Psalm xvi. (Exaudi Domine justitiam.)
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Prayer. This psalm contains the model of a fervent prayer, (Haydock) which may be used by any person under affliction. (Worthington) — The Rabbins say David expresses too much confidence in his own integrity, and therefore was soon after permitted to fall; while others assert that he spoke thus after the murder of Urias, to avert God’s wrath from his army before Rabbath. But this supposition is improbable, (Calmet) as well as the other. (Haydock) — The Fathers think that this psalm was composed during the persecution of Saul, and that it contains the sentiments of Jesus Christ and of his Church, under the persecution of infidels. There are some very difficult passages in it. (Calmet) — My justice. Hebrew, “attend to justice,” (Haydock) which amounts to the same thing; as no one would make this petition, unless he supposed that he was in the right. “Hear the justice of my cause.” (Principes) (Berthier) — “Hear the just man.” (St. Jerome) (Haydock) — Lips. I do not attempt to deceive thee, like the hypocrite; or rather I have not acted with deceit, or endeavoured to excite rebellion, as I have been accused. (Calmet) — In my just cause, hear my unfeigned petition. (Worthington)
Ver. 2. Countenance. Pronounce sentence, (Esther i. 19.; Calmet) if I have done wrong. I do not refuse punishment, Psalm vii. 5. (Haydock) — The Greek and Latin copies vary. Some read correctly with the Hebrew, “Let thy eyes behold what is wrong.” Yet St. Jerome (ep. ad Sun.) has “right,” with the Syriac, &c. Others more commonly read, “Let mine eyes behold justice.” (Calmet) — Montanus, however, substitutes rectitudines for iniquitates, as Pagnin had rendered mesharim, and Protestants, “the things that are equal.” (Haydock) — “Holy preachers are the eyes of Christ….let them see what is just….and fulfil the justice which they preach.” (St. Jerome) — God sees all things, and will pass a just sentence. (Worthington)
Ver. 3. Fire. I have experienced all sorts of misery. (Calmet) — Iniquity. Hebrew, “Thou hast not found; I have thought.” But the same word without points, zamothi, (Haydock) has the sense given by the Septuagint and they knew nothing of these points. (Berthier) — We may also translate, “Thou hast not found in me any criminal thoughts. My mouth has not transgressed thy orders.” If some thoughts of taking revenge by killing Saul, presented themselves involuntarily, David repressed them; (Calmet) and when he was alone with him at night in a cave, he would not suffer him to be hurt, 1 Kings xxvi. 7. (Theodoret) — He asserts that he had gone through tribulations without offending. Those who are innocent or penitent, may pray with this confidence; as the Church may, which has always some saints, on which account she is styled holy. (Worthington)
Ver. 4. Men. Houbigant, “My mouth shall not pass to the pretexts of Adam.” I will not seek for excuses in sin. (Haydock) — “My mouth utters not vows to the vain works of men.” (Prin. disc.) — But these versions are singular. (Berthier) — Hard. Hebrew, “way of the robber.” Purits, or prits, (St. Jerome; Haydock) means also “fracture.” (Berthier) — David was ordered by God to retire into the wilderness, and to caves, where he was obliged to live like robbers, (Calmet) and was even branded (Calmet) with the title of a fugitive slave by Nabal, 1 Kings xxv. 10. (Haydock) — Yet the actions of David were very different from theirs. (Berthier) — He did not speak about the works of men, in power to condemn Saul, or any other, being averse to all detraction, and prescribing to himself the strictest laws, (Calmet) which God had ever promulgated. Protestants, “I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. (4) Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips, I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.” The division of the verses is arbitrary. (Haydock) — David kept the narrow path of virtue. (Worthington)
Ver. 5. Perfect. Hebrew, “support” me in these hard ways, where I am in continual danger of falling. (Calmet) — A Deo est incipere, a Deo est finire. (St. Jerome) — God’s grace enables us to begin and to perfect every good work. (Haydock) — None can walk right of themselves. (Worthington)
Ver. 6. Heard me, of former occasions. This encourages me to pray with more confidence (Berthier) and fervour. Bona vota quoties effectum percipiunt, multiplicantur. (St. Gregory, Mor. xxxv. 3.) — Hebrew also, “thou wilt hear me favourably.” (St. Jerome) (Haydock)
Ver. 7. Mercies. We become accustomed to the ordinary effects of grace, which are always admirable; and we are astonished only at miraculous conversions and occurrences. (Origen) — Some such manifestation of the divine power seemed now requisite, to deliver David from such a powerful rival as Saul. (Calmet) — Syriac, “Lord, make thy holy one appear as a prodigy, as the Saviour of those who hope in thee.” (St. Jerome) — “O thou Saviour of those who hope.” (Haydock)
Ver. 8. Eye. God has shewn particular attention to protect the apple of the eye. He watches still more over his servants, (Zacharias ii. 8.) for whom all things procure good, Romans viii. 28. Saul had declared himself against David, because he had been chosen to succeed him, and thus he opposed the designs of God. (Calmet) — The prophet prays that he may never give way to such impiety. (Worthington) — Wings, as a hen does her chickens. (Haydock) — Defend me from the furious countenance of my enemies. (Worthington)
Ver. 10. Their fat. That is, their bowels of compassion: for they have none for me. (Challoner) — They have become fat, and have given way to greater insolence, as we see too often verified, Deuteronomy xxxii. 15., Job xv. 26., and Psalm lxxii. 7. (Chaldean) (Calmet) — Proudly. Libertines are often prompted by vanity to speak as they do against God and man. (Haydock) — If Collins, Tindal, &c., had been cast upon some desert island, they would probably never have written such irreligious works as there would have been none to applaud them. (Berthier)
Ver. 11. Earth, to testify their wrath. So Virgil describes Juno.
