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Psalms 73:1 « A Psalm of Asaph. » Truly God [is] good to Israel, [even] to such as are of a clean heart.
A Psalm of Asaph ] Who was not only an excellent musician, but a prophet also, an orator, and a poet; not unlike (for his style) to Horace, or Persius. This, and the ten next psalms, that bear this name in the front, consist of complaints for the most part, and sad matters.
Ver. 1. Truly God is good to Israel ] Or, yet God is, &c. Thus the psalmist beginneth abruptly after a sore conflict; throwing off the devil and his fiery darts, wherewith his heart for a while had been wounded. It is best to break off temptations of corrupt and carnal reasonings, and to silence doubts and disputes, lest we be foiled. He shoots (saith Greenham) with Satan in his own bow who thinks by disputing and reasoning to put him off.
To such as are of a clean heart ] Such as are Israelites indeed, and not hypocrites and dissemblers. For "as for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity" (as malefactors are led forth to execution); "but peace shall be upon Israel," Psalms 125:5 , "upon the Israel of God," Galatians 6:16 .
Psa 73:2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
Ver. 2. But as for me, my feet were almost gone ] i.e. I was well nigh brought to believe that there was no Divine providence; as the Athenians did when their good General Nicias was worsted and slain in Sicily (Thucyd.); as Pompey did, when having the better cause, he was overcome by Caesar; as Brutus did (that last of the Romans as he was called for his courage), when beaten out of the field by Antony, he cried out W τλημων αρετη , now I see that virtue is nothing, but all things are moderated by fortune, whom he charged his children therefore to worship, as a goddess of greatest power.
My steps had well nigh slipped ] Quasi nihil effusi sunt gressus mei, that is, as Kimchi interpreteth it, Status meus erat tantillus quasi nullus esset pro figendo pede locus, I had scarce any fastening for my feet, my heels were gone almost. What wonder, then, that heathens have been stounded and staggered?
Cum rapiant mala fata bonos (ignoscite fasso)
Sollicitor nullos esse putare Deos,
saith Ovid. And to the same purpose another poet,
Marmoreo Licinus tumulo iacet, et Cato parvo,
Pompeius nullo; quis putet esse Deos?
Psa 73:3 For I was envious at the foolish, [when] I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Ver. 3. For I was envious at the foolish ] Heb. at the braggadocios, the vain glorious, the mad boasters; factabundis, I emulated, and stomached their prosperity, compared with mine own far worse condition. Godly men, though cured of their spiritual frensy, yet play oft many mad tricks; one while fretting at the prosperity of their adversaries, and another while murmuring at their own afflictions, or plotting courses how to conform themselves to the world, &c.
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked ] This hath ever been a pearl in the eyes, not of the heathens only, but of better men. See Jer 12:1-2 Habakkuk 1:3 Psalms 37:1-19.37.2 . Yet Seneca writes a treatise of it, and shows the reasons, if at least he believed himself therein. Erasmus passes this censure of him; read him as a Pagan, and he writes Christian like; read him as a Christian, and he writeth Pagan like.
Psa 73:4 For [there are] no bands in their death: but their strength [is] firm.
Ver. 4. For there are no bands in their death ] Or, no knots and knarls; they die without long sickness, or much pain, or trouble of mind. If a man die like a lamb, and pass out of the world like a bird in a shell, he is certainly saved, think some. The wicked are here said to die quietly, as if there were no loosening of the band that is between soul and body. Julian the apostate died with these words in his mouth; Vitam reposcenti naturae tanquam debitor bonae fidei redditurus exulto, that is, I owe a death to nature, and now that she calleth for it, as a faithful debtor, I gladly pay it (Ammian.). The princes of the Sogdians, when they were drawn forth to death by Alexander the Great, carmen more laetantium cecinerunt, tripudiisque gaudium animi ostentare caeperunt, they sang and danced to the place of execution (Curt. lib. 7, ex Diodor.).
