Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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Psalm 23

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Psalm xxiii. (Domini est terra.)

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Week. This title was found only in the common edition of the Septuagint. (Theodoret) --- The Jews say the psalm was used on Sunday; (Berthier) and the Fathers explain it of the resurrection and ascension of our Lord, whom it regards in the more sublime sense, though it may also be literally explained of the temple, or translation of the ark, 2 Kings vi. 12. (Calmet) --- David appointed when the psalms were to be sung, Ecclesiasticus xlvii. 12. This speaks of the creation. (Menochius) --- St. Paul applies the first verse to Jesus Christ, whom he styles the Lord, (1 Corinthians x. 26.) and Creator, of whom David speaks. It is wonderful that so few have noticed this excellent proof of Christ's divinity. The authors of Principles Discussed, according to their general system of two literal senses, explain this psalm of the re-establishment of the Jews after the captivity, and of the propagation of the Christian Church; and it is not clear that two senses ought not to be admitted. But we must, at least, admit that the prophet speaks literally of Jesus Christ (Berthier) as well as of the ark, &c. --- Therein. Though God be the Creator of all, he seems to have made a particular choice of Sion. Before the coming of Christ, all, except a few Jews (Calmet) and enlightened Gentiles, like Job, (Haydock) were buried in sin and ignorance. But now his kingdom is propagated widely; and in every place the Father is adored in spirit and in truth. (St. Augustine, &c.) --- All power is given to Jesus Christ, who rose again on the first day of the week. Not only the earth, but all that is in it, belongs to the great Creator. (Worthington)

Ver. 2. Founded, or created it (Berthier) upon (Hebrew hal. "above, in, near, to, with," &c.; Amama) the seas, like a floating island, Proverbs viii. 29., Jonas ii. 7., Job xxxviii. 11. This was the language of the ancients: Ipsa natat tellus Pelagi lustrata corona. (Manil. Astr. 4.) The earth was at first covered with water, Genesis i. 9., and Psalm ciii. 6. (Calmet) --- Seas and caverns have received part of it, which was poured out again at the deluge. Several have rejected the antipodes, falsely supposing that there is water all under the earth, which the Scripture does not assert. (Amama) (Haydock)

Ver. 3. Place. The punishment of the Bethsamites, and of Oza, had filled all with alarm, so that David durst not introduce the ark into his palace, 1 Kings vi. 19. (Calmet) --- Though Christ created and redeemed all, yet only the just shall inherit felicity. (Worthington)

Ver. 4. Heart, whose faith and intentions are pure, as well as their actions. --- Vain, by neglecting good works, (St. Jerome) or seeking after trifles; (St. Augustine) or rather, according to the Hebrew, "who hath not sworn in vain by his soul," 2 Corinthians i. 23., and 1 Kings i. 26. To take the name of God in vain, means to swear falsely. (Calmet) --- Protestants, "who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity;" to swell with pride, (Haydock) or to swear by idols. (Pr. in disc.) --- To his, &c. This is not in Hebrew but must be understood, (Calmet) as a person can only intend to deceive men. So Duport, who follows the Hebrew so exactly in his Greek psalms in verse, (Berthier) reads, "Nor sworn an oath, that men he might deceive." (Haydock) --- These two verses contain an abridgment of the gospel, and shew that something better than Mount Sion is understood, Hebrews xii. 22. When we approach to the tabernacle, and to the sacred mysteries, we ought to put these terrible questions to ourselves. (Berthier) --- We must carefully employ ourselves in good works, (Worthington) by which alone we can make our calling and election sure, 1 Peter i. 10. (Haydock)

Ver. 5. Blessing. David seems to have given the eulogium of Obededom, whose example taught him that the ark was only terrible to the wicked; and that it was a source of blessings to the just, 2 Kings vi. 11. --- Mercy. Hebrew, "justice." But these terms are used synonymously, and denote that God gives a just reward; "when he crowns our merits, he crowns his own gifts." (St. Augustine; Theodoret) (Calmet) --- Mercy goes before; good works must follow, to obtain eternal glory. (Worthington)

