Psalm LXXVIII. 3520
1. This Psalm 3521 doth contain the things which are said to have been done among the old people: but the new and latter people is being admonished, to beware that it be not ungrateful regarding the blessings of God, and provoke His anger against it, whereas it ought to receive His grace.…The Title thereof doth first move and engage our attention. For it is not without reason inscribed, “Understanding 3522 of Asaph:” but it is perchance because these words require a reader who doth perceive not the voice which the surface uttereth, but some inward sense. Secondly, when about to narrate and mention all these things, which seem to need a hearer more than an expounder: “I will open,” he saith, “in parables my mouth, I will declare propositions from the beginning.” 3523 Who would not herein be awakened out of sleep? Who would dare to hurry over the parables and propositions, reading them as if self-evident, while by their very names they signify that they ought to be sought out with deeper view? For a parable hath on the surface thereof the similitude of something: and though it be a Greek word, it is now used as a Latin word. And it is observable, that in parables, those which are called the similitudes of things are compared with things with which we have to do. But propositions, which in Greek are called προβήλματα, are questions having something therein which is to be solved by disputation. What man then would read parables and propositions cursorily? What man would not attend while hearing these words with watchful mind, in order that by understanding he may come by the fruit thereof?
2. “Hearken ye,” He saith, “My people, to My law” (Psa. 78.1). Whom may we suppose to be here speaking, but God? For it was Himself that gave a law to His people, whom when delivered out of Egypt He gathered together, the which gathering together is properly named a Synagogue, which the word Asaph is interpreted to signify. Hath it then been said, “Understanding of Asaph,” in the sense that Asaph himself hath understood; or must it be figuratively understood, in the sense that the same Synagogue, that is, the same people, hath understood, unto whom is said, “Hearken, My people, unto My law”? Why is it then that He is rebuking the same people by the mouth of the Prophet, saying, “But Israel hath not known Me, and My people hath not understood”? 3524 But, in fact, there were even in that people they that understood, having the faith which was afterwards revealed, not pertaining to the letter of the law, but the grace of the Spirit. For they cannot have been without the same faith, who were able to foresee and foretell the revelation thereof that should be in Christ, inasmuch as even those old Sacraments were significants of those that should be. Had the prophets alone this faith, and not the people too? Nay indeed, but even they that faithfully heard the Prophets, were aided by the same grace in order that they might understand what they heard. But without doubt the mystery 3525 of the Kingdom of Heaven was veiled in the Old Testament, which in the fulness of time should be unveiled in the New. 3526 “For,” saith the Apostle, “they did drink of the Spiritual Rock following them, but the Rock was p. 367 Christ.” 3527 In a mystery therefore theirs was the same meat and drink as ours, but in signification the same, not in form; 3528 because the same Christ was Himself figured to them in a Rock, manifested to us in the Flesh. “But,” he saith, “not in all of them God was well pleased.” 3529 All indeed ate the same spiritual meat and drank the same spiritual drink, that is to say, signifying something spiritual: but not in all of them was God well pleased. When, he saith, “not in all:” there were evidently there some in whom was God well pleased; and although all the Sacraments were common, grace, which is the virtue of the Sacraments, was not common to all. Just as in our times, now that the faith hath been revealed, which then was veiled, to all men that have been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, 3530 the Laver of regeneration is common; but the very grace whereof these same are the Sacraments, whereby the members of the Body of Christ are to reign 3531 together with their Head, is not common to all. For even heretics have the same Baptism, and false brethren too, in the communion of the Catholic name.
3. Nevertheless, neither then nor now without profit is the voice of him, saying, “Hearken ye, My people, to My law.” Which expression is remarkable in all the Scriptures, how he saith not, “hearken thou,” but, “hearken ye.” For of many men a people doth consist: to which many that which followeth is spoken in the plural number. “Incline ye your ear unto the words of My mouth.” “Hearken ye,” is the same as, “Incline your ear:” and what He saith there, “My law,” this He saith here in, “the words of My mouth.” For that man doth godly hearken to the law of God, and the words of His mouth, whose ear humility doth incline: not he whose neck pride doth lift up. For whatever is poured in is received on the concave surface of humility, is shaken off from the convexity of swelling. Whence in another place, “Incline,” he saith, “thine ear, and receive the words of understanding.” 3532 We have been therefore sufficiently admonished to receive even this Psalm of this understanding of Asaph, 3533 to receive, I say, with inclined ear, that is, with humble piety. And it hath not been spoken of as being of Asaph himself, but to Asaph himself. Which thing is evident by the Greek article, and is found in certain Latin copies. These words therefore are of understanding, that is, of intelligence, which hath been given to Asaph himself: which we had better understand not as to one man, but as to the congregation of the people of God; whence we ought by no means to alienate ourselves. For although properly we say “Synagogue” of Jews, but “Church” of Christians, because a “Congregation” 3534 is wont to be understood as rather of beasts, but a “convocation” as rather of men: yet that too we find called a Church, and it perhaps is more suitable for us 3535 to say, “Save us, O Lord, our God, and congregate us from the nations, in order that we may confess to Thy Holy Name.” 3536 Neither ought we to disdain to be, nay we ought to render ineffable thanks, for that we are, the sheep of His hands, which He foresaw when He was saying, “I have other sheep which are not of this fold, them too I must lead in, that there may be one flock and one Shepherd:” 3537 that is to say, by joining the faithful people of the Gentiles with the faithful people of the Israelites, concerning whom He had before said, “I have not been sent but to the sheep which have strayed of the house of Israel.” 3538 For also there shall be congregated before Him all nations, and He shall sever them as a shepherd the sheep from the goats. 3539 Thus then let us hear that which hath been spoken. “Hearken ye, My people, to My law, incline ye your ear unto the words of My mouth:” not as if addressed to Jews, but rather as if addressed to ourselves, or at least as if these words were said as well to ourselves (as to them 3540 ). For when the Apostle had said, “But not in all them was God well pleased,” thereby showing that there were those too in whom God was well pleased: he hath forthwith added, “For they were overthrown in the desert:” 3541 secondly he hath continued, “but these things have been made our figures.”…To us therefore more particularly these words have been sung. Whence in this Psalm among other things there hath been said, “That another generation may know, sons who shall be born and shall arise.” 3542 Moreover, if that death by serpents, and that destruction by the destroyer, and the slaying by the sword, were figures, as the Apostle evidently doth declare, inasmuch as it is manifest that all those things did happen: for he saith not, in a figure they were spoken, or, in a figure they were written, but, in a figure, he saith, they happened to them: with how much greater diligence of godliness must those punishments be shunned whereof those were the figures? For beyond a doubt as in good things there is much more of good in that which is signified by the figure, than in the figure itself: so also in evil things very far worse are the things which are p. 368 signified by the figures, while so great are the evil things which as figures do signify. For as the land of promise, whereunto that people was being led, is nothing in comparison with the Kingdom of Heaven, whereunto the Christian people is being led: so also those punishments which were figures, though they were so severe, are nothing in comparison with the punishments which they signify. But those which the Apostle hath called figures, the same this Psalm, as far as we are able to judge, calleth parables and propositions: not having their end in the fact of their having happened, but in those things whereunto they are referred by a reasonable comparison. Let us therefore hearken unto the law of God—us His people—and let us incline our ear unto the words of His mouth.
4. “I will open,” he saith, “in parables My mouth, I will declare propositions from the beginning” (Psa. 78.2). From what beginning he meaneth, is very evident in the words following. For it is not from the beginning, what time the Heaven and earth were made, nor what time mankind was created in the first man: but what time the congregation that was led out of Egypt; in order that the sense may belong to Asaph, which is interpreted a congregation. But O that He that hath said, “I will open in parables My mouth,” would also vouchsafe to open our understanding unto them! For if, as He hath opened His mouth in parables, He would in like sort open the parables themselves: and as He declareth “propositions,” He would declare in like sort the expositions thereof, we should not be here toiling: but now so hidden and closed are all things, that even if we are able by His aid to arrive at anything, whereon we may feed to our health, still we must eat the bread in the sweat of our face; and pay the penalty of the ancient sentence 3543 not with the labour of the body only, but also with that of the heart. Let him speak then, and let us hear the parables and propositions.
