Psalm xv. (Conserva me Domine.)
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. The inscription of a title. That is, a pillar or monument, stelographia: which is as much as to say, that this psalm is most worthy to be engraved on an everlasting monument. (Challoner) — Mictam. Protestants, “Michtam.” Marginal note, or “golden psalm of David,” or most excellent. St. Jerome, &c., have divided the word into two: “of the humble and upright David.” (Haydock) — It may signify “inscribed.” (Calmet) — But there seems to be no reason for abandoning the Septuagint, who were well acquainted with the original. The psalm is in the form of a prayer, which David pronounces in the person of Christ, to whom the apostles apply several verses; and, as the rest seem to be of the same nature, we must understand all of the Messias, praying, in his sacred humanity, (Berthier) that his body may remain incorrupt. It may refer to Ezechias, to the captives, or rather to David, persecuted by Saul, and provoked to serve false gods, 1 Kings xxvi. 19. But then many expressions must be explained figuratively, (Calmet) and this would tend to weaken the prediction, (Berthier) which all the Fathers have understood of Christ suffering. (Calmet) — The thing most worthy to be noted, (stilographia) by the prophet David, is our Saviour’s crucifixion; (Worthington) the memory of which must be perpetuated. Job (xix. 24.) wished that what he said about the resurrection, might thus be engraven on flint. (Haydock) — Preserve. David acknowledges his infirmity, and that all good comes from God. (Calmet) — Jesus was heard praying with tears, &c., Hebrews v. 7. In his humanity, He might use these expressions, (Haydock) as He was the head of a new people, whom he wished to sanctify and instruct. (Berthier) — He often prayed, as the gospel informs us. (Worthington)
Ver. 2. I have. Hebrew, “Thou, my soul, hast said.” But St. Jerome agrees with us. — Goods. Hebrew, “my good is not above thee.” I can desire nothing greater. (Berthier) — Aquila and Vatable seem to have the same idea as the Septuagint. We reap all the profit from our piety. (Calmet) — The redemption was entirely for man’s benefit, (Worthington) though it gave the greatest glory to God. (Haydock) — Since God, therefore, wants nothing, I will shew my kindness (Bellarmine) to the poor. (Haydock)
Ver. 3. Saints. Hebrew, “the magnificent” priests, God himself, (Exodus xv. 11.; Calmet) and ceremonies of religion, (Haydock) for which David had a wonderful affection. (Calmet) — But Christ has displayed the greatest love towards all his converts, and they had need of it. (Berthier) — God here speaks, shewing that Christ should make known his wonderful charity to the apostles and other saints.
Ver. 4. Haste. Men who are convinced of their own infirmities, hasten to find a remedy. (Worthington) — No sooner had fallen man been redeemed, that he strove to advance in the ways of perfection. (Berthier) — The sins, to which the saints sometimes yield, tend to make them more cautious (Calmet) and grateful to their deliverer, like St. Peter. Persecutions likewise cause them to cling closer to God, and fill them with interior joy, Acts v. 41. (Haydock) — If we explain it of the wicked, chastisement often makes them repent, Psalm lxxvii. 34. (Calmet) — “Their idols have been multiplied after their followers, I will not join in their libations of blood.” (St. Jerome) — David was continually exposed to such temptations, among the idolaters; but out of contempt, he would not even pronounce the name of the idols. (Calmet) — Blood, or bloody. (Du Hamel) — The pagan (Worthington) and Mosaic sacrifices shall cease. Christ will unite us (Berthier) by a more excellent oblation of his own body and blood. (Haydock) — Christians shall be distinguished by a fresh appellation, being styled children of light and of God, in opposition to the sons of men, (St. Augustine, &c.; Calmet) and pagans.
Ver. 5. Cup. Eternal happiness consists in seeing (Worthington) and enjoying God, (Haydock) and is promised to the patient. Though Christ was truly king of Israel and exercised jurisdiction, (John xii., and xviii. 37., and Matthew xxi., &c.; Worthington) yet it was not of a temporal nature; (Haydock) and his chief inheritance was the Lord, who would reward his merits. He has taught all clergymen to make this happy choice; as they declare when they become such. Man may call God his inheritance, as he was made for him; and though he may have fallen, if he rise again, his title will be restored, and he may obtain felicity, whether he live in the world or retire from it. (Worthington) — David alludes to the custom of allotting each his portion of wine and meat, which was greater in proportion to the person’s dignity. He rejects with disdain all worldly and sensual joys. (Calmet) — God in not “a part,” but the whole portion of a good man. — It is, &c. St. Jerome, “Thou are the possessor of my lot.” I trust in thee for all. (Haydock) (1 Peter i. 4., and 2 Timothy i. 12.) In the ancient sacrifices a part was reserved for the offerer. But Jesus keeps nothing back.
Ver. 6. Lines, with which land was measured. (Berthier) — Christ expresses his satisfaction with his church, which is gathered from all nations, to manifest the choicest virtues, Titus ii. 14. (Euthymius, St. Jerome, &c.) (Calmet) — This was his inheritance, not measured out with lines, (Josue x.) but reaching to the very ends of the earth, Psalm ii. (Haydock)
Ver. 7. Understanding. Hebrew, “counsel.” In the night of tribulation God directs the reins, or affections of the soul. Christ might speak thus concerning his human nature. (Berthier) (Luke ii. 40., and Hebrews v. 7.) David also gives thanks to God for enabling him to make so happy a choice, and to avoid being seduced. (Calmet) — He derives instructions from pain. (Worthington)
Ver. 8. That I. Hebrew, “I shall not,” &c. The sense is the same, but St. Peter agrees with us and the Septuagint, Acts ii. 25, &c. It is not of faith that the seven preceding verse regard Jesus Christ as the following do; but as the same person speaks, we may rationally infer that all should be explained of him. Though he always enjoyed the beatific vision, his soul had the affections of other men, and always tended to keep in God’s presence. So the angels who see God, desire more and more to contemplate him, 1 Peter i. 12. How earnestly ought we to strive always to keep in the divine presence! (Berthier) then we should constantly advance in virtue, and fear no dangers. The patriarchs thus walked with God, and arrived at such perfection. (Haydock) — The Father was always at the right hand of his Son, to support and glorify him; and the Son, having continually performed what was pleasing to God, (John viii. 29.) was placed at his right hand at his ascension, though his divinity had never been separated from him. (Calmet) — He had always God in view, and has left us a pattern how to behave. (Worthington)
Ver. 9. Tongue. Hebrew, “glory.” Yet Protestants translate, “tongue,” (Acts ii.) as St. Peter follows the Septuagint (Haydock) and he surely understood the force of the Hebrew; so that his testimony in their favour is very strong. Commentators observe that the tongue manifests the joy of the heart, (Berthier) and the same word is used for the soul, Psalm vii. 6. (Calmet) — Yet very different words signify the tongue and glory; and we follow the text, adopted by the apostle. Joy naturally flows from the presence of the best of friends. (Berthier) — Our Saviour sometimes suspended this joy, that he might suffer the more for us. (Calmet)
Ver. 10. Soul in hell. Beza, (in his 1st edition, which he corrected afterwards) would translate “my corpse (cadaver, or carcass) in the grave;” for which he as been justly blamed. For, though the corpse is sometimes called soul, as it has been animated by it, (Haydock) and the soul and blood are often used synonymously, yet we shall find no instance of the body of any one still living being styled a soul. When speaking, therefore, of a person’s future death, the soul means either life or the spiritual substance, Genesis xxxvii. 22., and Psalm xlix. 16. Hence the explanation of the Fathers, who understand this of Christ’s descent into hell, to free the saints who were detained in limbo, is more probable. (Berthier) — The instances which are adduced to maintain the opposite sentiment, which Calmet, &c., assert is more literal, either prove nothing, or they relate to people deceased, whose bodies were not to be touched. See Genesis ix. 5., Leviticus xvii. 11., and xxi. 11., Numbers vi. 6., and xix. 13., and Aggeus ii. 14. Christ speaks of his body in the following part of the verse, (Haydock) calling it Holy, because it was never separated from the divine nature. (Berthier) — The erroneous interpretations or corruptions of Beza and Calvin on this head, opposing themselves to the consent of all the ancient Fathers, who believed this passage related to the descent into limbo, are noted, Genesis xxvii., Acts ii., and 1 Peter iii. The Protestant editions vary. Some retain the word hell, others the grave; remarking that “this is chiefly meant of Christ, by whose resurrection all his members have immortality.” And (Acts ii.) they paraphrase, “Thou shalt not leave me in the grave;” wresting that which regards the body, rising from the grave, to the soul, which was never there. (Worthington) — The last edition of [King] James I agrees however with us, in both places. “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption.” It is observable that in the Hebrew editions, (except Stephen’s and some few others) we find the word chasidic in the text, though the last i be properly omitted in the margin; as the word would otherwise signify “saints:” and thus make the apostles false witnesses, Acts xiii. 35, &c. (Haydock) — “But