Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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Psalm 87

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Psalm lxxxvii. (Domine Deus salutis.)

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Maheleth. A musical instrument, or chorus of musicians, to answer one another, (Challoner) in doleful music. (Worthington) --- See Psalm xli., and lii. (Menochius) --- Hebrew may imply, "on infirmity, (Montanus) or sorrow," from ele. (Berthier) --- The subject is very mournful, and relates to the captives, and to Christ's suffering. (Calmet) --- Understanding. Or a psalm of instruction, composed by Eman, the Ezrahite, or by David, in his name. (Challoner) --- We read of Eman, a descendant of Juda by Zara, (1 Paralipomenon ii. 6.; Calmet) and if he composed this piece, as the Jews and Lightfoot improbably suppose, it must be the most ancient (Calmet) writing extant. (Haydock) --- There was a son of Joel, and a seer of king David, of the same name, 1 Paralipomenon vi. 33., and xxv. 1. But they are not styled Ezrahites. This person was probably the brother of Ethan, the Ezrahite, who might be young under David, and a man of consummate wisdom under his successor, 3 Kings iv. 31. The psalm may express the sentiments of David, or of any other under tribulation, as well as those of Jesus Christ, (Berthier) who speaks herein, (Houbigant) and who expects that we should answer him by an imitation of his virtues. (St. Augustine) (Worthington) --- The Ezrahite. Hebrew haezrachi. (Haydock) --- Septuagint, &c., read incorrectly, "Israelite," (Calmet) and some copies have "Aitham," or Ethan, as in the following psalm, instead of Eman. (Haydock)

Ver. 2. Thee. The psalm 21st is nearly similar to this. My prayer is continual. (Calmet)

Ver. 3. Prayer. It is represented as a person prostrated before God. Homer (Iliad ix.) says, that "supplications are the daughters of Jupiter, lame....with the eyes downcast, and following after injuries," which admirably shews the conditions requisite for prayer. (Calmet)

Ver. 4. Hell. The grave, or captivity. (Calmet) --- Our Saviour said, My soul is sorrowful unto death. [Matthew xxvi. 38.] David, Jeremias, or the captives, were not reduced to this extremity. (Berthier)

Ver. 5. Pit. Like a slave confined every night in prison, Exodus xii. 29.

Ver. 6. Free. Hebrew also "separated" from society, 4 Kings xv. 5., and 2 Paralipomenon xxvi. 21. (Calmet) --- Christ, after enduring the greatest miseries was still free. He could resign his life, and take it up again, John x. 18. (Haydock) --- The Fathers adopt this explanation, which is very striking. (Calmet) --- Hand. Thou actest as if thou hadst forgotten the corpse in the dust, till the time of the resurrection. (St. Augustine) (Berthier) --- In the mean while, those who formerly made such a noise in the world, are effaced from the book of life, or from God's register. He is often represented as a great monarch, keeping an account of his troops. (Calmet) --- He cannot forget any of his creatures, (Berthier) though he may not restore them to life as yet. (Menochius) --- Christ possessed infinite power among the dead, (Worthington) who are free from the cares of this world. (Menochius)

Ver. 7. They. Hebrew, "thou hast." --- Shadow. Hebrew, "in the depths," seem to have read a, v, and m, in those two places, which are now wanting. (Houbigant) --- The Chaldean has, the shadow of death, as well as the Vulgate. All this regards Jesus Christ, though it may be applied to any in distress. (Berthier) -- The wicked endeavour to kill the soul by sin, as well as the body. (Worthington) --- Great difficulties entangle the psalmist: Christ descends into hell. (Menochius)

Ver. 8. Waves. Of afflictions. Christ bore our iniquities. (Haydock)

Ver. 9. Delivered up, to prison. (Berthier) --- The disciples abandoned our Saviour; St. Peter, with a curse, denied that he ever knew him, (Mark xiv. 71.; Haydock) and Judas betrayed him. It is not so easy to explain this of the captives in general, though it might refer to the psalmist. (Calmet) --- At Babylon, the Israelites were not imprisoned, but left to multiply, Jeremias xxix. 5. (Berthier)