5. “How great things we have heard, and have known them, and our fathers have told them to us” (Psa. 78.3). The Lord was speaking higher up. For of what other person could these words be thought to be, “Hearken ye, O My people, to My law”? 3544 Why is it then that now on a sudden a man is speaking, for here we have the words of a man, “our fathers have told them to us.” Without doubt God, now about to speak by a mans ministry, as the Apostle saith, “Will ye to receive proof of Him that is speaking in me, Christ?” 3545 in His own person at first willed the words to be uttered, lest a man speaking His words should be despised as a man. For it is thus with the sayings of God which make their way to us through our bodily sense. The Creator moveth the subject creature by an invisible working; not so that the substance is changed into anything corporal and temporal, when by means of corporal and temporal signs, whether belonging to the eyes or to the ears, as far as men are able to receive it, He would make His will to be known. For if an angel is able to use air, mist, cloud, fire, and any other natural substance or corporal species; 3546 and man to use face, tongue, hand, pen, letters, or any other significants, for the purpose of intimating the secret things of his own mind: in a word, if, though he is a man, he sendeth human messengers, and he saith to one, “Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to his servant, Do this, and he doeth it;” 3547 with how much greater and more effectual power doth God, to whom as Lord all things together are subject, use both the same angel and man, in order that He may declare whatsoever pleaseth Him?…For those things were heard in the Old Testament which are known in the New: heard when they were being prophesied, known when they were being fulfilled. Where a promise is performed, hearing is not deceived. “And our fathers,” Moses and the Prophets, “have told unto us.”
6. “They have not been hidden from their sons in another generation” (Psa. 78.4). This is our generation wherein there hath been given to us regeneration. “Telling forth the praises of the Lord and His powers, and His wonderful works which He hath done.” The order of the words is, “and our fathers have told unto us, telling forth the praises of the Lord.” The Lord is praised, in order that He may be loved. For what object can be loved more to our health? “And He hath raised up a testimony in Jacob, and hath set a law in Jacob” (Psa. 78.5). This is the beginning whereof hath been spoken above, “I will declare propositions from the beginning.” 3548 So then the beginning is the Old Testament, the end is the New. For fear doth prevail in the law. 3549 “But the end of the law is Christ for righteousness to every one believing;” 3550 at whose bestowing “love is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, which hath been given to us:” 3551 and love made perfect doth cast out fear, 3552 inasmuch as now without the Law the righteousness of God hath been made manifest. But inasmuch as He hath a testimony by the Law and the Prophets, 3553 therefore, “He hath raised up a testimony in Jacob.” For even that Tabernacle which was p. 369 set up with a work so remarkable and full of such wondrous meanings, is named the Tabernacle of Testimony, wherein was the veil over the Ark of the Law, like the veil over the face of the Minister of the Law; 3554 because in that dispensation there were “parables and propositions.” For those things which were being preached and were coining to pass were hidden in veiled meanings, and were not seen in unveiled manifestations. But “when thou shalt have passed over unto Christ,” saith the Apostle, “the veil shall be taken away.” 3555 For “all the promises of God in Him are yea, Amen.” 3556 Whosoever therefore doth cleave to Christ, hath the whole of the good which even in the letters of the Law he perceiveth not: but whosoever is an alien from Christ, doth neither perceive, nor hath. “He hath set a law in Israel.” After his usual custom he is making a repetition. For “He hath raised up a testimony,” is the same as, “He hath set a law,” and “in Jacob,” is the same as “in Israel.” For as these are two names of one man, so law and testimony are two names of one thing. Is there any difference, saith some one, between “hath raised up” and “hath set”? Yea indeed, the same difference as there is between “Jacob” and “Israel:” not because they were two persons, but these same two names were bestowed upon one man for different reasons; Jacob because of supplanting, for that he grasped the foot of his brother at his birth: 3557 but Israel because of the vision of God. 3558 So “raised up” is one thing, “set” is another. For, “He hath raised up a testimony,” as far as I can judge, hath been said because by it something has been raised up; “For without the Law,” saith the Apostle, “sin was dead: but I lived sometime without the Law: but at the coming in of the commandment sin revived.” 3559 Behold that which hath been raised up by the testimony, which is the Law, so that what was lying hidden might appear, as he saith a little afterwards: “But sin, that it might appear sin, through a good thing hath wrought in me death.” 3560 But “He hath set a law,” hath been said, as though it were a yoke upon sinners, whence hath been said, “For upon a just man law hath not been imposed.” 3561 It is a testimony then, so far forth as it doth prove anything; but a law so far forth as it doth command; though it is one and the same thing. Wherefore just as Christ is a stone, but to believers for the Head of the corner, while to unbelievers a stone of offence and a rock of scandal; 3562 so the testimony of the Law to them that use not the Law lawfully, 3563 is a testimony whereby sinners are to be convicted as deserving of punishment; but to them that use the same lawfully, is a testimony whereby sinners are shown unto whom they ought to flee in order to be delivered.…
7. “How great things,” he saith, “He hath commanded our fathers, to make the same known to their sons?” (Psa. 78.5). “That another generation may know, sons who shall be born and shall rise up, and they may tell to their sons” (Psa. 78.6). “That they may put their hope in God, and may not forget the works of God, and may seek out His commandments” (Psa. 78.7). “That they may not become, like their fathers, a crooked and embittering generation: a generation that hath not guided their heart, and the spirit thereof hath not been trusted with God” (Psa. 78.8). These words do point out two peoples as it were, the one belonging to the Old Testament, the other to the New: for in that he saith, he hath implied that they received the commandments, “to make them known to their sons,” but that they did not know or do them: but they received them themselves, to the end “that another generation might know,” what the former knew not. “Sons who shall be born and shall arise.” For they that have been born have not arisen: because they had not their heart above, but rather on the earth. For the arising is with Christ: whence hath been said, “If ye have arisen with Christ, savour ye the things which are above.” 3564 “And they may tell them,” he saith, “to their sons, in order that they may put their hope in God.”…“And may not forget the works of God:” that is to say, in magnifying and vaunting their own works, as though they did them themselves; while “God it is that worketh,” in them that work good things, “both to will and to work according to good will.” 3565 “And may search out His commandments.”…The commandments which He hath commanded. How then should they still search out, whereas they have already learned them, save that by putting their hope in God, they do then search out His commandments, in order that by them, with His aid, they may be fulfilled? And he saith why, by immediately subjoining, “and its spirit hath not been trusted with God,” that is, because it had no faith, which doth obtain what the Law doth enjoin. For when the spirit of man doth work together with the Spirit of God working, then there is fulfilled that which God hath commanded: and this doth not come to pass, except by believing in Him that doth justify an ungodly man. 3566 Which faith the generation crooked and embittering had not: and therefore concerning the same hath been said, “The spirit thereof hath not been trusted with God.” For this hath been said much more exactly to point out the grace of p. 370 God, which doth work not only remission of sins, but also doth make the spirit of man to work together therewith in the work of good deeds, as though he were saying, his spirit hath not believed in God. For to have the spirit trusted with God, is, not to believe that his spirit is able to do righteousness without God, but with God. For this is to believe in God: which is surely more than to believe God. For ofttimes we must believe even a man, though in him we must not believe. To believe in God therefore is this, in believing to cleave unto God who worketh good works, in order to work with Him well.…
