Augustin on Psalms 105
1. This Psalm is the first of those to which is prefixed the word Allelujah; the meaning of which word, or rather two words, is, Praise the Lord. For this reason he beginneth with praises: "O confess unto the Lord, and call upon His Name" (verse 1); for this confession is to be understood as praise, just as these words of our Lord, "I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth."(4) For after commencing with praise, calling upon God is wont to follow, whereunto he that prayeth doth next add s his longings: whence the Lord's Prayer itself hath at the commencement a very brief praise, in these words," Our Father which art in Heaven."(6) The things prayed for, then follow. . . . This also followeth, "Tell the people what things He hath done;"(7) or rather, to translate literally from the Greek, as other Latin copies too have it, "Preach the Gospel of His works among the Gentiles." Unto whom is this addressed, save unto the Evangelists in prophecy?
2. "O sing unto Him, and play on instruments unto Him" (verse 2). Praise Him both by word and deed; for we sing with the voice, while we play with an instrument, that is, with our hands. "Let your talking be of all His wondrous works. Be ye praise in His holy Name" (verse 3). These two verses may without any absurdity seem paraphrases of the two words above; so that, "Let your talking be of all His wondrous works," may express the words, "O sing unto Him;" and what followeth, "be ye praised in His holy Name," may be referred to the words, "and play on instruments unto Him;" the former relating to the "good word" wherewith we sing unto Him, in which His wondrous works are told; the latter to the good work, in which sweet music is played unto Him, so that no man may wish to be praised for a good work on the score of his own power to do it. For this reason, after saying, "be ye praised," which assuredly they who work well deservedly may, he added, "in His holy Name," since "he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."(8) . . . This is to be praised in His holy Name. Whence we read also in another Psalm: "My soul shall be praised in the Lord: let the meek hear thereof, and be glad; which here in a sense followeth, "Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord:" for thus the meek are glad, who do not rival with a bitter jealousy those whom they imitate as already workers of good.
3. "Seek the Lord, and be strengthened"(10) (verse 4). This is very literally construed from the Greek, though it may seem not a Latin word: whence other copies have, "be ye confirmed;" others, "be ye corroborated." . . . While these words, then, "Come unto Him, and be enlightened,"(11) apply to seeing; those in the text relate to doing: "Seek the Lord, and be strengthened." . . . But what meaneth, "Seek His face evermore"? I know indeed that to cling unto God is good for me;(12) but if He is always being sought, when is He found? Did he mean by "evermore," the whole of the life we live here, whence we become conscious that we ought thus to seek, since even when found He is still to be sought? To wit, faith hath already found Him, but hope still seeketh Him. But love hath both found Him through faith, and seeketh to have Him by sight, where He will then be found so as to satisfy us, and no longer to need our search. For unless faith discovered Him in this life, it would not be said, "Seek the Lord." Also, if when discovered by faith, He were not still to be diligently sought, it would not be said, "For if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."(1) . . . And truly this is the sense of the words, "Seek His face evermore;" meaning that discovery should not terminate that seeking, by which love is testified, but with the increase of love the seeking of the discovered One should increase.
4. "Remember," he saith, "His marvellous works that He hath done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth" (verse 5). This passage seemeth like that, "Thou shall say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you:" an expression which, in ever so small part, scarce a mind(2) taketh in. Then mentioning His own Name, He mercifully mingled in His grace towards men, saying, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; this is My Name for ever."(3) By which He would have it to be understood, that they whose God He declared Himself lived with Him for ever, and He said this, which might be understood even by children, that they who by the great powers of love knew how to seek His face for evermore, might according to their capacity comprehend, I AM THAT I AM.
5. Unto whom is it said, "O ye seed of Abraham His servant, ye children of Jacob, His chosen"? (verse 6). . . . He next addeth, "He is the Lord our God: His judgments are in all the world" (yet. 7). Is He the God of the Jews only?(4) God forbid! "He is the Lord our God:" because the Church, where His judgments are preached, is in all the world. . . .
6. "He hath been alway mindful of His covenant" (verse 8). Other copies read, "for evermore;" and this arises from the ambiguity of the Greek. But if we are to understand" alway" of this world and not of eternity, why, when he explaineth what covenant He was mindful of, doth he add, "The word that He made to a thousand generations"? Now this may be understood with a certain limitation; but he afterwards saith, "Even the covenant that He made with Abraham" (verse 9): "and the oath that He sware unto Isaac; and appointed the same unto Jacob lot a law, anti to Israel for an everlasting,(5) testament" (verse 10). But if in this passage the Old Testament is to be understood, on account of the land of Canaan; for thus the language of the Psalm runneth, "saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan: the lot of your inheritance" (verse 11): how is it to be understood as everlasting, since that earthly inheritance could not be everlasting? And for this reason it is called the Old Testament, because it is abolished by the New. But a thousand generations do not seem to signify anything eternal, since they involve an end; and yet are also too numerous for this very temporal state. For by howsoever few years a generation is limited, such as in Greek is called genea, whereof the shortest period some have fixed is at fifteen years, after which period man hath the power of generation; what then are those "thousand generations," not only from the time of Abraham, when that promise was made him, unto the New Testament, but from Adam himself down to the end of the world? For who would dare to say that this world should last for 15000 years? Hence it seemeth to me that we ought not to understand here the Old Testament, which at said through the prophet was to be cancelled by the New: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant."(6) . . . After saying, "He hath been mindful of His covenant unto an age;" which we ought to understand as lasting for evermore, the covenant, namely, of justification and an eternal inheritance, which God hath promised to faith; he addeth, "and the Word that He commanded(7) unto a thousand generations." What meaneth "commanded"? . . . The command then was faith, that the righteous should live by faith;(8) and an eternal inheritance is set before this faith. "A thousand generations," then, are, on account of the perfect number, to be understood for all; that is, as long as generation succeedeth generation, so long is it commanded to us to live by faith. This the people of God doth observe, the sons of promise who succeed by birth, and depart by death, until every generation be finished; and this is signified by the number thousand; because the solid square of the number ten, ten times ten, and this taken ten times amounts to a thousand. "Even the covenant," he saith, "which He made with Abraham: and the oath that He sware unto Isaac; and appointed the same unto Jacob," that is, Jacob himself, "for a law." These are the very three patriarchs, whose God He calleth Himself in a special sense, whom the Lord also doth name in the New Testament, where He saith, "Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven."(1) This is everlasting inheritance. . . .