Ver. 10. Poverty. Or "affliction." (Symmachus) --- To thee, for aid, (Psalm xxvii. 2.) or to implore pardon for sinners. Thus Jesus prayed for us on the cross, (Calmet) with his hands stretched out ready to receive the penitent. (Haydock) --- Septuagint have read rupaim ikimu for ropaim ikumu, "shall the dead arise?" (Amama)

Ver. 11. Physicians. St. Jerome, "will the giants rise again?" (Haydock) --- These were heroes of great renown. (Calmet) --- But they were consigned to hell, whence there was no redemption, Job xxv. 5., and Proverbs ix. --- The author insinuates that if the true adorers be cut off, God's external glory will be diminished. (Haydock) --- This argument is often pressed, Isaias xxxviii., and Psalm cxiii.--- Rephaim (Haydock) denotes physicians, as well as giants, Genesis l. 2., and 2 Paralipomenon xvii. 12. The Thalmud sentences "the best of them to hell." (Amama) --- Their power does not extend to the dead. (Berthier) --- The psalmist prays to be preserved from death, not expecting to be raised again miraculously. (Worthington) --- Yet Christ contemplates his future glorious resurrection. (Haydock)

Ver. 13. Of, &c. Septuagint, "forgotten land." Securos latices & longa oblivia potant. (Virgil, Æneid vi.) (Calmet) --- When dead, I shall not be able to sound forth thy praises before men: much less shall those do it, who are confined to the regions of darkness. (Worthington)

Ver. 15. Prayer. Some copies of the Septuagint read "soul," with the Hebrew, &c. (Calmet) --- Why dost thou neglect to grant my request, which I urge with all the earnestness of my soul? (Haydock) --- This may relate to Jesus in the garden. (Calmet) --- His prayer prevents, or is presented early, (Menochius) and with the truest fervour to the Lord, who moves us to pray. (Haydock)

Ver. 16. Exalted. On the cross, or arrived at the years of manhood, (Berthier; Worthington) I have experienced the greatest contradictions. David was brought up in poverty, like our Saviour, and the exaltation of both was attended with great trials. (Berthier) --- The life of Christ was a continual martyrdom. (Menochius) --- He had all his sufferings in view from his first conception.

Ver. 17. Troubled me. The enemy has laid waste the country. This agrees with Christ in his agony. (Calmet) --- Unhappy the sinner, upon whom the wrath of God remains, (John iii. 36.) and does not merely come; literally, pass, transierunt. (Berthier)

Ver. 19. Misery. Hebrew, "darkness." Thou hast permitted my friends to abandon me, and hast exposed me to disgrace. (Calmet) --- They were afraid lest they might be involved in my calamities, (Menochius) if they appeared in my defence, (Haydock) or seemed to know me. (Du Hamel)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

A prayer of one under grievous affliction: it agrees to Christ in his passion, and alludes to his death and burial.

1 A canticle of a psalm for the sons of Core: unto the end, for Maheleth, to answer, understanding of Eman, the Ezrahite.

2 O Lord, the God of my salvation: I have cried in the day, and in the night before thee.

3 Let my prayer come in before thee: incline thy ear to my petition.

4 For my soul is filled with evils: and my life hath drawn nigh to hell.

5 I am counted among them that go down to the pit: I am become as a man without help, 6 free among the dead.

Like the slain sleeping in the sepulchres, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cast off from thy hand.

7 They have laid me in the lower pit: in the dark places, and in the shadow of death.

8 Thy wrath is strong over me: and all thy waves thou hast brought in upon me.

9 Thou hast put away my acquaintance far from me: they have set me an abomination to themselves.

I was delivered up, and came not forth: 10 my eyes languished through poverty.

All the day I cried to thee, O Lord: I stretched out my hands to thee.

11 Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? or shall physicians raise to life, and give praise to thee?

12 Shall any one in the sepulchre declare thy mercy: and thy truth in destruction?

13 Shall thy wonders be known in the dark; and thy justice in the land of forgetfulness?

14 But I, O Lord, have cried to thee: and in the morning my prayers shall prevent thee.

15 Lord, why castest thou off my prayer: why turnest thou away thy face from me?

16 I am poor, and in labours from my youth: and being exalted, have been humbled and troubled.

17 Thy wrath hath come upon me: and thy terrors have troubled me.

18 They have come round about me like water all the day: they have compassed me about together.

19 Friend and neighbour thou hast put far from me: and my acquaintance, because of misery.