8. Lastly, “The sons of Ephrem bending and shooting bows, have been turned back in the day of war” (Psa. 78.9). Following after the law of righteousness, unto the law of righteousness they have not attained. 3567 Why? Because they were not of faith. For they were that generation whereof the spirit hath not been trusted with God: but they were, so to speak, of works: because they did not, as they bended and shot their bows (which are outward actions, as of the works of the law), so guide their heart also, wherein the just man doth live by faith, which worketh by love; whereby men cleave to God, who worketh in man both to will and work according to good will. 3568 For what else is bending the bow and shooting, and turning back in the day of war, but heeding and purposing in the day of hearing, and deserting in the day of temptation; flourishing arms, so to speak, beforehand, and at the hour of the action refusing to fight? But whereas he saith, “bending and shooting bows,” when it would seem that he ought to have said, bending bows and shooting arrows.…Some Greek copies to be sure are said to have “bending and shooting with bows,” so that without doubt we ought to understand arrows. But whereas by the sons of Ephrem he hath willed that there be understood the whole of that embittering generation, it is an expression signifying the whole by a part. And perhaps this part was chosen whereby to signify the whole, because from these men especially some good thing was to have been expected.…Although set at the left hand by his father as being the younger, Jacob nevertheless blessed with his right hand, and preferred him before his elder brother with a benediction of hidden meaning. 3569 …For there was being figured how they were to be last that were first, and first were to be they that were last, 3570 through the Saviours coming, concerning whom hath been said, “He that is coming after me was made before me.” 3571 In like manner righteous Abel was preferred before the elder brother; so to Ismael Isaac; so to Esau, though born before him, his twin brother Jacob; so also Phares himself preceded even in birth his twin brother, who had first thrust a hand out of the womb, and had begun to be born: 3572 so David was preferred before his elder brother: 3573 and as the reason why all these parables and others like them preceded, not only of words but also of deeds, in like manner to the people of the Jews was preferred the Christian people, for redeeming the which as Abel by Cain, 3574 so by the Jews was slain Christ. This thing was prefigured even when Jacob stretching out his hands cross-wise, with his right hand touched Ephrem standing on the left; and set him before Manasse standing on the right, whom he himself touched with the left hand. 3575
9. But what that is which he saith, “they have been turned back in the day of war,” the following words do teach, wherein he hath most clearly explained this: “they have not kept,” he saith, “the testament of God, and in His law they would not walk” (Psa. 78.10). Behold what is, “they have been turned back in the day of war:” they have not kept the testament of God. When they were bending and shooting bows, they did also utter the words of most forward promise, saying, “Whatsoever things the Lord our God hath spoken we will do, and we will hear.” 3576 “They have been turned back in the day of war:” because the promise of obedience not hearing but temptation doth prove. But he whose spirit hath been trusted with God, keepeth hold on God, who is faithful, and “doth not suffer him to be tempted above that which he is able; but will make with the temptation a way of escape also,” 3577 that he may be able to endure, and may not be turned back in the day of war.…Therefore these men have been thus branded: “a generation,” he saith, “which hath not directed their heart.” 3578 It hath not been said, works, but heart. For when the heart is directed, the works are right; but when the heart is not directed, the works are not right, even though they seem to be right. And how the crooked generation hath not directed the heart, hath sufficiently been shown, when he saith, “and the spirit thereof hath not been trusted with God.” 3579 For God is right: and therefore by cleaving to the right, as to an immutable rule, the heart of a man can be made right, which in itself was crooked.…
10. “And they forgat His benefits, and the wonderful works of Him which He showed to them; before their fathers the wonderful things which He did” (Psa. 78.11). What this is, is not a question to be negligently passed over. Concerning those very fathers he was speaking a little before, that they had been a generation crooked and embittering.…What fathers, inasmuch p. 371 as these are the very fathers, whom he would not have posterity to be like? If we shall take them to be those out of whom the others had derived their being, for example, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, by this time they had long since fallen asleep, when God showed wonderful things in Egypt. For there followeth, “in the land of Egypt, in the plain of Thanis” (Psa. 78.12): where it is said that God showed to them wonderful things before their fathers. Were they perchance present in spirit? For of the same the Lord saith in the Gospel, “for all do live to Him.” 3580 Or do we more suitably understand thereby the fathers Moses and Aaron, and the other elders who are related in the same Scripture also to have received the Spirit, of which also Moses received, in order that they might aid him in ruling and bearing the same people? 3581 For why should they not have been called fathers? It is not in the same manner as God is the One Father, who doth regenerate with His Spirit those whom He doth make sons for an everlasting inheritance; but it is for the sake of honour, because of their age and kindly carefulness: just as Paul the elder saith, “Not to confound you I am writing these things, but as my dearly beloved sons I am admonishing you:” 3582 though he knew of a truth that it had been said by the Lord, “Call ye no man your father on earth, for One is your Father, even God.” 3583 And this was not said in order that this term of human honour should be erased from our usual way of speaking: but lest the grace of God whereby we are regenerated unto eternal life, should be ascribed either to the power or even sanctity of any man. Therefore when he said, “I have begotten you;” he first said, “in Christ,” and “through the Gospel;” lest that might be thought to be of him, which is of God.…Accordingly, the land of Egypt must be understood for a figure of this world. “The plain of Thanis” is the smooth surface of lowly commandment. For lowly commandment is the interpretation of Thanis. In this world therefore let us receive the commandment of humility, in order that in another world we may merit to receive the exaltation which He hath promised, who for our sake here became lowly.
11. For He that “did burst asunder the sea and made them go through, did confine the waters as it were in bottles” (Psa. 78.13), in order that the water might stand up first as if it were shut in, is able by His grace to restrain the flowing and ebbing tides of carnal desires, when we renounce this world, so that all sins having been thoroughly washed away, as if they were enemies, the people of the faithful may be made to pass through by means of the Sacrament of Baptism. He that “led them home in the cloud of the day, and in the whole of the night in the illumination of fire” (Psa. 78.14), is able also spiritually to direct goings if faith crieth to Him, “Direct Thou my goings after Thy word.” 3584 Of Whom in another place 3585 is said, “For Himself shall make thy courses right, and shall prolong thy goings in peace” 3586 through Jesus Christ our Lord, whose Sacrament in this world, as it were in the day, is manifest in the flesh, as if in a cloud; but in the Judgment it will be manifest like as in a terror by night; for then there will be a great tribulation of the world like as it were fire, and it shall shine for the just and shall burn for the unjust. “He that burst asunder the rock in the desert, and gave them water as in a great deep” (Psa. 78.15); “and brought out water from the rock, and brought down waters like rivers” (Psa. 78.16), is surely able upon thirsty faith to pour the gift of the Holy Spirit (the which gift the performance of that thing did spiritually signify), to pour, I say, from the Spiritual Rock that followed, which is Christ: who did stand and cry, “If any is athirst, let him come to Me:” 3587 and, “he that shall have drunk of the water which I shall give, rivers of living water shall flow out of his bosom.” 3588 For this He spake, as is read in the Gospel, 3589 to the Spirit, which they were to receive that believed in Him, unto whom like the rod drew near the wood of the Passion, in order that there might flow forth grace for believers.