7. He next followeth out the history well known in the truth of the holy Scriptures. "When they were in small numbers, very few, and they strangers in the land" (vet. 12); that is, in the land of Canaan. . . . But some copies have the words "very few, and they strangers," in the accusative case,(2) the translator having turned the Greek phrase too literally into Latin. If we were to render the whole clause in this way, we must say, "that they were very few, and they strangers;" but the phrase, "while they were," is the meaning of the Greek; and the verb, "to be," takes not an accusative, but a nominative after it.(3)
8. "What time as they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people" (verse 13). This is a repetition of what he had said, "from one nation to another." "He suffered no man to do them harm: but reproved even kings for their sakes" (verse 14). "Touch not," He said, "Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm" (verse 15). He declareth the words of God chiding or reproving kings, that they might not harm the holy fathers, while they were small in number, very few, and they strangers in the land of Canaan. Although these words be not read in the books of that history, yet they are to be understood as either secretly spoken, as God speaketh in the hearts of men by unseen and true visions, or even as announced through an Angel. For both the king of Gerar and the king of the Egyptians were warned from Heaven not to harm Abraham? and another king not to harm Isaac,(5) and others not to harm Jacob;(6) while they were very few, and strangers, before he went over into Egypt to sojourn with his sons: which is understood to be herein mentioned. But since it occurred to ask, before they passed over and multiplied in Egypt, how so few in number, and those strangers in a foreign land, could maintain themselves: he next addeth, "He suffered no man to do them wrong," etc.
9. But it may well excite a question, in what sense they were styled (Christs, or) anointed, before there was any unction, from which this title was given to the kings? . . . Whence then were those patriarchs at that tithe called "anointed"? For that they were prophets, we read concerning Abraham; and certainly, what is manifestly said of him, should be understood of them also. Are they styled "christs," because, even though secretly, yet they were already Christians? For although the flesh of Christ came from them, nevertheless Christ came before them; for He thus answered the Jews, "Before Abraham was, I am."(8) But how could they not know Him, or not believe in Him; since they are called prophets for this very reason, because, though somewhat darkly, they announced the Lord beforehand? Whence He saith Himself openly, "Your father Abraham desired to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad."(9) For no man was ever reconciled unto God outside of that faith which is in Christ Jesus, either before His Incarnation, or after: as it is most truly defined by the Apostle: "For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus."(10)
10. He then beginneth to relate how it happened that they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people. "He calleth," he saith, "for a famine upon the land: and brake all the staff of bread" (verse 16). Thus it happened that they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people. But the expressions of the holy Scriptures are not to be negligently passed by. "He called," he saith, "for a famine upon the land;" as if famine were some person, or some animated body, or some spirit that would obey Him who called. . . . Under this impression the old Romans consecrated some such deities, as the goddess Fever, and the god Paleness. Or meaneth it, as is more credible, He said there should be famine; so that calling be the same thing as mentioning by name; mentioning by name, as speaking; speaking, as commanding? Nor doth the Apostle say,(11) "He calleth those things which be not, that they may be;" but, "as though they were." For with God that hath already happened which, according to His disposition, is fixed for the future: for of Him it is elsewhere said, "He who made things to come."(12) And here when famine happened, then it is said to have been called, that is, that that which had been determined in His secret government, might be realized. Lastly, he at once expounds, how He called for the famine, saying, "He brake all the staff of bread."
11. "But He had sent a man before them" (verse 17). What man? "Even Joseph." How did He send him? "Joseph was sold to be a bond-servant." When this happened, it was the sin of his brethren, and, nevertheless, God sent Joseph into Egypt. We should therefore medirate on this important and necessary subject, how God useth well the evil works of men, as they on the other hand use ill the good works of God.
12. Next he doth relate the story, mentioning what Joseph suffered in his low estate, and how he was raised on high. "His feet they hurt in the stocks: the iron entered into his soul, until his word came" (verse 18). That Joseph was put in irons, we do not indeed read; but we ought no ways to doubt that it was so. For some things might be passed over in that history, which nevertheless would not escape the Holy Spirit, who speaketh in these Psalms. We understand by the iron which entered into his soul, the tribulation of stern necessity; for he did not say body, but "soul." There is a somewhat similar expression in the Gospel, where Simeon saith unto Mary, "A sword shall pierce through thy own soul also."(1) That is, the Passion of the Lord, which was a fall unto many, and in which the secrets of many hearts were revealed, since their sentiments respecting the Lord were extorted from them, without doubt made His own Mother exceeding sorrowful, heavily struck with human bereavement. Now Joseph was in this tribulation, "until his word came," with which he truly interpreted dreams: whence he was introduced to the king, that unto him also he might foretell what would happen in respect to his dreams.(2) But since he said, "Until his words were heard," that we might not altogether so understand "his," that any one might think so great an event was to be ascribed unto man; he at once added, "The word of the Lord inflamed him" (verse 19); or, as other copies have it more closely from the Greek, "The word of the Lord fired him," that he also might be reputed amongst those to whom it is said, "Receive ye praise in His holy Name."(3)
13. "The king sent and loosed him, the prince of the peoples, and let him go free" (verse 20). The "king" is the same as "the prince of the peoples:" he "loosed" him from his bonds "and let him go free" from his prison. "He made him lord also of his house: and ruler of all his substance" (verse 21). "That he might inform his princes like unto himself, and teach his old men wisdom" (verse 22). The Greek hath, "and teach his elders wisdom." Which might altogether be rendered to the letter thus; "Might inform his princes like unto himself, and make his eiders wise." The word translated old men being presbyters or elders, not gerontas, old men: and to teach wisdom being from the Greek to sophize, which cannot be rendered by a single word in Latin, and is from the word sophia, wisdom, different from prudence, which is in Greek phronesis. Yet we do not read this in the high elevation of Joseph, as we read not of fetters in his low estate. But how could it happen that so great a man, the worshipper of the One True God, whilst in Egypt, should have been intent upon the nourishing of bodies, and the government of carnal matters only, and have felt no anxiety for souls, and how he could render them better? But those things are written in that history, which, according to the intention of the writer, in whom was the Holy Spirit, were judged sufficient for signifying future events in that narration.
