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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT



PSALM 36

 

PSALM XXXVI.  (NOLI ÆMULARI.)

An exhortation to despise this world; and the short prosperity of the wicked; and to trust in providence.

 

Ver. 1.  Himself.  Heb. has simply, "for David," (C.) as well as the Greek of the Vat.  "It is a mistake in Bellanger to say in general that the Greek adds "a psalm," since this is true only with respect to the edit. of Aldus and Comp. says Berthier.  But he is not quite accurate, as Erasmus inserts "a psalm" in his edition of S. Jerom's Sept.; and the Alex. copy, which is equally famous with that of the Vatican, has [unto the end, a psalm] for David.  Grabe has indeed marked all but the last word as a peculiarity, or not to be found in Origen's copy.  But he has published his edition with such accuracy, that we may distinguish what his MS. contained from other interpolations.  It were to be wished that the same attention had been paid to the Vatican copy.  But hitherto all the editors have taken the liberty to make alterations without specifying where; so that we can  have no security that we ever quote the real MS. of the Vatican.  The learned prefect, Zacagni, gives abundant proof of this in his letter to Grabe, which has been published by Kennicott, Diss. 2.  Yet any of these editions may be quoted as the Greek or Sept. as we have yet no copy perfectly authentic: and the learned are not even agreed which standard ought to be followed.  If that which presents the greatest number of Origen's corrections be preferable, the Alex. MS. must bear away the psalm .  If the reverse, the glory must be given to its rival in the Vatican, which approaches the nearest to the koinh, or to the edition of S. Lucian.  See Kennicott.  These remarks may be of service, as Berthier often seems inclined to place the Vat. edit. on the same level as the Latin Vulg.  H. --- This psalm is alphabetical.  The Syriac, Sept. &c. read, (v. 28) the unjust, &c. ávilim; a word which seems now to be deficient in the Heb. which has no ver. beginning with á.  C. --- Some other derangement has taken place.  Houbig. --- The verses might be so divided as to begin every second verse with a fresh letter, and so to retain 42 verses.  See v. 7. and 20.  The matter is of no great importance.  The prophet has comprised several duties in alphabetical order, to help the memory, (Bert.) and to excite attention.  W. --- He may predict the death of Saul, (Rabbins) or hint at the rebellion of Absalom in his old age; (v. 25. Ferrand) or rather he may comfort the captives at Babylon, promising them liberty, and denouncing the fall of their oppressors, above ten times. He admonishes them not to be scandalized at the distress of the just, and the prosperity of the wicked.  C. --- Emulous.  Heb. "Fret not thyself."  Prot.  "Mingle not with;" (Bert.  Pagnin) "contend not."  S. Jer.  H. --- Envy.  Their splendour is deceitful.  C. --- Be not, therefore, seduced (H.) to imitate the wicked (M.) nor offended, that they should prosper here.  W.

 

Ver. 2.  Wither.  Heb. "be cut down."  C. --- Fall.  Heb. "wither."  S. Jer.  H. --- This admirably describes the transient glory of sinners.   Is. xl. 6.  Jam. i. 10.  C. --- All life is short.  W.  1 Pet. i. 24.  M.

 

Ver. 3.  Riches.  Sept. and Houb. read emuné, "abundance."  Heb. begins with a.  The sense is much the same.  Bert. --- "Thou shalt feed on faith," (S. Jer.) or "incessantly."  Sym. --- The Jews entertained the greatest desire of the promised land.  C. --- It may here denote our soul, (Orig.) the Church, (S. Aug.) the Scriptures, (S. Athan.) or heaven.  S. Jer. &c.  C. --- Trust in God and be content.  He will give thee what is requisite.  W.

 

Ver. 4.  Heart.  Provided they be rational.  S. Aug. --- He will enable thee to repose in peace, and to taste innocent pleasures in the Lord.  C.

