Psalm xxxi. (Beati quorum.)
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Understanding; (Protestants mascil.; Haydock) shewing how he was brought to acknowledge his fault, and by penance to obtain pardon, (Worthington) justly giving the glory to God’s grace. (St. Augustine) — Alexandrian Septuagint, [“A psalm] to David,” of understanding; which is taken from some other copy. (Haydock) — Some suppose this word has been inserted from ver 8. (Abenezra) — But there are several other psalms which have this title, (Haydock) intimating either that they contain great mysteries, (Eusebius) or that they are easy to understand. (Agellius) — This is wholly of a moral nature. The Jews style it the heart of David, because it displays his sentiments of contrition. (Calmet) — He composed it most probably after Nathan had engaged him to confess his fault. [2 Kings xii.] (Bellarmine) — It might be used on the solemn feast of expiation. (Grotius, Numbers xxix. 7.) — The Fathers explain it of the grace which we receive in baptism and in penance. (St. Augustine; St. Gregory, &c.) (Calmet) — Are they. Hebrew, “The blessings of him whose iniquity.” (Pagnin) — But the sense is the same, and St. Paul follows the Septuagint, which gives their version the highest authority, Romans iv. 7. — Sins; or, “who is screened from the punishment of sin.” (Prin. disc.) Sin has often this signification; and the psalmist would otherwise seem to say less than he had already expressed. (Berthier) — Covered, by charity, (1 Peter iv.) as a physician covers a wound, to remove it entirely; and we must cover our former transgressions, by doing good works. (St. Gregory) — Then our sins will not appear at the day of judgment, (St. Jerome) nor be punished, as they are wholly destroyed. The Pelagians calumniated Catholics, as if they taught that sins were only shaven, as it were, the roots still remaining; which St. Augustine (contra 2 ep. Pelag. i. 13.) says, “None affirmeth but an infidel.” Thus the doctrine of Calvin is condemned; who abuses these texts to prove that sins are only covered, and still remain even in the most just; which is contrary to innumerable passages of Scripture, (Isaias vi., John i., 1 Corinthians vi., &c.) and injurious to the perfections of God, and to the redemption of Christ, as well as to the saints in heaven, who are thus represented as still infected with all their sins. (Worthington) — This doctrine is now almost abandoned by Protestants, as it is contrary both to sound philosophy and divinity: for sin is nothing physical, but a want of moral rectitude. (Berthier) — God cannot fail to punish sin, wherever it really subsists. His spirit is surely free from guile. He cannot suppose that we are just by imputation of Christ’s justice, unless we be really so. (Haydock) — By means of the sacraments the sinner becomes just, and God sees nothing in him deserving of punishment. (Calmet) — “If any one wishes his sins to be covered, let him manifest them to God, by the voice of confession.” (St. Gregory) — But, replies a Lutheran commentator, “God does not forget sin.” What is this to the purpose, as long as the sin does not subsist in the offender? He allows that “the pardon of sin is inseparable from sanctification.” Renew a right spirit within my bowels, Psalm l. 12. (Berthier) — The man who has felt real compunction, will be able to form a true notion of the happiness of a reconciliation. (Calmet) — Covering may allude to the custom of writing on wax, which might easily be effaced. Our sins are recorded in the book of God’s justice. (Menochius)
Ver. 2. Spirit. Symmachus has “heart,” or “mouth.” (Calmet) — The latter is also in some copies of the Septuagint. (Eusebius) — The Roman and Alexandrian Septuagint have it, though Grabe substitutes spirit, (Haydock) which is recognised by St. Jerome (ad. Sun.), Hebrew, &c. Nothing is so contrary to true repentance as hypocrisy. (St. Augustine, &c.) (Calmet) — If we do not co-operate with God’s grace, our sins will never be effaced, though, before remission, our works can only dispose us to receive pardon. “God (and meritorious) works follow.” (St. Augustine) (Worthington)
Ver. 3. Because I was silent, &c. That is, whilst I kept silence, by concealing, or refusing to confess my sins, thy hand was heavy upon me, &c. (Challoner) — The cry was then only an effect of vanity, like that of the Pharisee, full of his own merits; (St. Augustine; St. Jerome; Calmet) or David was silent till Nathan made him know his fault, which he afterwards ceased not to deplore. (Theodoret) — It is supposed that he had continued impenitent for above a year. But he might fell remorse during that time, ver. 5. (Berthier) — Cried. Hebrew, “roared,” like a lion. (Calmet) — Because I acknowledged not my grievous sins, I was much afflicted. I prayed, but to little purpose. (Worthington) — Wishing to conceal the cause of my grief, (Calmet) I pined away, (Haydock; Lamentations iii. 4.) and suffered greatly, because I did not confess. (Menochius)
Ver. 4. I am turned, &c. That is, I turn and roll about in my bed, to sek for ease in my pain, whilst the thorn of thy justice pierces my flesh, and sticks fast in me. Or, I am turned; that is, I am converted to thee, my God, by being brought to a better understanding by thy chastisements. In the Hebrew it is, my moisture is turned into the droughts of summer. (Challoner) (Protestants) (Haydock) — But the Septuagint may have taken l for a preposition before shaddi, as the Greek interpreters say nothing of this moisture, which is the interpretation of modern Jews; and St. Jerome has (Berthier) “I was turned or occupied, in my misery;” versatus sum in miseria mea. There is no peace for the wicked. (Haydock) — God has not punished David exteriorly till after the admonition of Nathan, when so many evils poured upon him. But the king must have experienced cruel agonies of mind, till he was prevailed on by this wise physician to confess his fault, (Calmet) and thus let out the imposthume, which would not allow him to enjoy any repose. — Fastened. St. Jerome, “while the summer (or heat; ęstas) was burning incessantly,” sela. Hebrew becharbone kayits means also in gladios spina. “The thorn has been turned into swords for my affliction;” (Berthier) or I have been as grievously tormented, as if a thorn or sword had pierced me. (Haydock) — Thy divine Providence chastises me, and my conscience tells me that I have deserved all my sufferings. (Worthington) — Many of the ancients read, while the thorn is broken, confringitur, Ps. Rom.[Roman Psalter?]; St. Gregory; Calmet) which causes the extraction to be more difficult. (Haydock) — This thorn may denote sin, which like a weed, had infected David’s soul. (Theodoret) (Calmet)