12. And yet, “they,” like a generation crooked and embittering, “added yet to sin against Him” (Psa. 78.17): that is, not to believe. For this is the sin, whereof the Spirit doth convict the world, as the Lord saith, “Of sin indeed because they have not believed on Me.” 3590 “And they exasperated the Most High in drought,” which other copies have, “in a place without water,” which is a more exact translation from the Greek, and doth signify no other thing than drought. Was it in that drought of the desert, or rather in their own? For although they had drank of the rock, they had not their bellies but their minds dry, freshening with no fruitfulness of righteousness. In that drought they ought the more faithfully to have been suppliant unto God, in order that He who had given fulness unto their jaws, might give also equity to their manners. For unto him the faithful soul doth cry, “Let mine eyes see equity.” 3591
13. “And they tempted God in their hearts, in order that they might seek morsels for their souls” (Psa. 78.18). It is one thing to ask in believing, another thing in tempting. Lastly there p. 372 followeth, “And they slandered God, and said, Shall God be able to prepare a table in the desert?” (Psa. 78.19). “For He smote the rock, and the waters flowed, and torrents gushed forth: will He be able to give bread also, or to prepare a table for His people?” (Psa. 78.20). Not believing therefore, they sought morsels for their souls. Not so the Apostle James doth enjoin a morsel to be asked for the mind, but doth admonish that it be sought by believers, not by such as tempt and slander God. “But if any one of you,” he saith, “doth lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who doth give to all men abundantly, and doth not upbraid, and it shall be given to him: but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” 3592 This faith had not that generation which “had not directed their heart, and the spirit thereof had not been trusted with God.”
14. “Wherefore the Lord heard, and He delayed, and fire was lighted in Jacob, and wrath went up into Israel” (Psa. 78.21). He hath explained what he hath called fire. He hath called anger fire: although in strict propriety fire did also burn up many men. What is therefore this that he saith, “The Lord heard, and He delayed”? Did He delay to conduct them into the land of promise, whither they were being led: which might have been done in the space of a few days, but on account of sins they must needs be wasted in the desert, where also they were wasted during forty years? And if this be so, He did then delay the people, not those very persons who tempted and slandered God: for they all perished in the desert, and their children journeyed into the land of promise. Or did He delay punishment, in order that He might first satisfy unbelieving concupiscence, lest He might be supposed to be angry, because they were asking of Him what He was not able to do? “He heard,” then, “and He delayed to avenge:” and after He had done what they supposed He was not able to do, then “anger went up upon Israel.”
15. Lastly, when both these things have been briefly touched, afterwards he is evidently following out the order of the narrative. “Because they believed not in God, nor hoped in His saving health” (Psa. 78.22). For when he had told why fire was lighted in Jacob, and anger went up upon Israel, that is to say, “because they believed not in God, nor hoped in His saving health:” immediately subjoining the evident blessings for which they were ungrateful, he saith, “and He commanded the clouds above, and opened the doors of Heaven” (Psa. 78.23). “And He rained upon them manna to eat, and gave them bread of Heaven” (Psa. 78.24). “Bread of angels man did eat: dainties He sent them in abundance” (Psa. 78.25). He brought over the South Wind from Heaven, and in His virtue He led in the South West Wind” (Psa. 78.26). “And He rained upon them fleshes like dust, and winged fowls like the sand of the sea” (Psa. 78.27). “And they fell in the midst of their camp, around their tabernacles” (Psa. 78.28). “And they ate and were filled exceedingly; and their desire He brought to them: they were not deprived of their desire” (Psa. 78.29). Behold why He had delayed. But what He had delayed let us hear. “Yet the morsel was in their mouths, and the anger of God came down upon them” (Psa. 78.30). Behold what He had delayed. For before “He delayed:” and afterwards, “fire was lighted in Jacob and anger went up upon Israel.” He had delayed therefore in order that He might first do what they had believed that He could not do, and then might bring upon them what they deserved to suffer. For if they placed their hope in God, not only would their desires of the flesh but also those of the spirit have been fulfilled. For he that…“opened the doors of Heaven, and rained upon them manna to eat,” that He might fill the unbelieving, is not without power to give to believers Himself the true Bread from Heaven, which the manna did signify: which is indeed the food of Angels, whom being incorruptible the Word of God doth incorruptibly feed: the which in order that man might eat, He became flesh, and dwelled in us. 3593 For Himself the Bread by means of the Evangelical clouds is being rained over the whole world, and, the hearts of preachers like heavenly doors, being opened, is being preached not to a murmuring and tempting synagogue, but to a Church believing and putting hope in Him. He is able also to feed the feeble faith of such as tempt not, but believe, with the signs of words uttered by the flesh and speeding through the air, as though it were fowls: not however with such as come from the north, where cold and mist do prevail, that is to say, eloquence which is pleasing to this world, but by bringing over the South Wind from Heaven; whither, except to the earth? In order that they who are feeble in faith, by hearing things earthly may be nourished up to receive things heavenly.…
16. But as to unbelievers, being a crooked and embittering generation, as it were, while the morsel was yet in their mouths, “the anger of God went up upon them, and it slew among the most of them” (Psa. 78.31): that is, the most of them, or as some copies have it, “the fat ones of them,” which however in the Greek copies which we had, we did not find. But if this be p. 373 the truer reading, what else must be understood by “the fat ones of them,” than men mighty in pride, concerning whom is said, “their iniquity shall come forth as if out of fat”? 3594 “And the elect of Israel He fettered.” Even there there were elect, with whose faith the generation crooked and embittering was not mixed. But they were fettered, so that they might in no sort profit them for whom they desired that they might provide from a fatherly affection. For what is conferred by human mercy, on those with whom God is angry? Or rather hath He willed it to be understood, how that even the elect were fettered at the same time with them, in order that they who were diverse both in mind and in life, might endure sufferings with them for an example not only of righteousness, but also of patience? For we have learned that holy men were even led captive with sinners for no other reason; since in the Greek copies we read not ἐνεπόδισεν, which is “fettered;” but συνεπόδισεν, which is rather “fettered together with.”
17. But the generation crooked and embittering, “in all these things sinned yet more, and they believed not in His wonderful works” (Psa. 78.32). “And in their days failed in vanity” (Psa. 78.33). Though they might, if they had believed, have had days in truth without failing, with Him to whom hath been said, “Thy years shall not fail.” 3595 Therefore, “their days failed in vanity, and their years with haste.” For the whole life of mortal men is hastening, and that which seemeth to be longer is but a vapour of somewhat longer duration.
18. Nevertheless, “when he slew them they sought Him:” not for the sake of eternal life, but fearing to end the vapour too soon. There sought Him then, not indeed those whom He had slain, but they that were afraid of being slain according to the example of them. But the Scripture hath so spoken of them as if they sought God who were slain; because they were one people, and it is spoken as if of one body: “and they returned, and at dawn they came to God” (Psa. 78.34). “And they remembered that God is their Helper, and the High God is their Redeemer” (Psa. 78.35). But all this is for the sake of acquiring temporal good things, and for avoiding temporal evil things. For they that did seek God for the sake of temporal blessings, sought not God indeed, but things. Thus with those God is worshipped with slavish fear, not free love. Thus then God is not worshipped, for that thing is worshipped which is loved. Whence because God is found to be greater and better than all things, He must be loved more than all things, in order that He may be worshipped.
19. Lastly, here let us see the words following: “And they loved Him,” he saith, “in their mouth, and in their tongue they lied unto Him” (Psa. 78.36). “But their heart was not right with Him, and they were not counted faithful in His Testament” (Psa. 78.37). One thing on their tongue, another thing in their heart He found, unto whom the secret things of men are naked, and without any impediment He saw what they loved rather. Therefore the heart is right with God, when it doth seek God for the sake of God. For one thing he desired of the Lord, the same he will require, that he may dwell always in the House of the Lord, and may meditate on the pleasantness of Him. 3596 Unto Whom saith the heart of the faithful, I will be filled, not with the flesh-pots of the Egyptians, nor with melons and gourds, and garlick and onions, which a generation crooked and embittering did prefer even to bread celestial, 3597 nor with visible manna, and those same winged fowls; but, “I will be filled, when Thy glory shall be made manifest.” 3598 For this is the inheritance of the New Testament, wherein they were not counted faithful; whereof however the faith even at that time, when it was veiled, was in the elect, and now, when it hath already been revealed, it is not in many that are called. “For many have been called, but few are elect.” 3599 Of such sort therefore was the generation crooked and embittering, even when they were seeming to seek God, loving in mouth, and in tongue lying; but in heart not right with God, while they loved rather those things, for the sake of which they required the help of God.
