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UNDERSTANDING for Asaph. O God, why hast thou cast us off unto the end: why is thy wrath enkindled against the sheep of thy pasture?

PSALM LXXIII.  (UT QUID DEUS.)

A prayer of the Church under grievous persecutions.


Ver. 1.  Understanding.  Ps. xxxi.  H.

 

--- We behold here the destruction of the tabernacle by the Philistines, (Grot.) or rather of the temple, by Nabuzardan, (4 K. xxv. 8.  Jer. lii. 12.) though some understand the profanation of Epiphanes, or the final ruin by the Romans.  In the latter destruction, the Jews were no longer God's inheritance, and he would never have inspired the prophet to pray for what would not be granted.  C.

 

--- This psalm may be used by the just, under affliction; and why, He knew it, was on account of sin; but wishes to move God to mercy, and to put an end to the distress of his people.  Bert.

 

--- In long persecutions, the weak begin to fear that God has abandoned them.  W.

 

--- He acts externally as if He had.  M.


2 Remember thy congregation, which thou hast possessed from the beginning. The sceptre of thy inheritance which thou hast redeemed: mount Sion in which thou hast dwelt.

Ver. 2.  Mount.  S. Aug. reads montem, (C.) as the Heb. may also signify.  "This Mount Sion, thou hast dwelt in it."  Mont.  H.

 

--- What injury has it done?  C.

 

--- The more enlightened are fully persuaded, that God will still preserve his Church.  W.




3 Lift up thy hands against their pride unto the end; see what things the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.

Ver. 3.  Hands.  Heb. "feet," (Mont.  H.) or "strokes," phehamec.  Bert.

 

--- "The elevation of thy feet (thy foot-stool, or temple, C.) is destroyed unto the end;" (S. Jer.) or "for victory," as Sym. renders netsach.  The Chaldees have boasted of their victory over thee, and violated thy most holy places.  H.

 

--- This is what fills me with grief.  Bert.

 

--- But thou wilt punish them.  The captives saw the overthrow of their empire.  C.

 

--- God's former wonders give reason to hope, that he will not fail to assist his Church, which he delivered from the hand of Pharao, and by Christ's death, from the devil's power.  W.




4 And they that hate thee have made their boasts, in the midst of thy solemnity. They have set up their ensigns for signs,

Ver. 4.  Made.  Heb. "have roared," sending forth shouts of war, where thy praises alone ought to be heard.  C.

 

--- Ensigns.  They have fixed their colours for signs and trophies, both on the gates, and on the highest top of the temple; and they knew not, that is, they regarded not the sanctity of the place.  This psalm manifestly foretells the time of the Machabees, and the profanation of the temple by Antiochus; (Ch.  1 Mac. i.  M.) or rather it seems to refer to the destruction under Nabuchodonosor; (Bert.) as under the former the temple was not burnt: (v. 7.  C.) yet the doors were.  1 Mac. iv.  M.

 

--- For signs.  Lit. "yea, their signs," signa sua signa.  H.


5 and they knew not both in the going out and on the highest top. As with axes in a wood of trees,

Ver. 5.  Going out.  Sept. "coming in."  Both designate the same gates, (H.) or the ends of roads and streets.  Matt. xxii.  M.

 

--- Top.  The doors of the temple were very lofty.  The idolatrous ensigns were fixed there, as on an eminence, to give notice of an invasion, (Is. xi. 12.) while the soldiers plundered all, before they set fire to the city and temple.  4 K. xxv. 9.  C.

 

--- Prot. "a man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees."  The text is very obscure, insomuch that S. Jerom's version is unintelligible.  Bert.

 

--- Yet it may signify, "they have placed their ensigns for a trophy, manifest upon the entrance aloft; their hatchets in the wood of trees; and now its sculptures together they have defaced with axe and hatchets, dolatoriis."  Not content with these excesses, they at last set fire to the fabric, (H.) which was easily reduced to ashes, as there was so much wood about it, and in the very walls.  C.

 

--- S. Chrys. contemplates the like havoc, which is made by sin.  Bert.

 

--- In false religions, some external shew, festivals, and altars, are opposed to the true ones.  W.


6 they have cut down at once the gates thereof, with axe and hatchet they have brought it down. 7 They have set fire to thy sanctuary: they have defiled the dwelling place of thy name on the earth.

Ver. 7.  Name.  That temple, which was the only one consecrated to thee.  H.

 

--- All persecutors seek to destroy the places of true worship.  W.



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8 They said in their heart, the whole kindred of them together: Let us abolish all the festival days of God from the land.

Ver. 8.  Together.  And the infidel nations in that army.  Ps. cxxxvi. 7.  C.

