Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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Psalm 138

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Psalm cxxxviii. (Domine probasti.)

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. David. Some Greek copies add, "a psalm or alleluia of Zacharias in the dispersion," when the Israelites were at Babylon. But Theodoret greatly disapproves of those additions, and explains this psalm of king Josias, while others refer it to David, though it may have no reference to any historical fact, being designed to praise the knowledge of God. (Calmet) --- It is the most beautiful and sublime piece in all the psalter. (Abenezra) --- Proved me. God makes trial of his servants, to let them know themselves, as all thing are open to him. (Worthington) --- Me. Houbigant supplies the omission in Hebrew, "hast known." --- Up. Or all the occurrences of my life, Lamentations iii. 63. (Haydock) --- The expression is similar to that of coming in and going out, Acts i. 21. This may be explained of Christ, whose sufferings and resurrection were foreseen. (Calmet) --- God sounds the very heart, Jeremias xvii. 9., and Romans viii. 27. (Berthier)

Ver. 3. Off. Before they were formed. (St. Chrysostom) --- Line. Or the measure of my life and actions. (Calmet) --- Hebrew, "my lying down," alluding to hares, &c., which are followed to their resting places. (Houbigant) --- Some read, "my direction," (St. Hilary, &c.) or "limit." (St. Augustine) (Calmet) --- The utmost extent of my intention, and the words yet unuttered, are not unknown to thee. (Worthington)

Ver. 4. No speech, &c., viz., unknown to thee: or when there is no speech in my tongue, yet my whole interior and my most secret thoughts are known to thee. (Challoner) --- Vatican Septuagint, "no evil speech." Aldus, "no deceit." (Berthier)

Ver. 5. Last. Hebrew, "what are behind and before:" or, joining it with the sequel, "thou hast formed behind," &c., which seems not so noble. (Berthier) --- See Job x. 18. --- Chaldean, "thou hast afflicted me before and behind, and hast stricken me with thy hand." Hence the Rabbins have ridiculously inferred that God reduced the extraordinary size of Adam after his sin to 100 cubits! The sense of the Chaldean may be adopted, though the hand upon me, in Hebrew, may also signify the divine protection, Psalm lxxix. 18. (Calmet)

Ver. 6. To me. Literally, "from me," ex me. Hebrew, "above me," (Haydock) or "more than I," (Houbigant) which seems little. "The knowledge which thou hast of me is admirable." (Berthier) --- To consider attentively the workmanship of man, we shall be filled with astonishment, (Menochius) as the Jews explain this passage, (Calmet) and as the Vulgate seems to intimate. (Haydock) --- The formation of the body, and its union with the soul, are truly astonishing. This gives the highest idea of the divine wisdom. (Haydock) --- By experience we are convinced that his knowledge surpasses our comprehension. (Worthington)

Ver. 7. Face? or anger. (St. Augustine) (Chaldean) (Calmet) (Isaias xxx. 28.) (Menochius) --- The power of God extends every where, Wisdom i. 7. (Calmet) --- The third divine person is truly God, and immense. (St. Jerome) --- As God's knowledge comprehends every thing, so his presence reaches to all. (Worthington)

Ver. 8. Descend. Hebrew, "make my bed the grave or hell," Job xvii. 13. The living and the dead are equally in God's power. (Calmet)

Ver. 9. In the morning. Shachar is so rendered by St. Jerome. (Haydock) --- Some would understand "the black eagle," (Lyranus) or the east, (Origen) or aurora. The poets assign wings to the sun, &c., Malachias iv. 2. (Calmet)

Ver. 11. Cover. Literally, tread me under foot," conculcabunt. (Haydock) --- Hebrew, "shall cover or be my aurora." (Calmet) --- Pleasures of the most secret kind. All is naked before God. (Haydock) --- The prophet speaks in the name of all who are curious, that darkness itself cannot hide any thing from him. (Worthington) --- He seems also to represent one who seeks to avoid being seen in his pleasures. (Berthier) --- Hebrew, "around me." But it also has the former meaning, and shews that if we seek to indulge ourselves in darkness, it will be all in vain. (Menochius)

Ver. 12. Thereof. Alluding to day and night. (Berthier)

Ver. 13. Reins, and interior. (Theodoret) --- Nothing seems more hidden than a man's entrails, or a child in his mother's womb, who is formed by God, ver. 16., and 2 Machabees vii. 22. (Worthington) --- Protected. Hebrew, "covered," which may also mean formed. (Berthier)

Ver. 14. Magnified. Chaldean and St. Jerome, "hast magnified me." Hebrew seems less correct, "I have been terribly magnified," though the sense is much the same. (Berthier) --- I have been stricken with awe and astonishment at thy works. (Calmet)

Ver. 15. Bone. Hebrew, "substance." --- And my. Hebrew, "and curiously wrought." (Protestants) (Haydock) --- Septuagint have read rather differently, and give a very good sense; "and is my substance in?" &c. Most explain this also of the embryo. But it seems rather to refer to the corpse in the grave, Psalm lxii. 10. (Calmet) (Berthier)