20. “But He is Himself merciful, and will become propitious to their sins, and He will not destroy them. And He will abound to turn away His anger, and He will not kindle all his anger” (Psa. 78.38). By these words many men promise to themselves impunity for their iniquity from the Divine Mercy, even if they shall have persevered in being such, as that generation is described, “crooked and embittering; which hath not directed their heart, and the spirit thereof hath not been trusted with God:” with whom it is not profitable to agree. For if, to speak in their words, God will perchance not destroy no not even bad men, without doubt He will not destroy good men. Why then do we not rather choose that wherein there is no doubt? For they that lie to Him in their tongue, though their heart doth hold some other thing, do think indeed, and will, even God to be a liar, when He doth menace upon such men eternal punishment. But whilst they do not deceive Him with their lying, He doth not deceive them with p. 374 speaking the truth. These words therefore of divine sayings, concerning which the crooked generation doth cajole itself, let it not make crooked like its own heart: for even when it is made crooked, they continue right. For at first they may be understood according to that which is written in the Gospel, “that ye may be like your Father who is in the Heavens, who maketh His sun to rise upon good men and evil men, and raineth upon just men and unjust men.” 3600 For who could not see, how great is the long-suffering of mercy with which He is sparing evil men? But before the Judgment, He spared then that nation in such sort, that He kindled not 3601 all His anger, utterly to root it up and bring it to an end: which thing in His words and in the intercession for their sins of His servant Moses doth evidently appear, where God saith, “Let Me blot them out, and make thee into a great nation:” 3602 he intercedeth, being more ready to be blotted out for them than that they should be; knowing that he is doing this before One Merciful, who inasmuch as by no means He would blot out him, would even spare them for his sake. For let us see how greatly He spared, and doth still spare.…
21. In the second place, that we may not seem to do violence to divine words, and lest in the place where there was said, “He will not destroy them,” 3603 we should say, “But hereafter He will destroy them:” concerning this very present Psalm let us turn to a very common phrase of the Scripture, whereby this question may be more diligently and more truly solved. Speaking of these same persons a little lower down, when He had made mention of the things which the Egyptians because of them had endured, He saith,…“And He led them unto the mount of His sanctification, the mount which His right hand won. And He cast out from their face the nations, and by lot distributed to them the land in the cord of distribution.” 3604 If any one at these words should press a question upon us, and should say, How doth he make mention of all these things as having been bestowed upon them, when the same persons were not led into the land of promise, as were delivered from Egypt, inasmuch as they were dead? What shall we reply but that they were spoken of, because they were the self-same people by means of a succession of sons?…
22. “And He remembered that they are flesh, a spirit 3605 going and not returning” (Psa. 78.39). Therefore calling them and pitying them through His grace, He called them back Himself, because of themselves they could not return. For how doth flesh return, “a spirit walking and not turning back,” 3606 while a weight of evil deserts doth weigh it down unto the lowest and far places of evil, save through the election of grace?…For thus also is solved this no unimportant question, how it is written in the Proverbs, when the Scripture was speaking of the way of iniquity, “all they that walk in her shall not return.” 3607 For it hath been so spoken as if all ungodly men were to be despaired of: but the Scripture did only commend grace; for of himself man is able to walk in that way, but is not able of himself to return, except when called back by grace.
23. I say then of these crooked and embittering persons, “How often they exasperated Him in the desert, and provoked Him to wrath in the waterless place!” (Psa. 78.40). “And they turned themselves and tempted God, and exasperated the Holy One of Israel” (Psa. 78.41). He is repeating that same unbelief of theirs, of which He had made mention above. But the reason of the repetition is, in order that there may be mentioned also the plagues which He inflicted on the Egyptians for their sakes: all which things they certainly ought to have remembered, and not to be ungrateful. Lastly, there followeth what? “They remembered not His hands, in the day when He redeemed them from the hand of the troubler” (Psa. 78.42). And he beginneth to speak of what things He did to the Egyptians: “He set in Egypt His signs, and His prodigies in the plain of Thanis” (Psa. 78.43): “and He turned their rivers into blood, and their showers lest they should drink” (Psa. 78.44), or rather, “the flowings of waters,” as some do better understand by what is written in Greek, τὰ ὀμβρήματα, which in Latin we call scaturigines, waters bubbling from beneath. “He sent upon them the dog-fly, and it ate them up; and the frog, and it destroyed them” (Psa. 78.45). “And He gave their fruit to the mildew, and their labours to the locust” (Psa. 78.46). “And He slew with hail their vineyards, and their mulberry trees with frost” (Psa. 78.47). “And He gave over to the hail their beasts of burden, and their possessions to the fire” (Psa. 78.48). “He sent upon them the anger of His indignation, indignation and anger and tribulation, a visitation through evil angels” (Psa. 78.49). He made a way to the course of His anger, and their beasts of burden He shut up in death (Psa. 78.50). “And He smote every first-born thing in the land of Egypt, the first-fruits of their labours in the tabernacles of Cham” (Psa. 78.51).
24. All these punishments of the Egyptians may be explained by an allegorical interpretation, according as one shall have chosen to understand them, and to compare them to the things whereunto they must be referred. Which we too will p. 375 endeavour to do; and shall do it the more properly, the more we shall have been divinely aided. For to do this, those words of this Psalm do constrain us, wherein it was said, “I will open in parables my mouth, I will declare propositions from the beginning.” 3608 For for this cause even some things have been here spoken of, which that they befell the Egyptians at all we read not, although all their plagues are most carefully related in Exodus according to their order, so that while that which is not there mentioned we are sure hath not been mentioned in the Psalm to no purpose, and we can interpret the same only figuratively, we may at the same time understand that even the rest of the things which it is evident did happen, were done or described for the sake of some figurative meaning. For the Scripture doth so do in many passages of the prophetic sayings.…In the plagues therefore of the Egyptians, which are in the book which is called Exodus, where the Scripture hath been especially careful, that those things whereby they were afflicted should be all related in order, there is not found what this Psalm hath, “and He gave to the mildew their fruits.” This also wherein, when he had said, “and He gave over to the hail their beasts,” he hath added, “and their possession to the fire:” of the beasts slain with hail is read in Exodus; 3609 but how their possession was burned with fire, is not read at all. Although voices and fires do come together with hail, just as thunderings do commonly accompany lightnings; nevertheless, it is not written that anything was given over to the fire that it should be burned. Lastly, the soft things which the hail could not hurt, are said not to have been smitten, that is, hurt with hard blows; which things the locust devoured afterwards. Also that which is here spoken of, “and their mulberry trees with hoar-frost,” is not in Exodus. For hoar-frost doth differ much from hail; for in the clear winter nights the earth is made white with hoar-frost.
