Psalm xiii. (Dixit insipiens.)
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Fool: the man of the most depraved morals, the atheist and deist. There have always been (Berthier) such pests of society. (Haydock) — David has refuted them again, Psalm lii. (Berthier) — Some have imagined that this psalm was composed in consequence of the blasphemies of Rabsaces, (4 Kings xviii. 32.; Theodoret, &c.) or of the Babylonians. (Calmet) — The Fathers explain it of Jesus Christ, denied by the Jews, &c. — Heart. This must be strangely corrupted, before the mouth can utter such impiety. (Haydock) — No God. Chaldean, “no power of God on earth.” Elohim denotes particularly “judges.” There have been a few philosophers who have denied the existence of God; and more who have called in question his Providence: though this amounts to the same thing. But the number of those who confess God with the mouth, and deny him by their works, is immense. (Haydock) — These live as if there were no judge. (Calmet) — By sin they come at last to think there is none to govern the world. (Worthington) — Plato (Leg. 10.) acknowledged that three sorts of people offend God; those who deny him; who say that He does not mind human affairs; or those who think that presents may prevail on him to connive at their wickedness. It is doubtful whether the mind can ever be so darkened as to believe that there is no God. (Berthier) — The heart may wish there were none to punish its impiety. (Haydock) — Libertinage or pride gives birth to so many infidels. They have begun by reducing conscience to silence. Their arguments only tend to destroy. — No, not one, is not in Hebrew, Septuagint, &c., except in ver. 3. (Calmet) — Yet it occurs in the Vatican Septuagint, which is the best. (Berthier) (Calmet) — “They are become abominable, with earnestness there is none who doth good.” (St. Jerome) (Haydock) — Or they sin designedly and with affectation. (Calmet) — All are unable to do good without the Redeemer. (Worthington) — Some explain this of mankind in general, as all are born in sin. David refers also to actual and habitual sinners. (Berthier) — St. Paul (Romans iii.) proves from this text, and Isaias lix. 7, that all stand in need of grace and faith, and cannot be saved either by the law of nature or of Moses. But it does not follow that faith alone will save, or that the most just are still wicked, as Calvin and Beza falsely expound the Scriptures. For the prophets speak of those who were not yet justified, teaching that all mankind were once in sin, and could not be justified but by Christ. At the same time, they assert that, when they are justified, they must serve justice to bear fruit, and obtain happiness, Romans vi. These points are well explained by St. Augustine: (de Sp. et lit. i. 9.) “The just are justified freely by his grace,” not by the law or will; though this is not effected without the will, &c. The same holy doctor (c. 27) observes, that the just do not live free from all venial sins, and yet remain in the state of salvation; while the wicked continue in the state of damnation, though they do some good works. (Worthington)
Ver. 2. God. Those only who seek God, understand their real interests. (Haydock) — The pagans, and particularly those of Babylon, lived in the greatest dissolution, so as to call loudly for vengeance, ver. 5. (Calmet) — Both the understanding and the will were gone astray. (Berthier)
Ver. 3. Unprofitable. Without faith in Christ, none have meritorious works. (Worthington) — Not one. Such was the condition of the world before Christ, as all were born in sin. “No one,” says St. Augustine, “can do good, except he shew the method.” All were immersed in ruin, “except the holy Virgin, concerning whom, for the honour of the Lord, I would have no question at all, in treating of sins.” (St. Augustine, de Nat. et Grat. contra Pelag. xxxvii. 44.) (Calmet) — The Council of Trent approves of this reserve, when speaking of original sin. Our Saviour is the source of this privilege, and much more out of the question. He could not be guilty of any sort of transgression. He was in all things like to us, excepting sin. (Haydock) — Their, &c. What follows to shall not, (ver. 4.) occurs in St. Paul; (Romans iii. 11, 12, 13.) whence St. Jerome supposes that it has been inserted here, though the apostle took the quotations from different parts of scripture. (Praef. in xvi. Isaias.) He informs us, that all the Greek commentators marked it as not found in Hebrew or the Septuagint, “except in the Vulgate or koine, which varied in different parts of the world.” There seems to be no reason why it should have been omitted designedly, whereas some might insert it, through the false notion that St. Paul had taken it from this psalm. (Calmet) — The