14. "Joseph also came into Egypt, and Jacob was a stranger in the land of Ham" (verse 23). Israel is the same with Jacob, as is Egypt with the land of Ham. Here it is very plainly shown, that the Egyptian race sprang from the seed of Chain, the son of Noah, whose first-born was Canaan. So that in those copies wherein in this passage Canaan is read, we must alter the reading. It is better construed, "was a stranger," than "dwelt," as other copies have it: which would be the same as "was an inhabitant," for it meaneth nothing different; the very same word is used in the Greek passage above, where it is said, "Very few, and they strangers in the land." Moreover, the state of an incola or accola doth not signify a native, but a stranger. Behold how "they went from one nation to another." What had been briefly proposed, hath been briefly explained in the narration. But from what kingdom they passed over to another people may well be asked. For they were not yet reigning in the land of Canaan, because the kingdom of the people of Israel had not yet been established there. How then can it be understood, except by anticipation, because the kingdom of their seed was destined there to exist?
15. Next is related what happened in Egypt. "And He increased," he saith, "His people exceedingly, and made them stronger than their enemies" (verse 24). Even the whole of this is briefly set forth, in order that the manner in which it took place may be afterwards related. For the people of God was not made stronger than their enemies the Egyptians, at the time when their male offspring were slain, or when they were worn out with making bricks; but when by His powerful hand, by the signs and portents of the Lord their God, they became objects of fear and of honour, until the opposition of the hardened king was overcome, and the Red Sea overwhelmed the persecutor with his army.
16. "And He turned their heart so, that they hated His people, and dealt untruly with His servants" (verse 25 ). Is it to be in any wise understood or believed, that God turneth man's heart to do sin? . . . For they were not good before they hated His people; but being malignant and ungodly, they were such as would readily envy their prosperous sojourners. And so, in that He multiplied His own people, this bountiful act turned the wicked to envy. For envy is the hatred of another's prosperity. In this sense, therefore, He turned their heart, so that through envy they hated His people, and dealt untruly with His servants. It was not then by making their hearts evil, but by doing good to His people, that He turned their hearts, that were evil of their own accord, to hatred. For He did not pervert a righteous heart, but turned one perverted of its own accord to the hatred of His people, while He was to make a good use of that evil;(1) not by making them evil, but by lavishing blessings upon those, which the wicked might most readily envy.
17. The following verses, which are sung in praise of Him when Allelujah is chanted, show how He used this hatred of theirs, both for the trial of His own people, and for the glory of His Name, which is profitable for us. "He sent Moses His servant, and Aaron whom He had chosen him" (verse 26). "Whom He had chosen," would be sufficient; but there is no difficulty in the addition of "him." It is a phrase of Scripture, as, "The land in which they shall dwell in it:"(2) a phrase which the divine pages are full of.
18. "He set forth in them the words of His tokens, and of His wonders in the land of Ham" (verse 27). We ought not to understand by "the words of His tokens," words literally, words with which the tokens and wonders were worked, that is, which they uttered, that these tokens and wonders might take place. For many were performed without words, either with a rod, or with outstretched hand, or by ashes sent towards heaven. . . .
19. "He sent darkness, and made it dark" (verse 28). This is also written among the plagues with which the Egyptians were smitten. But what followeth, is variously read in different copies. For some have, "and they provoked His words;" while others read, "and they provoked not His words;" but the reading first mentioned we have found in most; while, where the negative particle is added, we could hardly discover two copies. But perhaps the false reading has abounded owing to the easy sense; for what is easier understood than this, "They provoked His words," that is, by their contumacious rebellions? We have endeavoured to explain the other reading also according to some true sense: and this for the present occurs "They provoked not His words," that is, in Moses and Aaron; because they most patiently bore with a very stiffnecked people, until all things which God had determined to work by them, were fulfilled in order.
20. "He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish" (vet. 29). "He made their land frogs, yea, even in the king's chambers" (verse 30): as if he were to say, He turned their land into frogs. For there was so great a multitude of frogs, that this might well be said by hyperbole.
21. "He spake the word, and there came all manner of flies, and lice in all their quarters" (vet. 31). If it be asked when He spake, it was in His Word before it took place; and there it was, without time, at what time it should take place: although even then He commanded it to be done, when it was to be done, through Angels, and through his servants Moses and Aaron.
22. "He made their rains hail" (verse 32). It is a similar expression to the former, "He made their land frogs;" except that the whole land was not actually turned into frogs, though the whole of the rain may have been turned into hail. "A burning fire in their land:" understand, "He sent."
23. "He smote their vines also and fig-trees.; and brake every tree of their coasts" (verse 33). This was done by the violence of the hail, and by lightnings; whence he spoke of the fire as "burning."
24. "He spake the word, and the locust came, and the caterpillar, of which there was no number" (verse 34). The locusts and the caterpillars are one plague: of which the one is the parent, the other the offspring.
25. "And did eat up all the grass in their land, and devoured the fruit of the ground" (verse 35). Even grass is fruit, as Scripture is wont to speak, which calleth even the ripe corn grass; but it wished these two things to harmonize in number with the two which it had spoken of before, that is, the locust and the caterpillar. But the whole of this doth belong to the variety of speech, which is a remedy for weariness, not to any difference of senses.