25. What then those things do signify, let the interpreter say as he can, let reader and hearer judge as is just. The water turned into blood seemeth to me to signify a carnal view of the causes of things. Dog-fly, are the manners of dogs, 3610 who see not even their parents when first they are born. The frog is very talkative vanity. Mildew doth hurt secretly, which also some have interpreted by rust, others black mould: which evil thing to what vice is it more appropriately compared, than to what doth show itself least readily, like the trusting much in ones self? For it is a blighting air which doth work this secretly among fruits: just like in morals, secret pride, when a man thinketh himself to be something, though he is nothing. 3611 The locust is malice hurting with the mouth, that is, with unfaithful testimony. The hail is iniquity taking away the goods of others; whence theft, robberies, and depredations do spring: but more by his wickedness the plunderer himself is plundered. The hoar-frost doth signify the fault wherein the love of ones neighbour by the darkness of foolishness, like as it were by the cold of night, is frozen up. But the fire, if here it is not that which is mentioned which was in the hail out of the lightning clouds, forasmuch as he hath said here, “He gave over their possession to the fire,” where he implieth that a thing was burned, which by that fire we read not to have been done,—it seemeth to me, I say, to signify the savageness of wrath, whereby even man-slaying may be committed. But by the death of beasts was figured, as far as I judge, the loss of chastity. For concupiscence, whereby offspring do arise, we have in common with beasts. To have this therefore tamed and ordered, is the virtue of chastity. The death of the first-born things, is the putting off of the very justice whereby a man doth associate with mankind. But whether the figurative significations of these things be so, or whether they are better understood in another way, whom would it not move, that with ten plagues the Egyptians are smitten, and with ten commandments the tables are inscribed, 3612 that thereby the people of God should be ruled? Concerning the comparing of which one with the other, inasmuch as we have spoken elsewhere, there is no need to load the exposition of this Psalm therewith: thus much we remind you, that here too, though not in the same order, yet ten plagues of the Egyptians are commemorated, forasmuch as in the place of three which are in Exodus and are not here, to wit, lice, boils, darkness; other three are commemorated, which are not there, that is to say, mildew, hoarfrost, and fire; not of lightning, but that where-unto their possession was given over, which is not read of in that place.
26. But it hath been clearly enough intimated, that by the judgment of God these things befell them through the instrumentality of evil angels, in this wicked world, as though it were in Egypt and in the plain of Thanis, where we ought to be humble, until there come that world, wherein we may earn to be exalted out of this humiliation. For even Egypt in the Hebrew tongue doth signify darkness or tribulations, in which tongue, Thanis, 3613 as I have observed, is understood to be humble commandment. Concerning the evil angels therefore in this Psalm, while he was speaking of those very plagues, there hath been p. 376 something inserted, which must not be passed over cursorily: “He sent upon them,” he saith, “an infliction through evil angels.” Now that the devil and his angels are so very evil, that for them everlasting fire is prepared, no believer is ignorant: but that there should be sent by means of them an infliction from the Lord God upon certain whom He judgeth to be deserving of this punishment, seemeth to be a hard thing to those who are little prone to consider, how the perfect justice of God doth use well even evil things. For these indeed, as far as regardeth their substance, what other person but Himself hath made? But evil He hath not made them: yet He doth use them, inasmuch as He is good, well, that is, conveniently and justly: just as on the other hand unrighteous men do use His good creatures in evil manner. God therefore doth use evil angels not only to punish evil men, as in the case of all those concerning whom the Psalm doth speak, as in the case of king Achab, whom a spirit of lying by the will of God did beguile, in order that he might fall in war: 3614 but also to prove and make manifest good men, as He did in the case of Job. But as far as regardeth that corporal matter of visible elements, I suppose that thereof angels both good and evil are able to make use, according to the power given to each: just as also men good and evil do use such things, as far as they are able, according to the measure of human infirmity. For we use both earth and water, and air, and fire, not only in things necessary for our support, but also in many operations superfluous and playful, and marvellously artificial. For countless things, which are called μηχανήματα, are moulded out of these elements scientifically employed. But over these things angels have a far more extended power, both the good and the evil, though greater is that which the good have; 3615 but only so far as is commanded or permitted by the will and providence of God; on which terms also we have it. For not even in these cases are we able to do all that we will. But in a book the most unerring we read that the devil was able even to send fire from Heaven, to burn up with wonderful and awful fierceness so great a number of the cattle of a holy man: 3616 which thing no one of the faithful would dare perchance to ascribe to the devil, except it were read on the authority of Holy Scripture. But that man, being by the gift of God just and firm, and of godly knowledge, saith not, The Lord hath given, the devil hath taken away: but, “The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away:” 3617 very well knowing that even what the devil was able to do with these elements, he would still not have done to a servant of God, except at his Lords will and permission; he did confound the malice of the devil, forasmuch as he knew who it was that was making use thereof to prove him. In the sons then of unbelief like as it were in his own slaves, he doth work, 3618 like men with their beasts, and even therewith only so far as is permitted by the just judgment of God. But it is one thing when his power is restrained from treating even his own as he pleases, by a greater power; another thing when to him power is given even over those who are alien from him. Just as a man with his beast, as men understand it, doeth what he will, and yet doth not indeed, if he be restrained by a greater power: but with another mans beast to do something, he doth wait until power be given from him unto whom it belongeth. In the former case the power which there was is restrained, in the latter that which there was not is conceded.
27. And if such be the case, if through evil angels God did inflict those plagues upon the Egyptians, shall we dare to say that the water also was turned into blood by means of those same angels, and that frogs were created by means of the same, the like whereunto even the magicians of Pharaoh were able to make by their enchantments; 3619 so as that evil angels stood on both sides, on the one side afflicting them, on the other side deceiving them, according to the judgment and dispensation 3620 of the most just and most omnipotent God, who doth justly make use of even the naughtiness of unrighteous men? I dare not to say so. For whence was it that the magicians of Pharaoh could by no means make lice? 3621 Was it not because even these same evil angels were not suffered to do this? Or, to speak more truly, is not the cause hidden, and it doth exceed our powers of inquiry? For if we shall have supposed that God wrought those things by means of evil angels, because punishments were being inflicted, and not blessings being bestowed, as though God doth inflict punishments upon no one by means of good angels, but by means of those executioners as it were of the heavenly wrath; the consequence will be that we must believe that even Sodom was overthrown by means of evil angels, and that Abraham and Lot would seem to have entertained under their roof evil angels; 3622 the which, as being contrary to the most evident Scriptures, far be it that we should think. It is clear then that these things might have been done to men by means of good and evil angels. What should be done or when it should be done doth escape me: but Him that doeth it, it escapeth not, and him unto whom He shall have willed to reveal it. Nevertheless, as far as divine Scripture doth yield to our application thereto, on evil men that punishments are inflicted both by means of good angels, as upon p. 377 the Sodomites, and by means of evil angels, as upon the Egyptians, we read: but that just men with corporal penances by means of good angels are tried and proved, doth not occur to me.
28. But as far as regardeth the present passage of this Psalm, if we dare not ascribe those things which were marvellously formed out of creatures, to evil angels; we have a thing which without doubt we can ascribe to them; the dyings of the beasts, the dyings of the first-born, and this especially whence all these things proceeded, namely, the hardening of heart, so that they would not let go the people of God. 3623 For when God is said to make this most iniquitous and malignant obstinacy, He maketh it not by suggesting and inspiring, but by forsaking, so that they work in the sons of unbelief that which God doth duly and justly permit. 3624 …Moreover, those evil manners which we said were signified by these corporal plagues, on account of that which was said before, “I will open in parables my mouth,” 3625 are most appropriately believed by means of evil angels to have been wrought in those that are made subject to them by Divine justice. For neither when that cometh to pass of which the apostle speaketh, “God gave them over into the lusts of their heart, that they should do things which are not convenient,” 3626 can it be but that those evil angels dwell and rejoice therein, as in the matter of their own work: unto whom most justly is human haughtiness made subject, in all save those whom grace doth deliver. “And for these things who is sufficient?” 3627 Whence when he had said, “He sent unto them the anger of His indignation, indignation and anger and tribulation, an infliction through evil angels;” for this which he hath added, “a way He hath made for the path of His anger” (Psa. 78.50), whose eye, I pray, is sufficient to penetrate, so that it may understand and take in the sense lying hidden in so great a profundity? For the path of the anger of God was that whereby He punished the ungodliness of the Egyptians with hidden justice: but for that same path He made a way, so that drawing them forth as it were from secret places by means of evil angels unto manifest offences, He most evidently inflicted punishment upon those that were most evidently ungodly. From this power of evil angels nothing doth deliver man but the grace of God, whereof the Apostle speaketh, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love:” 3628 of which things that people did bear the figure, when they were delivered from the power of the Egyptians, and translated into the kingdom of the land of promise flowing with milk and honey, which doth signify the sweetness of grace.