Ver. 5. Sin. Or as some psalters read, “of my heart,” with the Septuagint, Cassiod., &c. (Calmet) — “I know that thou wilt readily forgive the sins which are fully laid open before thee.” (St. Jerome) — David no sooner perceived that he was the unjust man (Haydock) whom Nathan had described, than he exclaimed, “I have sinned;” and at the same moment God forgave him, 2 Kings xii. 7. (Calmet) — If this psalm relate to his repentance, it seems he had already had recourse to God; but this is doubtful, as he appears to have entered into himself only after the prophet’s reproach. Nothing can more effectually give peace to the soul than an humble confession, which costs human pride a great deal, when it must be made to our brethren. (Berthier) — The Jews were sometimes obliged to confess to God’s minister, Leviticus iv. 5., and Numbers v. 7. (Menochius)
Ver. 6. Holy. Even the angels rejoice at the sinner’s conversion, Luke xv. 7. The saints take part in the welfare of their fellow creatures, and praise God for his mercies shewn unto them. (Calmet) — Time. During this life, (Isaias lv. 6., Ecclesiastes ix. 10.; Chaldean; Muis) or when they shall be treated in like manner. (Piscator) — As I now repent, so must those who are afflicted, pray that they may obtain pardon; then they will not be oppressed, though their miseries may appear very great, like a deluge. (Worthington) — Yet. Hebrew rak, “surely.” (Berthier) — “Therefore shall every merciful one pray unto Thee, finding time; that when many waters shall inundate, they may not approach unto him.” (St. Jerome) (Haydock) — A deluge denotes great calamities, Isaias xliii. 2. Even the terrors of the last day will not disturb the just, (Calmet) nor will they inspire the wicked with true repentance. (Haydock)
Ver. 7. Refuge. Hebrew, “hiding,” (Psalm xxx. 21.; Haydock) or asylum. (Calmet) — Which. Hebrew, “thou shalt surround me with songs of deliverance. Sela.” Or “my praise saving, thou wilt environ me always.” (St. Jerome) (Haydock) — Perhaps th may now occupy the place of m, as the Greeks all agree; and the sense is at least the same. (Berthier)
Ver. 8. Fix. Hebrew, “consult with my eyes concerning thee.” The Vulgate, better. (Calmet) — Protestants marginal note, “my eye shall be upon thee.” (Haydock) — God thus engages to watch over, and direct his servant, (Genesis xliv. 21., and Jeremias xxiv. 6.; Calmet) giving him instruction, by means of chastisements. (Worthington)
Ver. 9. Do not. This may be spoken by God, or by the psalmist; as an admonition to hear the counsel of those divinely commissioned. (Calmet) — Who come. Protestants, “lest they come near,” (Haydock) and threaten to bite or to run over thee. (Calmet) — But the Hebrew may have the sense of the Vulgate, qui non accedunt. (St. Jerome) — It may be a prayer, that God would offer a sort of violence to restrain the sallies of the sinner, (Haydock) and to convert him; (Worthington) or God threatens the obstinate with rigour of his justice. Many delude themselves, thinking that he will always treat them with lenity, and be ready to receive them. (Berthier) (Isaias xxxvii. 29.) But the prophet admonishes them not to follow their senses alone, nor to imitate brute beasts, as he had done with regard to Bathsabee and Urias. (Menochius) — The bit (camus) was a sort of muzzle, “to hinder horses from biting.” (Xenophon)
Ver. 10. Many. Sinners deserve much punishment. But if they will repent they may find mercy. (Worthington) — This may be also the declaration of God, though the prophet seem to speak in the next verse. (Berthier) — God humbles the pride of haughty monarchs, like Sennacherib and Nabuchodonosor, treating them like beasts. (Calmet)
Ver. 11. Glory, which is lawful when God is the object, 1 Corinthians i. 31. My glory I will not give to another, Isaias xlii. 8. (Calmet) — Hebrew, “praise him.” (St. Jerome) (Haydock) — Joy is the end of true penance, to which the prophet invites all. (Worthington)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The second penitential psalm.
1 To David himself, understanding.
Blessed *are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
3 Because I was silent, my bones grew old; whilst I cried out all the day long.
4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: I am turned in my anguish, whilst the thorn is fastened.
5 I have acknowledged my sin to thee, and my injustice I have not concealed.
*I said, I will confess against myself my injustice to the Lord; and thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my sin.
6 For this shall every one that is holy pray to thee in a seasonable time.
And yet in a flood of many waters, they shall not come nigh unto him.
7 Thou art my refuge from the trouble which hath encompassed me: my joy, deliver me from them that surround me.
8 I will give thee understanding, and I will instruct thee in this way, in which thou shalt go: I will fix my eyes upon thee.
9 Do not become like the horse and the mule, which have no understanding.
With bit and bridle bind fast their jaws who come not near unto thee.
10 Many are the scourges of the sinner, but mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye just, and glory, all ye right of heart.
1: Romans iv. 7.
5: Isaias lxv. 24.