punish the wicked and free the just.

2 The persecution was pressing on him; his friends had sent him word to rest in no one place, to continue his flight, unless he chose to be destroyed; and therefore he prays to be heard at once, and to be delivered from the impending danger. “Be thou unto me a God, a protector, and a house of refuge, to save me.” Be like a well protected strong house to me; for there is no fortified place in this champaign country to which I can fly.

3 You are my stronghold to which I will fly for refuge. “And for thy name’s sake thou wilt lead me, and nourish me,” corresponds exactly with David’s history. His flight was so sudden, that he knew not whither to betake himself, nor whence to obtain the necessaries of life, until Providence directed Siba to him, with two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred bunches of raisins, a hundred cakes of figs, and a vessel of wine; and he therefore says, “For thy name’s sake,” for the glory of your name, you will lead me to a safe place, and there supply me with provisions.

4 You will not only bring me to a safe place, and there provide for me, but you will also deliver me from the conspiracy, which, like a hidden snare, they have laid for me; alluding, to the conspiracy got up in Hebron against him by Absalom, when he neither dreaded nor even thought of the like.

5 Though full of hope, when he said, “Thou wilt bring me out of this snare,” being not yet quite secure of his life, he adds, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” to your care I entrust my life. And, as you have at other times frequently “redeemed me,” saved me from death, you who are a most true and most faithful God. These expressions lead many to think that the whole Psalm has reference to Christ, by reason of his having, while hanging on the cross, exclaimed, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” But though the Psalm, to the letter, may not be applicable to Christ, the Lord might have taken these words from the Psalm, when he wished to commend his spirit to his Father, just as St. Nicholas, in his last moments, repeated this with the preceding verses; and we, not infrequently, ourselves use them. The words, “Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth,” appear to be against the application of the verse to Christ, for, instead of being the redeemed, he is the Redeemer. St. Augustine, attributes the first part of the verse to Christ, the latter to his people; for he is of opinion that the prophet is fond of speaking in the person of different characters—sometimes of Christ, sometimes in that of the people. All right and pious enough, when one is looking for a mystic sense or explanation; but when we look for the literal sense, it does not appear why different persons should be introduced, when there is nothing in the context or the punctuation to call for such change.

6 He assigns another reason for having “commended” his life to the hands of God, because God is wont to hate them who, instead of trusting in him, trust in “vanities,” that can afford them no possible help. “Thou hast hated them that regard vanities to no purpose;” those who regard dreams or omens, or the responses of demons, as Saul did, when he consulted the pythoness. Under the word “vanities,” may also be included those who, relying on human industry, craft, cunning, human aid or help to the exclusion of the divine help and counsel; all of which are vain and useless; and he, therefore, adds the words “to no purpose,” for all such exertions are, in reality, “to no purpose.” “But I have hoped in the Lord:” not so with me, I hoped in none, in nothing but God.

7–8 As “I hoped in the Lord,” I will “be glad and rejoice in thy mercy,” for the Divine mercy never deserts those who hope in him. “For thou hast regarded.” He brings up past favors, in the hope that, by his acknowledgment of them, he may obtain fresh ones. “I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy,” for I have a pledge of it in my deliverance from Saul; for then you “regarded my humility,” my abjection, and affliction; and then you “saved my soul” from the troubles that surrounded me, and from which I could not extricate myself. “And thou hast not shut me up in the hands of the enemy;” you did not allow Saul, who sought my death, to accomplish his purpose; but “thou hast set my feet in a spacious place;” you freed me from the troubles that encompassed me, and placed me, free and disembarrassed, as it were, on an open plain; at liberty to go about at pleasure.

9 Bearing past favors in mind, he prays for future ones, and relates his misfortunes. “Have mercy on me, O Lord.” As you have had mercy on me in former tribulations, have mercy now, too; for tribulation has again set in on me; and here they are, “My eye is troubled with wrath.” Whose wrath? God’s or his own? I rather think, with St. Augustine, God’s; for, it is clear, from the First and Second Book of Kings, that David, in all his persecutions, never burst into wrath, but was always most mild and most patient; and I, therefore, take the meaning to be, “in thy wrath,” in which you punish me for my sins, “my eye is troubled;” my corporeal eye has grown dim with my tears; or, the eye of my soul has grown dark: “my soul,” too, is confused, for it has been fearfully frightened; so also has been “my belly,” the very interior of my soul; that is, my memory; the receptacle of my thoughts. Thus the prophet makes brief allusion to the functions of the soul eye representing the intellect; the soul, the will; and the belly, the memory.

10 David, being now an old man, could justly say, “For my life is wasted with grief:” was spent in constant trouble and “sighs.” In the first thirty years of his life his troubles were innumerable. On being made king, for seven years he had to wage war against the descendants of Saul; he then had various wars with neighboring kingdoms; then with his own son. Then, the very care of a kingdom, to one who wishes to govern it conscientiously, is enough to “waste” one, and make them “sigh.” “My strength is weakened through poverty.” In addition to all his other afflictions, he has lost his strength. The first and last members of this sentence are synonymous; they mean the same thing: “my strength is weakened,” is the same as “my bones are disturbed;” for bones stand for health, power, strength. That was literally the case with David. He had to fly, without any provision whatever, to the most desert places; not only on foot, but even barefooted; and there to remain until relieved by his friends.

11 Another misfortune, consequent on his notorious persecution, the neighboring people, “enemies” of his, having heard of his base flight, began to despise him. His “acquaintances,” too began to fear that Absalom, should he succeed, may wreak his vengeance on them for having proved friendly to David. “They that saw me without;” an explanation of a fear to my acquaintance. Many of my acquaintance, when they saw me an outcast and afflicted, “Fled from me,” ran, fearing for their lives, should they be found to have come near me; and thus,

12 Their heart neither remembers me nor thinks of me, no more than if I were dead and buried, for they consider I am just as if such had been the case with me. “I am become as a vessel that is destroyed.” My friends and acquaintances have not only abandoned and forgotten me; but even the people around me despise and look down upon me, as they would upon a broken vessel, of no use or value, which is evident from the abuse they heap upon me. He evidently alludes here to Semei’s abuse, who, not content with abusing him, sought to stone him; looking upon him as an outcast and an exile, and as a broken vessel, that should be thrown into the sewer. And though the Scripture makes mention of Semei alone abusing him, it is probable that others did the same, and that they are here alluded to, when he says, “I have heard the blame of many.”

13 After the abuse of Semei, a conspiracy was entered into, in the presence of Absalom, to take David’s life, which is here alluded to. I am abused to my face; behind my back a conspiracy is entered into at Jerusalem to have my life.

14 The holy soul, in all his troubles, shows he did not despond, because he did not put his trust in the fallacious help of man, but in the all powerful God, whom no one can resist. “But I have put my trust in thee, O Lord.” Why? Because “I said” in my heart, “Thou art my God.” I have a great protector, without whose consent no one can take my life, because,

15 My life does not depend on lot or chance, but depends on your will and power. “Deliver me out of the hands of my enemies.” The meaning is quite plain, and needs no explanation.