 

Ver. 5.  Commit.  Lit. "lay open."  Heb. "roll."  H. --- This expresses the most unbounded confidence.  Ps. liv. 23.  Prov. xvi. 3. --- Do it.  Whatever may be proper.  He will display thy justice, (v. 6.) and free the from anxiety, (C.) taking care of thee.  1 Pet. v. 7.  M.

 

Ver. 6.  Day.  This will appear at the last judgment.  S. Aug.

 

Ver. 7.  Be.  Heb. dom, begins only this verse with d.  The other letters occupy two verses, (Bert.) the second of which may commence with any of the letters.  H. --- "Be silent to the Lord; wait upon Him."  S. Jer.  H. --- If he should suffer thee to be afflicted, envy not those who are in a more prosperous condition, nor give way to indignation.  v. 8.  C. --- None can be truly subjected to God, who do not comply with his laws and pray.  Orig.  S. Aug. --- We must wait patiently for his aid.  Lam. iii. 26.  Is. xxx. 15.  "Allow the gods to judge what's best for us."  Juv. Sat. 13.  H.

 

Ver. 8.  Evil.  Repining (M.) at the ways of Providence, &c.  C.  v. 1. --- Reflect on God's will.  H. --- Laboras; sed in via Dei.  S. Aug. --- Heb. "be not angry nevertheless (ac, a word which Houbig. deems useless) to do evil;" (Mont.) or "against the wicked," (Prin. dis.) as lehareah may be perhaps signified; though it is more usually taken for a verb, as the points decide.  Bert.

 

Ver. 9.  Land of the living.  W. --- David knew that many truly pious people would never obtain riches in the land of Chanaan, even though they might have remained there, if the nation had been faithful.  He therefore comforts them with the prospect of a better land.  If this were not the meaning, the Church would put these canticles in the mouth of her children to little purpose.  Bert.

 

Ver. 10.  While.  Till the day of judgment.  Orig.  S. Amb. --- And shalt.  Heb. "and it shall not be."  Prot. "it, or he shall not subsist."  S. Jer.  H. --- The state of the wicked is not therefore so enviable.  The captives witnessed the fall of the great Colossus, the empire of the Babylonians.  C.

 

Ver. 11.  Meek.  Heb. hanavim, also means "the afflicted."  Bert. --- Captives, ye shall be reinstated in your dear country.  Our Saviour alludes to this text, (Mat. v. 4.) and the Fathers beautifully explain it of heaven.  Euseb.  S. Aug.  C. --- What is now become of those who have heretofore filled the world with tumult and bloodshed to obtain dominion!  They are confined to the land where everlasting horror and on order dwells.  They would wish they had never existed, as our Saviour mentions; while those who passed through life unknown, or despised, but always seeking God, are now arrived at the summit of all their wishes.  H. --- O holy religion! thou explainest all these things.  The just have ceased to exist: but their better part has inherited the land of the living.  Yet a little while, and all will be in order, and in its proper place; though that of the wicked deserves not the name.  Bert.

 

Ver. 12.  Watch.  Heb. "plot against."  H. --- Teeth.  In rage to destroy him, (C.) whose virtue is a continual censure of his impiety.  H.

 

Ver. 13.  Laugh.  This expression is often used to denote the triumph of divine justice, whose day will set all right: that day (2 Tim. iv. 8.) which ought to be constantly before our eyes.  Bert. --- God cannot indeed mock at any one.  C. --- But the wicked "deserve scorn and vengeance."  H. --- Digni sunt ut irrideantur in vindictâ.  S. Jer. --- The day of their judgment or condemnation is at hand, (Ezec. xxi. 21.  1 K. xxvi. 10.  H.) when they will be sought for in vain (v. 10.  C.) by their foolish admirers.  They will seek to hide themselves from the indignation of the Lamb.

 

Ver. 14.  Heart.  Heb. "of way."  Prot. "such as be of upright conversation."  Only those whose heart is pure, will observe the right path.  H.