But their strength is firm ] They are lively and lusty, they are pingues et praevalidi, fat and fair liking; fat is their fortitude, so some render it; others, strong is their porch or palace.
Psa 73:5 They [are] not in trouble [as other] men; neither are they plagued like [other] men.
Ver. 5. They are not in trouble as other men ] But live in a serene clime, under a perpetual calm; as he did of whom the story is told, that he never had any cross, but at last was nailed to a cross, Polycrates I mean, king of Egypt. Marullus telleth us, that Ambrose coming once to a great man’s house, who boasted that he had never suffered any adversity, he hasted away thence, and said he did so, ne una cum homine perpetuis prosperitatibus uso periret, lest he should perish with the man that had been so extraordinarily prosperous (Marul. lib. 5, c. 3). And no sooner was he and his company departed, but the earth opened and swallowed up that man’s house, with all that were in it.
Psa 73:6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them [as] a garment.
Ver. 6. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain ] The pride of their hearts breaketh forth in their costly habits, while they are torquati, et auro ac gemmis amicti, setting up their plumes, as peacocks, which have their names in Hebrew from the joy they take in their fair feathers; so do these glory in their pride, and are puffed up with a foolish persuasion of their own prudence. Vermis divitiarum est superbia, Charge the rich that they be not high minded, 1 Timothy 6:17 . He is a great rich man, says Austin, and greater than his riches, who doth not therefore think himself great because he is rich. Magna cognatio, saith another, ut rei sic nominis, divitiis et vitiis, He is a rare rich man that is not the worse for his wealth. The palm tree, they say, will not grow in a rich ground, but salt and ashes must, in that case, be cast at the root, to qualify the strength of the soil; so grace will not grow in a fat heart, without the salt of mortification aud ashes of humiliation. "Their heart is fat as grease, but I delight in thy law," Psalms 119:70 .
Violence covereth them as a garment ] Violence or wrong-dealing, is the perpetual companion of pride, and covereth them as a garment finely fitted to their bodies, as was the harlot’s habit Proverbs 7:10 . Aben-Ezra rendereth it, obruit cos, overwhelmeth them; that is, domineereth over them. Some Rabbis render, Nates eorum violentia tegit.
Psa 73:7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.
Ver. 7. Their eyes stand out with fatness ] The Chaldee hath it, the similitude of their face is changed through fatness. See Job 15:27 . The Greek, for the wealth which they have, their eyes are lifted up. The Latin, their iniquity proceedeth as it were from fatness.
They have more than heart can wish ] Heb. They pass the thoughts of the heart; which the Greek rendereth, no man think how wicked they are; those stall fed Sodomites, for instance. See Jeremiah 5:28 . So Aben Ezra, Transgressiones perpetrant quas cogitare nefas est, they are more wicked than can be imagined; others, they covet beyond measure, and are insatiable, thinking to enclose the whole world in their net, as Timothy the Athenian did cities and towns in his toils (Plut. in Sulla). Our translation is not to be disliked; neither yet are all to be accounted wicked that have move than heart could wish. Bonus Dens Constantinum magnum tantis terrenis implevit muneribus, quanta optare nullus auderet, saith Augustine (De Civ. Dei, lib. 5, c. 25).
Psa 73:8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly [concerning] oppression: they speak loftily.
Ver. 8. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly ] Their pride, before taxed, Psalms 73:6 , buddeth, and budgeth, Ezekiel 7:10 ; like a foul swelling in the body, it breaketh out into sores of all sorts, odious words and deeds, abominable to God and man. Diffiuuut et loquuntur in malitia rapinata, they melt and are spilt in sensual delights and dissolute practices. Or, they let loose themselves, and keep not within compass. Or, they secretly corrupt and make to stink the good names of others, sc. while they speak evil of them, and reproach them. Tabifici sunt, so Tremellius rendereth it.