26. "He smote every first-born in their land: even the first-fruits of all their strength" (vet. 36). This is the last plague, excepting the death in the Red Sea. "The first-fruits of all their strength," I imagine to be an expression derived from the first-born of cattle. These plagues are ten in number, but they are not all mentioned, nor in the same order in which they are there read to have happened. For praise-giving is free from the law which bindeth one who is relating or composing a history. And since the Holy Spirit is the Author and Dictator, through the Prophet, of this praise; by the very same authority with which He guided him who wrote that history, he doth both mention something to have taken place which is not there read, and passeth over what is there read. 27. Now he addeth this also to the praises of God, that He led the Israelites out of Egypt enriched with silver and gold; because even they were then in such a condition, that they could not as yet despise the just and due, though temporal, reward of their toils. . . ."He brought them forth also in silver and gold" (verse 37): this too is a Scripture idiom; for "in silver and gold" is said for the same as if it had been said "with silver and gold: there was not one feeble person among their tribes:" in body, not in mind. This also was a great blessing of God, that in this necessity of removal there was no infirm person.
28. "Egypt was glad at their departing: for their fear fell upon them" (verse 38); that is, the fear of the Hebrews upon the Egyptians. For "their fear" is not that with which the Hebrews feared, but that with which they were feared. Some one will say, how then were the Egyptians unwilling to dismiss them? why did they let them go as if they expected them to return? why did they lend them gold and silver, as to men who were to return, and to repay them, if" Egypt was glad at their departing"? But we must understand, after that final destruction of the Egyptians, and the terrible overthrow of the mighty pursuing army in the Red Sea, that the rest of the Egyptians feared lest the Hebrews should return, and with great ease crush the relics of them: illustrating what he had stated, that He made His people stronger than their enemies.
29. He now proceedeth to the divine blessings which were conferred upon them as they wandered in the desert. "He spread out a cloud to be their covering: and fire to give them light in the night season" (verse 39). This is as clear as it is well known.
30. "They asked, and the quail came" (verse 40). They did not desire quails, but flesh. But since the quail is flesh, and in this Psalm he speaketh not of the provocation of those who did not please God, but of the faith of the elect, the true seed of Abraham; they are to be understood to have desired that that might come which might crush the murmurs of those who provoked. Then in the next line, "And He filled them with the bread of heaven," he has not indeed named manna, but it is obscure to none who hath read those records.
31. "He opened the rock of stone, and the waters flowed out: so that rivers ran in the dry places" (verse 41). This fact too is understood as soon as read.
32. But in all these blessings of His, God doth commend in Abraham the merit of faith. For the Psalmist goeth on to say, "For why? He remembered His holy promise, which He made to Abraham His servant" (verse 42). "And He brought forth His people with joy, and His chosen with gladness" (verse 43). What he said, "His people," he has repeated in, "His chosen." So also what he said, "with joy," he has repeated in, "with gladness." "And gave them the lands of the heathen: and they took the labours of the people in possession" (verse 44). "The lands of the heathen," and "the labours of the people," are the same; and the words, "He gave," are repeated in these, "they took in possession."
33. ..."That they may keep His statutes, and seek out His law" (verse 45). Lastly, since by the seed of Abraham he wished those to be understood here, who were truly the seed of Abraham, such as were not wanting even in that people; as the Apostle Paul clearly showeth, when he saith, "But not in all of them was God well pleased;"(1) for if He was not pleased with all, surely there were some in whom He was well pleased: since then this Psalm praiseth such men as this, he hath said nothing here of the iniquities and provocations and bitterness of those with whom God was not well pleased. But since not only the justice but also the mercy of Almighty God, the merciful, was shown even unto the wicked; concerning these attributes the rest of the Psalm pursueth the praises of God. And yet both sorts were in one people: nor did the latter pollute the good with the contagion of their iniquities. For "the Lord knoweth who are His;"(2) and if he cannot separate in this world from wicked men, yet, "let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." . . .
1. This Psalm also hath the title Allelujah prefixed to it: and this twice. But some say, that one Allelujah belongeth to the end of the former Psalm, the other to the beginning of this. And they assert, that all the Psalms bearing this title have Allelujah at the end, but not all at the beginning; so that they will not allow any Psalm which hath not Allelujah at the end, to have it at the beginning; supposing that what seemeth to belong to the commencement, really belongeth to the end of the former Psalm. But until they persuade us by some sure proofs that this is true, we will follow the general custom, which, whenever it findeth Allelujah, attributes it to the same Psalm, at the head of which it is found. For there are very few copies (and I have found this in none of the Greek copies, which I have been able to inspect) which have Allelujah at the end of the CLth Psalm; after which there is no other which belongeth to the same canon. But not even this could outweigh custom, although all the copies had it so. For it might be that, with some reference to the praise of God, the whole book of Psalms, which is said to consist of five books (for they say that the books severally end where it is written Amen, Amen), might be closed with this last Allelujah, after all that hath been sung; nor, on account of the end of the CLth Psalm, do I see that it is necessary that all the Psalms entitled Allelujah, should have Allelujah at the end. But when there is a double Allelujah at the head of a Psalm, why as our Lord sometimes once, sometimes twice over, saith Amen, in the same way Allelujah may not sometimes be used once, sometimes twice, I know not: especially, since as in this CVth, both the Allelujahs are placed after the mark by which the number of the Psalm is described, whereas the one, if it belonged to the end of the former Psalm, ought to have been placed before the number; and the Allelujah which belonged to the Psalm of this number, should have been written after the number. But per-halls even in this an ignorant habit hath prevailed, and some reason may be assigned of which we are as yet uninformed, so that the judgment of truth ought rather to be our guide than the prejudice of custom. In the mean time, before we are fully instructed in this matter, whenever we find Allelujah written, whether once or twice, after the number of the Psalm, according to the most usual custom of the Church, we will ascribe it to that Psalm to which the same number is prefixed; confessing that we both believe the mysteries of all the titles in the Psalms, and of the order of the same Psalms, to be important, and that we have not yet been able, as we wish to penetrate them.