 

Ver. 15.  Broken.  In the form of imprecation, he foretells the event.  W. --- Heb. is in the future, to imply as much.  Bert.

 

Ver. 16.  Wicked.  Heb. "of many wicked," or "of the impious great ones."  H. --- What the just man hath, is preferable to the immense riches of sinners, acquired by injustice.  In this sense Hesiod and Psittacus said, "half is more than all."  The wicked are never satisfied.  Eccle. iv. 6.  Prov. xiii. 25.  Riches are a dangerous temptation, (C.) and the sentence is generally true, "every rich person is either unjust or the heir of one who has been such," (H.) aut hæres injusti.  S. Jer. --- It is difficult for the rich to enter heaven; and the unjust are certainly excluded.  Yet if we confined our views to this world, it is evident that the rich may better procure the sweets of life.  Bert.

 

Ver. 17.  Arms of the body, brachia.  All that they have admired perishes in death, (C.) while the just then possess true riches.

 

Ver. 18.  Days, or "ways," according to some copies of Sept.  S. Aug. &c.  God approves the conduct of the just.  He takes notice of the time of their sufferings, and comforts them during life, (C.) yea, for ever.

 

Ver. 20.  Because.  Only this verse begins with c, as the seventh does with d.  H. --- Smoke.  All their riches shall vanish, and their works be disregarded by God.  But they will not be annihilated, as they would desire; otherwise the justice of God would not be executed on them.  Bert. --- There is a continual antithesis between the good and bad.  The latter shall shortly lose all their splendour.  "I fear, lest offending the gods, I may receive glory among men," said the poet Ibicus, (C.) conformably to our Saviour's declaration concerning the vain-glorious, they have received their reward.  Mat. vi. 6.  Heb. "shall be as the fat of lambs, consumed and  reduced to smoke."  H. --- S. Jerom seems to have read differently, "boasting like unicorns, they shall be consumed, as smoke, they shall be consumed."  Syr. and Chal. intimate that they shall be like victims, "fattened" for slaughter, and burnt.  C.

 

Ver. 21.  Give.  Having both the will and the power to be liberal.  H. --- "He shall lend without expecting any advantage, while the wicked falls into such misery as not to be able to pay his debts.  This is not always the order of Providence.  C. --- But the just is often enabled by economy to relieve his brethren, at the same time that the libertine wastes his estate, (Bert.) or at least unjustly defers to pay his debts.  M.

 

Ver. 22.  Bless him.  The just, (v. 21.  Prin. disc.) or rather the Lord, v. 20.  Bert. --- "Are blessed of him," &c.  S. Jer.  Chal.  H.

 

Ver. 23.  With.  Or by the decrees of the Lord.  The Heb. and Sept. have, "By," para.  Bert. --- God gives grace to do all good, (Prov. xvi. 9.  C.) and likes the way which He points out.  The just also find the greatest consolation in virtue.  H.

 

Ver. 24.  Him.  To break the fall.  Heb. "the Lord upholdeth him with his hand."  Prot.  H. --- The just man is like a courageous wrestler, who may slip, but yields not.  Orig.  Euseb. --- His fall is not mortal, (C.) though he may be guilty of venial sin.  Prov. xxiv.  W.

 

Ver. 25.  Seeking, in vain.  H. --- Rom. and Gothic Ps. read, "wanting."  This does not condemn the mendicant orders.  M. --- Nothing was more unusual under the old law than the extreme distress of the just: yet Job and Lazarus were reduced to it.  They were not, however, discontent.  C. --- They found the bread of life in conformity to God's will.  Jo. iv. 34.  H. --- Their souls were enriched with grace, which was never wanting, as the Fathers explain this passage.  Bert.  Amos viii. 11. --- It is certain that there were poor among the Jews; (Deut. xv. 11.) and who would assert that they were all wicked, or the children of such?  Yet the prophet had not witnessed (C.) any person renowned for virtue reduced to this condition, (H.) though he does not deny but it might be possible.  C. --- The proposition may be restrained to those who have been very charitable, and who are not often thereby reduced to want.  Dan. iv. 24.  Genebrard.  M. --- But the word just is more comprehensive; and S. Paul gives several instances of persecuted saints (Heb. xi.) which is confirmed by the parable, or rather by the history, of Lazarus.  Bert. --- At any rate, the Church is never deprived of the word of God.  S. Aug.  W.