who shall lay any such thing to their charge? Other men may be deficient in their knowledge, and in their honesty; but inspired apostles could neither be deceived nor deceive. All the ancient versions, the Masorets,” who order the word to be read in the singular, though printed plural in the text, and many of the best manuscripts vouch for their veracity. Moreover it is not true that God will not suffer his saints to see corruption; and, if this were the meaning of the words, they would not predict the resurrection of any particular person: yet “these words, the apostles observe to the Jews, are a prophecy of some particular person, whose soul was not long to continue in the place of departed spirits, and whose body was not to be corrupted, both being soon to be reunited. Now David, say they, did not speak this of himself, &c. Have the apostles imposed a prophecy upon the Jewish people, and upon the world?” (Kennicott, Dis. i.) — This learned author was greatly encouraged to go on with his ten years’ labour, in examining Hebrew manuscripts over the world, by finding many of them so favourable to the Christian religion, though it had been confidently asserted that all the manuscripts were perfectly uniform. We may rejoice to see that he also approves of the Catholic explanation of this passage, and does not refer the whole to the burial of Christ. In effect, the Apostles’ Creed clearly distinguishes this article from that of the descent into hell. — One. Montfaucon ventures to follow Keri, “thy merciful one.” (Haydock) — Corruption. “Neither wilt thou permit that sanctified body, by which other people are to be sanctified, to become corrupt.” (St. Augustine) — Christ rose again before the holy women had embalmed his body, (Luke xxvi. 53., and Mark xvi. 1.) that no one might attribute the incorruption to that cause. His appearance was so glorious, as to dispel every doubt from the minds of those who would attend to reason. His descent into hell was not in consequence of any weakness, or that he might suffer, (Calmet) as Calvin blasphemously asserts, (Haydock; Tirinus) but he descended in triumph, to liberate the souls of the holy Fathers, (Calmet) or to announce to them the glad tidings of peace, the fruits of which they should shortly enjoy at his ascension, when he would open the gates of heaven to all the faithful. (Haydock)
Ver. 11. Of life. The observance of the commandments, (St. Jerome) or the method of obtaining happiness by patience and humility. (St. Augustine) — Thou hast opened a new track to me (Haydock) in the resurrection, unknown to mortals. (Euthymius; Bellarmine) — For though some had been already raised to life, Christ is still called the first-fruits of those who sleep, or of the dead; because none had raised themselves to life, as he did. (Haydock) (John x. 18.) — Yet he attributes all the glory to the Father, either because he is the origin of the Deity, or because Jesus considered himself as man, and was in all things obedient to his Father. (Berthier) — His sacred humanity was now glorified, and beheld the face of God in a more perfect manner than any mere creature can do, tasting inexplicable delights for ever. (Calmet) — We must die and rise again, (Worthington) before we shall perfectly comprehend the ways of life. Then we shall form a true judgment of all terrestrial things. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Christ’s future victory and triumph over the world and death.
1 The inscription of a title to David himself.
Preserve me, O Lord, for I have put my trust in thee. 2 I have said to the Lord, thou art my God, for thou hast no need of my goods.
3 To the saints, who are in his land, he hath made wonderful all my desires in them.
4 Their infirmities were multiplied: afterwards they made haste.
I will not gather together their meetings for blood-offerings: nor will I be mindful of their names by my lips.
5 The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: it is thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me.
6 The lines are fallen unto me in goodly places: for my inheritance is goodly to me.
7 I will bless the Lord, who hath given me understanding: moreover, my reins also have corrected me even till night.
8 *I set the Lord always in my sight: for he is at my right hand, that I be not moved.
9 Therefore my heart hath been glad, and my tongue hath rejoiced: moreover, my flesh also shall rest in hope.
10 *Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; nor wilt thou give thy holy one to see corruption.
11 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life, thou shalt fill me with joy with thy countenance: at thy right hand are delights even to the end.
8: Acts ii. 25.
10: Acts ii. 31. and xiii. 35.