Psalm xxxvi. (Noli æmulari.)
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Himself. Hebrew has simply, “for David,” (Calmet) as well as the Greek of the Vatican. “It is a mistake in Bellanger to say in general that the Greek adds “a psalm,” since this is true only with respect to the edition of Aldus and Complutensian, says Berthier. But he is not quite accurate, as Erasmus inserts “a psalm” in his edition of St. Jerome’s Septuagint; and the Alexandrian copy, which is equally famous with that of the Vatican, has [unto the end, a psalm] for David. Grabe has indeed marked all but the last word as a peculiarity, or not to be found in Origen’s copy. But he has published his edition with such accuracy, that we may distinguish what his manuscript contained from other interpolations. It were to be wished that the same attention had been paid to the Vatican copy. But hitherto all the editors have taken the liberty to make alterations without specifying where; so that we can have no security that we ever quote the real manuscript of the Vatican. The learned prefect, Zacagni, gives abundant proof of this in his letter to Grabe, which has been published by Kennicott, Diss. 2. Yet any of these editions may be quoted as the Greek or Septuagint, as we have yet no copy perfectly authentic: and the learned are not even agreed which standard ought to be followed. If that which presents the greatest number of Origen’s corrections be preferable, the Alexandrians manuscript must bear away the psalm . If the reverse, the glory must be given to its rival in the Vatican, which approaches the nearest to the koine, or to the edition of St. Lucian. See Kennicott. These remarks may be of service, as Berthier often seems inclined to place the Vatican edition on the same level with the Latin Vulgate. (Haydock) — This psalm is alphabetical. The Syriac, Septuagint, &c., read, (ver. 28) the unjust, &c., avilim; a word which seems now to be deficient in the Hebrew, which has no verse beginning with a. (Calmet) — Some other derangement has taken place. (Houbigant) — The verses might be so divided as to begin every second verse with a fresh letter, and so to retain 42 verses. See ver. 7., and 20. The matter is of no great importance. The prophet has comprised several duties in alphabetical order, to help the memory, (Berthier) and to excite attention. (Worthington) — He may predict the death of Saul, (Rabbins) or hint at the rebellion of Absalom in his old age; (ver. 25.; Ferrand) or rather he may comfort the captives at Babylon, promising them liberty, and denouncing the fall of their oppressors, above ten times. He admonishes them not to be scandalized at the distress of the just, and the prosperity of the wicked. (Calmet) — Emulous. Hebrew, “Fret not thyself.” (Protestants) “Mingle not with;” (Berthier; Pagnin) “contend not.” (St. Jerome) (Haydock) — Envy. Their splendour is deceitful. (Calmet) — Be not, therefore, seduced (Haydock) to imitate the wicked (Menochius) nor offended, that they should prosper here. (Worthington)
Ver. 2. Wither. Hebrew, “be cut down.” (Calmet) — Fall. Hebrew, “wither.” (St. Jerome) (Haydock) — This admirably describes the transient glory of sinners, Isaias xl. 6., and James i. 10. (Calmet) — All life is short. (Worthington) (1 Peter i. 24.) (Menochius)
Ver. 3. Riches. Septuagint and Houbigant read emune, “abundance.” Hebrew begins with a. The sense is much the same. (Berthier) — “Thou shalt feed on faith,” (St. Jerome) or “incessantly.” (Symmachus) — The Jews entertained the greatest desire of the promised land. (Calmet) — It may here denote our soul, (Origen) the Church, (St. Augustine) the Scriptures, (St. Athanasius) or heaven. (St. Jerome, &c.) (Calmet) — Trust in God and be content. He will give thee what is requisite. (Worthington)