Hebrew is not therefore mutilated, but the Vulgate redundant. (Amama) — Yet this is not absolutely clear. We find the quotation in the Roman Septuagint which is the most correct; (Berthier) though some prefer the Alexandrian manuscripts. (Haydock) — It is also in the Arabic and Ethiopic versions; so that it might have been in St. Paul’s copy. Our Saviour read a passage from Isaias, which is not extant, Luke iv. 19. (Berthier) — St. Justin Martyr, St. Augustine, &c., agree with the Vulgate; and Lindan mentions a Hebrew copy which had these verses, though the learned have reason to think that this Hebrew was of a modern date. (Calmet) — Protestants, 1577, inserted these three verses, (Worthington) which they now omit. — Sepulchre. They are never satisfied with destruction, (Haydock) and with vexing others. (Worthington) — We bear in ourselves the seed of corruption, which can be prevented from growing up only by the grace of Jesus Christ. (Berthier) — Perdition is from thyself, O Israel. (Haydock)
Ver. 4. Know my just providence, though they would fain keep it out of sight, (ver. 1.) that they may indulge their passions. (Haydock) — My people. These we may conclude, were just; (Berthier) at least in comparison with their cruel oppressors, (Haydock) who made it their daily practice to injure them, (St. Augustine) as they could do it with facility, Numbers xix. 9., Proverbs xxx. 14., and Micheas iii. 2. (Calmet) — The prophet, in God’s name, complains of their eagerness to hurt the good. (Worthington)
Ver. 5. Where. This expression refers to there, which is in Hebrew, though this last part of the verse is wanting. (Capel.) — It is in Psalm lii. 6, and this renders the former omission (ver. 3.) more credible. (Berthier) — When Cyrus approached to besiege Babylon, Nabonides, the king, met him, and gave him battle; but losing the victory, he, in a panic, retreated to Borsippe, and abandoned the defence of his capital. (Beros. apud Jos. con. Ap. 1.[Josephus, contra Apion i.?]) The citizens were in the utmost consternation, Isaias xiii., and xxi., &c. (Calmet) — But the wicked tremble at the prospect of temporal losses, (Menochius) and at shadows, while they boldly affront the Deity. Unbelievers find difficulties in the Catholic doctrines, which are frequently attributed to their own mistakes. (Haydock) — The pagans would not believe in God, but trembled before idols; which cannot hurt the faithful. (Worthington)
Ver. 6. Man, who wished sincerely to practise his religion, like Daniel, &c. Such you have persecuted, and hence God has filled you with alarms, and will punish you. (Calmet) — Some persevere in justice, amid the general contagion and insults of men. (Worthington)
Ver. 7. Sion; which God has chosen for his sanctuary. (Haydock) — Salvation, or the Saviour, whom Jacob expected, Genesis xlix. (Berthier) — This Redeemer would fill all, both Jews and Gentiles, with joy, who should embrace his faith. (St. Augustine, &c.) — The prophet seems to foretell the restoration of the ten tribes to the kingdom of Judea, as it took place after the captivity. (Calmet, Diss.) — But he sighed for, and designated more particularly, (Haydock) the Saviour of the world; who would redeem man from the tyranny of the devil, to the great joy of those who strive to supplant every vice, and to contemplate God, (Worthington) as some interpret the names of Jacob and Israel. (Haydock) — The Gentiles will then be ingrafted into the stock of Abraham, (Menochius) into the true olive-tree, Romans xi. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The general corruption of men, before our redemption by Christ.
1 Unto the end, a psalm for David.
The fool hath said in his heart: *There is no God.
They are corrupt, and are become abominable in their ways: there is none that doth good, no not one.
2 The Lord hath looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there be any that understand and seek God.
3 They are all gone aside, they are become unprofitable together: there is none that doth good: no not one.
Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they acted deceitfully: the poison of asps is under their lips.
Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood.
Destruction and unhappiness in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.
4 Shall not all they know that work iniquity, who devour my people as they eat bread?
5 They have not called upon the Lord: there have they trembled for fear, where there was no fear.
6 For the Lord is in the just generation: you have confounded the counsel of the poor man; but the Lord is his hope.
7 Who shall give out of Sion the salvation of Israel? when the Lord shall have turned away the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.
1: Psalm lii. 1.