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Bible Commentaries

Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Psalms 77

Verse 1

Asaph. David composed this, to declare the rights of Juda to the throne, in preference to the tribe of Ephraim, (Lyranus) which had kept possession of the ark a long time; which was henceforth to be on Mount Sion. (Haydock) --- It seems to relate to the times of Asa, who reunited several of the other tribes to his dominion, (2 Paralipomenon xv. 8.; Calmet) and contains a moral instruction, delivered in the person of Christ, (ver. 2.; Eusebius; Berthier) and submitted to the attentive consideration of the faithful. (Worthington) --- Law. Given to Moses, (Berthier) and sanctioned by the divine authority. (Haydock) --- The law, and the people were not David's, but God's, in whose name he speaks. (St. Gregory in Job ii.) (Worthington)

Verse 2

Propositions. Deep and mysterious sayings. By this it appears, that the historical facts of ancient times, commemorated in this psalm, were deep and mysterious; as being figures of great truths appertaining to the time of the New Testament. (Challoner) --- St. Matthew (xiii. 35.) has, things hidden from the foundation of the world. Hebrew minni kedem, "from of old." St. Jerome, "ancient riddles." (Haydock) --- Mashal and chidoth, "parables and enigmas." frequently denote things very plain, but spoken in a sententious poetic style, Numbers xxiii. 7. (Calmet) --- The facts, &c., of the Old Testament, prefigured the mysteries of the New. (Worthington)

Verse 3

Fathers. Christ might thus speak as man, and he enforces tradition in the strongest terms. (Berthier) --- Only some things were written. (Worthington) --- The most ancient and universal mode of instruction, was by word of mouth. (Haydock)

Verse 5

Testimony. The tabernacle, (Eusebius) or the law which notifies his will. (Calmet) (Menochius) --- He also thrice required the Israelites to perpetuate the memory of what he had done for them, by instructing their children, Deuteronomy iv. 9., and vi. 7., and xi. 19. Both the written and the unwritten word must be carefully preserved, 2 Thessalonians ii. 14. God had freely chosen Abraham, and given him the law of circumcision; as he directed his posterity by the mouth of Moses. (Worthington)

Verse 7

That, &c. This was the end of all the laws and monuments of religion, (Calmet) to increase our confidence, (Worthington) gratitude, and observance of our duty. (Haydock)

Verse 8

Fathers. Some were virtuous, like Moses, Josue, Samuel, &c., ver. 3., and 5. (Berthier) --- But the majority proved faithless. (Haydock) --- To God. Or did not confide in him, or know that without God's grace, no good can be done. (St. Augustine) (Berthier) --- Abraham instructed his house, (Genesis xviii.) and David his subjects, that they might avoid bad example. The same advice regards Christians, 1 Corinthians x. (Worthington)

Verse 9

Battle. Many of this tribe were cut off by the men of Geth, (1 Paralipomenon vii. 21.; Chaldean; Geier.) as they fought without God's command, Numbers xiv. (Worthington) --- They did not defend the ark against the Philistines, though they seemed more bound to do so than the rest, since it was brought from their city, Silo, and they also set the others a pattern of infidelity; (1 Kings iv.; Abenezra) whence they are singled out likewise by Osee. (Berthier) --- The famous victory of Abia against Jeroboam may be also designated, 2 Paralipomenon xiii. (Calmet) --- This had not yet taken place, no more than (Haydock) their captivity, under Salmanazar, which is enigmatically foretold. After this reproach, the whole body of the Israelites is condemned, ver. 10. (Berthier)

Verse 12

Taneos. Hebrew Tsohan, (Haydock) which means, "spreading," either because the plagues spread from this capital, or because it was in a plain, (Berthier) or very extensive, (Haydock) on the eastern branch of the Nile, in the Delta. (Calmet) --- Here Moses wrought his wonders. (Worthington)

Verse 13

Vessel. Literally, "bottle," like walls on either side.