Ver. 4. Heart. Provided they be rational. (St. Augustine) — He will enable thee to repose in peace, and to taste innocent pleasures in the Lord. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. Commit. Literally, “lay open.” Hebrew, “roll.” (Haydock) — This expresses the most unbounded confidence, Psalm liv. 23., and Proverbs xvi. 3. — Do it. Whatever may be proper. He will display thy justice, (ver. 6.) and free thee from anxiety, (Calmet) taking care of thee, 1 Peter v. 7. (Menochius)
Ver. 6. Day. This will appear at the last judgment. (St. Augustine)
Ver. 7. Be. Hebrew dom, begins only this verse with d. The other letters occupy two verses, (Berthier) the second of which may commence with any of the letters. (Haydock) — “Be silent to the Lord; wait upon Him.” (St. Jerome) (Haydock) — If he should suffer thee to be afflicted, envy not those who are in a more prosperous condition, nor give way to indignation, ver. 8. (Calmet) — None can be truly subjected to God, who do not comply with his laws and pray. (Origen) (St. Augustine) — We must wait patiently for his aid, Lamentations iii. 26., and Isaias xxx. 15. “Allow the gods to judge what’s best for us.” (Juvenal, Sat. 13.) (Haydock)
Ver. 8. Evil. Repining (Menochius) at the ways of Providence, &c. (Calmet) (ver. 1.) — Reflect on God’s will. (Haydock) — Laboras; sed in viâ Dei. (St. Augustine) — Hebrew, “be not angry nevertheless (ac, a word which Houbigant deems useless) to do evil;” (Montanus) or “against the wicked,” (Prin. dis.) as lehareah may be perhaps signified; though it is more usually taken for a verb, as the points decide. (Berthier)
Ver. 9. Land of the living. (Worthington) — David knew that many truly pious people would never obtain riches in the land of Chanaan, even though they might have remained there, if the nation had been faithful. He therefore comforts them with the prospect of a better land. If this were not the meaning, the Church would put these canticles in the mouth of her children to little purpose. (Berthier)
Ver. 10. While. Till the day of judgment. (Origen; St. Ambrose) — And shalt. Hebrew, “and it shall not be.” (Protestants) “it, or he shall not subsist.” (St. Jerome) (Haydock) — The state of the wicked is not therefore so enviable. The captives witnessed the fall of the great Colossus, the empire of the Babylonians. (Calmet)
Ver. 11. Meek. Hebrew hanavim, also means “the afflicted.” (Berthier) — Captives, ye shall be reinstated in your dear country. Our Saviour alludes to this text, (Matthew v. 4.) and the Fathers beautifully explain it of heaven. (Eusebius; St. Augustine) (Calmet) — What is now become of those who have heretofore filled the world with tumult and bloodshed to obtain dominion! They are confined to the land where everlasting horror and no order dwells. They would wish they had never existed, as our Saviour mentions; while those who passed through life unknown, or despised, but always seeking God, are now arrived at the summit of all their wishes. (Haydock) — O holy religion! thou explainest all these things. The just have ceased to exist: but their better part has inherited the land of the living. Yet a little while, and all will be in order, and in its proper place; though that of the wicked deserves not the name. (Berthier)
Ver. 12. Watch. Hebrew, “plot against.” (Haydock) — Teeth. In rage to destroy him, (Calmet) whose virtue is a continual censure of his impiety. (Haydock)
Ver. 13. Laugh. This expression is often used to denote the triumph of divine justice, whose day will set all right: that day (2 Timothy iv. 8.) which ought to be constantly before our eyes. (Berthier) — God cannot indeed mock at any one. (Calmet) — But the wicked “deserve scorn and vengeance.” (Haydock) — Digni sunt ut irrideantur in vindictâ . (St. Jerome) — The day of their judgment or condemnation is at hand, (Ezechiel xxi. 25., and 1 Kings xxvi. 10.; Haydock) when they will be sought for in vain (ver. 10.; Calmet) by their foolish admirers. They will seek to hide themselves from the indignation of the Lamb.