Diva solo fixos oculos aversa tenebat. (Æneid 1.)
— Hebrew, ashurenu, is rendered “by our step,” (Montanus) or contemplation. But the Septuagint have explained it as a verb, as well as St. Jerome, (Berthier) who reads, “marching against me; now they have surrounded me,” (Haydock) like wild bulls. (Calmet) — Symmachus, “blessing me, they have presently cast down their eyes, they have prepared snares, to throw me down upon the ground.” They have sought my ruin both by craft and by open force. Even those who were once my friends and admirers, are now turned against me. (Haydock) — He alludes particularly to the courtiers of Saul. (Calmet) — They intend utterly to destroy me, even to the ground. (Worthington) — Hebrew, “by our step they have now surrounded us,” (Montanus) conformably to Keri; though the text, followed by Pagnin, has, “In our path, they have surrounded me.”
Ver. 12. They have taken me, is not expressed in Hebrew. (Haydock)
Ver. 13. Disappoint. Hebrew, “meet him,” as an enemy, Leviticus xxvi. 23. — Thy sword. The wicked are employed by God to chastise the just, and will then be thrown into the fire, Isaias x. 5., and Jeremias l. 23. (Calmet) — They little think that t hey are subservient to the designs of Providence, as they attribute their success to their own might. Whether we beg that God would take his sword from the wicked, or that we may be freed from their malice, is much the same. (Berthier) — Hebrew may express the latter sentiment, “Deliver my soul from the wicked, thy sword, (14) the men of thy hand, worldings, whose portion is temporal, in this life,” &c. (Haydock) — Many other versions may be given: (Calmet) by they all tend to shew the fleeting pleasures of God’s enemies, who are thus rewarded for their transient virtues, and reserved for eternal torments. (Haydock) — Man is not sufficient to resist that power, which they exercise by God’s permission. Hence David begs that it may be taken away. (Worthington)
Ver. 14. Divide them from the few, &c. That is, cut them off from the earth, and the few trifling things thereof; which they are so proud of, or, divide them from the few; that is, from thy elect, who are but few; that they may no longer have it in their power to oppress them. It is not meant by way of a curse or imprecation; but, as many other similar passages in the psalms, by way of a prediction, or prophecy of what should come upon them, in punishment of their wickedness. — Thy hidden stores: thy secret treasures, out of which thou furnishest those earthly goods, which with a bountiful hand thou hast distributed both to the good and the bad. (Challoner) — Of children. Hebrew, “their children are satiated.” (Houbigant) (Berthier) — Some copies read ueion, (Roman Septuagint) instead of uion. “They have been filled with hogs’ flesh.” The mistake was easy in Greek. (Calmet) St. Jerome agrees with the Vulgate. (Haydock) — A numerous family was the great desire of the Jews. David is willing to forego every temporal advantage, and only prays that he may live in his own country, and attend the divine worship in the tabernacle. This was the glory of Israel, ver. 15., and 1 Kings iv. 21. (Calmet) — He predicts the final separation of the wicked from the elect, which sometimes begins in this life. Their worldly joys are hidden or disapproved by God. (Worthington) — They feed on the poor servants of our Lord, (Haydock) whose life is hidden. (Menochius)
Ver. 15. Appear. St. Jerome, “I shall be filled, when I shall awake in thy likeness,” (Haydock) at the resurrection: (Philippians iii. 21., and 1 Corinthians xiii. 12.) or “when thy likeness, the Messias, shall rise again:” or (as the same expression is used by the Septuagint, as [in] Numbers xii. 8.) David begs for actual inspiration, “thou wilt comfort my with the prophetic spirit.” (Calmet) — Perhaps he might also desire to see the tabernacle again, or even now prepare to erect a temple unto the Lord; (2 Kings vii. 2.; Haydock) or he begs for the gifts of grace and glory, which will restore the image of God, effaced by sin, 1 John iii. 2. (Berthier) — Then the just being approved, will taste that joy which alone can satiate the heart of man, when he shall behold God. (Worthington)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
A just man’s prayer in tribulation, against the malice of his enemies.
1 The prayer of David.
Hear, O Lord, my justice: attend to my supplication.
Give ear unto my prayer, which proceedeth not from deceitful lips.
2 Let my judgment come forth from thy countenance: let thy eyes behold the things that are equitable.
3 Thou hast proved my heart, and visited it by night, thou hast tried me by fire: and iniquity hath not been found in me.
4 That my mouth may not speak the works of men: for the sake of the words of thy lips, I have kept hard ways.
5 Perfect thou my goings in thy paths: that my footsteps be not moved.
6 I have cried to thee, for thou, O God, hast heard me: O incline thy ear unto me, and hear my words.
7 Shew forth thy wonderful mercies; thou who savest them that trust in thee.
8 From them that resist thy right hand keep me, as the apple of thy eye.
Protect me under the shadow of thy wings. 9 From the face of the wicked who have afflicted me.
My enemies have surrounded my soul: 10 they have shut up their fat: their mouth hath spoken proudly.
11 They have cast me forth, and now they have surrounded me: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth.
12 They have taken me, as a lion prepared for the prey; and as a young lion dwelling in secret places.
13 Arise, O Lord, disappoint him and supplant him; deliver my soul from the wicked one; thy sword 14 from the enemies of thy hand.
O Lord, divide them from the few of the earth in their life: their belly is filled from thy hidden stores.
They are full of children: and they have left to their little ones the rest of their substance.
15 But as for me, I will appear before thy sight in justice: I shall be satisfied when thy glory shall appear.