16–17 The same petition renewed, but with additional arguments, calculated to move God to mercy. “Make thy face to shine upon thy servant;” that means, show me your face, or look on me, which is the same. For as God, when he is angry with us by reason of our sins, is said to turn away his face, or to put a cloud between him and us, and not to look on us; so, on the contrary, when he is reconciled, he is said to turn his face to us to regard us, and make “it shine upon us, so as to make us, too, a mass of light. He, therefore, first asks to be reconciled to God, in case he should have been angry with him; and assigns as a reason, his being a servant most ready at all times to do God’s behest and commands. He then adds, “Save me,” which is only the consequence of reconciliation; and to move him thereto, he adds, “In thy mercy,” not through my merits, but through your own pure mercy; and he adds a third argument, “Let me not be confounded, for I have called upon thee.” For it is the duty of a good and faithful master, who has promised to help those that confide in him, not to suffer one who so unceasingly and so confidently invoked him to be confounded. “Let the wicked be ashamed, and be brought down to hell.”

A prophetic imprecation, and one fulfilled immediately after; for Achitophel, the principal minister of Absalom, who had advised the most impious proceeding against David, was so confused, on his plans being defeated by divine Providence, and being unable to bear up against the confusion consequent thereon, hanged himself; and thus, “The wicked became ashamed, and was brought down to hell.”

18 Achitophel’s lips are called deceitful, because for a long time he pretended to be the fast friend of David; but the moment he got the opportunity, he betrayed his perfidy. “Which speak against the just;” against David, who had offered no injury to either Achitophel or to Absalom; and they spoke “Iniquity;” gave advice full of injustice, “With pride and abuse;” that is, with the greatest contempt and arrogance.

19 The holy prophet, feeling that he had been heard, and having felt a gleam of heavenly consolation, exclaims in admiration, as above. The verse may be thus explained. In the time of tribulation, God conceals the “Multitude of his sweetness;” that is, the unbounded rewards he has in store for the just, in order to prove them; but in a little time after he displays those very prizes and rewards, “In the sight of the sons of men,” that his servants may learn from thence to have greater hope in him. Thus, for a time he concealed his sweetness from David, while he was flying from his son’s persecution; but soon after he displayed the extent of his goodness to him, when he restored his kingdom to him in the greatest triumph. The very same thing happens to all the just, whose reward is now hid, but will appear to all on the day of judgment. It may be interpreted differently; thus, Truly manifold are the consolations, O Lord, that you pour into the inmost recesses of the hearts of those that fear you—that fear you with a filial, fond, and loving, not a servile, fear. For this is “The hidden manna which no man knoweth but he that receiveth it.” Such as was felt by David, when, in Psalm 93, he said, “According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, thy comforts have given joy to my soul.” And, as St. Paul, 2 Cor. 7, says, “I am filled with comfort, I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation.” And if, in time of tribulation, such be the “Multitude of the sweetness” in the heart of the exile, who can conceive the amount of the joy in his heart when his triumph shall have been accomplished! “Which thou hast wrought for them that hope in thee, in the sight of the sons of men.” The sweetness “Thou hast wrought” for those who refuse all consolation but yours is perfect, most copious, most abundant; and all this “In the sight of the sons of men;” that is, in spite of them all, before their face; because the more pain they inflict externally, the more consolations you multiply internally. This sweetness is infused into the hearts of the just, “In the sight of the sons of men,” in another way, when the sons of men, who persecute the children of God, see what and how they suffer; for, carnal as they are, with the palate of their soul infected by sin, they cannot feel, nor even have an idea of the sweetness, though they see its effects in the meekness, patience, nay, even hilarity and peace of the just; and thus, their sweetness is, to a certain extent, hidden in the sight of the sons of men, though its effects are apparent.

20 He gives a description of the manner in which the just feel the sweetness of God in the day of tribulation; for, by love and contemplation, they are carried up to God; and in him find a house of refuge, as he says in this very Psalm, “Be thou unto me a God, a protector, and a house of refuge;” for those who know how to take refuge in God, think as little of all manner of tribulation as if it did not at all belong to them. “Thou shalt hide them,” those that fear thee, “In the secret of thy face;” in that hidden place, that is, in thy face; for the soul wrapt up in contemplation, feeling that God is attentively looking on it, observant of God’s slightest expression, burning with love at the idea of God’s beauty that is lodged, in dwelling, proof against “The disturbance of men;” that is, from all manner of evil that usually disturbs man. “Thou shalt protect them in thy tabernacle;” the same just will be protected in the very house in which yourself is lodged, for God has no house capable of containing him, he is his own house; and those who, in love and contemplation, dwell in God, “Make the Most High their refuge. No evil shall come to them, nor shall the scourge come near their dwelling,” as it is beautifully expressed in Psalm 90. In this tabernacle they are protected, not only from evil doers, as was explained in the preceding verse, but also from evil speakers, for such is the meaning of “The contradiction of tongues,” for they who can call upon God as a witness, care little for what man can say. And if the face of the Lord be such a retreat and a refuge to the elect, in the time when he is seen only “Through a glass in an obscure manner,” how will matters be when we shall see him as he really is? Then truly will our dwelling be in Jerusalem, the vision of peace, of which is written, in Psalm 147, “Who hath placed peace in thy borders.”

21 He now applies to himself, as being one of the just, what he had said in general, touching the consolation they feel in their troubles, and thanks God for it. “Blessed be the Lord, for his wonderful mercy to me in a fortified city,” because he “So hid me in the secret of his face,” which is like “a fortified city,” that my enemies could do me no harm.

22 He accuses himself of the despondence he was in when his persecution commenced. When I was almost idiotic through fear, I said to myself, “I am cast away from before thy eyes;” that is, you wish me no longer to govern; or no longer to live, as appears from your withholding that look of benignity and kindness, and that help with which you were wont to countenance me. As we read, in 2 Kings 15, of David, “If I shall find grace in the sight of the Lord, he will bring me again. If he shall say to me, Thou pleasest me not, I am ready, let him do that which is good before him.”

23–24 He now encourages all pious people, similarly suffering, not to cease loving God, and putting their trust in him; for, though the wicked may seem to persecute them with impunity for a while, they will ultimately suffer the bitterest punishment for it.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 146

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 25, 2017


1–2 This Psalm commences in the shape of a dialogue. The exile finding his flesh beginning to groan in the hardships of his exile, exhorts his soul, just beginning to taste of happiness in hope, to praise God, and thereby to refresh the entire man. Addressing his soul; then, he says, “praise the Lord, O my soul.” The soul answers, “In my life I will praise the Lord.” I will praise him when I come to enjoy the true life, because here below, instead of singing and praising him, we must rather weep and pray to him; for though we do praise him, even at present, to some extent, it is not praise properly so called, or full praise, but is mingled with prayers and with tears; but when we come to the true life, then, indeed, will our praise deserve the name of praise, for it will be pure, everlasting, and most delightful. He repeats the same when he adds, “I will sing to my Lord as long as I shall be,” when I shall have come to eternal life I will sing unceasingly to my God. At present I cannot sing while I have so many things to interrupt me, but when I shall have been disengaged and free from all care, “I will sing to my God as long as I shall be,” or during the whole space of that true life; and as I shall never have any fear of dying, I shall sing forever without failing. “Put not your trust in princes,” seeing that many are retarded on the road to salvation by their admiration of place and power. As if such things could confer happiness on those who enjoy such positions, in pity for their blindness, he exclaims, “Put not your trust in princes,” which he explains, by calling them “the sons of men,” mere mortals like yourselves, there being only one true prince, the Creator of mankind, in whom we should put our trust: and he assigns a reason why we should place no trust in them when he adds, “in whom there is no salvation,” because the princes of this world, when they cannot save others, have no salvation in themselves, nor are they saved themselves, but must be saved like all others, if they deserve it. If such be the case, how did Christ, who was man, and the “Son of Man,” as he was wont to style himself, save the whole human race? He saved them through his divinity.

