Psalm cxix. (Ad Dominum.)
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. A gradual canticle. The following psalms, in number fifteen, are called gradual psalms or canticles, from the word gradus, signifying steps, ascensions, or degrees; either because they were appointed to be sung on the fifteen steps, by which the people ascended to the temple; or that in the singing of them the voice was to be raised by certain steps or ascensions: or that they were to be sung by the people returning from their captivity, and ascending to Jerusalem, which was seated amongst mountains. The holy Fathers, in a mystical sense, understand these steps, or ascensions, of the degrees by which Christians spiritually ascend to virtue and perfection; and to the true temple of God in the heavenly Jerusalem. (Challoner) — Both these last interpretations seem more plausible and literal, as given by St. Chrysostom, &c. (Berthier) — The allusion to the steps of the temple (Ezechiel xl.) is very uncertain, as well as the raising of the voice in higher notes during each psalm. (Calmet) — They might be sung on a pulpit, 2 Esdras ix. 4., and 2 Paralipomenon xx. 19. (Menochius) — The authors seem to have lived at the close of the captivity, (Calmet) though David might well compose these canticles during some of his trials, or foreseeing this event. (Berthier) — They contain a consoling assurance of mankind’s redemption, prefigured by the liberation of the Jews, and also that the power and fury of persecutors shall cease. (Worthington) — Shir, hamahaloth, may denote a very excellent canticle. (Junius) (Muis) (Haydock) — Trouble. No time is more proper for prayer. (St. Chrysostom) (Calmet) — Heard. I am encouraged by past experience to hope for redress. (Worthington)
Ver. 2. Tongue. From the Babylonians, who seek to delude me, (Calmet) and from detraction, which is most dangerous. (Worthington)
Ver. 3. Added. This is an usual form of denouncing vengeance, Ruth i. 17. The Babylonians are threatened with God’s judgments, ver. 4. Some place these words in the mouth of God, answering the captives. How shall you be screened from the shafts of detraction? Fear not. The sharp, &c. (Calmet) — What punishment is great enough for this sin? (Worthington)
Ver. 4. Waste. Hebrew, “of juniper” or thorn trees, Job xxx. 4. The former is said to retain its heat a long time, and the latter is easily inflamed, Psalm cxvii. 12. Such fiery weapons have been often used, Psalm vii. 14., and lxxv. 3.
Spiculaque et multa crinitum missile flamma. (Stat. Theb. v.)
— How will God punish detraction? He will hurl his darts against the guilty, Habacuc iii. 11. (Calmet) — This is their reward, (Berthier) and what they deserve. (Worthington) — Charity and good example will best counteract their baneful influence. (St. Augustine)
Ver. 5. Is prolonged. Hebrew, “is Meshec.” (Haydock) — But Houbigant rejects this as a place unknown; and the word may have the former signification, given by the Septuagint and St. Jerome. (Calmet) (Berthier) — Moses speaks of Meshec, (Genesis x. 2.) or of the mountains separating Cholcis from Armenia, where the Jews might be dispersed, (4 Kings xvii. 23., and 1 Esdras ii. 59., and viii. 15.) as well as in Cedar, or Arabia Petrea, (Isaias xlii. 11.) where the Saracens afterwards inhabited, according to St. Jerome. (Loc. Heb.) (Calmet) — Inhabitants. Hebrew, “tents,” in which the people chiefly dwelt. (Berthier) — From Cedar, the son of Ismael, sprung Mahomet, whose tyranny has been long felt. Cedar denotes the “darkness” of sin and error. The Jews bewailed their absence from the temple, and Christians their being unable to meet for the divine worship, and their banishment (Worthington) from heaven. (St. Chrysostom)
Ver. 7. Peaceable. Hebrew, “I spoke peaceable, and they warlike things. (St. Jerome) — Literally, “I was peace, and when I spoke, they flew to war.” (Haydock) — Cause. This is easily understood from the context, (Berthier) though not expressed in the original. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
A prayer in tribulation.
1 A gradual canticle.
In my trouble I cried to the Lord: and he heard me.
2 O Lord, deliver my soul from wicked lips, and a deceitful tongue.
3 What shall be given to thee, or what shall be added to thee, to a deceitful tongue?
4 The sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals that lay waste.
5 Wo is me, that my sojourning is prolonged! I have dwelt with the inhabitants of Cedar: 6 my soul hath been long a sojourner.
7 With them that hate peace I was peaceable; when I spoke to them, they fought against me without cause.