2. But I find these two Psalms, the CVth and CVIth so connected, that in one of them, the first, the people of God is praised in the person of the elect, of whom there is no complaint, whom I imagine to have been there in those with whom God was well pleased;(1) but in the following Psalm those are mentioned among the same people who have provoked God; though the mercy of God was not wanting even to these. . . . This Psalm therefore beginneth like the former; "Confess ye unto the Lord?" But in that Psalm these words follow: "And call upon His Name:" whereas here, it is as follows "For He is gracious? and His mercy endureth for ever" (verse 1). Wherefore in this passage a confession of sins may be understood; for after a few verses we read, "We have sinned with our fathers, we have done amiss, and dealt wickedly;" but in the words, "For He is gracious, and His mercy endureth for ever," there is chiefly the praise of God, and in His praise confession. Although when any one confesses his sins, he ought to do so with praise of God; nor is a confession of sins a pious one, unless it be without despair, and with calling upon the mercy of God. It therefore doth contain His praise, whether in words, when it calleth Him gracious and merciful, or in the feeling only, when he believeth this. . . . If that mercy be here understood, in respect of which no man can be happy without God; we may render it better, "for ever:" but if it be that mercy which is shown to the wretched, that they may either be consoled in misery, or even freed from it; it is better construed, "to the end of the world," in which there will never be wanting wretched persons to whom that mercy may be shown. Unless indeed any man ventured to say, that some mercy of God will not be wanting even to those who shall be condemned with the devil and his angels; not a mercy by which they may be freed from that condemnation, but that it may be in some degree softened for them: and that thus the mercy of God may be styled eternal, as exercised over their eternal misery.(3) . . .
3. "Who can express the mighty acts of the Lord?" (verse 2). Full of the consideration of the Divine works, while he entreateth His mercy, "Who," he saith, "can express the mighty acts of the Lord, or make all His praises heard?" We must supply what was said above, to make the sense complete here, thus, "Who shall make all His praises heard?" that is, who is sufficient to make all His praises heard? "Shall make" then "heard," he saith; that is, cause that they be heard; showing, that the mighty acts of the Lord and His praises are so to be spoken of, that they may be preached to those who hear them. But who can make "all," heard? Is it that as the next words are, "Blessed are they that alway keep judgment, and do righteousness in every time" (verse 3); he perhaps meant those praises of His, which are understood as His works in His commandments? "For it is God," saith the Apostle, "who worketh in you,"(4) . . . since He worketh in these things in a manner that cannot be spoken. "Who will do all His praises heard?" that is, who, when he hath heard them, doth all His praises? which are the works of His commandments. As far as they are done, although all which are heard are not performed, He is to be praised, who "worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure."(4) For this reason, while he might have said, all His commandments, or, all the works of His commandments; he preferred saying, "His praises." ...
4. But unless there were some difference between judgment and righteousness, we should not read in another Psalm, "Until righteousness turn again unto judgment."(1) The Scripture, indeed, loveth to place these two words together; as, "Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His seat;"(2) and this, "He shall make thy righteousness as clear as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day;"(3) where there is apparently a repetition of the same sentiment. And perhaps on account of the resemblance of signification one may be put for the other, either judgment for righteousness, or righteousness for judgment: yet, if they be spoken of in their proper sense, I doubt not that there is some difference; viz. that he is said to keep judgment who judgeth rightly, but he to do righteousness who acts righteously. And I think that the verse, "Until righteousness turn again unto judgment" may not absurdly be understood in this sense: that here also those are called blessed, who keep judgment in faith, and do righteousness in deed....
5. Next, since God justifieth, that is, maketh men righteous, by healing them from their iniquities, a prayer followeth: "Remember me, O Lord, according to the favour that Thou bearest unto Thy people" (verse 4): that is, that we may be among those with whom Thou art well pleased; since God is not well pleased with them all. "0 visit me with Thy salvation." This is the Saviour Himself, in whom sins are forgiven, and souls healed, that they may be able to keep judgment, and do righteousness; and since they who here speak know such men to be blessed, they pray for this themselves...."Visit us," then, "with Thy salvation," that is, with Thy Christ. "To see the felicity of Thy chosen, and to rejoice in the gladness of Thy people" (verse 5): that is, visit us for this reason with Thy salvation, that we may see the felicity of Thy chosen, and rejoice in the gladness of Thy people. For "felicity"(4) some copies read "sweetness;" as in the former passage, "For He is gracious;" where others read, "for He is sweet." And it is the same word in the Greek, as is elsewhere read, "The Lord shall show sweetness:"(5) which some have translated "felicity," others "bounty." But what meaneth, "Visit us to see the felicity of Thy chosen:" that is, that happiness which Thou givest to Thine elect: except that we may not remain blind, as those unto whom it is said, "But now ye say we see: therefore your sin remaineth."(6) For the Lord giveth sight to the blind,(7) not by their own merits, but in the felicity He giveth to His chosen, which is the meaning of "the felicity of Thy chosen:" as, the help of my countenance, is not of myself, but is my God.(8) And we speak of our daily bread, as ours, but we add, Give unto us.(9) ... "That Thou mayest be praised with Thine inheritance." I wonder this verse hath been so interpreted in many copies, since the Greek phrase is one and the same in these three verses.... But since this seemeth a doubtful expression, if that sense be true according to which interpreters have preferred, "That Thou mayest be praised," the two preceding verses also must be so understood, because, as I have said, there is one Greek expression in these three verses; so that the whole should be thus understood, "Visit us with Thy salvation, that Thou mayest see the felicity of Thy chosen;" that is, visit us for this purpose, that Thou mayest cause us to be there, and mayest see us there; that "Thou mayest rejoice in the gladness of Thy people," that is, that Thou mayest be said to rejoice, since they rejoice in Thee; that "Thou mayest be praised with Thine inheritance," that is, mayest be praised with it, since it may not be praised save for Thy sake....