3-4 The prophet might have adduced many arguments to prove that “there is no salvation in the children of men,” inasmuch as they are infirm, variable, deceitful, often aiming at what they are unable to accomplish, and as often refusing to accomplish what they are equal to; but he puts forward one simple reason alone, one that no one can contradict, one taken from death that is common to us all, for how can he save others who cannot save himself? for, beyond aye or nay let him shut himself in a fortified tower, let him surround it with a powerful army for protection, were he even monarch of the universe, “his spirit shall go forth” from his body, and then his body shall “return into his earth,” of which it was composed, and then, “in that day all their thoughts shall perish,” the thoughts of all those who put their hope in him, depended on him, expected riches, places, appointments from him; but the moment God takes away the spirit, that is, the life of him on whom they so depended, all their castle building tumbles to the ground, and thus, “all their thoughts shall perish.”

5-6 The prophet now tells us that the person who will sincerely desire to arrive at true and everlasting salvation will have to place no confidence whatever in the princes of this world, but in the only true God alone. “Blessed is he,” at least in hope, and in the safe and direct road to actual happiness, “who hath the God of Jacob for his helper,” who has the one true God to assist and to protect him in this world. He calls the true God “the God of Jacob,” by reason of Jacob’s people adhering to God, while the Moabites, Ammonites, Philistines, and the other surrounding nations, worshipped false gods. And he tells at once whom God will help, when he says, “whose hope is in the Lord his God,” or, God will help all who hope in him, of which there is abundant testimony in the Scriptures, “No one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded,” Eccli. 2; and in Psalm 113, “The house of Israel hath hoped in the Lord, he is their helper and their protector.” He then proves the advantage of hoping in the Lord, because it was he “who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things that are in them.” Whence it follows that there are no bounds to his power, that he is Lord of all things, and that all things are subject to him, and therefore, that anyone protected by him has no reason for fear from any quarter.

7 As the exile might have said, in reply, I know God is all powerful, and that he can, if he choose, protect and assist me, but how do I know that he will? the prophet takes him up, and proves that God will do it, by reason of his justice, and of his mercy. By reason of his justice, “he keepeth truth forever;” that is to say, he always stands to what he has promised, and he has promised help to those who put their trust in them. In like manner, in consequence of his being supremely just, “he executes judgment for them that suffer wrong;” that is to say, he gives just judgment in favor of the just against the wicked, by punishing the latter, and rewarding the former; and inasmuch as he is merciful, “he gives food to the hungry,” providing for the temporal as well as the spiritual wants of those who trust in him, in a most extraordinary and wonderful manner.

8 As it would not be enough for the exiles, on their return to their country, to be ensured safe conduct from robbers, and wherewithal to support them on the journey, if their feet were not at liberty, and themselves wide awake, besides being in rude health, he therefore, in order to show how determined God is to assist those who put their trust in him, adds, “The Lord looseth them that are in fetters,” the fetters of concupiscence, which he does gradually, by destroying all their evil desires; and as concupiscence always blinds us, “the Lord enlighteneth the blind,” by giving them the light of wisdom and of interior prudence; and as sin was the cause, not only of concupiscence and blindness, but also of human infirmity, man having been brought, by means of sin, to the condition of him, who going down from Jericho, fell in with robbers who despoiled him, and left him more dead than alive, the prophet therefore adds, “he lifteth up them that are cast down,” and finally, he adds, “the Lord loveth the just,” in order, that man, after having been healed, set free, and enlightened through grace, may look forward to perseverance through the goodness of God.

9 He now repeats that God will both help and protect the pilgrims who move along “the narrow way” to their country. “The Lord keepeth the strangers,” they who do not belong to Babylon, nor to this world, but the true pilgrims in a strange land. “He will support the fatherless and the widow.” The fatherless are the just who have no one to protect them, who have no father in this world, and who put their hope in nothing in this world. The widow is the Church, who is truly a widow, so long as she is separated from her spouse, and subject to all the trials and troubles daily pouring in upon her. These orphans and this widow will be all taken into God’s house at the fitting time, and then “he will destroy the ways of sinners,” the prosperous ways in which they walk being so many broad ways that lead to destruction, all of which God will, in the end of the world, thoroughly upset and destroy.

10 Finally, on the termination of the exile, and on the ways of the wicked, as well as the wicked themselves having been exterminated, Christ’s eternal kingdom shall commence, for “the Lord shall reign” with his saints, “forever.” Your God, I repeat, O holy Sion, will reign with his children forever and ever. Amen.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 37

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 22, 2017

An exhortation to despise this world, and the short prosperity of the wicked; and to trust in Providence

1–2 The prophet, in the character of a spiritual physician, admonishes the faithful, when they see the wicked prospering, not to be tempted to imitate them, or to be indignant or angry with God, as if he were treating them unjustly; because the prosperity of the evil doer will not be of long duration; nay, it will even have but a very brief existence; and then will God’s justice and providence, in not allowing them to exult and rejoice for any length of time, be made manifest to all. “Be not emulous of evil doers.” Do not imitate them; do not seek to do as they do. If they do wrong, do not the same. “Nor envy them that work iniquity.” When you see the wicked prosper, be not troubled, nor be angry with God for allowing them so to thrive in the world, as it is more clearly expressed in Psalm 72, “How good is God to Israel, to them that are of a right heart! But my feet were almost moved; my steps had well nigh slipt, because I had a zeal on occasion of the wicked seeing the prosperity of sinners;” that means, God seems good to those who know and love him; but, poor creature as I am, I fell into doubt and misgiving, burning with zeal, as I thought, for justice sake, and with anger at seeing the prosperity of the wicked, who, while more deserving of torments and punishment, abound in all the temporal blessings of this world. “For they shall shortly wither away as grass.” A most appropriate idea for showing how short will be their prosperity. Grass and green herbs do not send their roots very deep into the earth, like the cedar and the palm tree, to which the just are usually compared. “The just shall flourish like the palm tree; he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus.” Hence, the grass and green herbs wither and rot in a short time; the cedar and the palm tree come to an immense age. And the prophet does not confine himself to their prosperity, which, he says, will be very brief in this world; but, he goes further, and says, themselves will be very quickly destroyed; and when they are gone, their happiness and prosperity is gone with them. And though they may enjoy many and prosperous years here, they are nothing compared to the lengthened, the everlasting happiness of the just. For “the just shall live forever,” Wisdom 5; and “the just shall be in everlasting remembrance.” Any one that wishes to see the brevity and the velocity of all things temporal, painted to the life, let him refer to Wisdom, chap. 5, “All those things are passed away like a shadow, and like a post that runneth on, and as a ship that passeth through the waves; whereof when it is gone by, the trace cannot be found, nor the path of its keel in the waters: or as when a bird flieth through the air; of the passage of which no mark can be found, but only the sound of the wings beating the light air, and parting it by the force of her flight; she moved her wings, and hath flown through; and there is no mark found afterwards of her way: or as when an arrow is shot at a mark, the divided air presently cometh together again, so that the passage thereof is not known: so we also being born, forthwith ceased to be; and have been able to show no mark of virtue; but are consumed in our wickedness.”

3–4 After seeking to frighten us out of our evil ways, David now tries to encourage us to do good. If you wish to be happy and blessed, understand who is the author of all happiness, look to him for it, and to no one else. “Trust in the Lord,” he, being master of all things, can alone give us what we want; but that our hope may be certain, and that we may not be confounded, “do good;” do what God’s commandments direct you; for he cannot put his trust in him he knows to be incensed against him; and then in perfect security you will “dwell in the land,” for who can turn you out when you are known to be the friend of him to whom the earth, and “the fullness thereof” belongs? nay, more, “you will be fed with its riches,” for it will throw up its fruits in abundance to feed you. But to work, to be in God’s peace, so that one may securely confide in him, they must have love; and, therefore, he says, “Delight in the Lord;” love God from your heart, let him be your delight, and then you will be safe, because, “he will give thee the requests of thy heart,” whatever your heart shall desire. An objection—we know many who “trusted in the Lord,” who “did good,” and who “delighted in the Lord,” and still were not allowed “to dwell in the land,” nor “to be fed with its riches,” nor to get “the requests of their heart:” to say nothing of the countless multitudes of holy souls who are in extreme want. Certainly St. Paul “trusted in the Lord,” and “did good;” and yet, according to himself, 1 Cor. 4, “He was hungry and thirsty, and was naked, and was cast out as the refuse and the off scouring of this world:” and though “he delighted in the Lord,” the Lord did not grant him “the request of his heart;” for, though he asked three times to “be delivered from the sting of his flesh,” yet he was not heard. The answer is: the greater part of those who are in extreme want do not “trust in the Lord” as they ought, do not observe his commandments as he requires, much less are they “delighted in the Lord;” for, to say nothing of the promises contained in this Psalm, Christ himself most clearly says to us, “Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? Seek ye, therefore, first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all those things shall be added unto you.” There can be no doubt, then, but that God will provide all necessaries for his own, if they really put their trust in him, and keep his commandments. If the contrary sometimes happens, as was the case with St. Paul, the reason is, because God chose to give them something better, with which they are more contented, and that is the great merit of patience; for the very same Paul, who so described his want and his other tribulations, wrote in another place, “I am filled with comfort, I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation;” and thus, though God did not grant “the requests of his heart,” by removing “the sting of his flesh,” he gave him an abundance of grace to convert that sting into a powerful source of triumph. He, therefore, withheld a thing of trifling value, that he may confer one of immense value, which he knew was the real “request of his heart.”

5–6 The prophet, in the capacity of a skilful physician, had prescribed a remedy for the internal disease of hunger, thirst, and the like; he now prescribes for the external disease of persecutions and calumnies. When such things happen, we are not forbidden to defend ourselves, and to repel the calumnies; but prayer to God, confidence in God, should be our principal resource and remedy, as was the case with Susanna, who, when condemned to death, through swearing of false witnesses, with tears in her eyes looked up to heaven, “for her heart had confidence in the Lord.” “Commit thy way to the Lord, and trust in him, and he will do it.” In prayer before God disclose all your actions to him, confide in him, commit your whole case to him, “and he will do it.” He will do justice to you. He will find out a means of detecting the falsehood of the witnesses who swore against you, so as to establish your innocence. That is more clearly expressed in the following, “and he will bring forth thy justice as a light.” God, in his wonderful providence, will cause your justice that was, as it were, buried in darkness, by the calumnies of your persecutors, to emerge and be refulgent in great brightness, as light is seen when enkindled, or brought out from a closed and darkened lantern. He repeats it, saying, “and thy judgment as the noon day.” He will establish your innocence as clearly, and make it to be seen as conspicuously as the sun is seen at noon. A thing literally carried out in the case of Susanna. At first her justice and her innocence were in darkness, she was convicted on the testimony not only of two witnesses, but even of two who professed to be together when they saw the thing, and whose character put them beyond suspicion; however, God at once raised up the spirit of Daniel, who, from the very lips of the same witnesses, so clearly establishes their own infamy, and the innocence of Susanna, that she was at once set at liberty, and they were consigned to an ignominious death.

7 The meaning of this passage, which may be considered as the fourth general spiritual rule, is, take care, and be always obedient to God; pray to him constantly, for fear the idea of seeing an unjust man successful in the world may tempt you and lead you to injustice. In fact, the success of the bad is a great temptation; but easily overcome by having God constantly before us, and clinging to him through prayer and obedience. Whoever will so unite himself to God stands, as it were, on an eminence; and, seeing the happiness of the sinner to be transient and temporary, has no difficulty in spurning and despising it. He therefore, says, “Be subject to the Lord, and pray to him.” Be obedient to God in all simplicity and honesty, and through prayer frequently converse and commune with him. “Envy not the man who prospereth in his way.” Do not seek to rival the man who is prosperous in life; that is, the man who is dishonestly so.

8–9 This verse is a repetition and explanation of the first verse. Throughout the whole Psalm the same idea is frequently repeated and inculcated, to explain it more clearly, and thereby to fix it more firmly on the memory. In the first verse he said, “Be not emulous of evil doers.” He now repeats, in clearer language, “cease from anger, and leave rage;” that is, when you see a bad man thriving, don’t get vexed or angry, don’t say, Why does this villain so prosper? Where is God’s justice? Where his providence? In the eighth verse he said, “have no emulation to do evil.” Do not seek to rival the wicked in their evil ways; do not imitate the enormities of those whose happiness you so envy, and adds, “for the evil doers shall be cut off,” to confirm what he had said before, “for they shall wither away as grass.” He then adds, “but they that wait upon the Lord shall inherit the land,” to repeat and confirm what he had said before, “trust in the Lord, and dwell in the land.” They wait on the Lord who patiently expect his promises, and expect them confidently, knowing the Lord, who made the promise, being both able and sure to carry it out; and thus, there is no doubt that the evil doers, though they may seem to flourish for a while, will not long flourish, but will be “cut off” from the land, and shoved into hell for eternal punishment; while those who keep themselves from sin, and expect their reward from God, “they shall inhabit the land,” for they shall get permanent hold of the land, of which they will never be deprived. In truth, when holy souls go to God, instead of losing possession of the land, they acquire both it and heaven along with it, when it is said of them, “that he will put them over all his property.”

10–11 Having said, that “the evil doers shall be cut off,” he now adds, that it will soon happen. “For yet a little while” and that “wicked” man, who seemed so happy, “shall not be,” cannot be found; “and thou shall seek his place and shalt not find it.” There will be no trace of him, like a barren tree torn up from the roots. “But the meek,” they who are neither indignant nor angry with God when they see the wicked prosper; but, on the contrary, patiently bear and take from God’s hand what it may please him to send, they will “inherit the land,” not only this land of exile, but that land that only deserves the name, that fixed and firm land, of which the Lord speaks in Mat. 5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land;” and as that land is called the Jerusalem, which means, the vision of peace, and whereas all its enemies are far removed from it, therefore “they shall delight in the multitude of peace;” they shall have great peace, because the number of inhabitants will be great to enjoy it; and the peace will be of long duration, or rather forever; and thus they shall enjoy the pleasure that peace always brings with it.

12–13 The just man is here advised to be in no great fear of the wicked, as God is guarding him. “The sinner shall watch the just man;” shall attentively look after everything he does, to see could he find any opening for destroying him; “and shall gnash upon them with his teeth;” like a dog, shall howl for his destruction, and through anger and fury expose his teeth, like a dog. “But the Lord shall laugh at him.” God, who beholds everything, in whose hand are all things, so that even a leaf does not fall to the ground without his order or permission, “shall laugh at him, for he foreseeth that his day shall come;” he will laugh at him, because he sees the end of the wicked man is just at hand; and that he will be taken off before he can put any of his designs against the just man into execution. Though God may sometimes allow the wicked to slay the just, the wicked, however, kills himself first, for he kills his own soul; and since the death of the just is precious in the sight of the Lord, his death, instead of being a loss, is to him a gain; on the other hand, the death of the sinner is the very reverse—is the commencement of his eternal punishment; and thus the sinner is always hurried off before he can injure the just. He is, therefore, justly “to be laughed at,” who, while he lies in wait for another, sees not his own impending destruction.

14–15 The prophet explains here, what he had more obscurely expressed in the twelfth verse. He said there, “The sinner shall watch the just man,” which he explains here, by saying, “The wicked have drawn out the sword, they have bent their bow.” The wicked stand with drawn swords, and bended bow, biding their time to shoot with the arrow, and slay with the sword the just man, “who is poor and needy,” but “upright of heart.” But God, who from on high beholds everything, causes their “swords to enter into their own hearts,” and “their bows to be broken,” and to injure themselves alone; and thus, “he will laugh at them.” What is said here of the real sword and quiver, may be also applied to the sword and quiver of the tongue, that sinners, perhaps oftener, make use of against the just. The just man is here designated as “the upright of heart,” because his heart is most conformable to the law of God, which is most upright; and as that law is the right way in which we must needs walk, the “upright of heart” is said to be right in his way, because he never departs from the right path, which is the law of the Lord. Observe also that the just man is called “the poor and needful,” because all the just are poor in spirit, and though they sometimes possess the riches of this world, they understand them not to be their own, since they have to render an account of them to God; or certainly David does not speak of all the just, but only of the poor and the needy, who are oppressed by the rich. Between the “poor” and “needy,” there is this difference, that the former signifies the humbler, the afflicted, the meek; while “needy” signifies, properly speaking, the one in want, who wishes for everything, because he is thoroughly destitute. Finally, the expression, “Let their sword enter into their own hearts, and let their bow be broken,” is more a prophecy than an imprecation. The sword of the sinner, drawn against the just, then enters into his own heart; when, while seeking to destroy the just, he really destroys himself. While he despoils the just man perhaps of his clothes, he robs himself of faith and charity; and while he deprives the just of his life, he deprives himself of the grace of God, which is the life of the soul; and while, by calumny, he shuts the just man up in prison, he precipitates himself into hell.

16–17 For fear the just should envy the rich wicked, and should, therefore, forsake justice to do evil, David encourages them in these two verses. “Better is a little to the just, than the great riches of the wicked;” that means, a trifling income will be of more value to the just man than an immense fortune to the sinner; and, therefore, the just man, with small means, is much happier than the sinner with a large revenue; and, therefore, justice, with little wealth, is more to be sought after than much wealth with justice. The reason is, because the just man, being guided by God, knows how to turn his riches to proper account: he is not avaricious, nor is he prodigal, and he is, therefore, neither needy, nor is he in want; he is not in debt, neither is he burdened with useless riches, to stimulate his pride or excite his passions. On the other hand, the sinner is both proud and prodigal, and knows not the use of money; hence he is always in want, always in debt, and cannot hold his position long, as appears from what follows, “For the arms of the wicked shall be broken into pieces; but the Lord strengtheneth the just;” that means, the power and strength of the sinner will easily fail, because he depends on the arm of the flesh, and his riches can afford him no help; but the strength and power of the just cannot fail, because he depends on the arm of God, who, being the friend of the just, confirms and supports him. Finally, the sinner, in spite of all his riches, will not escape everlasting death; because, when he shall die, he will carry nothing with him, nor will his glory descend with him, while the just man, who, instead of trusting in the riches of this world, trusted in God, shall live forever.

18–19 The prophet now confirms what he said a while ago, as to the happiness of the just, however scanty their fortune may be. “The Lord knoweth the days of the undefiled.” God approves of their life, favors and blesses them; and, therefore, their days will be prolonged, and their inheritance shall be protected for a long time. “They shall not be confounded in the evil time.” In the time of want and penury they will not be in confusion, because they will not be forced to beg; “and in the days of famine they shall be filled.” So far from there being any fear of their dying of hunger in time of famine, they will be so supplied that they may eat to satiety; things that often happen in this life, but most certainly will in the next. For, after this life, a most unheard of season of sterility will set in, when no one can either sow or reap; and the rich man in hell will thirst for one drop of water even, without getting it. Then, indeed, the immaculate, who stored nothing on earth, but put up everything in heaven, shall find their everlasting inheritance, and will not be confounded with the begging of the foolish virgins, “give us of your oil,” but will be fully satiated when the glory of the Lord shall have appeared.

20 A reason why “the inheritance of the just should be forever;” and why “they shall be filled in the days of famine.” That will be the case, “because the wicked,” who were wont to harass them, and deprive them of their property, “shall perish.” The remainder of the verse corresponds with the two last verses, and the meaning is, Holy souls, as being friends of God, shall have the “eternal inheritance,” and in the “evil day will not be confounded;” but the enemies of the Lord, as all sinners are, on the contrary, shall enjoy a very brief felicity; for, so soon as ever they come to be exalted, they will vanish like smoke, which the more it is exalted, the more it is scattered, leaving not even a track of itself behind.

21–22 He confirms what he had stated in verse 16, viz., “Better is a little to the just than the great riches of the wicked.” It frequently happens that the sinner, however rich, may borrow money without returning it, because they want to live, to be dressed, or to have finer houses than they can afford; hence, they are always in debt; while the just man, however limited in his fortune, knows how to make use of that little; and hence, can afford to “have mercy on the poor,” and “shall give without expecting to get it back.” “For such as bless him,” that is God, “shall inherit the land;” and thus will always have something to give—“but such as curse him;” the ungrateful, the blasphemer, “shall perish,” so that even if they wished to give, they won’t be able to do so.

23–24 He now begins to relate God’s singular providence in regard of the just, in order to confirm them, for fear the prosperity of the wicked may induce them to commit sin. He states, then, that the life of the just is guided and guarded by God. “With the Lord shall the steps of a man be directed.” The Lord, who made the just man, will direct his words and actions. “And he shall like well his way;” that is, either the just man shall like well and follow God’s way, or God shall like his, that is, the path he is pursuing. “When he shall fall, he shall not be bruised.” This may be referred to the disasters of the body as well as of the soul. For, should the just man meet any corporeal affliction or trouble, such as the falling down a precipice or into a pit, “he shall not be bruised;” he will not be entirely destroyed; for the “Lord putteth his hand under him,” assists him through his providence. Should he fall into the temptation of sin, “he shall not be bruised;” that is, he will not give full consent to mortal sin, nor will he lose his patience, his faith, or any other virtue, because God, by the assistance of his grace, will “put his hand under him.”