Ver. 6. The face. Hebrew, "Thy face, O Jacob, always." (St. Jerome) --- Protestants (marginal note, God of) Jacob. Selah. (Haydock) --- Thus they intimate that the Hebrew is imperfect. All the preceding virtues belong to Jesus Christ, who obtained mercy for us. The generation of Adam multiplied, (Genesis v. 1.) and soon forgot the Lord: but it shall not be so with the disciples of Christ, who must delight in fervent prayer, and in the constant practice of good works; and not merely serve him in certain fits of devotion. (Berthier) See Proverbs xxix. 26. (Menochius)

Ver. 7. Princes; or, "lift up your chief or highest gates:" portas principes. Hebrew, "gates, lift up your heads." Here the gates themselves are addressed, while the Septuagint and Vulgate turn the discourse to the porters or princes. (Berthier) --- The tops of the gates must be raised, to let the triumphal car pass through, Isaias vi. 4., and Amos viii. 3., and ix. 1. The Church has constantly understood this passage of Christ's ascension. The saints in his train address the angels, who appear to be filled with astonishment. (Theodoret; Eusebius) (Calmet) --- The gates of heaven are more properly styled eternal, than those of the temple, which were not yet erected; or of Jerusalem, which should be (Berthier) soon demolished. (Haydock) --- This apostrophe to the gates is very striking, commanding them to allow more room for the crowd to pass in the train of the conqueror, who was usually seated on a lofty chariot. (Calmet) --- The prophet contemplating the ascension of Christ, inviteth the angels to receive him; and by the figure, prosopopeia, speaketh also to the gates by which he is to enter. (Worthington) --- Homer (Iliad 8.) represents the Hours as door-keepers of heaven removing a thick cloud, which obstructs the entrance. (Haydock) --- These gates are supposed to open, by being lifted upwards. The Greeks style them cataracts, Genesis vii. 11. (Tournemine)

Ver. 8. Who. This is the question of the Levites, when the ark approached, or of the angels in heaven, who hold a dialogue with the attendants of Christ. These return a satisfactory answer only at the second demand, having first given four titles to their great king. (Berthier) --- Some of the Fathers suppose that the angels in heaven were not acquainted with the incarnation. (St. Justin Martyr, dial.; Theodoret; St. Jerome in Isaias lxiii.) But the latter here asserts that the good and bad angels hold a dialogue, or that the former address the spirits in limbo, announcing to them their speedy deliverance in consequence of Christ's victory over the devil. The dialogue is rather (Calmet) between the angels in heaven, and the spirits of the just, (St. Athanasius) or other angels, who accompanied Christ in his ascension. (Calmet) --- The angels express their admiration of the glory with which Christ, (Worthington) in our human nature, (Haydock) was environed; and the prophet replies, that he had overcome all his opponents, and again orders the gates to open. (Worthington) --- The angels were not ignorant, but gave occasion to a further display of the conqueror's dignity, and expressed their surprise that men should enter heaven. (Menochius)

Ver. 10. Hosts of all heavenly powers, (Worthington) and the arbiter of war. (Haydock) --- Both Jews and foreigners were convinced that God granted victory to his people, if they had not forfeited his favour by their crimes, as in the case of Achan, and of the sons of Heli, Josue vii., and 1 Kings iv., and Judith v. 24. The title of Lord of hosts, was very applicable to Christ after his victory. (Calmet) --- Glory. St. Jerome adds, "for ever;" thus frequently sela seems to form a part of the sentence though it be neglected by the Vulgate, &c. (Haydock)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Who they are that shall ascend to heaven: Christ's triumphant ascension thither.

1 On the first day of the week, a psalm for David.

The *earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; the world, and all they that dwell therein.

2 For he hath founded it upon the seas; and hath prepared it upon the rivers.

3 Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord: or who shall stand in his holy place?

4 The innocent in hands, and clean of heart, who hath not taken his soul in vain, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbour.

5 He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God, his Saviour.

6 This is the generation of them that seek him, of them that seek the face of the God of Jacob.

7 Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in.

8 Who is this King of Glory? the Lord, who is strong and mighty: the Lord mighty in battle.

9 Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in.

10 Who is this King of Glory? the Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory.



1: Psalm xlix. 12.; 1 Corinthians x. 26.