Verse 14

By day. Literally, "of the day." (Haydock) --- But this is the real import of the Greek. The same cloud (Calmet) was both luminous and obscure. When the light side was turned towards Israel, the Egyptians were in darkness. (Haydock) --- The eternal Son of God guided this pillar, and the Israelites tempted him, (ver. 18., and 1 Corinthians x., and Exodus xiii. 21.; Berthier) forgetting their baptism or initiation in the service of God. (Haydock)

Verse 15

Deep. Water was so abundant, and followed them in streams, 1 Corinthians x. 4. (Calmet) --- The first miraculous grant of water was at Horeb, the second at Cades, ver. 20. (Berthier)

Verse 18

Desires. Literally, "souls," as if they were dying for hunger, though they had plenty of manna, Numbers xi. 4. (Calmet)

Verse 19

Ill. Hebrew, "against," (Numbers xi.; Calmet) still distrusting in God's power. (Menochius)

Verse 20

Bread. Including all sorts of food. (Worthington) --- Table. Hebrew, "flesh." It is true we have water and manna, but we want something more solid and agreeable. (Calmet)

Verse 21


God's great benefits to the people of Israel, notwithstanding their ingratitude.

Angry. This is the sense of the Hebrew. Distulit means, "he deferred" (Haydock) to put his threats, (Berthier) or promises, in execution. (Menochius) --- The destroyer punished those who gave way to murmuring, 1 Corinthians x., and Numbers xi. 1. (Calmet) --- Their incredulity was punished (Worthington) for nearly forty years, and all the guilty who were twenty years old at the first numbering, were cut off in the desert. (Haydock)

Verse 23

And. Or "though he had." Berthier has mandavit. "He commanded," would be better rendered, this order being given before the complaints. God had supplied them abundantly with manna from the clouds, as from his granaries. (Calmet) --- Therefore they ought to have trusted in his power and goodness. (Menochius)

Verse 25

Angels. Hebrew also, "of the strong ones." (Aquila) --- Such is the blessed Eucharist, of which manna was only a figure, John vi. The angels prepared this food. (Calmet) --- It was an effect of the divine bounty, not of the power of Moses, John xi. 32. How it could be inferior (Berthier) to the bread which Christ would give, was a riddle to the Jews, as it must be still to all who do not admit the real presence. If both were figures, surely manna was better than common bread. (Haydock)

Verse 26

West wind. Literally, Africum, which blows "from Africa," in this direction, with respect to Jerusalem. (Haydock) --- The same wind may be styled the south wind. Hebrew Kadim, "strong, eastern," &c. (Berthier) --- These quails came from the banks of the southern ocean, or from the Red Sea, as the Israelites were still in Arabia, when they were furnished with them a second time, (Numbers xi. 31.) for a whole month, (Calmet) though there were about three million people. (Berthier) --- God changed the wind, so as to bring them into the camp, Exodus xvi. (Worthington) --- It was before blowing from the south-east. (Menochius)

Verse 31

Israel. St. Jerome applies this to those who receive unworthily, particularly if they be priests, 1 Corinthians xi. 29. (Calmet) --- God selected the most guilty (Berthier) having allowed them to feast for a whole month. (Worthington) --- Then he brought down by death, or "hindered," as it were, "by shackles," (Septuagint) the most valiant. (Haydock)

Verse 32

Still. Notwithstanding this instance of God's severity, they fell shortly after into greater sins, and would have stoned Moses, &c., despairing of ever taking possession of the promised land, which highly displeased God, so that he swore, that none of the rebels should enter it. Many were also slain in the sedition of Core, (Numbers xiii. 17.) and the rest did not live about thirty-eight years. (Calmet) --- Thus about 600,000 perished, (Worthington) having done nothing worthy of praise. (Menochius)

Verse 34

Morning. Those who were spared pretended to repent. (Haydock) --- Afflictions are the source of much good. But the Israelites are blamed for their inconstancy and deceit. (Calmet) --- They came with apparent earnestness (Haydock) to offer the morning sacrifice (Worthington) under affliction. (Menochius)