6. But let us hear what they next confess: "we have sinned with our fathers: we have done amiss, and dealt wickedly" (verse 6). What meaneth "with our fathers"? ... "Our fathers," he saith, "regarded not Thy wonders in Egypt" (verse 7); and many other things also, he doth relate of their sins. Or is, "we have sinned with our fathers," to be understood as meaning, we have sinned like our fathers, that is, by imitating their sins? If it be so, it should be supported by some example of this mode of expression: which did not occur to me when I sought on this occasion an instance of any one saying that he had sinned, or done anything, with another, whom he had imitated by a similar act after a long interval of time. What meaneth then, "Our fathers understood not Thy wonders;" save this, they did not know what Thou didst wish to convince them of by these miracles? What indeed, save life eternal, (10) and a good, not temporal, but immutable, which is waited for only through endurance? For this reason they impatiently murmured, and provoked, and they asked to be blessed with present and fugitive blessings, "Neither were they mindful of the greatness of Thy mercy." He reproveth both their understanding and memory. Understanding there was need of, that they might meditate unto what eternal blessings God was calling them through these temporal ones; and of memory, that at least they might not forget the temporal wonders which had been wrought, and might faithfully believe, that by the same power which they had already experienced, God would free them from the persecutions of their enemies; whereas they forgot the aid which He had given them in Egypt, by means of such wonders, to crush their enemies. "And they provoked, as they went up to the sea, even to the Red Sea."(1) We ought especially to notice how the Scripture doth censure the not understanding that which ought to have been understood, and the not remembering that which ought to have been remembered; which men are unwilling to have ascribed to their own fault, for no other reason than that they may pray less, and be less humble unto God, in whose sight they should confess what they are, and might by praying for His aid, become what they are not. For it is better to accuse even the sins of ignorance and negligence, that they may be done away with, than to excuse them, so that they remain; and it is better to clear them off by calling upon God, than to clench them by provoking Him. He addeth, that God acted not according to their unbelief. "Nevertheless," he saith, "He saved them for His Name's sake: that He might make His power to be known" (verse 8): not on account of any deservings of their own.
7. "He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up" (verse 9). We do not read that any voice was sent forth from Heaven to rebuke the sea; but he bath called the Divine Power by which this was effected, a rebuke: unless indeed any one may choose to say, that the sea was secretly rebuked, so that the waters might hear, and yet men could not. The power by which God acteth is very abstruse and mysterious, a power which He causeth that even things devoid of sense instantly obey at His will. "So He led them through the deeps, as through a wilderness." He calleth a multitude of waters the deeps. For some wishing to give the sense of this whole verse, have translated, "So He led them forth amid many waters." What then doth "through the deeps, as through a wilderness," mean, except that that had become as a wilderness from its dryness, where before had been the watery deeps?
8. "And He saved them from the hating ones"(2) (verse 10). Some translators, in order to avoid an expression unusual in Latin, have rendered the word, by a circumlocution, "And He saved them from the hand of those that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy." What price was given in this redemption? Is it a prophecy, since this deed was a figure of Baptism, wherein we are redeemed from the hand of the devil at a great price, which price is the Blood of Christ? whence this is more consistently figured forth, not by any sea indiscriminately, but by the Red Sea; since blood hath a red colour.
9. "As for those that troubled them, the waters overwhelmed them: there was not one of them left" (verse 11); not of all the Egyptians, but of those who pursued the departing Israelites, desirous either of taking or of killing them.
10. "Then believed they in His words" (verse 12). The expression seemeth barely Latin, for he saith not "believed His word,"(3) or "on His words,"(4) but "in His words;"(5) yet it is very frequent in Scripture. "And praised praise unto Him;" such an expression as when we say, "This servitude he served," "such a life he lived." He is here alluding to that well-known hymn, commencing, "I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and the rider hath He thrown into the sea."(6)
11. "They acted hastily: they forgot His works" (verse 13): other copies read more intelligibly, "They hastened, they forgot His works, and would not abide His counsel." For they ought to have thought, that so great works of God towards themselves were not without a purpose, but that they invited them to some endless happiness, which was to be waited for with patience; but they hastened to make themselves happy with temporal things, which give no man true happiness, because they do not quench insatiable longing: for "whosoever," saith our Lord, "shall drink of this water, shall thirst again."(7)
12. Lastly, "And they lusted a lust in the wilderness, and they tempted God in the dry land" (verse 14). The "dry land," or land without water, and "desert," are the same: so also are, "they lusted a lust," and, "they tempted God." The form of speech is the same as above, "they praised a praise."(8)
13. "And He gave them their desire, and sent fulness withal into their souls" (verse 15). But He did not thus render them happy: for it was not that fulness of which it is said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."(9) In this passage he doth not speak of the rational soul, but of the soul as giving animal life to the body; to the substance of which belong meat and drink, according to what is said in the Gospel, "Is not the soul more than meat, and the body than raiment?"(1) as if it belonged to the soul to eat, to the body to be clothed.
14. "And they angered Moses in the tents, and Aaron the saint of the Lord" (verse 16). What angering, or, as some have more literally rendered it, what provocation,(2) he speaketh of, the following words sufficiently show.
15. "The earth opened," he saith, "and swallowed up Dathan, and covered over the congregation of Abiram" (verse 17): "swallowed up" answereth to "covered over." Both Dathan and Abiram were equally concerned in a most sacrilegious schism.(3)
16. "And the fire was kindled in their company; the flame burnt up the sinners" (verse 18). This word is not in Scripture usually applied to those, who, although they live righteously, and in a praiseworthy manner, are not without sin. Rather, as there is a difference between those who scorn and scorners, between men who murmur and murmurers, between men who are writing and writers, and so forth; so Scripture is wont to signify by sinners such as are very wicked, and laden with heavy loads of sins.
17. "And they made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the graven image" (verse 19). "Thus they changed their glory, in the similitude of a calf that eateth hay" (verse 20). He saith not "into" the likeness, but "in" the likeness. It is such a form of speech as where he said "and they believed in His words."(4) With great effect in truth he saith not, they changed the glory of God when they did this; as the Apostle also saith, "They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man:" (5) but "their glory." For God was their glory, if they would abide His counsel, and hasten not....
18. "They forgat God who saved them" (verse 21). How did He save them? "Who did so great things in Egypt: Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and fearful things in the Red Sea" (verse 22). The things that are wondrous, are also fearful; for there is no wonder without a certain fear: although these might be called fearful, because they beat down their adversaries, and showed them what they ought to fear.