 

--- Days.  So the enemies of religion are always affected.  The servants of God ought to be more zealous to preserve the remains of ancient piety.  Prot. translates, synagogues, (H.  Aquila, Sym.) which Sigonius asserts were hardly known in the days of the Machabees, though they are clearly mentioned, (Est. iv. 16.) and must have existed at all times.  Acts xv. 21.  Matt. iv. 13.  C.

 

--- Houbig. has "let all the congregations of God cease."  Heb. lit. "they have burnt," (Bert.) or ended.  C.

 

--- Yet S. Jer. thinks that the Sept. read with the VI. edit. katakauswmen, "let us burn," (Bert.) and Grabe has also substituted k for p, as that brings the Sept. nearer to the sense of the Heb. (H.) and is supported by some copies, (C.) though it seems less accurate, if we speak of days.  Bert.  Mohed, denoted, "a set time, or meeting."  Parkhurst.


9 Our signs we have not seen, there is now no prophet: and he will know us no more.

Ver. 9.  Our.  Some copies of the Sept. read "their," as if the enemy still spoke.  But the people of God rather complain, that they are not so favoured with prodigies, as they had been formerly, and that the prophets did not publicly encourage them, (Bert.) or declare how long these miseries would continue; as the Hebrew may intimate.  C.

 

--- Prot. "neither is there among us any that knoweth how long."  H.

 

--- Yet neglecting the points, our version is accurate, and any one, or God, may be understood, (Bert.) as taking no cognizance of his people.  H.

 

--- It is natural for those in distress to exaggerate; for they know that many wonders were wrought, and that prophets were sent to instruct the captives.  But they were not so common, nor the prophets so popular, or complaisant, as they could have wished: nor could they be so easily consulted at Babylon, Daniel being generally at Susa, or at court, and Ezechiel in higher Mesopotamia.  C.

 

--- They could not appear at the head of the people, to harangue in their defence, like Aaron.  Ex. vii. 1.  Dan. iii. 38.  Bert.

 

--- The weak, therefore, complain, that they have no prophet to console (W.) them with miracles.  M.

 

--- But the more perfect answer, that God both hath and will relieve his people, v. 12.  W.


10 How long, O God, shall the enemy reproach: is the adversary to provoke thy name for ever? 11 Why dost thou turn away thy hand: and thy right hand out of the midst of thy bosom for ever?

Ver. 11.  Ever.  Why dost thou delay to heap favours on us, and destruction on thy adversaries?  We are most grieved at the injury done to thy name.  C.


12 But God is our king before ages: he hath wrought salvation in the midst of the earth.

Ver. 12.  Ages.  He is eternal, and hath long ago made choice of us.  M.

 

--- Earth.  Publicly rescuing his people from Egypt, (Kimchi) and shewing his power over all the earth.  C.

 

--- The Fathers understand this of Jesus Christ, who died on Calvary, (C.) near Jerusalem, (H.) which some assert, is the middle of the earth, though others more properly attribute this situation to the promised land, which was nearly the centre of the world, (Amama) then known to the Jews, as there were 60 degrees to the Ganges, and as many westward to the extremity of Spain.  Kimchi places it in the midst of the seven climates, (in Ps. xvi. 3.) and many others have explained this literally, as if Jerusalem was really the central point of the world, (S. Jer. in Ezec. v. 5. and xxxviii. 12.  S. Hil. &c.) in which sense Josephus styles it the navel.  C.

 

--- As the world is nearly round, any place may be said to be in the middle.  Some have erroneously supposed, that Jerusalem was exactly under the line, (see de Locis. iii. in ven. Bede's works) though it be about the 32 degree of N. lat.  H.

 

--- Its situation was at least very commodious for having access to the different parts of the ancient world.  S. Jer. in Ezec. xxxviii.  C.

 

--- The middle of the earth may here also relate to Egypt, where God formerly displayed his power, (Bert.) or to the wilderness, as the sequel seems to indicate.  The latter formed a part of the promised land, (H.) which was pitched upon to be the theatre of the true religion, and of the sufferings of Christ, as they were to be made known to all the world.  T.



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13 Thou by thy strength didst make the sea firm: thou didst crush the heads of the dragons in the waters.

Ver. 13.  The sea firm.  By making the waters of the Red Sea stand like firm walls, whilst Israel passed through; and destroying the Egyptians, called here dragons, from their cruelty,  in the same waters, with their king; casting up their bodies on the shore, to be stript by the Ethiopians, inhabiting in those days the coast of Arabia.  Ch.

 

--- Isaias xxvii. 1. styles Pharao a dragon.  See Job xl. 20.  C.  Ezec. xxix. 3.