Verse 38

Their and them, is supplied also by Protestants. (Haydock) --- Hebrew, "he....will forgive sin," &c. This seems more beautiful. (Berthier)

Verse 39

Flesh. The inferior appetite wars against the spirit, Galatians v. 17., and Matthew xxvi. 41. (Haydock) --- Not, in the ordinary course. This does not contradict the faith of the resurrection, which is elsewhere clearly expressed. (St. Jerome) (Calmet) --- Man may go astray, but cannot be converted by his own efforts, Proverbs ii. 19. (St. Augustine) (Berthier) --- God will never abandon the whole Church. The Jews here mark the middle of the psalter, and the 1263d verse, (Worthington) or the division of the book. (Haydock)

Verse 40

How often. It would be difficult to specify. God mentions ten times, Numbers xiv. 22. (Worthington)

Verse 41

Grieved. Hebrew, "set bounds to," or "marked," holding up to scorn, Hebrews vi. 6. Genebrard thinks we might translate, "crucified," hithvu, as this is the root of Thau, which formerly resembled a cross. (Calmet) --- This would surely be one of the most striking enigmas. St. Jerome agrees with us. (Berthier) --- "They pushed on," concitaverunt, as God's wrath must be greatly excited by setting limits to his power and goodness. (Haydock)

Verse 42

Not. How could they so soon forget these prodigies? We might ask, how came Adam to pay so little attention to God's command? How do many act contrary to their better knowledge? Upon occasion of this forgetfulness, the psalmist repeats many of the chief miracles recorded, Exodus vii., and xiii. (Berthier)

Verse 43

Signs. The turning the rod into a serpent. The rest of the signs were also plagues. (Worthington)

Verse 44

Showers. Hebrew, "floods." (Haydock) --- Many have asserted that it does not rain in Egypt: but pretty heavy showers fall, even above Cairo, (Vansleb.; Calmet) though seldom. (Worthington)

Verse 45

Flies. C'e6nomyiam. Many copies of the Septuagint have kynomiam, "the dog-fly," which St. Jerome, (Calmet) and St. Augustine properly correct. (Berthier) (Exodus viii. 24.)

Verse 46

Blast. Hebrew also "the bruchus," (Haydock) a sort of locust, which does great damage in the East. (Calmet) --- Chasil may signify both. (Berthier) --- Ovid speaks of the blast: Interea crescat scabr'e6 rubiginis expers. (Fast. 1.)

Verse 47

Vineyards. Herodotus (i. 77.) says, the Egyptians use "ale, because they have no vines." But he is contradicted by Athen'e6us, &c. --- Trees. Hebrew shikmoth, is supposed to mean sycamore trees. (Calmet)

Verse 48

Fire. St. Jerome, "who gave their pastures to the hail, and their cattle to the birds." Reshaphim is also rendered "coals," by Pagnin. It may denote the thunderbolts. (Haydock)

Verse 49

Angels. Hebrew, "messengers of evil," (Tirinus) as the Septuagint may also signify the good angels. (Amama) --- He ordered Moses and Aaron to denounce his judgments, which he executed either by the devils, (Origen; Worthington) or by the blessed spirits. (St. Ambrose; Exodus xii. 29., and Wisdom xviii. 14.) --- Hence from the effect, (Bellarmine) they may have the appellation of evil. (Theodoret) (Calmet) --- The other plagues are thus briefly mentioned. (Menochius) (Worthington)

Verse 51

Labour. "The first-born," (St. Jerome; Genesis xlix. 3., and Proverbs v. 9.) and their best effects. (Calmet) --- This was the tenth plague. Cham was the father of Misraim, who peopled Egypt. (Worthington)

Verse 53

Not, after they saw the Egyptians destroyed, whom they had feared greatly before. In the desert they enjoyed rest, while their enemies were in the utmost confusion, (Berthier) having lost their king. (Haydock)