29. The Psalm proceedeth then after the commemoration of the plagues of the Egyptians (Psa. 78.51) and saith, “And He took away like sheep His people, and He led them through like a flock in the desert” (Psa. 78.52). “And He led them down in hope, and they feared not, and their enemies the sea covered” (Psa. 78.53). This cometh to pass to so much the greater good, as it is a more inward thing, wherein being delivered from the power of darkness, we are in mind translated into the Kingdom of God, and with respect to spiritual pastures we are made to become sheep of God, walking in this world as it were in a desert, inasmuch as to no one is our faith observable: whence saith the Apostle, “Your life is hidden with Christ in God.” 3629 But we are being led home in hope, “For by hope we are saved.” 3630 Nor ought we to fear. For, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” 3631 And our enemies the sea hath covered, He hath effaced them in baptism by the remission of sins.
30. In the next place there followeth, “And He led them into the mountain of His sanctification” (Psa. 78.54). How much better into Holy Church! “The mountain which His right hand hath gotten.” How much higher is the Church which Christ hath gotten, concerning whom has been said, “And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 3632 (Psa. 78.55). “And He cast forth from the face of them the nations.” And 3633 from the face of His faithful. For nations in a manner are the evil spirits of Gentile errors. “And by lot He divided unto them the land in the cord of distribution.” And in us “all things one and the same Spirit doth work, dividing severally to every one as He willeth.” 3634
31. “And He made to dwell in their tabernacles the tribes of Israel.” In the tabernacles, he saith, of the Gentiles He made the tribes of Israel to dwell, which I think can better be explained spiritually, inasmuch as unto celestial glory, whence sinning angels have been cast forth and cast down, by Christs grace we are being uplifted. For that generation crooked and embittering, inasmuch as for these corporal blessings they put not off the coat of oldness, “Did tempt” yet, “and provoked the high God, and His testimonies they kept not (Psa. 78.56): and they turned them away, and they kept not the covenant, like their fathers” (Psa. 78.57). For under a sort of covenant and decree they said, “All things which our Lord God hath spoken we will do, and we will hear.” 3635 It is a remarkp. 378 able thing indeed which he saith, “like their fathers:” while throughout the whole text of the Psalm he was seeming to speak of the same men as it were, yet now it appeareth that the words did concern those who were already in the land of promise, and that the fathers spoken of were of those who did provoke in the desert. “They were turned,” he saith, “into a crooked,” or, as some copies have it, “into a perverse bow” (Psa. 78.58). But what this is doth better appear in that which followeth, where he saith, “And unto wrath they provoked Him with their hills” (Psa. 78.59). It doth signify that they leaped into idolatry. The bow then was perverted, not for the name of the Lord, but against the name of the Lord: who said to the same people, “Thou shalt have none other Gods but Me.” 3636 But by the bow He doth signify the minds intention. This same idea, lastly, more clearly working out, “And in their graven idols,” he saith, “they provoked Him to indignation.”
32. “God heard, and He despised:” that is, He gave heed and took vengeance. “And unto nothing He brought Israel exceedingly” (Psa. 78.60). For when God despised, what were they who by Gods help were what they were? But doubtless he is commemorating the doing of that thing, when they were conquered by the Philistines in the time of Heli the priest, and the Ark of the Lord was taken, and with great slaughter they were laid low. 3637 This it is that he speaketh of. “And He rejected the tabernacle of Selom, His tabernacle, where He dwelled among men” (Psa. 78.61). He hath elegantly explained why He rejected His tabernacle, when he saith, “where He dwelled among men.” When therefore they were not worthy for Him to dwell among, why should He not reject the tabernacle, which indeed not for Himself He had established, but for their sakes, whom now He judged unworthy for Him to dwell among. “And He gave over unto captivity their strength, and their beauty unto the hands of the enemy.” The very Ark whereby they thought themselves invincible, and whereon they plumed themselves, he calleth their “virtue” and “beauty.” Lastly, also afterward, when they were living ill, and boasting of the temple of the Lord, He doth terrify them by a Prophet, saying, “See ye what I have done to Selom, where was My tabernacle.” 3638 “And He ended with the sword His people, and His inheritance He despised” (Psa. 78.62). “Their young men the fire devoured:” that is, wrath. “And their virgins mourned not” (Psa. 78.63). For not even for this was there leisure, in fear of the foe. “Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows were not lamented” (Psa. 78.64). For there fell by the sword the sons of Heli, of one of whom the wife being widowed, and presently dying in child-birth, 3639 because of the same confusion could not be mourned with the distinction of a funeral. “And the Lord was awakened as one sleeping” (Psa. 78.65). For He seemeth to sleep, when He giveth His people into the hands of those whom He hateth, when there is said to them, “Where is thy God?” 3640 “He was awakened, then, like one sleeping, like a mighty man drunken with wine.” No one would dare to say this of God, save His Spirit. For he hath spoken, as it seemeth to ungodly men reviling; as if like a drunken man He sleepeth long, when He succoureth not so speedily as men think. 3641
33. “And He smote His enemies in the hinder parts” (Psa. 78.66): those, to wit, who were rejoicing that they were able to take His Ark: for they were smitten in their back-parts. 3642 Which seemeth to me to be a sign of that punishment, wherewith a man will be tortured, if he shall have looked back upon things behind; which, as saith the Apostle, he ought to value as dung. 3643 For they that do so receive the Testament of God, as that they put not off from them the old vanity, are like the hostile nations, who did place the captured Ark of the Testament beside their own idols. And yet those old things even though these be unwilling do fall: for “all flesh is hay, and the glory of man as the flower of hay. The hay hath dried up, and the flower hath fallen off:” 3644 but the Ark of the Lord “abideth for everlasting,” to wit, the secret testament of the kingdom of Heaven, where is the eternal Word of God. But they that have loved things behind, because of these very things most justly shall be tormented. For “everlasting reproach He hath given to them.” (Psa. 78.67).
34. “And He rejected,” he saith, “the tabernacle of Joseph, and the tribe of Ephraim 3645 He chose not” (Psa. 78.68). “And He chose the tribe of Judah” (Psa. 78.69). He hath not said, He rejected the tabernacle of Reuben, who was the first-born son of Jacob; 3646 nor them that follow, and precede Judah in order of birth; so that they being rejected and not chosen, the tribe of Judah was chosen. For it might have been said that they were deservedly rejected; because even in the blessing of Jacob wherewith he blessed his sons, he mentioneth their sins, 3647 and deeply abhorreth them; though among them the tribe of Levi merited to be the priestly tribe, whence p. 379 also Moses was. 3648 Nor hath he said, He rejected the tabernacle of Benjamin, or the tribe of Benjamin He chose not, out of which a king already had begun to be; for thence there had been chosen Saul; 3649 whence because of the very proximity of the time, when he had been rejected and refused, and David chosen, 3650 this might conveniently have been said; but yet was not said: but he hath named those especially who seemed to excel for more surpassing merits. For Joseph fed in Egypt his father and his brethren, and having been impiously sold, because of his piety, chastity, wisdom, he was most justly exalted; 3651 and Ephraim by the blessing of his grandfather Jacob was preferred before his elder brother: 3652 and yet God “rejected the tabernacle of Joseph, and the tribe of Ephraim He chose not.” In which place by these names of renowned merit, what else do we understand but that whole people with old cupidity requiring of the Lord earthly rewards, rejected and refused, but the tribe of Judah chosen not for the sake of the merits of that same Judah? For far greater are the merits of Joseph, but by the tribe of Judah, inasmuch as thence arose Christ according to the flesh, the Scripture doth testify of the new people of Christ preferred before that old people, the Lord opening in parables His mouth. Moreover, thence also in that which followeth, “the Mount Sion which He chose,” we do better understand the Church of Christ, not worshipping God for the sake of the carnal blessings of the present time, but from afar looking for future and eternal rewards with the eyes of faith: for Sion too is interpreted a “looking out.”