They speak loftily ] De celsitudine, from aloft; lapides loquuntur, they threaten thunderbolts, throw daggers, fastuosa voce omnes territant.
Psa 73:9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.
Ver. 9. They set their mouth against the heavens ] They howl upward, as wolves; bark at the moon, as dogs; piss against the sun; belch out blasphemies against God, as did Pharaoh, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Dionysius the tyrant, Antiochus, antichrist, Revelation 13:6 (Pope Julius III for instance, who would have his pork meat, forbidden him by his physicians, al despito di Dio); the Great Turk at the siege of Scodra, and again at the Rhodes; besides Hacker, in Queen Elizabeth’s time, and the ranters in ours Dionysius commisso sacrilegio Deum dicebat sacrilegis bonam navigationem concedere.
And their tongue walketh through the earth ] Snapping at every one they meet, like a mad dog; and not sparing to speak, or rather to spue out, whatsoever lieth uppermost. Thou shalt not walk up and down as a slanderer, or pedlar with his pack, which he opens soon, and disperseth his wares, Leviticus 19:16 . That is a true saying of Seneca, Ut quisque est dissolutissimae vitro, ita est solutissimae linguae, As any one is more dissolute in his life, so he is more heedless of his speeches.
Psa 73:10 Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full [cup] are wrung out to them.
Ver. 10. Therefore his people return hither ] i.e. Some good men are as wise (or rather as foolish) as I have been, to miscensure on this manner, and to repent me of my repentance, or to say, as Psalms 73:11 , "How doth God know?" &c.
And waters of a full cup are wrung out unto them ] That is, because the wicked drink wine in bowls, their servants wringing the rich ripe grapes thereinto, as Genesis 40:11 . Or, because God sendeth them (his people) perpetual and extreme afflictions, which is meant, say some, by drinking off a cup, and squeezing all the liquor into it. Others read it, Full waters are wrung out to them, that is, say they, these their thoughts and speeches savouring of infidelity, shall cost them abundance of tears; as Peter’s fall did him.
Psa 73:11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?
Ver. 11. And they say, How doth God know? ] Even the godly, through infirmity, are drawn sometimes to doubt God’s providence and government, because of the inequality of events in human affairs. It had like to have cost the psalmist here a fall, and made him almost cast off all care of religion. Basil, also, was in some doubt of the Divine providence, under the heat of the Arian persecution. For hath the Lord utterly forsaken his Churches? saith he; is it now the last hour? In the next age Salvian (for the satisfaction of some good people) was forced to write eight books, De gubernatione Dei, et de iusto praesentique eius Iudicio, of God’s governing the world, and the righteousness of his proceedings. Upon a like occasion Austin wrote those twenty-two most excellent and elaborate books, De Civitate Dei.
Psa 73:12 Behold, these [are] the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase [in] riches.
Ver. 12. Behold, these are the ungodly ] q.d. If God do take knowledge of things here below, and ordereth all events, how is it that the ungodly prosper, while better men suffer?
Who prosper in the world ] An ill character, everything considered. See Psalms 17:14 . See Trapp in " Psa 17:14 " Behold, these are the ungodly, the fortunate men of the world, so some render it. He that liveth in the height of the world’s blandishments is not far from destruction. Periculosa est summe bona corporis valetudo, saith Hippocrates, The height of health is nearest to sickness and death.
They increase in riches ] They wallow in wealth; God pouring honey into their hives; but for a vengeance.
Psa 73:13 Verily I have cleansed my heart [in] vain, and washed my hands in innocency.
Ver. 13. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain ] For all is to little purpose, if the cards play on this fashion, if the good must be thus extremely under, and the bad on top of the wheel. Surely I have troubled myself to no purpose or profit; if it be so, why am I thus? as she said. I read of a profane soldier, who at the siege of a town, passing a place of danger, was heard swearing, and when one that stood by warned him, saying, Fellow soldier, do not swear, the bullets fly, he answered, They that swear come off as well as those that pray; but soon after this a shot hit him, and down he fell. It is not safe for saints to symbolize with sinners in such desperate speeches; lest the Lord hear it and be displeased.