 

--- Leviathan denotes a whale, or crocodile, and was an emblem of the devil, and of all tyrants, particularly of antichrist.  Bert.


14 Thou hast broken the heads of the dragon: thou hast given him to be meat for the people of the Ethiopians.

Ver. 14.  Ethiopians.  Or to enrich the Arabs.  M.

 

--- Heb. Tsiim, is understood of sailors, and "fishermen, &c.  Ps. lxxi. 9.  Some nations of Ethiopia are said to be cannibals; but they were too distant from the Red Sea.  The Ichnyophagi or Troglodytes on the western banks, might despoil the dead, (C.) and procure food, (H.) unless this be a description of a great fish, slain by the power of the Almighty, and really eaten.  C.

 

--- Many explain these people, to mean wild beasts, which devoured the carcasses.  Euseb.  Muis.


15 Thou hast broken up the fountains and the torrents: thou hast dried up the Ethan rivers.

Ver. 15.  Ethan rivers.  That is, rivers which run with strong streams.  This was verified in the Jordan. Jos. iii. and in the Arnon.  Num. xxi. 14.  Ch.

 

--- Though the latter point is not so clear, God might divide the torrents, or rivers, at the station Ethan, as the Sept. here read.  Bert.

 

--- Habacuc (iii. 9.) speaks of rivers.  But in poetry, the plural is often used for the singular, and the passage of the Jordan may be meant.  C.

 

--- God had frequently supplied water from the rock, and gave a passage on dry land, through that river.  M.  W.

 

--- Ethan means, "rapid," as the Jordan does also.  H.


16 Thine is the day, and thine is the night: thou hast made the morning light and the sun.

Ver. 16.  Morning.  Aurora.  Heb. "the light," which existed before the sun.  Bert.

 

--- Yet most understand the moon, (C.) or, in general, "the luminaries."  S. Jer.  H.


17 Thou hast made all the borders of the earth: the summer and the spring were formed by thee.

Ver. 17.  Spring.  Heb. "and winter," under which two the Jews comprised all the seasons, (Gen. viii. 22.) as the Africans and Danes are said to do still.  C.

 

--- Yet choreph is used for youth, "the spring" of life.  Job xxix. 4.  Bert.


18 Remember this, the enemy hath reproached the Lord: and a foolish people hath provoked thy name.

Ver. 18.  This.  "Congregation."  Theod.

 

--- Sept. add, "thy creature."  Heb. is feminine.  But it is used instead of our neuter.  C.

 

--- Consider this insolent language; the enemy, &c. v. 22.  H.


19 Deliver not up to beasts the souls that confess to thee: and forget not to the end the souls of thy poor.

Ver. 19.  To thee.  S. Jer. "the soul intrusted in thy law."  H.

 

--- Heb. has now torec, which is rendered, "thy turtle dove."  But the Sept. have read d, instead of r, better; (C.) and Houbigant rejects with disdain the present Heb. though that figurative expression would have the same meaning.  Bert.


20 Have regard to thy covenant: for they that are the obscure of the earth have been filled with dwellings of iniquity.

Ver. 20.  The obscure of the earth.  Mean and ignoble wretches have been filled, that is, enriched, with houses of iniquity, that is, with our estates and possessions, which they have unjustly acquired.  Ch.

 

--- Or the captives may thus complain, that they are forced to live among infidels, in constant danger of transgressing the law, (C.) while their children are brought up in sin, (Bert.) and ignorance.  H.

 

--- Infidels are full of all sorts of iniquity, which they hide in their conscience.  W.

 

--- Injustice is often the method of becoming rich.  H.


21 Let not the humble be turned away with confusion: the poor and needy shall praise thy name.

Ver. 21.  Humble.  Heb. "the contrite," whether of Israel, or of any other nation.  Is. lxvi. 2.  Bert.

 

--- The rich and presumptuous think not of thanking God.  M.


22 Arise, O God, judge thy own cause: remember thy reproaches with which the foolish man hath reproached thee all the day. 23 Forget not the voices of thy enemies: the pride of them that hate thee ascendeth continually.

Ver. 23.  Enemies.  Sept. and S. Aug. read, "servants," and the ancient psalters, "supplicants," (C.) which seems to be a mistake of transcribers, (Bert.) as it is contrary to the Heb. Chal. and Syr.  C.

 

--- The sense of both would be good.  Erasmus reads iketwn, quærentium, in his edit. of S. Jerom.  H.

 

--- They blaspheme all holy things, and are hardened in wickedness.  W.

 

--- Such are the times in which we live.  1 Tim. vi. 20.  Bert.


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