Ver. 16. My imperfect being, &c., viz., When I was as yet but an embryo, in my mother's womb; and even then, in the book of thy knowledge, all the parts and members of my body were exactly set down; which by succession of days were formed, and brought to perfection; and no one of them but what was fashioned by thee. (Challoner) --- Or none shall return from the grave, nemo in eis. (Berthier) --- No man can form the body, Job x. 8. (Worthington) --- None of these days, (Haydock) or men, shall escape thee, (Calmet) or "live for ever." (Syriac) --- The embryo is formed successively, but nothing yet appears of what it shall be. (Petau) --- Protestants, "in thy book all my members (marginal note: all of them) were written, which in continuance were fashioned, (marginal note: or what days they should be fashioned) when as yet there was none of them." (Haydock) --- Imperfect. Chaldean, "body." Syriac, "reward." --- Book here alludes to the list of the living, kept by God, (Exodus xxxii. 32.) or to the decree of predestination, Philippians iv. 3. (Calmet) --- Our first and last state are both horrible, (Haydock) so that hardly any vestiges of man can be discovered. (Berthier) --- We shall find ourselves entire only in eternity, if we have spent our days well. (Haydock)

Ver. 17. Friends. Many pervert this passage, translating "thoughts," because the word may have that sense in Chaldean, (Worthington) though the paraphrase agree with us; (Calmet) and all confess that our version is accurate. The other may also be admitted. While the dead seem to have no longer any existence, the saints are still with God, and the psalmist hopes to rise with them. (Berthier) --- Principality. St. Jerome and Theodoret, "poor," who are generally employed by God in his greatest works, that no flesh may glory in his sight. Though the elect be comparatively few, yet they cannot be numbered (Haydock; Apocalypse vii. 9.) by man. (Worthington)

Ver. 18. I rose up, &c. I have taken a resolution to rise up from sloth and sleep; and to be still with thee, whose friends are so honourable and so happy. (Challoner) --- I hope to persevere in thy service. (Worthington) --- With thee. At my rising, I am still employed in the same manner, and cannot find out the number of thy servants or thoughts. (Haydock)

Ver. 19. If. Hebrew, "surely." (Houbigant) --- From me. How long shall I be forced to live among the enemies of the Lord? (Calmet) --- Since he will reward the good, and punish the wicked eternally, I renounce the society of the latter. (Worthington) --- He specifies murderers, as he had described the wonderful formation of man. (Menochius)

Ver. 20. Because you say in thought, &c. Depart from me, ye wicked, who plot against the servants of God, and think to cast them out of the cities of their habitation; as if they had received them in vain, and to no purpose. (Challoner) --- Thy cities. Sixtus V, &c., read "their." (Calmet) --- Schismatics, and all innovators, endeavour to withdraw all their dependencies from the truth; (St. Augustine) and infidels wish to prevent the propagation of the gospel. (Berthier) --- The enemies of Nehemias, &c., may be here meant, 2 Esdras iv. 2. (Calmet) --- Depart from me, all you who would represent the felicity of heaven to be a dream. (Worthington)

Ver. 22. Hatred. Christ commands, "Love your enemies;" not those who hate God. (St. Augustine) --- We must love in them what God loves, and detest what he condemns. (Theodoret) --- The Jews abused this passage, thinking they might hate those who were not of their nation. (Calmet) --- The example of the prophet might have rectified them. (Berthier) --- Fervent zeal against God's enemies is commendable.

Ver. 23. Paths. No one knowing, without a special revelation, whether he be worthy of love or hatred, (Ecclesiastes ix.) the just submit to God's examination.

Ver. 24. Way. If I be in sin, pardon me, and prepare me for heaven. (Worthington) --- Or I refuse not to be punished, if I imitate sinners. (Calmet) --- This interpretation seems less accurate. (Berthier)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

God's special providence over his servants.

1 Unto the end, a psalm for David.

Lord, thou hast proved me, and know me: 2 thou hast known my sitting down and my rising up.

3 Thou hast understood my thoughts afar off: my path and my line thou hast searched out.

4 And thou hast foreseen all my ways: for there is no speech in my tongue.

5 Behold, O Lord, thou hast known all things, the last and those of old: thou hast formed me, and hast laid thy hand upon me.

6 Thy knowledge is become wonderful to me: it is high, and I cannot reach to it.

7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy face?

8 *If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: if I descend into hell, thou art present.

9 If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea:

10 Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me.

11 And I said: Perhaps darkness shall cover me: and night shall be my light in my pleasures.

12 But darkness shall not be dark to thee, and night shall be light as the day: the darkness thereof, and the light thereof, are alike to thee.

13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast protected me from my mother's womb.

14 I will praise thee, for thou art fearfully magnified: wonderful are thy works, and my soul knoweth right well.

15 My bone is not hidden from thee, which thou hast made in secret: and my substance in the lower parts of the earth.

16 Thy eyes did see my imperfect being, and in thy book all shall be written: days shall be formed, and no one in them.

17 But to me thy friends, O God, are made exceedingly honourable: their principality is exceedingly strengthened.

18 I will number them, and they shall be multiplied above the sand: I rose up and am still with thee.

19 If thou wilt kill the wicked, O God: ye men of blood depart from me:

20 Because you say in thought: They shall receive thy cities in vain.

21 Have I not hated them, O Lord, that hated thee: and pine away because of thy enemies?

22 I have hated them with a perfect hatred: and they are become enemies to me.

23 Prove me, O God, and know my heart: examine me, and know my paths.

24 And see if there be in me the way of iniquity: and lead me in the eternal way.



8: Amos ix. 2.