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Bible Commentaries

Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Psalms 88

Verse 1

Ezrahite. Septuagint, &c., " Israelite, " as in the former psalm. The Jews think that Ethan or Eman lived during the Egyptian bondage. But this psalm was rather composed by one of the captives at Babylon who bewails the destruction of the kingdom of Juda, under Sedecias. After he had detailed the promises of God, (ver. 39.; Calmet) David might write it in the person (Haydock) of Ethan, or Idithun, 1 Paralipomenon xxv., and 3 Kings. iv. 31. (Worthington) --- Most of the Fathers explain it of Christ's kingdom. See Psalm cxxxi. 11., and Jeremias xxxiii. 17. (Calmet) --- The sceptre or administration of affairs was to continue in the tribe of Juda till his coming, as it really did, though kings were not always at the head of the people. (Berthier)

Verse 2

The. Septuagint and Houbigant, " Thy mercies, Lord." --- Truth. Notwithstanding our distress, I know thou wilt perform thy promises. (Calmet)

Verse 3

For thou. Hebrew, "I." Yet St. Jerome agrees with the Septuagint, (Berthier) though he is quoted by Calmet as conformable with Aquila, &c., Dixi. --- Heaven and earth shall pass away sooner than God's word. (Haydock) --- If we do not see how his promises are accompanied we must confess our ignorance, or throw the blame on the sins of the nation: but never call in question the divine mercy. (Calmet) --- Truth. I will perform what I have promised to thee. (Menochius) --- The apostles, represented by the heavens, have, by their preaching, established by the Church for ever. (Worthington) --- In them, is not in the Septuagint, St. Augustine, &c. (Calmet) --- Houbigant would remove Dixisti, "for thou," &c., to ver. 4. (Haydock)

Verse 4

Elect. Abraham, and the whole body of the people to whom the Messias had been promised. David was assured that he should spring from his family, ver. 52. (Calmet)

Verse 5

Generation. David's posterity occupied the throne for a long time, (Haydock) and subsisted till the coming of Christ; so that if any conqueror of that family had then appeared, the Jews would not have hesitated to admit, that this prediction was fulfilled. It is there misfortune to understand the text in this sense, whereas God spoke of the spiritual kingdom of his Son, which is to be perpetual. They can never answer the argument which the Fathers urged in the 4th century, and which has attained fresh strength from the longer duration of misery under which the royal family of David has been depressed. It is plain, that it has enjoyed no power from many ages, and as God's word is invariable, He could not have promised an everlasting earthly dominion. (Berthier) --- The temporal kingdom of David decayed at the captivity, and is now wholly destroyed. But Christ was of this family, and established the Church, his spiritual kingdom, which shall continue unto the end. (Worthington) --- His ministers exercise a power, which is founded on truth and justice. See 2 Kings vii. 9. (Calmet)

Verse 6

Saints. These alone, (Haydock) the heavens or angels, worthily proclaim thy praises. (Haydock) --- Preachers announce the same in the Church, (St. Augustine) "the communion of saints, " as none are found out of her society. (Haydock)

Verse 7

Sons. Angels (Calmet) to God the Son. None is like him. (St. Jerome) --- Lucifer fell by aiming at it. I will be like to the Most High, Isaias xiv. 14.

Verse 8

About. God eclipses every created beauty. (Haydock) --- The angels themselves tremble before him. (Calmet)

Verse 9

Truth. He often praises this attribute, as if to excuse himself for asking, why God had debased the throne of David? (Calmet) --- God cannot be divested of this perfection. (Du Hamel)

Verse 10

Power. Hebrew, "pride." Thou canst raise a storm, or restore a calm. (Calmet)

Verse 11

Proud one. Hebrew Rahab, Egypt or Pharao, Psalm lxxxvi. 4., and Isaias li. 9. (Calmet) He alludes to the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians, &c. (Worthington)

Verse 13

Sea. Hebrew, "the right," (Calmet) which here denotes the south, (Psalm cvi. 3.; Menochius) as Hermon may do the east, (Du Hamel) with reference to Thabor, which lies to the west, though this seems unusual. (Calmet) (Berthier) --- The north, &c., more probably refers to the limits of the promised land, from Libanus to the Indian or Mediterranean sea; and from Hermon, on the north-eastern part, to Thabor, on the west. (Haydock) --- These two mountains were particularly fertile, and seemed to rejoice. (Berthier) --- They "shall praise thy name," Greek: euphemesousi. (Symmachus) (Haydock)

Verse 14

Might. Others can make no resistance with all their armies.