25–26 He proves, from his own experience, that the just “shall not be confounded in the evil time;” and also, that “in the days of famine they shall be filled.” I have been young, and now am old;” and in all that space of time “have not seen the just forsaken;” so as to be pinched by want; nor have I seen “his seed seeking bread;” that is, his children begging or seeking bread. On the contrary, I have seen the just man “showing mercy and lending;” so abounding in the riches of the world as to be able either to bestow altogether, or certainly to lend to his neighbors in their necessities; and, therefore, “his seed,” his descendants, not only shall feel no want, but they “shall be in blessing;” that is, blessed by God, they will abound in the goods of this world, or they will be blessed by all, as the children of the best of parents. Observe that the mendicant religions do not come under the sentence so pronounced here, because their mendicancy is voluntary, done through a love of poverty; nor can they be said to be forsaken by God, when he supports them by a wonderful providence. Other mendicants, generally speaking, are not the children of those who were wont “to show mercy and to lend;” to whom the promise was specially made. Very often they are neither just themselves nor the children of the just. Lastly, as we have already said, the truly just, and they who trust in God, though they may seem to be deserted by God, seeking a morsel of bread, like Lazarus, they have got something better than the goods of this world; nor would they give the virtue of patience they have got in exchange for all the riches of this world.

27–28 From what he had said of his experience from his youth to his old age, he concludes by an exhortation to “decline from evil and do good,” which are the two primary precepts of justice—“and dwell forever and ever;” be just, and you will, in security, “dwell in the land” forever. He assigns a reason why. Because “the Lord loveth judgment;” his just and holy servants; and I, therefore, assert that “they shall be reserved forever.” This promise, to a certain extent, applies to this world, where the just, through various successions, are wont to “dwell in the land” for a long time; but, properly and absolutely speaking, it applies to the future life, which, in the land of the living, will be everlasting.

29 This verse, as well as the latter part of the preceding verse, are so clear as to need no explanation.

30–31 Having previously said that divine Providence was on the watch to see that the just should not be oppressed by the wicked, he now adds, that the just themselves, by their own wisdom, which, too, is a gift of God, would enable them to save themselves from “their steps being supplanted” by the wicked. “The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom.” The just man will speak with so much wisdom, that he will not be caught in his language. To “meditate wisdom” means to be discreet in our conversation, as we have explained before; which he repeats when he adds, “and his tongue shall speak judgment;” that is, the tongue of the just man will not scatter words at random, but will speak what is right, and at the right time, which is the essence of speaking with wisdom; and he assigns a reason for it, saying, “the law of God is in his heart.”

The just man’s conversation is naturally seasoned with wisdom, because he has “the law of God in his heart;” and, therefore, while he is speaking he has the commandments of God before him, that he may not offend by his tongue; and, besides, “the law is a light,” Prov. 6; and, as the same David says, Psalm 18, “The law of the Lord enlighteneth the heart, giving wisdom to little ones;” and it is, therefore, no wonder if the just man, who has it in his heart, who loves to think on it should speak with wisdom—“and his steps shalt not be supplanted.” To supplant means to tumble another by tripping him, and that more by cunning and dexterity than by strength; but, as the just man always thinks wisely and acts wisely, he is always on his guard, and, therefore, his “steps shall not be supplanted.”

32–33 These two verses are an explanation of the two preceding. “The wicked watcheth the just man, and seeketh to put him to death,” carefully observes what he says and what he does, in order “to supplant him,” “and seeketh to put him to death;” first to trip him up, then to kill him, a thing that very often happens in unjust prosecutions, when the judge or a false accuser seeks first to entrap an innocent person, and then to put him to death. “But the Lord will not leave him in his hands.” The Lord will not allow the sinner so to keep the just man in his power, but will inspire him with wisdom, to detect the machinations of his enemies, and to speak with such wisdom as will enable him to elude them; “nor condemn him when he shall be judged.” The judge will not condemn the just man, when he shall come before him, for God will not permit justice to be so perverted.

34 An exhortation to the just to hope in God, and persevere in justice. “Expect the Lord.” Hope in God, even though he may seem to be tardy in his promise; “and keep his way,” observe his law, and turn not from the path of holiness and justice in which you have set out; “and he will exalt thee to inherit the land,” when his promises shall be fulfilled, that you may obtain the land of the living as your inheritance of right; “when the sinners shall perish, thou shalt see.” When all sinners, condemned by the judgment of God, shall have perished you will see what you now hope for.

35–36 Having said that, “when the sinners shall perish, thou shalt see;” the just man may naturally ask, when that will happen? and he therefore now says it will be immediately, for “I have seen the wicked highly exalted, and lifted up like the cedars of Libanus,” and placed in the highest degree of dignity and power, so abounding in wealth, subjects, friends, and the like, that one would say his happiness must needs be everlasting; nevertheless, scarcely “I passed by, and lo, he was not;” that is, in my way, I saw that man raised and rooted like the cedars of Libanus; I had scarcely passed him, when I looked back, and he had disappeared. “I sought him,” asked where he was, looked for some traces of his greatness, “and his place was not found,” as if he had never been there. These things are now of daily experience. To say nothing of petty kings and princes, where are those most powerful monarchs of the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans? Had history not recorded them, we would be in ignorance of their very existence. Thus, while the merest traces of such powers have disappeared, yet such is human pride, and so does it blind men up, that they cannot see what they actually touch; and will not acknowledge what they must, in spite of them, feel and experience.

37–38 A continuation of the exhortation. “Keep innocence,” by keeping yourself so, and “behold justice,” judge what is right towards your neighbor; “for there are remnants for the peaceable man,” because God will reward him, so that he will leave children after him. Or, in a higher meaning, because many good things are in store for the just after death, “For their good works follow those who die in the Lord,” Apoc. 14; on the contrary, “the unjust shall be destroyed together,” without any exception, and “the remnants of the wicked shall perish;” they will neither leave any property nor children to enjoy it, when they shall have consumed everything in their crimes and concupiscence.

39–40 A recapitulation of the whole Psalm sufficiently clear and perspicuous.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 117

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 22, 2017

All nations are called upon to praise God for his mercy and truth

1 He addresses the whole Church, and exhorts it to praise God. “All ye nations” is directed to the converted gentiles, who are named first by reason of their being in the majority, and the people nearer those of the Jews who had been converted to the faith; and the Apostles themselves, in alluding to a similar expression in the second Psalm, “Why have the gentiles raged, and the people meditated vain things,” apply the former to the gentiles, and the latter to the Jews.

2 The reason assigned for praising God is, “for his mercy is confirmed on us,” by the arrival of the Messias to Jews and gentiles; “and the truth of the Lord remaineth forever;” for the Church was established, “Against which the gates of hell shall not prevail,” and his kingdom was established, of which there will be no end.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 40

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 22, 2017


Christ’s coming, and redeeming mankind

Ps 40:1 Christ, in the person of his people, declares how long the redemption was expected. It was looked for during four thousand years; while, in the meantime, mankind was promised deliverance from the miseries into which they had fallen by the sin of our first parents, sometimes through the prophets and patriarchs, sometimes through figures and oracles. “With expectation I have waited for the Lord,” for a long time, without any intermission. I have been expecting the Lord to have mercy, to visit and to free his people, “and he was attentive to me.” I have not been disappointed, for he has heard me.

Ps 40:2 He now explains the expression in the last verse, “he was attentive to me,” for “he heard my prayers;” and the consequence was, that “he brought me out of the pit of misery and the mire of dregs.” The Hebrew for “pit of misery” conveys the idea of a deep dark place, full of the “mire of dregs,” into which many have fallen, from whose groans and lamentations the greatest disorder and confusion ensue. Such is the state of the wicked, who have not known God and his commandments; and are stuck in the mud of their carnal desires, that renders them not only incapable of arriving at eternal happiness, but causes them to quarrel and wrangle perpetually with each other. The grace of the Redeemer brings us out of this pit, so soon as we begin, through faith, to know the true God, the real and eternal happiness; and, liberated through hope and charity from our carnal desires, we have peace with God and with ourselves. “And he set my feet upon a rock, and directed my steps.” He that had fallen into the “pit of misery,” fell from the path in which God had originally placed him, and made it a safe and easy path to the kingdom of heaven; and, therefore, he who afterwards rescued him “from the pit of misery and the mire of dregs,” put him back on a path solid and firm, and quite as straight and level; which is the meaning of, “he set my feet upon a rock,” the feet he rescued from a deep and miry pit he has put upon a high and firm rock, “and the rock was Christ;” for he says of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He, therefore, put the feet of the just on the faith, the doctrine, and the example of Christ, that they may follow his footsteps; “and directed my steps.” He not only put me on the solid, but also on the straight road, and thus “directed my steps in the way of peace.”

Ps 40:3 The moment God put me on the straight and firm road I began to “sing a new canticle.” Theretofore, while I was the “old man,” I sung nothing but what turned upon the world and its pleasures; but once I became “renewed in the spirit of my mind,” I began to sing “a new canticle” on the love of God, one that God himself “put into my mouth,” which, therefore, is one most agreeable to him. “Many shall see and shall fear, and they shall hope in the Lord.” God’s people now delivered from the pit of misery, or Christ himself, in the person of his people, so delivered, foretells that many will be likewise delivered. “Many shall see” the pit of misery, and those that have been saved from it, “and will fear and will hope in the Lord;” will fear the pit, and put their trust in the deliverer, for the first step to salvation is, when God, by his grace, begins to open the eyes of the sinner, to see his miserable state, and to feel through whom he can be delivered, and thence begins “to fear and to hope in the Lord.”

Ps 40:4 He invites, exhorts, and encourages all to imitate those who have been delivered. “Blessed is the man whose trust is in the name of the Lord.” Truly happy is he who has really placed all his hope in the Lord, who alone is all powerful and merciful; and, therefore, is both willing and able to deliver from every trouble, all those that put their trust in him. To make the matter clearer, he adds, “and who hath not regard to vanities, and lying follies;” who looked for help from no one, especially from vain, empty things, that can save no one; “and lying follies.” Such fallacious helps as have just been alluded to, including astrology, incantations, witchcraft, etc., in which many believe and confide, but which may be justly designated as “lying follies.”

Ps 40:5 He now proceeds to explain that most profound mystery of man’s redemption, through which many have been, and many more will be, brought out of “the pit of misery and the mire of dregs;” and he first states, in general, that the works of God are wonderful. “Thou hast multiplied thy wonderful works, O Lord my God, and in thy thoughts there is no one like to thee.” There is no one like thee in thy thoughts, or the forecasting of thy wisdom, not one to be compared to thee. “I have declared, and I have spoken; they are multiplied above number.” A reason assigned, why no one can be compared to God in regard of his wonderful works and profound thoughts; and he says, “I have declared, and I have spoken;” I have made known some of his wonderful works, through the prophets, through the wise, through the very elements of the world; for, “the heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the works of his hands.” “They are multiplied above number;” they are so numerous that they are past counting, and, therefore, cannot be properly announced or explained.

Ps 40:6 Truly “wonderful are all God’s works;” in all of them “the depth of his thoughts” most splendidly appear, but far and away, and beyond, and above all, in his work of the redemption: what can be imagined more marvelous than for God to stoop to the form of a servant, to become a beggar and a pauper, to rescue man from the “pit of misery,” and raise him to the enjoyment of heaven? To have the same God, in the form of a servant, scourged with rods, and crucified between robbers, that he may place his servants in the choir of Angels? and to carry out all these things with the greatest wisdom, the greatest justice, without offering the slightest injury to the Divinity, nay, even thereby augmenting his glory?! Christ himself, using the pen and the language of David, explains this mystery in the following verses. “Sacrifice and oblation thou didst not desire;” you would not be appeased by the sacrifice of cattle, nor by the oblation of bread and incense, but by a victim of infinite price; you, therefore, wished me to assume a mortal body, that by my “obedience even unto death,” I may atone for the disobedience of the first man; and since you refused “sacrifice” of cattle and “oblation” for sin, “then said I: Behold, I come,” that I may be the priest and the sacrifice; and thus satisfy for the human race, and “bring them out of the pit of misery and the mire of dregs.” Observe here, that by “sacrifice and oblations” we are rather to understand the victim or matter offered, than the rite or ceremony. Observe also, that though the prophet says, “sacrifice and oblations thou didst not desire,” we are not thence to infer the sacrifices of the old law were of no value; what he conveys is, that they were of no value in regard of making satisfaction for sin, as the Apostle says to the Hebrews, “For it is impossible that with the blood of oxen and goats, sins should be taken away.” “But thou hast pierced ears for me.” There are a variety of versions of this sentence, some conveying the idea of Christ having his ears ready for his father’s command to save man; the present reading conveying the idea, that he was in the hands of his father, like a slave who had his ears pierced, ready, at a moment’s notice, to do his master’s bidding.

Ps 40:7–8 He said, “Behold, I come;” he now tells us why, “that I should do thy will;” and the will of God was, that he should sanctify us by the oblation of his body, by his passion and death; so the Apostle explains this passage in Hebrews 10, where he quotes it, and adds, “by the which will we are sanctified by the oblation of the body of Jesus Christ once.” “In the head of the book it is written of me.” What book? Some will have it, Genesis; some, the First Psalm; some, the Prophets; others, the Gospel of St. John; others, the Book of Life; all defensible; but I look upon the most simple and most literal interpretation to be, the summary, or the whole of the Holy Scriptures. The Hebrew favors this interpretation; instead of “the head of the book,” it is in the Hebrew, “in the volume of the book,” that is to say, in the whole volume, because the whole Scripture has reference to Christ. Hence, the Lord himself says, “what is written in the law of Moses, and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled;” and in the same gospel we read, “He interpreted to the two disciples; all that was written of him in the Scriptures, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets.” And our Lord, speaking of the Scriptures in general, said, “Search the Scriptures, for they bear testimony of me;” “In the head of the book,” then, does not mean the first chapter or title page of the book; but the substance and the true meaning is, All the Scriptures testify that I came into the world “that I should do thy will,” by obedience to you in the most trifling matters. Turning, then, to the Father, he adds, “O my God, I have desired it,” I have most cheerfully accepted your decree; “and thy law in the midst of my heart;” I have put thy law in the midst of my heart; there is nothing I have been more desirous, more anxious for, than to obey your law. Speaking of the just, David says, “God’s law is in his heart;” but; speaking of Christ, the head of the just, he says, “his law is in the midst of his heart,” and those who belong to Christ should have his Spirit, so that they may prefer his law to everything, so as to have it constantly before their memory, their will, and their understanding.