Ver. 14. Heart. Hebrew, “of way.” Protestants, “such as be of upright conversation.” Only those whose heart is pure, will observe the right path. (Haydock)
Ver. 15. Broken. In the form of imprecation, he foretells the event. (Worthington) — Hebrew is in the future, to imply as much. (Berthier)
Ver. 16. Wicked. Hebrew, “of many wicked,” or “of the impious great ones.” (Haydock) — What the just man hath, is preferable to the immense riches of sinners, acquired by injustice. In this sense Hesiod and Psittacus said, “half is more than all.” The wicked are never satisfied, Ecclesiastes iv. 6., and Proverbs xiii. 25. Riches are a dangerous temptation, (Calmet) and the sentence is generally true, “every rich person is either unjust or the heir of one who has been such,” (Haydock) aut hæres injusti. (St. Jerome) — It is difficult for the rich to enter heaven; and the unjust are certainly excluded. Yet if we confined our views to this world, it is evident that the rich may better procure the sweets of life. (Berthier)
Ver. 17. Arms of the body, brachia. All that they have admired perishes in death, (Calmet) while the just then possess true riches.
Ver. 18. Days, or “ways,” according to some copies of Septuagint. (St. Augustine, &c.) God approves the conduct of the just. He takes notice of the time of their sufferings, and comforts them during life, (Calmet) yea, for ever.
Ver. 20. Because. Only this verse begins with c, as the seventh does with d. (Haydock) — Smoke. All their riches shall vanish, and their works be disregarded by God. But they will not be annihilated, as they would desire; otherwise the justice of God would not be executed on them. (Berthier) — There is a continual antithesis between the good and bad. The latter shall shortly lose all their splendour. “I fear, lest offending the gods, I may receive glory among men,” said the poet Ibicus, (Calmet) conformably to our Saviour’s declaration concerning the vain-glorious, they have received their reward, Matthew vi. 6. Hebrew, “shall be as the fat of lambs, consumed and reduced to smoke.” (Haydock) — St. Jerome seems to have read differently, “boasting like unicorns, they shall be consumed, as smoke, they shall be consumed.” Syriac and Chaldean intimate that they shall be like victims, “fattened” for slaughter, and burnt. (Calmet)
Ver. 21. Give. Having both the will and the power to be liberal. (Haydock) — “He shall lend without expecting any advantage, while the wicked falls into such misery as not to be able to pay his debts. This is not always the order of Providence. (Calmet) — But the just is often enabled by economy to relieve his brethren, at the same time that the libertine wastes his estate, (Berthier) or at least unjustly defers to pay his debts. (Menochius)
Ver. 22. Bless him. The just, (ver. 21.; Prin. disc.) or rather the Lord, ver. 20. (Berthier) — “Are blessed of him,” &c. (St. Jerome) (Chaldean) (Haydock)
Ver. 23. With. Or by the decrees of the Lord. The Hebrew and Septuagint have, “By,” para. (Berthier) — God gives grace to do all good, (Proverbs xvi. 9.; Calmet) and likes the way which He points out. The just also find the greatest consolation in virtue. (Haydock)
Ver. 24. Him. To break the fall. Hebrew, “the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” (Protestants) (Haydock) — The just man is like a courageous wrestler, who may slip, but yields not. (Origen; Eusebius) — His fall is not mortal, (Calmet) though he may be guilty of venial sin, Proverbs xxiv. (Worthington)
Ver. 25. Seeking, in vain. (Haydock) — Roman and Gothic Ps.[Psalters?] read, “wanting.” This does not condemn the mendicant orders. (Menochius) — Nothing was more unusual under the old law than the extreme distress of the just: yet Job and Lazarus were reduced to it. They were not, however, discontent. (Calmet) — They found the bread of life in conformity to God’s will, John iv. 34. (Haydock) — Their souls were enriched with grace, which was never wanting, as the Fathers explain this passage. (Berthier) (Amos viii. 11.) — It is certain that there were poor among the Jews; (Deuteronomy xv. 11.) and who would assert that they were all wicked, or the children of such? Yet the prophet had not witnessed (Calmet) any person renowned for virtue reduced to this condition, (Haydock) though he does not deny but it might be possible. (Calmet) — The proposition may be restrained to those who have been very charitable, and who are not often thereby reduced to want, Daniel iv. 24. (Genebrard) (Menochius) — But the word just is more comprehensive; and St. Paul gives several instances of persecuted saints (Hebrew xi.) which is confirmed by the parable, or rather by the history, of Lazarus. (Berthier) — At any rate, the Church is never deprived of the word of God. (St. Augustine) (Worthington)