Verse 15

Preparation. Hebrew, "basis." --- Face. Like guards. (Menochius) --- He extols the mercy, and still more the fidelity of God. (Calmet) --- Whether he punished, or reward, all tends to promote his glory, and is perfectly just. (Worthington)

Verse 16

Jubilation. Hebrew, "how to sound the trumpet," which was the office of priests. They marched near the ark, as it were under the eyes of God. (Calmet) --- Those who consider, and adore the ways of Providence, are blessed, (Worthington) and secure. (Menochius)

Verse 18

Horn. Power and kingdom. (Worthington) --- He speaks like a virtuous Levite, who acknowledges that all good came from the Lord. (Haydock) --- He cannot speak of temporal blessings alone. (Berthier)

Verse 19


The perpetuity of the Church of Christ, in consequence of the promises of God: which notwithstanding, God permits her to suffer sometimes most grievous afflictions.

Israel. The Lord our king, (1 Kings viii. 7.) will protect us, (Haydock) or He will defend our King David, and his posterity, as he then promised to him, ver. 5, 20. These verses may be thus connected, as the psalmist had been led to praise the wonderful works of God, and now returns to his promises. (Berthier)

Verse 20

Then, may relate to a distant time, when God chose Israel. (Menochius) --- Saints. Hebrew, "merciful ones." Samuel, or Nathan, Septuagint, Arabic, &c., have "sons." The rest read "saints." (St. Jerome) --- People. As Moses had written, Deuteronomy xvii. 15. (Calmet) --- This regards David, as a figure of the Messias, (Luke i. 32., and Ezechiel xxxiv. 23.; Berthier) in whom it was more fully verified, 2 Kings v., and Acts xiii. 22. (Worthington)

Verse 21

Oil. Vatican Septuagint has, "mercy," and is followed by St. Jerome in Ezechiel lv. 3. (Calmet) --- But is a mistake, Greek: eleei being put for Greek: elaio. (Berthier)

Verse 23

Him. The Jews contributed to the glory of Christ, and the redemption of mankind. The enemies of David fell before his feet. (Calmet)

Verse 26

Rivers. Of his kingdom there shall be no end, Luke i. 33., and Zacharias ix. 10. (Haydock) --- Every nation shall adore him. David extended his conquests over all Arabia, and from the Pelusium to the Euphrates. (Calmet) --- In this sense, the text may be applied to him, though it belongs more to Christ. (Menochius)

Verse 27

Father. We never find that David used this title; (Du Hamel) but Christ did frequently, insomuch that the Jews were convinced, that he claimed the divine nature: though, as man, he called God his support. (Berthier) (Isaias lxiii. 16.)

Verse 28

First-born. Or favourite, Exodus iv. 22., and Jeremias xxxi. 9. What king could be preferred to David for piety, riches, &c.? Yet he was only a feeble type of our Saviour, who surpasses all kings, as much as the reality does a shadow. (Calmet) (Colossians i. 15., Romans viii. 29., and Apocalypse i. 5.) (Berthier) --- High. Hebrew helyon, which is one of the titles of God, and belongs to Christ, (Haydock) who is King of kings, and heir of all, Hebrews i. (Menochius)