Ps 40:9 Though God’s principal object in the death of Christ was, that he should atone for mankind, he willed also that Christ should previously announce the Gospel; that his preaching may be the path to his passion; and that he may be not only a Redeemer, but also a teacher and a preacher to man; and he, therefore, says now, “I have declared thy justice;” I have announced thy most just law, and the works it requires, and that publicly, before countless crowds of people, of which yourself are witness. And, in fact, Christ never ceased preaching. From his infancy he preached, by example, contempt of the things of this world, modesty, temperance, humility. From his baptism, from the time that the Father said, “Hear ye him,” he began to preach, and never ceased to the day of his death, which he continued through his Apostles, and will continue, through their successors, to the end of the world.

Ps 40:10 Many preach while they expect any benefit thereby, or fear no injury in consequence; but when they cease to hope, or fear presses, they keep their preaching to themselves, and will not let it out. Not so with Christ; and, by his example, he tells us what to do thereon, and he, therefore says, “I have declared thy justice,” and “have not hidden it in my heart,” through negligence, fear, or any unworthy motive. His remarks on the justice that God requires from us, that is, that he announced it, and did not “hide it,” are now applied, in like manner, to God’s justice and mercy, for he calls justice truth; that is, the fidelity with which he gives to every one according to his works; and he calls mercy salvation, which he mercifully holds out to those who hope in him. He says, then, “I have declared thy truth and thy salvation;” that is to say, I have announced “the truth” that is in you, declaring to all how faithfully and how inexplicably you reward the good, and terribly punish the wicked; and I have, at the same time, announced “thy salvation;” that is, with what mercy you save all those that trust in thee. “I have not concealed thy mercy and thy truth from a great council.” What he called “salvation,” in the preceding sentence, he now expressly calls “mercy,” and connects it with truth, meaning justice. “I have not concealed,” through any fear whatever, “from a great council,” from any number however great, “thy mercy and thy truth,” but have publicly and boldly announced them. A fact easily proved from the Gospels.

Ps 40:11 He (Christ) passes now from his preaching to his passion; and, as well as he made known the justice and the mercy of the Father to mankind, he now prays to the Father not to defer the same mercy and justice towards himself, but by a speedy resurrection to deliver him from his death and passion. “Withhold not thou, O Lord, thy tender mercies from me.” Father, you see how bitter are my sufferings for having made known your justice and mercy to man; do you, therefore, “withhold not your mercies from me,” by immediately raising me up, as hitherto “thy mercy and thy truth have always upheld me.”

Ps 40:12 A reason for having said, “withhold not, O Lord, thy tender mercies from me,” because “evils without number have surrounded me.” Christ’s sufferings were truly without number, and seemed to crowd in upon him designedly. And they were thus innumerable, because our sins, for which he undertook to make satisfaction, were so. “My iniquities,” the iniquities of mankind, “which the Father placed upon him,” Isaias 53, and which he, therefore, looked upon as mine, “that I may bear them in my body upon the tree;” all those evils “have overtaken me, and I was not able to see.” They were so numerous that they blinded me up. For “they are multiplied above the hairs of my head;” exceed my hairs in number; and thus, overwhelmed by their number, I fainted, “and my heart hath forsaken me;” my strength, my very life, forsook me. This expression of Christ’s, “I was unable to see,” is not to be taken literally, as if the Lord could not see the number of the sins, by reason of their being so extremely numerous; for he certainly had a most accurate knowledge of all the sins, past, present, and future; but he uses the expressions in ordinary use, to signify how numerous were the sins he undertook to satisfy for. We have a similar expression in St. Mark 6, “And he could not do any mighty work there, and he wondered because of their unbelief.” He could have done any works he pleased there, but he is said not to have been able to do them, to give us an idea of the incredulity of the people that prevented him from doing them.

Ps 40:13 He now returns to the prayer he commenced in verse 11, and prays to be delivered, by a speedy resurrection, from such evils. “Be pleased, O Lord,” Father, whom I must, by reason of the form of a servant I have assumed, call Lord, be pleased “to deliver me” from the many troubles that have surrounded me. “look down, O Lord, to help me;” you seem as if you had for some time abandoned me, “and turned your face away from me,” leaving me to go through the sufferings of the cross without the slightest consolation; but now “look down to help me,” that you may at once replenish me in the joy of a glorious resurrection.

Ps 40:14 Christ’s enemies, who thought him entirely destroyed, were terribly confused at his resurrection. That he now prophesies in the form of an imprecation, a thing usual with the prophets. “Let them be confounded and ashamed together.” Let them be overwhelmed with confusion “that seek after my soul to take it away;” who seek to take away my life by putting me to death, and totally extinguishing me. Such was the intention of the Jews, a thing they thought they had accomplished when they nailed him to the cross. But immediately after, when they heard of his resurrection, saw it confirmed by signs and wonders, and believed by the mass of the people, “they were confounded and ashamed;” and will be infinitely more so on the last day, then they shall see him whom they impiously presumed to judge, and against whom they suborned false witnesses, judging the whole world with the greatest justice. “Let them be turned backward and be ashamed that desire evils to me.” A repetition of the preceding sentence, as if to strengthen it. “Let them be turned back,” retire in confusion, “and be ashamed,” blush with shame, “that desire evils to me; not only those who seek to kill me, but all who seek for my disgrace or confusion.

Ps 40:15 He repeats the same thing a third time, saying, “Let them immediately bear their confusion that say to me: It is well, it is well.” Let not their confusion be deferred, but after three short days let them be confounded, as they were, “who say to me, It is well, it is well;” that is, those who gloried in having triumphed over me, and congratulated each other thereon.

Ps 40:16 As he prophesied confusion to his persecutors in the form of an imprecation, so he now predicts joy to his subjects in the same form. “Let all that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee.” All those who seek the glory of God, who love him and put their trust in him, “will rejoice and be glad” in God; that is, with divine and unspeakable joy, “and say always, the Lord be magnified.” Let them not attribute any good they may have to themselves, but say, May “the Lord be magnified” by all “who love thy salvation;” who love the Savior you sent them, Christ Jesus; or who love and desire the true and everlasting salvation that you alone can confer.

Ps 40:17 He now returns to the state he was in at the time of his passion, (Christ,) and says, “but I am a beggar and poor;” needy and destitute of all human help. In the Hebrew, the first conveys the idea of poverty; the second of affliction; quite applicable to Christ, especially when he hung naked on the cross; but, however poor and afflicted he may have appeared to man, he was rich in the protection of his Father; and, therefore, he adds, “the Lord is careful for me.” The Lord is concerned for me. He calls his Father “the Lord,” because he speaks in the person of a servant; that is, as the Son of Man, in which nature he hung upon the cross. “Thou art my helper and my protector: O my God, be not slack.” What he had briefly expressed when he said, “the Lord is careful for me,” he now explains at greater length, saying, “Thou art my helper and my protector.” For God the Father was “careful” for his Son, by helping and protecting him, helping him in overcoming past dangers, protecting him by removing future ones. “O my God, be not slack;” namely, to deliver me from all trouble by a speedy resurrection.

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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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