Ver. 26. Lendeth. “To receive interest,” daneizei, from God, Proverbs xix. 17. (St. Augustine, &c.) (Calmet) — He maketh know the divine word. (Origen)
Ver. 27. Dwell in the land of the living, rather than in that of promise, from which many just people were banished during the captivity. (Berthier) — He who complies with these two conditions, will inherit heaven. (Worthington)
Ver. 28. Saints. Hebrew, “merciful ones.” He will free them from captivity. (Calmet) — Punished. This sentence seems to be improperly omitted in Hebrew, which otherwise neglects the letter a, as the Chaldean, Syriac, and St. Jerome do as well as a few copies of the Septuagint. The Roman edition with the Arabic and Ethiopic, reads amomoi ekdikethesontai, “the innocent shall be avenged,” (Calmet) or “punished;” which is inaccurately put for anomoi ekdiochthesontai, the wicked shall be punished, or “expelled;” (Berthier) though Grabe prefers the former verb. (Haydock) — St. Cyril acknowledges both readings. (Calmet)
Ver. 31. Supplanted. The devil shall have no advantage over the just, (Calmet) who aim constantly at perfection. (Origen)
Ver. 32. Death, mortificare. Some read perdere, or occidere. The wicked are constantly laying snares for destruction, (Calmet) and to draw others into mortal sin. (Worthington)
Ver. 33. Judged, “by him.” Illi seems to be superfluous; (Berthier) or it implies that God will revise the sentence of wicked judges. (Haydock) — The just have nothing to fear. God will pass an equitable sentence, and the condemnation of men shall do no harm. (Origen) — The mistakes of human tribunals prove the necessity of a general judgment.
Ver. 34. See the truth of these maxims. (Calmet) — While the wicked enjoy power they often conceal their injustice, which appears as soon as the veil is removed by death, when people cease to fear them. (Haydock)
Ver. 35. Cedars, &c. Septuagint have read differently from the present Hebrew and present a more beautiful sense. (Calmet) — Protestants, “and spreading himself like a green bay-tree, (marginal note: or “a green tree that groweth in his own soil,”) yet he passed away, and lo,” &c. (Haydock) — Ezrach, denotes an evergreen, (Rabbins) “a laurel covered with verdure.” (Calmet) — Houbigant has “a cedar,” ezrach.
Ver. 36. I passed. This is better than the Hebrew, “it has passed,” transivit, as a tree changes not its place, and all the ancient interpreters agree with us. (Berthier) — His place, is not expressed in Hebrew. But it implies that every vestige of the proud is soon lost. This might serve to curb the violence of those who disturb mankind! (Haydock) — The wicked may here refer to Nabuchodonosor, the devil, Judas, &c. (Calmet) — We may behold the riches of sinners with our bodily eyes: but if we consider them with the eyes of faith, they presently vanish. (St. Ambrose; St. Augustine)
Ver. 37. Remnants, or rewards. (Worthington) — Hebrew acharith, “the reward,” (Pagnin) “the last end of man is peace,” (Montanus; Haydock) or “the posterity (ver. 38.) of such a man shall be happy.” (Calmet) — “There are future things for the peaceful.” (Symmachus) — The expectations of the just are not confined to this world. They have something laid up for heaven, whereas the wicked have nothing. (Haydock) — These lose all by death; and the thought makes them take refuge in the foolish hope of being annihilated. (Berthier)
Ver. 38. Together. At the last day, (Haydock) or all without exception shall perish; the wicked, with their posterity and riches. (Worthington)
Ver. 39. Salvation. This is an effect of God’s grace. (Worthington)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
An exhortation to despise this world; and the short prosperity of the wicked; and to trust in providence.