 

Ver. 26.  Lendeth.  "To receive interest," daneizei, from God.  Prov. xix. 17.  S. Aug. &c.  C. --- He maketh know the divine word.  Orig.

 

Ver. 27.  Dwell in the land of the living, rather than in that of promise, from which many just people were banished during the captivity.  Bert. --- He who complies with these two conditions, will inherit heaven.  W.

 

Ver. 28.  Saints.  Heb. "merciful ones."  He will free them from captivity.  C. --- Punished.  This sentence seems to be improperly omitted in Heb. which otherwise neglects the letter á, as the Chal. Syr. and S. Jer. do as well as a few copies of the Sept.  The Rom. edit. with the Arab. and Ethiopic, reads amwmoi ekdikhqhsontai, "the innocent shall be avenged," (C.) or "punished;" which is inaccurately put for anomoi ekdiwcqhsontai, the wicked shall be punished, or "expelled;" (Bert.) though Grabe prefers the former verb.  H. --- S. Cyril acknowledges both readings.  C.

 

Ver. 31.  Supplanted.  The devil shall have no advantage over the just, (C.) who aim constantly at perfection.  Orig.

 

Ver. 32.  Death, mortificare.  Some read perdere, or occidere.  The wicked are constantly laying snares for destruction, (C.) and to draw others into mortal sin.  W.

 

Ver. 33.  Judged, "by him." Illi seems to be superfluous; (Bert.) or it implies that God will revise the sentence of wicked judges.  H. --- The just have nothing to fear.  God will pass an equitable sentence, and the condemnation of men shall do no harm.  Orig. --- The mistakes of human tribunals prove the necessity of a general judgment.

 

Ver. 34.  See the truth of these maxims.  C. --- While the wicked enjoy power they often conceal their injustice, which appears as soon as the veil is removed by death, when people cease to fear them.  H.

 

Ver. 35.  Cedars, &c.  Sept. have read differently from the present Heb. and present a more beautiful sense.  C. --- Prot. "and spreading himself like a green bay-tree, (marg. or "a green tree that groweth in his own soil,") yet he passed away, and lo," &c.  H. --- Ezrach, denotes an evergreen, (Rabbins) "a laurel covered with verdure."  C. --- Houbigant has "a cedar," ezrach.

 

Ver. 36.  I passed.  This is better than the Heb. "it has passed," transivit, as a tree changes not its place, and all the ancient interpreters agree with us.  Bert. --- His place, is not expressed in Heb.  But it implies that every vestige of the proud is soon lost.  This might serve to curb the violence of those who disturb mankind!  H. --- The wicked may here refer to Nabuchodonosor, the devil, Judas, &c.  C. --- We may behold the riches of sinners with our bodily eyes: but if we consider them with the eyes of faith, they presently vanish.  S. Amb.  S. Aug.

 

Ver. 37.  Remnants, or rewards.  W. --- Heb. acharith, "the reward," (Pag.) "the last end of man is peace," (Mont.  H.) or "the posterity (v. 38.) of such a man shall be happy."  C. --- "There are future things for the peaceful."  Sym. --- The expectations of the just are not confined to this world.  They have something laid up for heaven, whereas the wicked have nothing.  H. --- These lose all by death; and the thought makes them take refuge in the foolish hope of being annihilated.  Bert.

 

Ver. 38.  Together.  At the last day, (H.) or all without exception shall perish; the wicked, with their posterity and riches.  W.

 

Ver. 39.  Salvation.  This is an effect of God's grace.  W.

 

 








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