35. Lastly there followeth, “and He builded like as of unicorns His sanctification” (Psa. 78.70): or, as some interpreters have made thereof a new word, “His sanctifying.” 3653 The unicorns are rightly understood to be those, whose firm hope is uplifted unto that one thing, concerning which another Psalm saith, “One thing I have sought of the Lord, this I will require.” 3654 But the sanctifying of God, according to the Apostle Peter, is understood to be a holy people and a royal priesthood. 3655 But that which followeth, “in the land which He founded for everlasting:” which the Greek copies have εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, whether it be called by us “for everlasting,” or “for an age,” is at the pleasure of the Latin translators; forasmuch as it doth signify either: and therefore the latter is found in some Latin copies, the former in others. Some also have it in the plural, that is, “for ages:” which in the Greek copies which we have had we have not found. But which of the faithful would doubt, that the Church, even though, some going, others coming, she doth pass out of this life in mortal manner, is yet founded for everlasting?
36. “And He chose David His servant” (Psa. 78.71). The tribe, I say, of Judah, for the sake of David: but David for the sake of Christ: the tribe then of Judah for the sake of Christ. At whose passing by blind men cried out, “Have pity on us, Son of David:” 3656 and forthwith by His pity they received light, because true was the thing which they cried out. This then the Apostle doth not cursorily speak of, but doth heedfully notice, writing to Timothy, “Be thou mindful, that Christ Jesus hath risen from the dead, of the seed of David,” etc. 3657 Therefore the Saviour Himself, made according to the flesh of the seed of David, is figured in this passage under the name of David, the Lord opening in parables His mouth. And let it not move us, that when he had said, “and He chose David,” under which name he signified Christ, he hath added, “His servant,” not His Son. Yea even hence we may perceive, that not the substance of the Only-Begotten coeternal with the Father, but the “form of a servant” was taken of the seed of David.
37. “And He took him from the flocks of sheep, from behind the teeming sheep He received him: to feed Jacob His servant, and Israel His inheritance” (Psa. 78.72). This David indeed, of whose seed the flesh of Christ is, from the pastoral care of cattle was translated to the kingdom of men: but our David, Jesus Himself, from men to men, from Jews to Gentiles, was yet according to the parable from sheep to sheep taken away and translated. For there are not now in that land “Churches of Judæa in Christ,” which belonged to them of the circumcision after the recent Passion and Resurrection of our Lord, of whom saith the Apostle, “But I was unknown by face to the Churches of Judæa, which are in Christ,” etc. 3658 Already from hence those Churches of the circumcised people have passed away: and thus in Judæa, which now doth exist on the earth, there is not now Christ. 3659 He hath been removed thence, now He doth feed flocks of Gentiles. Truly from behind teeming sheep He hath been taken thence. For those former Churches were of such sort, as that of them it is said in the Song of Songs, “Thy teeth—are like a flock of shorn ewes going up from the washing, 3660 all of which do bear twins, and a barren one is not among them.” 3661 For they then laid aside like as it were fleeces the burdens of the world, 3662 when before the feet of the Apostles they laid the prices of their sold goods, 3663 going up from that Laver, concerning which the p. 380 apostle Peter doth admonish them, when they were troubled because they had shed the blood of Christ, and he saith, “Repent ye, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and your sins shall be forgiven you.” 3664 But twins they begat, the works, to wit, of the two commandments of twin love, love of God, and love of ones neighbour: whence a barren one there was not among them. From behind these teeming sheep our David having been taken, doth now feed other flocks among the Gentiles, and those too “Jacob” and “Israel.” For thus hath been said, “to feed Jacob His servant, and Israel His inheritance.”…Unless perchance any one be willing to make such a distinction as this; viz. that in this time Jacob serveth; but he will be the eternal inheritance of God, at that time when he shall see God face to face, whence he hath received the name Israel. 3665
38. “And He fed them,” he saith, “in the innocence of His heart” (Psa. 78.73). What can be more innocent than He, who not only had not any sin whereby to be conquered, but even not any to conquer? “And in the understanding of His hands He led them home:” or, as some copies have it, “in the understandings of His hands.” Any other man might suppose that it would have been better had it been said thus, “in innocence of hands and understanding of heart;” but He who knew better than others what He spake, preferred to join with the heart innocence, and with the hands understanding. It is for this reason, as far as I judge; because many men think themselves innocent, who do not evil things because they fear lest they should suffer if they shall have done them; but they have the will to do them, if they could with impunity. Such men may seem to have innocence of hands, but yet not that of heart. And what, I pray, or of what sort is that innocence, if of heart it is not, where man was made after the image of God? 3666 But in this which he saith, “in understanding (or intelligence) of His hands He led them home,” he seemeth to me to have spoken of that intelligence which He doth Himself make in believers: and so “of His hands:” for making doth belong to the hands, but in the sense wherein the hands of God may be understood; for even Christ was a Man in such sort, that He was also God.…
1 Cor. x. 5. [He cites to verse 12, entire.—C.]367:3542 368:3543 368:3544 368:3545 368:3546
[Judg. xiii. 20. This mysterious subject may be illustrated from Holy Scripture so as to justify our authors very broad statement. It throws light on Gen. 3:1, 2 Pet. 2:16. Compare on Ps. 78.49, infra.—C.]368:3547 368:3548 368:3549 368:3550 368:3551 368:3552 368:3553 369:3554 369:3555 369:3556 369:3557 369:3558 369:3559 369:3560 369:3561 369:3562 369:3563 369:3564 369:3565 369:3566 370:3567 370:3568 370:3569 370:3570 370:3571 370:3572 370:3573 370:3574 370:3575 370:3576 370:3577 370:3578 370:3579 371:3580 371:3581 371:3582 371:3583 371:3584 371:3585
Prov. iv. 27, LXX.371:3586 371:3587 371:3588 371:3589 371:3590 371:3591 372:3592 372:3593 373:3594 373:3595 373:3596 373:3597 373:3598
Ps. xvii. 15, Lat.373:3599 374:3600 374:3601 374:3602 374:3603 374:3604 374:3605 374:3606 374:3607 375:3608 375:3609 375:3610 375:3611 375:3612 375:3613 376:3614 376:3615 376:3616 376:3617 376:3618 376:3619 376:3620 376:3621 376:3622 377:3623 377:3624 377:3625 377:3626 377:3627 377:3628 377:3629 377:3630 377:3631 377:3632 377:3633 377:3634 377:3635 378:3636 378:3637
1 Sam. iv. 10, etc.378:3638 378:3639 378:3640 378:3641 378:3642 378:3643 378:3644 378:3645
[Jeroboam represented the house of Joseph (1 Kings xi. 28), and was offended at the removal of the Tabernacle (1 Kings viii. 4) to Jerusalem. But God overruled his rebellion in such wise, that Ephraim (as the ten tribes were called from the pre-eminent one) carried away, and, not returning, did not, as tribes, share in the rejection of the Messiah, “the Shepherd and Stone of Israel;” thus indicated in the prophetic benediction of Jacob, Gen. xlix. 24.—C.]378:3646 378:3647 379:3648 379:3649 379:3650 379:3651 379:3652 379:3653 379:3654 379:3655 379:3656 379:3657 379:3658 379:3659 379:3660 379:3661 379:3662 379:3663 380:3664 380:3665 380:3666
©st-takla.org : Saint Takla Haymanout Website: General Portal for the Coptic Orthodox Church Faith, Egypt / Contact us at:
Bible | Daily Readings | Agbeya | Books | Lyrics | Gallery | Media | Links | Contact us