1 A psalm for David himself.
Be not emulous of evil doers; nor envy them that work iniquity.
2 For they shall shortly wither away as grass, and as the green herbs shall quickly fall.
3 Trust in the Lord, and do good, and dwell in the land, and thou shalt be fed with its riches.
4 Delight in the Lord, and he will give thee the requests of thy heart.
5 Commit thy way to the Lord, and trust in him, and he will do it.
6 And he will bring forth thy justice as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day. 7 Be subject to the Lord, and pray to him.
Envy not the man who prospereth in his way; the man who doth unjust things.
8 Cease from anger, and leave rage; have no emulation to do evil.
9 For evil doers shall be cut off: but they that wait upon the Lord, shall inherit the land.
10 For yet a little while and the wicked shall not be: and thou shalt seek his place, and shalt not find it.
11 *But the meek shall inherit the land, and shall delight in abundance of peace.
12 The sinner shall watch the just man: and shall gnash upon him with his teeth.
13 But the Lord shall laugh at him: for he foreseeth that his day shall come.
14 The wicked have drawn out the sword: they have bent their bow;
To cast down the poor and needy, to kill the upright of heart.
15 Let their sword enter into their own hearts, and let their bow be broken.
16 Better is a little to the just, than the great riches of the wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken in pieces; but the Lord strengtheneth the just.
18 The Lord knoweth the days of undefiled; and their inheritance shall be for ever.
19 They shall not be confounded in the evil time; and in the days of famine they shall be filled: 20 because the wicked shall perish.
And the enemies of the Lord, presently after they shall be honoured and exalted, shall come to nothing, and vanish like smoke.
21 The sinner shall borrow, and not pay again: but the just sheweth mercy and shall give.
22 For such as bless him shall inherit the land: but such as curse him shall perish.
23 With the Lord shall the steps of a man be directed, and he shall like well his way.
24 When he shall fall, he shall not be bruised, for the Lord putteth his hand under him.
25 I have been young, and now am old; and I have not seen the just forsaken, nor his seed seeking bread.
26 He sheweth mercy, and lendeth all the day long; and his seed shall be in blessing.
27 Decline from evil, and do good; and dwell for ever and ever.
28 For the Lord loveth judgment, and will not forsake his saints: they shall be preserved for ever.
The unjust shall be punished, and the seed of the wicked shall perish.
29 But the just shall inherit the land, and shall dwell therein for evermore.
30 *The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom; and his tongue shall speak judgment.
31 *The law of his God is in his heart, and his steps shall not be supplanted.
32 The wicked watcheth the just man, and seeketh to put him to death.
33 But the Lord will not leave him in his hands; nor condemn him when he shall be judged.
34 Expect the Lord and keep his way: and he will exalt thee to inherit the land: when the sinners shall perish thou shalt see.
35 I have seen the wicked highly exalted, and lifted up like the cedars of Libanus.
36 And I passed by, and lo! he was not: and I sought him, and his place was not found.
37 Keep innocence, and behold justice; for there are remnants for the peaceable man.
38 But the unjust shall be destroyed together: the remnants of the wicked shall perish.
39 But the salvation of the just is from the Lord, and he is their protector in the time of trouble.
40 And the Lord will help them, and deliver them: and he will rescue them from the wicked; and save them, because they have hoped in him.
11: Matthew v. 4.
30: Proverbs xxxi. 26.
31: Isaias li. 7.