Psalm xxxviii. (Dixi custodiam.)
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Idithun was one of the four chief masters of music, called Ethan, 1 Paralipomenon vi. 44., and Idithun, 1 Paralipomenon xvi. 41. Some think that he was the author of this psalm; but it was rather given to him by David to sing. (Calmet) — The title shews that the psalms were designed for the public service of the Church, and not for David alone. (Berthier) — This refers to the Christian Church, though some explain it of the Jews in captivity, (Worthington) with R. Salomon, while others think that it was composed during some of David’s persecutions. It is connected with the preceding, and with the two next psalms. (Calmet)
Ver. 2. Tongue. The matter is very delicate and important, James iii. 2., Proverbs xviii. 21., Isaias xxxii. 17., and Ecclesiasticus xxii. 33., and xxviii. 28. — Me, and was treating me with injustice and calumny. (Haydock) — Chilo, the sage, said: “I know how to bear ill treatment,” (Laert. 1.) and this is a proof of “the greatest wisdom and virtue.” (Haydock) — Outos kratistos. (Menander) (Calmet) — Weak men seek revenge; but the wise resolve to govern their tongues, and do not stand up in their own just defence, though they be, therefore, more persecuted. (Worthington)
Ver. 3. Renewed. I was conscious of no offence against my enemies, (Haydock) but I reflected that I had forfeited my virtue, (Eusebius) and therefore gave vent to my grief. (Haydock) — Being afraid of saying any thing amiss, I refrained from saying what was good. But I perceived that this was wrong. (St. Augustine) — I deprived myself of all pleasure. (Calmet) — The seven first verses detail the arguments used by philosophers to comfort man, which all prove of little service. We must have recourse to God, ver. 8. (Berthier)
Ver. 4. Out. This alludes to his sorrow for his sins, (Origen) or to the fire of charity, which is enkindled by meditation on the last end, &c., (ver. 5.) or rather it means, that while he repressed his tongue, he could not but feel an inward zeal and indignation, (Calmet) in consequence of grief suppressed. (Worthington) — See Jeremias xx. 9. (Menochius)
Ver. 5. End, as I desire to die, like Elias, 3 Kings xix. (Worthington) — The just have frequently expressed such sentiments, to move God to pity, (Job vii. 1., and Psalm ci. 4.) though they wished to live, that they might praise God on earth, (Calmet) if it were his will. (Haydock) — This text may indicate the impatience (Berthier) of the mere philosopher, (Haydock) or David desires to know to what a decree of perfection he must arrive. (Origen; St. Ambrose)
Ver. 6. Measurable. Hebrew, “of a hand’s breadth.” (Haydock) — Symmachus, “a spithame, or twelve fingers’ breadth,” perhaps in allusion to the Greek proverb, a “spithame of life;” which denotes one very short. (Drusius) — The Greek copies vary: some read, (Calmet) with the Vatican palaias, “ancient;” and others of the palestra with the Alexandrian palaistas, or “contentious.” I am obliged always to wrestle with my adversaries. (Grotius) — My days are short, and spent in conflicts. (Haydock) — St. Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, &c., mention both. The former word is adopted by the Arabic, Ethiopic, &c.; but the Hebrew has tephachoth, “of a palm,” or four fingers’ breadth; (Calmet) and St. Jerome breves, “short.” (Haydock) — Substance. St. Jerome, “life.” Hebrew, “age.” — Living. Hebrew, “standing,” how well soever he may seem to be established. Protestants, “at his best estate, is altogether vanity. Selah.” (Haydock) — The wisest of men confirms this at large, Ecclesiastes i. 1. (Calmet) (James iv. 14.) — “What is this long while which has an end?” (Cicero, pro. Marcel.) (Menochius)