Verse 30

Heaven. This can only be verified in Christ, who rules over all, and gives power to his Church unto the end. The family of David has been confounded with the rest of the nation for nearly 2,000 years. (Calmet) --- The temporal dominion of those princes has ceased in Jechonias, (Du Hamel) like that of other monarchs; so that God had in view a different throne, (Berthier; ver. 5.) and the Messias, who would render the kingdom of David perpetual, (Menochius) in a spiritual sense. (Haydock)

Verse 31

And if. God foresaw the prevarications of the Israelites and Christians: But he speaks this to shew their free-will, and that he would treat them as children, (Berthier) and not with the utmost severity, (Calmet) unless they proved obstinate, 2 Kings vii. 14. (Haydock) --- Some shall always continue faithful, and shall be glorified, while the bad shall be cast away. (St. Augustine) --- Christ will never lose his Church. (Worthington)

Verse 34

From him. David. Many ancient psalters read, "from them." (Calmet) --- God, by degrees, punished the Jews, by depriving them of their kings; though the family of David was preserved, and some share of power remained till Christ's coming. (Berthier)

Verse 36

Holiness. Or by myself , having nothing greater, Hebrews vi. 13. (Calmet) --- I will not. Literally, "if I lie," which is a Hebrew idiom, (Berthier) implying as much. (Worthington) --- I have sworn irrecoverably, once for all. (Menochius)

Verse 38

Witness. Which may refer to the throne, or to the sun, (Calmet) or to the rainbow. (Berthier) (Du Hamel) --- As long as the stars subsist, so long shall his throne be established. (Calmet) --- The Church shines like the sun, and is easily known. (Berthier) --- God, (Eusebius) or Christ, attests the promises. (St. Jerome) (Isaias lv. 4., and Apocalypse i. 5.) --- The rainbow was assigned as a memorial, that the world should no more be drowned, Genesis ix. The other covenants made God have no less stability. (Haydock) --- Christian souls may shine in virtue, like the sun, or full moon, (Worthington) particularly (Haydock) after the resurrection, when they will be perfect, and not liable to change. (St. Augustine)

Verse 39

Rejected. In all kingdoms, there are some interruptions, and God did not fail in his promises. He still maintained the sceptre in Juda, though not with the same splendour at all times. (Berthier) --- Angry. Or literally, "hast deferred." Distulisti. (Haydock) --- The Israelites ardently wished for the coming of the Messias. The psalmist here contrasts the present forlorn condition of the people with the preceding promises; and bewails the fate of Sedecias, who was slain at a distance from home. Distulisti. See Psalm lxxvii. 21., and lxii. (Calmet) --- Thou hast been angry with thy Christ, (king Sedecias) and even with our Redeemer, in some sense, (Calmet) as He was treated thus, in consequence of the sins of mankind. (Eusebius, &c.) --- The promises were not fulfilled in David, that we may look farther. Solomon seemed to answer all his expectations. But he fell, and God had not him but Christ in view. The kingdom and sacrifices of the Jews are no more. Christ was not taken from them, but deferred. Some Jews and many Gentiles believed in him, ver. 47., &c. (St. Augustine) (Worthington) --- Anointed. Thou hast despised us, and delayed the coming of the Messias. We cannot accuse the psalmist of impatience, as a late commentator has done, his words being dictated by the Holy Ghost. He expostulates with love and confidence, (Berthier) and comforts himself with the thought, that the coming of the Messias is only delayed. (Worthington)

Verse 40

Overthrown the covenant, &c. All this seems to relate to the time of the captivity of Babylon, in which, for the sins of the people and their princes, God seemed to have set aside for a while the covenant he made with David. (Challoner) --- Yet he did not in effect, ver. 39. (Haydock) --- Sanctuary. The temple, (Theodoret) or according to the Hebrew, "the diadem," by which the king was "set apart" from the common people, and rendered sacred, Psalm cxxxi. 18. (Berthier) --- The psalmist speaks in the person of the weak, who complained, (Worthington) that the kingdom ws a prey to invaders, and the Church oppressed by infidels. (Worthington) (Tirinus)