19. "So He said, He would have destroyed them" (verse 23). Since they forgot Him who saved them, the Worker of wondrous works, and made and worshipped a graven image, by this atrocious and incredible impiety they deserved death. "Had not Moses His chosen stood before Him in the breaking." He doth not say, that he stood in the breaking,(6) as if to break the wrath of God, but in the way of the breaking, meaning the stroke which was to strike them: that is, had he not put himself in the way for them, saying, "Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin;--and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book." Where it is proved how greatly the intercession of the saints in behalf of others prevaileth with God. For Moses, fearless in the justice of God, which could not blot him out, implored mercy, that He would not blot out those whom He justly might. Thus he "stood before Him in the breaking, to turn away His wrathful indignation, lest He should destroy them."
20. "Yea, they thought scorn of that pleasant land" (verse 24). But had they seen it? How then could they scorn that which they had not seen, except as the following words explain," and believed not in His words." Indeed, unless that land which was styled the land that flowed with milk and honey,(7) signified something great, through which, as by a visible token, He was leading those who understood His wondrous works to invisible grace and the kingdom of heaven, they could not be blamed for scorning that land, whose temporal kingdom we also ought to esteem as nothing, that we may love that Jerusalem which is free, the mother of us all,(8) which is in heaven, and truly to be desired. But rather unbelief is here reproved, since they gave no credence to the words of God, who was leading them to great things through small things, and hastening to bless themselves with temporal things, which they carnally savoured of, they "abided not His counsel," as is said above.
21. "But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord" (verse 25); who strongly forbade them to murmur.
22. "Then lift He up His hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness" (verse 26); "to cast out their seed among the nations: and to scatter them in the lands" (verse 27).
23. "They were initiated also unto Baalpeor;" that is, were consecrated to the Gentile idol; "and ate the offerings of the dead" (verse 28). "Thus they provoked Him to anger with their own inventions; and destruction was multiplied among them" (verse 29). As if He had deferred the lifting up of His hand which was to cast them down in the desert, and to cast out their seed among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands; as the Apostle saith: "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient."(1) " 'Destruction,' therefore, 'was multiplied among them,' when they were heavily punished for their heavy sins."
24. "Then stood up Phineas, and appeased Him, and the shaking ceased" (verse 30). He hath related the whole briefly, because he is not here teaching the ignorant, but reminding those who know the history. The word "shaking" here is the same as "breaking" before. For it is one word in the Greek. Lastly, so great was their wickedness, in being consecrated to the idol, and eating the sacrifices of the dead (that is, because the Gentiles(2) sacrificed to dead men as to God), that God would not be otherwise appeased than as Phineas the Priest appeased Him, when he slew a man and a woman together whom he found in adultery.(3) If he had done this from hatred towards them, and not from love, while zeal for the house of God devoured him, it would not have been counted unto him for righteousness.... Christ our Lord indeed, when the New Testament was revealed, chose a milder discipline; but the threat of hell is more severe, and this we do not read of in those threatenings held out by God in His temporal government.
25. "And that was counted unto him for righteousness among all posterities for evermore" (verse 31). God counted this unto His Priest for righteousness, not only as long as posterity shall exist, but "for evermore;" for He who knoweth the heart, knoweth how to weigh with how much love for the people that deed was done.
26. "And they angered Him at the waters of strife: so that Moses was vexed for their sakes" (verse 32); "because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake doubtfully(4) with his lips" (verse 33). What is spake doubtfully? As if God, who had done so great wonders before, could not cause water to flow from a rock. For he touched the rock with his rod with doubt, and thus distinguished this miracle from the rest, in which he had not doubted. He thus offended, thus deserved to hear that he should die, without entering into the land of promise.(5) For being disturbed by the murmurs of an unbelieving people, he held not fast that confidence which he ought to have held. Nevertheless, God giveth unto him, as unto His chosen, a good testimony even after his death, so that we may see that this wavering of faith was punished with this penalty only, that he was not allowed to enter that land, whither he was leading the people....
27. But they of whose iniquities this Psalm speaketh, when they had entered into that temporal land of promise, "destroyed not the heathen, which the Lord commanded them" (verse 34); "but were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works" (verse 35). "Insomuch that they worshipped their idols, which became to them an offence" (verse 36). Their not destroying them, but mingling with them, became to them an offence.
28. "Yea, they offered their sons and their daughters unto devils" (verse 37); "and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they offered unto the idols of Canaan" (verse 38). That history doth not relate that they offered their sons and daughters to devils and idols; but neither can that Psalm lie, nor the Prophets, who assert this in many passages of their rebukes. But the literature of the Gentiles is not silent respecting this custom of theirs. But what is it that followeth? "And the land was slain with bloods." We might suppose that this was a mistake of the writer, and that he had written interfecta for infecta, were it not for the goodness of God, who hath willed His Scriptures to be written in many languages; were it not that we see it written as in the text in many Greek(6) copies which we have inspected; "the land was slain with bloods." What meaneth then, "the land was slain," unless this be referred to the men who dwelt in the land, by a metaphorical expression.... For they themselves were slaying their own souls when they offered up their sons, and when they shed the blood of infants who were far from consent to this crime: whence it is said, "They shed innocent blood." "The land" therefore "was slain with bloods, and defiled by their works" (verse 39), since they themselves were slain in soul, and defiled by their works; "and they went a whoring after their own inventions." By inventions are meant what the Greeks call epiGhdeumaGa: for this word doth occur in the Greek copies both in this and a former passage, where it is said, "They provoked Him to anger with their own inventions;" "inventions" in both instances signifying what they had initiated others in. Let no man therefore suppose inventions to mean what they had of themselves instituted, without any example before them to imitate. Whence other translators in the Latin tongue have perferred pursuits, affections, imitations, pleasures, to inventions: and the very same who here write inventions, have elsewhere written pursuits. I chose to mention this, lest the word inventions, applied to what they had not invented, but imitated from others, might raise a difficulty.
29. "Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against His own people" (verse 40). Our translators have been unwilling to use the word anger, for the Greek qumos; though some have used it; while others translate by "indignation" or "mind."(1) Whichever of these terms be adopted, passion doth not affect God; but the power of punishing hath assumed this name metaphorically from custom.