Omne trahit secum numinis ira malum (Ovid).
Psa 73:14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.
Ver. 14. For all the day long have I been plagued ] God’s best-beloved are most afflicted, neither have any out of hell ever suffered more than the heirs of heaven. See my treatise called God’s Love tokens.
And chastened every morning ] Singulis matufinis, I am no sooner awake than some new misery seizeth me, quasi egisset excubias, as if it had laid wait for me.
Psa 73:15 If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend [against] the generation of thy children.
Ver. 15. If I say I will speak thus ] If I should give way to such a wicked thought, &c. Here the Spirit beginneth to get the upper hand, to gain the wind and the hill of the flesh. The Spirit would always get the better of the flesh, were it upon equal terms. But when the flesh shall get the hill, as it were, of temptation, and shall have wind to drive the smoke upon the face and eyes of the combatant, that is, to blind him, upon such a disadvantage he may seem to be overcome.
Behold, I shall offend against the generation, &c. ] As if they were no children, because so sharply chastened; whereas the saints are unto God as the apple of his eye, that little man in the eye, as the word signifieth. The eye is a tender part; yet when dim and dusky we apply sharp powders or waters to it, to eat out the web, pearl, or blindness, and yet love it never the less. No more doth God his children, though he apply corrosives or caustics to their flesh, if need require.
Psa 73:16 When I thought to know this, it [was] too painful for me;
Ver. 16. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me ] Heb. it was labour in mine eyes, labour in vain, I could do no good on it, sed labyrinthis et Maeandris inextricabilibus implicabar, I did but tread a maze, for God’s judgments are unsearchable, and his ways (of providence) are past finding out; they are far above the reach of human reason.
Psa 73:17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; [then] understood I their end.
Ver. 17. Until I went into the sanctuary of God ] And there consulted with the Scriptures, heard the lectures of the law, prayed, went through all the exercises of God’s school.
Then understood I their end ] To be such as God pronounceth of them in the Scriptures, and as the effect and common experience sometimes declareth. For some wicked God punisheth here, lest his providence, but not all, lest his patience and promise of judgment, should be called into question, saith Austin, in Psa 36:12
Psa 73:18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.
Ver. 18. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places ] Where they can have no more certainty than if they went upon the smoothest ice, or walked upon a mine of gunpowder. The Turks, seeing so few of their viziers to die in their beds, have taken up this proverb, He that is even in the greatest office is but a statue of glass.
Thou castedst them down into destruction ] Improbos ex magna prosperitate tanquam ex Tarpeia rupe in barathrum perditienis praecipitasti. Haman for instance.
Psa 73:19 How are they [brought] into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.
Ver. 19. How are they brought into desolation! &c. ] Such as the psalmist expresseth by an exclamation, caused by an admiration at God’s dreadfull judgments which his faith beheld as present and unavoidable, and such as astonied the beholders. See it in the literal and mystical Babylon, Jeremiah 51:37 ; Jeremiah 51:41 Revelation 18:10 ; Revelation 18:17 .
They are utterly consumed with terrors ] Heb. They are ended, they are consumed with troublesome frights; especially when from their death beds they behold that three-fold terrible spectacle, death, judgment, hell, and all to be passed through by their poor souls.
Psa 73:20 As a dream when [one] awaketh; [so], O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.
Ver. 20. As a dream when one awaketh ] Such is the wicked man’s pomp and bravery, know, what are dreams but pleasant follies and delusions, the empty bubbles of the mind, children and tales of fancy, idle and fruitless notions, mere baubles? See Isaiah 29:7-23.29.8 . The fisherman in Theocritus dreamt that he was some demi-god; but when he awaked all his golden hopes vanished ( Sic Mycillus apud Lucian ). The Chaldee explaineth it, As the dream of a drunken man; who, sleeping on the steep of a rock, may think himself a king; and starting for joy, may soon break his neck at the bottom.