Verse 54

Mountain. Hebrew, "term." Greek: Oros, with the soft spirit, means a mountain, (Berthier) and the Vulgate has taken it in this sense in both places, as the Greek accents and spirits are not of greater antiquity or consequence than the Hebrew vowel points. (Haydock) --- The land of Chanaan was very different from that of Egypt, being full of mountains, Deuteronomy iii. 25., and Ezechiel xxxvi. 2. But Sion may be here meant. --- Line. Thus were lands measured, Josue xiii. 8., and xvii. 5. (Calmet) --- God had made a particular choice of this hilly country for his people, (Worthington) and for the chief seat of religion. (Menochius)

Verse 57

The covenant, is omitted in many Greek and Latin copies, as well as in Hebrew. (St. Jerome, ad Sun.) --- Yet it is found in the Vatican edition, (Calmet) as well as in the Alexandrian, Greek: esunthetesan. (Haydock) --- Bow, which hits not the mark. It alludes to the faithless Israelites, (Calmet) particularly to Ephraim, ver. 9., Osee vii. 6., and Jeremias ix. 3. The bow of Jonathan was not such, 2 Kings i. 22. (Calmet) --- A bad bow misses the aim, or breaking, wounds the person who uses it. (Menochius) --- These people hurt themselves by their treachery. (Worthington)

Verse 58

Hills. The high places, in which they imitated the pagans, and which brought on their ruin, Leviticus xxvi. 30. With so much difficulty are people taught to serve God in spirit and truth. They foolishly imagined that they would be nearer the gods. (Berthier) --- Things. Protestants, "images." They have not forgotten to insert this word as usual, to make the ignorant believe that all images are forbidden! (Haydock)

Verse 59

Heard. So he did the crimes of Sodom, Genesis xviii. 20. (Calmet) --- Reduced. Hebrew, "abhorred exceedingly several in Israel." (Haydock) --- The people were not exterminated; but greatly reduced in the time of the judges. (Worthington)

Verse 60

Silo. Where it had remained about 350 years, (Berthier) before the ark was removed, never to be replaced there. (Haydock) --- The tabernacle was afterwards at Nobe, and at Gabaon; whence it was probably removed to the treasury of the temple, (Calmet) and was hidden by Jeremias, 2 Machabees i., and Josue xvii. 1. (Berthier) --- God gave his oracles more particularly where the ark, (Worthington) or the tabernacle, was found. (Haydock)

Verse 61

Their. Hebrew, "his." (Houbigant) --- The ark was an earnest of God's protection, (Haydock) and the glory of Israel, 1 Kings iv. 21.

Verse 62

Sword. So that they could not escape. --- Despised. Hebrew hithhabar, is rendered distulit by St. Jerome, (ver. 21, 59.; Calmet) or non distulit, "he did not delay" to punish, as Erasmus reads. (Haydock)

Verse 63

Fire of God's indignation, (Menochius; Worthington) or of war. --- Lamented. St. Jerome, "its virgins no one bewailed." (Haydock) --- He seems to have read eullu, with the Septuagint. Others translate, (Berthier) "did not mourn," though they were now deprived of the hopes of marriage, (Calmet) or "the virgins were not praised" in the canticles used at the marriage-feast, (Chaldean, &c.) non epithalamio celebrat'e6 sunt, (Montanus) or "married." (Pagnin) (Haydock) --- There was no time to bewail the death of the young men, or the captivity of the women. (Calmet) --- Each one was too solicitous for his own safety. (Haydock)

Verse 64

Priests. Ophni and Phinees, (1 Kings iv. 11.; Calmet) the origin of this calamity, (Haydock) and the high priest himself broke his neck. (Worthington) --- Mourn, plorabantur, intimates rather that the people did not mourn for him. But the Hebrew has this meaning also, fleverunt, (Montanus) sunt flet'e6. (St. Jerome) (Haydock) --- The widow of Phinees died on hearing the sad news; and Eusebius seems to think that grief killed Ophni's widow likewise. (Calmet)