Ver. 7. Image, “of God.” (St. Gregory, &c.) Hebrew, “in a shadow or darkness,” where the fall of a leaf affrights him. Life is so short and miserable, why should we strive to heap up riches? (Calmet) — For whom. Hebrew, “who shall gather,” &c. (Haydock) — The term is used respecting harvest rather than money. (Calmet) — Hebrew has disquieted in the plural, and the rest of the words in the singular; but St. Jerome agrees with us, conturbatur….& ignorat cui dimittat ea. (Haydock) — The prophet still utters complaints. One step farther is necessary to ensure peace. (Berthier) — He acknowledges that his life is but a shadow, and that we ought not to grieve for temporal losses. (Worthington)
Ver. 8. Substance. Septuagint hypostasis. Hebrew, “hope.” (Haydock) — I can depend only on thee. (Calmet)
Ver. 9. Thou hast. Hebrew lo, “do not;” ne, or nonne; or “hast thou not made?” &c., as the following verse intimates. (Berthier) — Thou hast suffered me to be reproached by the foolish, who prosper in this world. (Worthington) — The fool may denote the devil, (St. Jerome; Origen) and all the lovers of iniquity. (Flaminius) (Calmet)
Ver. 10. It. St. Augustine reads “me,” conformably to some copies of the Septuagint, Arabic, &c. (Calmet) — He is at a loss to explain the reason of the prophet, and suggests that this perhaps ought to be referred to the following sentence, “Because thou hast made me, remove,” &c. (Haydock) — Such is the inconvenience of having incorrect copies. (Amama) — The Alexandrian and Vatican Septuagint both have me, (Haydock) which his omitted in Complut. (Calmet) — David knew that he was scourged by divine Providence. (Worthington)
Ver. 11. In (thy) rebukes, belongs to the next verse in Hebrew and Septuagint, referring to man in general, unless the prophet mean himself. (Berthier)
Ver. 12. Spider. St. Jerome, “moth.” Symmachus, “thou dissolvest like corruption his desirable thing;” (Haydock) which means the soul, (Berthier) or “beauty.” (Protestants) Remorse of conscience and God’s judgments make a man pine away. — Disquieted is obelized in the Septuagint. (St. Jerome, ad Sun.) (Calmet) — It is not found in the Alexandrian and Comp. edition (Haydock) and seems to be taken from ver. 7. It does not alter the sense. (Berthier) — “Man is vanity always.” (St. Jerome) — As a spider which has consumed its moisture, so he decays. (Worthington)
Ver. 13. Were. 1 Paralipomenon xxix. 15. I can expect aid from no other but thee. (Calmet) — Heaven is our home. (Worthington) — “Life is a travelling from home.” (Plato in Axiocho.)
Ver. 14. More. In a state to do good. (Worthington) — Grant me relief, Ecclesiastes ix. 10., and Job vii. 8. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
A just man’s peace and patience in his sufferings; considering the vanity of the world, and the providence of God.
1 Unto the end, for Idithun himself, a canticle of David.
2 I said: I will take heed to my ways: that I sin not with my tongue.
I have set a guard to my mouth, when the sinner stood against me.
3 I was dumb, and was humbled, and kept silence from good things: and my sorrow was renewed.
4 My heart grew hot within me: and in my meditation a fire shall flame out.
5 I spoke with my tongue: O Lord, make me know my end,
And what is the number of my days: that I may know what is wanting to me.
6 Behold thou hast made my days measurable: and my substance is as nothing before thee.
And indeed all things are vanity: every man living.
7 Surely man passeth as an image: yea, and he is disquieted in vain.
He storeth up: and he knoweth not for whom he shall gather these things.
8 And now what is my hope? is it not the Lord? and my substance is with thee.
9 Deliver thou me from all my iniquities; thou hast made me a reproach to the fool.
10 I was dumb, and I opened not my mouth, because thou hast done it. 11 Remove thy scourges from me.
12 The strength of thy hand hath made me faint in rebukes: thou hast corrected man for iniquity.
And thou hast made his soul to waste away like a spider: surely in vain is any man disquieted.
13 Hear my prayer, O Lord, and my supplication; give ear to my tears.
Be not silent; for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.
14 O forgive me, that I may be refreshed, before I go hence, and be no more.