30. "Insomuch that He abhorred His own inheritance; and He gave them over into the hanoi of the heathen: and they that hated them were lords over them" (verse 41): "and their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought low trader their hands" (verse 42). Since he hath called them the inheritance of God, it is clear that He abhorred them, and gave them over into their enemies' hands, not in order to their perdition, but for their discipline. Lastly, he saith, "Many a time did He deliver them." "But they provoked Him with their own counsels" (verse 43). This is what he said above, "They did not abide His counsel." Now a man's counsel is pernicious to himself, when he seeketh those things which are his own only, not those which are God's.(2) In whose inheritance, which inheritance He Himself is to us, when He deigneth His presence for our enjoyment, being with the Saints, we shall suffer no straitening from the society, by our love of anything as our own possession. For that most glorious city, when it hath gained the promised inheritance, in which none shall die, none shall be born, will not contain citizens who shall individually rejoice in their own, for "God shall be all in all."(3) And whoever in this pilgrimage faithfully and earnestly doth long for this society, doth accustom himself to prefer common to private interests, by seeking not his own things, but Jesus Christ's: lest, by being wise and vigilant in his own affairs, he provoke God with his own counsel; but, hoping for what he seeth not, let him not hasten to be blessed with things visible; and, patiently waiting for that everlasting happiness which he seeth not, follow His counsel in His promises, whose aid he prayeth for in his prayers. Thus he will also become humble in his confessions; so as not to be like those, of whom it is said, "They were brought down in their wickedness."
31. Nevertheless, God, full of mercy, forsook them not. "And He saw when they were in adversity, when He heard their complaint" (verse 44). "And He thought upon His covenant, and repented, according to the multitude of His mercies" (verse 45). He saith, "He repented," because He changed that wherewith He seemed about to destroy them. With God indeed all things are arranged and fixed; and when He seemeth to act upon sudden motive, He doth nothing but what He foreknew that He should do from eternity; but in the temporal changes of creation, which He ruleth wonderfully, He, without any temporal change in Himself, is said to do by a sudden act of will what in the ordained causes of events He hath arranged in the unchangeableness of His most secret counsel, according to which He doth everything according to defined seasons, doing the present, and having already done the future. And who is capable of comprehending these things?(4) Let us therefore hear the Scripture, speaking high things humbly, giving food for the nourishment of children, and proposing subjects for the research of the older: that everlasting covenant "which He made with Abraham," not the old which is abolished, but the new which is hidden even in the old. "And pitied them," etc. He did that which He had covenanted, but He had foreknown that He would yield this to them when they prayed in their adversity; since even their very prayer, when it was not uttered, but was still to be uttered, undoubtedly was known unto God.
32. So "He gave them unto compassions, in in the sight of all that had taken them captive" (verse 46). That they might not be vessels of wrath, but vessels of mercy.(5) The compassions unto which He gave them are named in the plural for this reason, I imagine, because each one hath a gift of his own from God, one in one way, another in another.(6) Come then, whosoever readest this, and dost recognise the grace of God, by which we are redeemed unto eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, by reading in the apostolical writings, and by searching in the Prophets, and seest the Old Testament revealed in the New, the New veiled in the Old; remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, where, when He driveth him out of the hearts of the faithful, He saith, "Now is the prince of this world cast out:"(7) and again of the Apostle, when he saith, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son."(8) Meditate on these and such like things, examine also the Old Testament, and see what is sung in that Psalm, the title of which is, When the temple was being built after the captivity:(9) for there it is said, "Sing unto the Lord a new song." And, that thou mayest not think it doth refer to the Jewish people only, he saith, "Sing unto the Lord, all the whole earth: sing unto the Lord, and praise His Name: declare," or rather, "give the good news of," or, to transfer the very word used in the Greek, "evangelize day from day, His salvation." Here the Gospel (Evangelium) is mentioned, in which is announced the Day that came from Day, our Lord Christ, the Light from Light, the Son from the Father. This also is the meaning of His salvation: for Christ is the Salvation of God, as we have shown above.(1) ...
33. "Deliver us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations (other copies read, "from the heathen"); that we may give thanks unto Thy holy Name, and make our boast of Thy praise" (verse 47), Then he hath briefly added this very praise, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting, and world without end"(2) (verse 48): by which we understand from everlasting to everlasting; because He shall be praised without end by those of whom it is said, "Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will be alway praising Thee."(3) This is the perfection of the Body of Christ on the third day, when the devils had been east out, and cures perfected, even unto the immortality of the body itself, the everlasting reign of those who perfectly praise Him, because they perfectly love Him; and perfectly love Him, because they behold Him face to face. For then shall be completed the prayer at the commencement of this Psalm:(4) "Remember us, O Lord, according to the favour that Thou bearest unto Thy people," etc. For from the Gentiles He doth not gather only the lost sheep of the house of Israel,(5) but also those which do not belong to that fold; so that there is one flock, as is said, and one Shepherd. But when the Jews suppose that that prophecy belongeth to their visible kingdom, because they know not how to rejoice in the hope of good things unseen, they are about to rush into the snares of him, of whom the Lord saith, "I am come in My Father's Name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive."(6) Of whom the Apostle Paul saith: "that Man of Sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition," etc. And a little after he saith, "Then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming," etc.(7) ... Through that Apostate, through him who exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, it seemeth to me, that the carnal people of Israel will suppose that prophecy to be fulfilled, where it is said, "Deliver us, O Lord, and gather us from among the heathen;" that under His guidance, before the eyes of their visible enemies, who had visibly taken them captive, they are to have visible glory. Thus they will believe a lie, because they have not received the love of truth, that they might love not carnal, but spiritual blessings. ... For Christ had other sheep that were not of this fold:(8) but the devil and his angels had taken captive all those sheep, both among the Israelites and the Gentiles. The power, therefore, of the devil having been cast out of them, in the sight of the evil spirits who had taken them captive, their cry in this prophecy is, that they may be saved and perfected for evermore: "Deliver us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen." Not, as the Jews imagine it, fulfilled through Antichrist, but through our Lord Christ coming in the name of His Father, "Day from day, His salvation;" of whom it is here said, "0 visit us in Thy salvation! And let all the people say," the predestined people of the circumcision and of the uncircumcision, a holy race, an adopted people, "So be it! So be it!"(9)
Augustin on Psalms 105