Verse 41

Fear. All this forts can afford no refuge. The country is like an abandoned vineyard. The Assyrians and Chaldeans have ruined it, and the neighbouring nations of Samaria and Edom take possession of it. (Calmet) --- Thou leadest on their armies, and renderest our efforts useless. (Menochius) --- This conduct of God proceeded from mercy. This severe chastisement awakened his people, who after the captivity were more tractable. (Chaldean) (Berthier) (Calmet)

Verse 45

Cease. The priests are absent; and he cannot be purified in the temple. --- Purification may here denote the royal ornaments. (Pagnin) (Calmet) (Menochius)

Verse 46

Time. Hebrew, &c., "youth." (St. Jerome) (Haydock) --- Joachim was only seventeen years old when he came to the throne, which he occupied three months. (Amama) --- The four last kings of Juda reigned but a short while, and most of them came to an untimely end. Instead of Greek: chronou, the Roman Septuagint, St. Augustine, &c., read Greek: thronou, "of his throne," or reign. (Calmet) --- The Vulgate seems more natural, as the throne of David had subsisted above 400 years, so that it was not overturned in "its youth," or commencement, though the number of ages, promised to it, seemed now to be abridged. (Berthier)

Verse 47

How long. Here the third part, or the prayer of the psalmist, begins. (Calmet) --- Away. Another interrogation might then commence, "shall it be unto the end?" (Haydock) --- In this prayer he foretells that God will regard our weakness, and preserve his Church. (Worthington)

Verse 48

Remember what. Hebrew ani, "I." As this seems odd, Houbigant substitutes, adni, "Lord." (Berthier) --- Substance is. That Christ will assume our nature, (St. Augustine, City of God xvii. 9, 11.) or "how long I shall live." (Montanus) --- Even the world "passes" like a shadow, 1 Corinthians vii. (Amama) --- "Be mindful of me from the depth: else why hast thou in vain created the sons of men?" (St. Jerome) (Haydock) --- In vain. To spend their days in misery? or rather, "are not all created subject to vanity?" If thou do not succour us, we shall presently perish, and who will glorify thy name on earth? (Psalm cxliii. 4.) (Calmet) --- Will thy providence take no care of us? (Berthier) --- If the Messias come not, we cannot be saved, and we shall appear to have been created in vain. (Menochius)

Verse 50

David. He was a man according to thy own heart, and thy promises to him were absolute. Ethan speaks not of the other kings, or of the people, who might have justly irritated the Lord. He excuses their failings, by the consideration or their mortal and frail nature, ver. 49. (Calmet)

Verse 51

Nations. Who continually insult us, and blaspheme thy name. (Haydock) --- This fills me with the most poignant grief. (Calmet) --- Which, &c. Aquila and St. Jerome, "For I have carried in my bosom all the iniquities of peoples." If we should read kul, "voice," for col, "all," which seems useless before rabim, "many," (Haydock) we might translate, "I bore in my bosom the discourse of many peoples." (Calmet)

Verse 52

Wherewith. Or "because," quod. (Haydock) --- Change. Hebrew also, "the supplanting or retardment." Why does not your Messias come? How are your kings fallen! though God had promised them an eternal kingdom! Boast no more of his power or veracity. This impious language disturbs me. (Calmet) --- They deride the ignominious life of the Messias. (Eusebius) --- Sedecias had "exchanged" the promised crown for irons, which was a cutting reproach. (Berthier) --- Christ appeared to have left his people. (Worthington) --- Infidels objected, that David's piety was ill requited by God, and that the anointed had made a bad exchange; Greek: antallagma, Matthew xvi. 26. (Menochius)

Verse 53

So be it. Some suppose, that these words were added by the collector of the psalms into five books. (Calmet) --- Here the third ends. (Haydock) --- The psalmist loses not hope, under adversity. (Berthier) --- He begins and finishes with God's praises. (Calmet) --- We beg that all may praise thee, O Lord. (Worthington) --- This is the only reply which he makes to the sarcasms of infidels, being convinced of God's providence. (Calmet)

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Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Psalms 88". "Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.