So, O Lord, when thou awakest thou shalt despise their image ] That is, that whereof they dreamt, and whereon they do still dote, viz. their worldly pomp and pride, which is nothing else but magnum nihil, a glorious fancy, a nonentity. Some read it thus, When thou shalt raise up (the dead), thou shalt despise their image, that is, their souls; they shall rise to everlasting shame and contempt, Daniel 12:2 .
Psa 73:21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.
Ver. 21. Thus my heart was grieved ] Heb. leavened and soured, sc. with the greatness of godly sorrow, et quasi aceto acri perfundebatur, it was steeped, as it were, in vinegar. So Peter wept bitterly; waters of Marah flowed from his eyes.
And I was pricked in my reins ] Pricked at heart, as those, Acts 2:37 , put to as much pain as those that have the stone in the kidneys, exceedingly grieved for my misconstruing and miscensuring of God’s ways and people.
Psa 73:22 So foolish [was] I, and ignorant: I was [as] a beast before thee.
Ver. 22. So foolish was I and ignorant ] By this befooling and be beasting himself, he retracteth and bewaileth his former fluctuation and folly, Psalms 73:2-19.73.3 . This is the proper fruit of his godly sorrow, Psalms 73:12 .
I was as a beast before thee ] Heb. Behemoth, as a great beast, or as many beasts in one. Thus he aggravateth and layeth load upon his sin, and so must we.
Psa 73:23 Nevertheless I [am] continually with thee: thou hast holden [me] by my right hand.
Ver. 23. Nevertheless I am continually with thee ] Or, yet I was always with thee, sc. when at worst. Infirmities discard us not. The marriage knot is not dissolved by every falling out; nor the league between princes broken by the wrongs done by pirates.
Thou hast holden me by my right hand ] That I should not utterly fall from thee; there was still a supporting grace, Quando pes meus vacillabat (Aben Ezra).
Psa 73:24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me [to] glory.
Ver. 24. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel ] We had his repentance, Psalms 73:21-19.73.22 , his faith, Psalms 73:23 , and here we have his hope of safety here and salvation hereafter.
And afterwards receive me ] As thou didst holy Enoch.
Psa 73:25 Whom have I in heaven [but thee]? and [there is] none upon earth [that] I desire beside thee.
Ver. 25. Whom have I in heaven but thee? ] I would I were in heaven with thee, so Aben Ezra rendereth it; and to the same sense Beza paraphraseth, Apage terra, quod utinam Deus in coelo iam et tecum essem: quid enim est in terra quod me vel tantillum retineat?
Psa 73:26 My flesh and my heart faileth: [but] God [is] the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
Ver. 26. My flesh faileth, and my heart faileth ] Some think that the psalmist, through egression of affection unto God, having spent and exhaled his spirits, fell into a swoon; out of which he recovered again by the joy of the Lord, which was his strength, even the rock of his heart. The Greek saith, The God of my heart.
Psa 73:27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.
Ver. 27. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish ] How can they do otherwise, when as salvation is far from them? Psalms 119:155 . And upon this ground it is that I do so earnestly desire to be with thee; since
Thou hast destroyed (or shut up from punishment) all them that go a whoring from thee] Having their hearts full of harlotry, as appeareth by their courting the creature.
Psa 73:28 But [it is] good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.
Ver. 28. But it is good for me to draw nigh to God ] To hang ever upon thee (in this general defection of others) by the faith of the gospel, Hebrews 7:19 , by putting my trust in thee, that I may declare all thy works, and relate my experiments. A circle is the most perfect figure, because it beginneth and endeth; the last point meeteth in the first, from whence it came. We shall never come to perfection or satisfaction till we draw nigh to God, till God make the circle meet, &c.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 73". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany