Psalm l. (Miserere.)
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 2. Bethsabee. Septuagint, “Bersabee.” Some copies add, “the wife of Urias.” (Haydock) — The rest of the title is in Hebrew, &c., so that it is one of the most authentic. Nathan did not give the admonition till about a year had elapsed after the transgression, (2 Kings xii.) when David was made to enter into himself, by a prophet inferior to himself. (Berthier) — After his departure, he is supposed to have composed this psalm, to testify his repentance to all the world. (Calmet) — He had also in view the state of the captives. (Theodoret, &c.) — The two last verses seem to have been added at Babylon, (Abenezra) as a similar addition has been made (Psalm cv. 47., and 1 Paralipomenon xvi. 35.; Calmet) by some inspired author. (Haydock) — David knew that something more than confession was requisite, and that he must submit to temporal punishments, even though the prophet had assured him that his sin was remitted. He prays to be washed still more from evil habits, ver. 4. (Worthington)
Ver. 3. Thy great mercy. Such is the purport of the Hebrew chasdec, though (Haydock) the Chaldean and Syriac omit great. My sin requires the deepest compunction. I must strive to repair the scandal I have given. (Calmet) — Mercies. I stand in need of many sorts, mitigation of punishment, true sorrow and perseverance, and that I may make some amends for my bad example, &c. (Worthington)
Ver. 4. Yet more, by baptism. (Eusebius; St. Ambrose, apol.) — The true penitent never ceases to deplore his sins, like David, St. Peter, and St. Paul, Ecclesiasticus v. 5. The psalmist prays, that all the remains of sin may be obliterated, John xiii. 10. (Worthington)
Ver. 5. Me. I do not forget it, but am covered with shame. (Calmet) — Sin is our greatest enemy, and continually cries for vengeance. (Haydock) — While David did not confess, his sin lay heavy upon him. (Worthington)
Ver. 6. Only, or principally, who art the only God, (1 Timothy i. 17.; Worthington) the judge and witness of my crime. (Haydock) — David was a king, and acknowledged no judge among men. (St. Ambrose, c. x.) — Soli Deo reus est. (Cassiodorus) — Urias, whom he had injured, was no more. (St. Augustine) — The action had been done in secret: (2 Kings xii. 12.) but many began to suspect, and to blaspheme. (Haydock) — Judged. St. Paul reads thus, (Romans iii. 4.) though the Hebrew be, “when thou judgest.” St. Jerome has also judicaberis, so that we might infer, that the Hebrew is now incorrect, or that beshophtec means in judicare te. (Berthier) — Houbigant changes the order of the verses, “cleanse me from my sins, that thou mayst be blameless when thou comest into judgment: For I know,” &c. (Haydock) — Susanna was preserved from sinning by the thought of God’s presence, Daniel xiii. 25. — If David fell, he confessed his fault. (Berthier) — God is faithful to his promises, and desires the conversion of sinners, though some would represent him as cruel, and unconcerned about his creatures. The psalmist prevents this unjust inference, (Haydock) and proves, that God is both just and merciful. (Worthington) — He acknowledges his ingratitude, as the captives confess, that their sins have brought on them this chastisement, though they had not injured the Babylonians. (Theodoret) (Flaminius) (Calmet) — God had often promised pardon to those who truly repent. An appeal is made to his truth and mercy.
Ver. 7. Sins. Hebrew, “iniquity,….and in sin did my mother warm or conceive me.” Original sin has a manifold deformity, and is the fatal root of other transgressions. See St. Augustine, Ench.; St. Thomas Aquinas, i. 2. q. 82. a. 2., est multiplex virtute. (Haydock) — The prophet speaks here undoubtedly of original sin. (Amama) — No text could be more express, as the Fathers and the Jews agree. Yet Grotius, whose opinions are almost always singular, and dangerous, maintains, that the expression is hyperbolical, and only implies, that David had been long subject to sin, even from his infancy, as Job was naturally of a merciful disposition, Job xxxi. 18. — Thus free-thinkers abuse the Scripture, and setting aside all authority, will only see what they think proper. (Calmet) — The weakness of man is a motive for pity: (Menochius) David pleads for it, yet allows, that the fault was entirely his own, and that he had grace sufficient to have avoided it. (Calmet) — The consideration of our sinful origin, ought to move us to beg, that we may be washed still more, and that we may not yield to our evil propensities. (Worthington) — We may resist them, and therefore David would not make vain excuses in sin, as God loves the truth, and a sincere confession. (Menochius)
Ver. 8. Uncertain. Hebrew, “in the interior,” I am full of sin, and thou requirest that I should constantly adhere to virtue. See Job xiv. 1. — To me. This increases my crime, (Calmet) as I cannot plead ignorance. (Menochius) — Those who have true faith, are more easily converted. But God gives to all some good, which he loves in them, and is ever ready to preserve his gifts, and to save his creatures. (Worthington)
Ver. 9. Hyssop, which was used in sprinkling lepers, &c., (Leviticus xiv. 6.) not that the like ceremony, or even sacrifice, would suffice to heal the wound of the soul. Sincere contrition, (ver. 18, 19.) and the virtue of Christ’s blood, are necessary. (Calmet) (Hebrews ix. 19.) — The heat (Numbers xix.) and operation of this sovereign medicine was shewn to the prophet, John xix. (Worthington) — The sprinkling of the priest might be of service, if the heart was contrite, Hebrews ix. 13. (Menochius)
Ver. 10. Rejoice, when thou givest me an assurance of pardon. My bones, or virtue, shall then be restored. Hebrew, “the bones which thou hast broken may exult.” (St. Jerome) (Haydock) — God gives contrition, after which the whole interior is filled with joy. (Berthier) — When the affections are purified, the soul takes delight in God’s word, and revives. (Worthington) — The assurance of being pardoned, gives her fresh alacrity in his service. (Menochius)
Ver. 11. Face. Anger. If the sinner consider his fault, God will forget it. (Calmet) — His justice requires that he should punish the impenitent. (Worthington)
Ver. 12. Create. Hebrew bera, a term never used but for a new production. Whatever comes immediately from God must be pure, and as David had fallen into impurity, he earnestly implores this gift. He prays for the new heart of flesh, Ezechiel xxxvi. 26. (Haydock) — Thou hast said, Behold, I make all things new, Apocalypse xxi. Oh that I may be included, that I may sing a new canticle, having become a new man! (2 Corinthians v. 17., and Ephesians iv. 24.) (Berthier) — Right. Hebrew, “constant,” (Haydock) the Holy Spirit, thy inspiration, or that uprightness, of which I have been deprived. (Calmet) — Bowels, or interior. (Worthington) — These sentiments ought to animate priests, when they hear confessions. (Worthington)
Ver. 13. Spirit of prophecy, which is not withdrawn, except for some crime. (Origen) (Huet. p. 35.) — David had been without this privilege, till his repentance. (St. Athanasius) — Yet St. Chrysostom and Theodoret maintain the contrary. (Calmet) — He prays for final perseverance, which is due to none, (Berthier) and that he may fall no more. (Worthington)
Ver. 14. Salvation, or thy salutary joy, (Berthier) “the joy of thy Jesus,” (St. Jerome) for whom he prays, (St. Augustine) knowing that He will save his people from their sins, and that there is salvation in no other name. (Haydock) — Perfect. Literally, “principal.” Septuagint, “conducting;” such a spirit as may suit one who is to command. (Haydock) — This may denote sound reason, (4 Machabees; Philo Nobil) which keeps the passions under, (St. Chrysostom; Job xxx. 15.) or God himself, to whose Spirit all others should be subservient. Rance often inculcated to his Monks, the importance of having this principal spirit, which includes every virtue, particularly of liberality, as the Hebrew nediba, implies. (Berthier) — “Thy free Spirit.” (Protestants) — How earnestly should we endeavour to be disentangled from all the chains of our passions! (Haydock) — David might also fear, lest he had forfeited the throne, like Saul, whom the Spirit left, 1 Kings x. 9., and xvi. 14. Kings affected to be styled liberal, Luke xxiii. 25. (Calmet) — He repeats his petition thrice, in allusion to the three persons in one God, (St. Augustine, &c.) and prays, that the Messias may still spring from him, notwithstanding his sins, and that he may have a constant and willing spirit to fall no more. (Worthington) — Principal, or liberal, may refer to the Holy Ghost, the fountain of all grace, or to the king, who ought to be generous. (Menochius)
Ver. 15. Thee. The sinner cannot testify his gratitude better, than by promoting the conversion of others. (Worthington) — This is a sort of satisfaction. (Menochius) — While engaged in sin, David could not well exhort his subjects to repentance. His example was rather an inducement for them to transgress. (Berthier)— But when they saw his grief, and knew that God had pardoned him, they were no longer tempted to despair. He also watched more carefully over their conduct.
Ver. 16. Blood, from death, which I have deserved. (St. Athanasius) — That of Urias, and his companions, (Worthington) cries to heaven for vengeance, 2 Kings xi. 24. (Haydock) —Hence the word sanguinibus, is used. (Berthier) — Spare me, and my people. — Justice, which has given place to mercy. (Calmet) — The latter word is here used by Symmachus, and justice may have this meaning. (Theodoret) — Sixtus V reads exaltabit, instead of exultabit, which Septuagint agalliasetai, (Calmet) requires. Hebrew terannen, “shall sing aloud of.” Protestants, “shall praise thy justice.” (St. Jerome) — Extol agrees better with exaltabit, though both have nearly the same sense. (Haydock) — God’s justice will pardon the penitent, as he has promised. (Worthington)
Ver. 18. Sacrifice. If my crime were of such a nature as to be expiated by certain victims, I would surely have offered them: but my heart has offended, and must do penance. (Calmet) — The legal victims were not of themselves sufficient to remit sin. (Menochius) — Contrition was necessary, Isaias lxvi. 2., and Ezechiel vi. 9. (Berthier) — The Scripture often prefers internal, before outward sacrifices. This of the heart must precede those of justice, and of praise. (Worthington) — The heart must be broken, to make place for love. Compunction is thrice urged. The two first terms in Hebrew are the same, “contrite,” (Haydock) broken, or disconcerted. Kateklasthe philon etor. (Homer, Odyssey) (Menochius) — The captives might adopt this prayer, Daniel iii. 39. (Calmet) — External sacrifices are commended in the next verses, as they are good, (Haydock) being instituted by God. (Menochius)
Ver. 20. Deal. These two verses have no necessary connexion with the preceding: they may have been added by some prophet at Babylon, (Calmet) or David foresaw the destruction of the city by the Chaldeans. (St. Chrysostom) — He might fear that his sin would draw ruin on the capital, as a much less offence did, and as in all ages, the sins of the rulers have fallen on their subjects, 2 Kings xxiv. (Haydock) — Though the place was not destitute of fortifications, (Calmet) he might pray that they might be completed, (Berthier) as they were by Solomon, who built the temple and various walls, so that David might very will add this conclusion, (3 Kings iii. 1., and ix. 15.; Haydock) alluding to the sacrifices which should be offered in the future temple. (Berthier) — He insinuates, that his pardon may prove beneficial to his people, and sues for it to be granted for their sakes. (Menochius)
Ver. 21. Justice; works of piety, (Psalm iv. 6.) or victims vowed or prescribed by the law; the same which are afterwards styled holocausts (Calmet) by two different terms, hola and calil. (Haydock) — The latter includes fruits, &c. (Calmet) — While we are in sin, our good works are less acceptable. (Menochius)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The repentance and confession of David after his sin. The fourth penitential psalm.
1 Unto the end, a psalm of David, 2 when Nathan, the prophet, came to him, after he had sinned with Bethsabee. [2 Kings xii.]
3 Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy.
And according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my iniquity.
4 Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
5 For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me.
6 To thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before thee; *that thou mayst be justified in thy words, and mayst overcome when thou art judged.
7 For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.
8 For behold thou hast loved truth: the uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast made manifest to me.
9 *Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.
10 To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness, and the bones that have been humbled shall rejoice.
11 Turn away thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
12 Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels.
13 Cast me not away from thy face; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
14 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit.
15 I will teach the unjust thy ways: and the wicked shall be converted to thee.
16 Deliver me from blood, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall extol thy justice.
17 O Lord, thou wilt open my lips: and my mouth shall declare thy praise.
18 For if thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt-offerings thou wilt not be delighted.
19 A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
20 Deal favourably, O Lord, in thy good-will with Sion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up.
21 Then shalt thou accept the sacrifice of justice, oblations and whole burnt-offerings: then shall they lay calves upon thy altar.
6: Romans iii. 4.
9: Leviticus xiv.; Numbers xix.