Verse 65

Surfeited. St. Jerome, Chaldean, &c., agree in this sense. But Hebrew may admit another, not quite so harsh, (Calmet) "like a hero who shouts for (Montanus) or sing after wine;" (Haydock) dialalon ex oinou, "rendered talkative by wine." (Symmachus) --- God allowed the Philistines to prosper for a time; but, at last, he covered them with ignominy. (Haydock) --- We must reflect that the Oriental languages are bolder in their expressions than ours, and that this is simply a comparison, not more astonishing than that used by our Saviour, when he says that he will come like a thief in the night. (Berthier) --- If the Spirit of God had not consecrated such comparisons, no one durst have used them. (St. Augustine) --- God rose to punish the infidels, and to preserve his Church. (Worthington) --- The psalmist speaks of him as of a man invigorated by wine, and filled all with confusion. (Menochius)

Verse 66

Parts. As they were fleeing, (Berthier) or with emerods. (Chaldean, &c.) (Calmet) (1 Kings v. 10.)

Verse 67

Ephraim. Who had been preferred before his elder brother, and yet proved the most inclined to idolatry, ver. 9. (Haydock) --- This tribe was deprived first of the ark, and then of the tabernacle, which were its greatest glory, and this strongly indicated the divine displeasure. (Calmet)

Verse 68

Sion. The ark was removed from Cariathiarim, in the tribe of Juda, to the house of Obededom, for three months, and afterwards to the palace or tabernacle on Sion, (Haydock) which God had probably chosen for its fixed abode, towards the beginning of David's reign. (Calmet)

Verse 69

As of unicorns. That is, firm and strong, like the horn of the unicorn. This is one of the chief of the propositions of this psalm, fore-shewing the firm establishment of the one, true, and everlasting sanctuary of God, in his Church. (Challoner) (Menochius) --- It was preserved before Christ, and will remain till the end of time. (Worthington) --- The temple was not built by David: but the spot was consecrated for it, (2 Kings xxiv.) and the ark was placed on Sion; which was the land which he had founded for ever for this purpose. Hebrew ramim, means "unicorns, (Chaldean; St. Jerome) heights, (Montanus) palaces," (Pagnin) &c. Santificium and s anctuarium, have the same import. (Haydock) --- In the land. Hebrew, "as the land." Septuagint have read b for c, as well; (Berthier) and it is observable that Montanus translates the latter, though the former occur in the Hebrew text below, edition 1632: so easily may these letter be confounded! (Haydock) --- The temple was to have the same stability as the earth, and was but one, like the horn of the unicorn, which is most solid and beautiful. (Calmet) --- Yet this could not be understood of the material temple, which was the most magnificent structure in the world. It was fulfilled in the Church of Jesus Christ, who is also the true David, ver. 72. (Haydock) --- The crowning of David, who was his figure, was a great blessing to Israel. (Worthington)

Verse 70

Young. Hebrew also, "giving milk." David was actually with his father's flocks, when he was sent for by Samuel. Saul was also engaged in the pursuits of a country life when he was chosen king: and it would indeed have been difficult to find people of another description among the Israelites, as all followed some business. Cr'9csus observed that he first of his race (Gyges) obtained his liberty and the throne at the same time, as he had kept the flocks of the preceding king. ( Xenophon vii.)

Verse 72

Skilfulness. Literally, "intelligences." Plural words are used to express the greatness of the thing. David was very upright and intelligent. (Haydock) --- This enhances the ingratitude of Ephraim, &c., who divided the kingdom. (Calmet) --- Yet David had fallen into some grievous mistakes, so that this can only belong strictly to Jesus Christ, who is the good shepherd, without sin. (Berthier) --- He has here detailed what may serve to illustrate the law and the gospel, and may fill us either with confidence or with alarm. (Haydock) --- We are astonished at the repeated infidelities of the Israelites. But if three million Christians were placed in the same circumstances, would they behave better? (Berthier)

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Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Psalms 77". "Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.