Verse 31. "He shall stand at the right hand of the poor " - Even if Satan himself be the accuser, God will vindicate the innocence of his servant.
Pilate and the Jews condemned our Lord to death as a malefactor; God showed his immaculate innocence by his resurrection from the dead.
The whole of this Psalms is understood by many as referring solely to Christ, the traitor Judas, and the wicked Jews. This is the view taken of it in the analysis.
ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND NINTH PSALM
The later expositors expound this Psalm of Doeg Ahithophel, and other persecutors of David; and so it may be understood in the type; but the ancient fathers apply it to Judas and the Jews who put Christ to death; which opinion, being more probable, and because Peter ( Acts i. 20) applies a passage out of ver. 8 to Judas, I shall expound the Psalm as of Christ, whom David personated, and of Judas and the malicious Jews, as understood in the persons of his wicked and slanderous enemies.
"The Psalm has four parts: " - I. A short ejaculation, ver. 1, and the reasons expressed in a complaint of the fraud and malice of his enemies, ver. 6.
II. A bitter imprecation against their fury, ver. 6-21.
III. A supplication presented to God for himself, and the reasons, ver. 21-30.
IV. A profession of thanks.
I. He begins with an ejaculation: "Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise." 1. Either actively, that is, "O God, whom I praise," even in the greatest calamities.
2. Or passively; "Who art my praise:" The Witness and Advocate of my innocency when I am condemned by malicious tongues; which sense appears best for this place.
"Hold not thy peace." Tacere, to be silent, in Scripture, when referred to God, is to connive, to rest, to appear not to regard; and, on the contrary, loqui, to speak, to do something for revenge or deliverance; it is what David here asks, that, when the malice of his enemies arrived at its height, God should not suffer them, but show his displeasure.
Then by way of complaint, he describes their malicious nature, which he aggravates by an elegant gradation. "For the mouth of the wicked:" and they were, 1. Impious. 2. Deceitful. 3. Liars.
1. "For the mouth of the wicked:" Caiaphas, Judas, the priests, Jews, &c.
2. "And the mouth of the deceitful," &c. They sought to entrap him in his words.
3. "They have spoken against me," &c. "He casteth out devils through Beelzebub," &c.
And yet the mischief rises higher, even to hatred and malice.
1. "They compassed me about," &c. Manifesting in plain words the malice they carried in their hearts. "This man is not of God," &c.
2. "They hated me without a cause:" Wantonly, idly. They were not only evil, deceitful, and malicious; but very ungrateful. "He went about doing good;" and "How often would I have gathered you," &c.; and for this love they returned hatred.
1. "For my love, they are my adversaries:" But, nevertheless, 2. "I give myself to prayer:"Father, forgive them; they know not," &c. Which base ingratitude of theirs he opens in fuller words. "They have rewarded me evil." And Theognis truly says, Æh cariv allaxai thn fusin ou dunatai.
No kindness can invert an evil nature: A Jew will ever be a Jew.
II. The prophet, having complained of the malice, spiteful usage, and ingratitude of his nation, their crafty dealing with him, and their lies against him, proceeds to pray against them, and that in most bitter and fearful imprecations. Enemies he foresaw they would be to the flourishing state of Christ's Church, and that nothing had power to restrain or amend them; and therefore he curses them with a curse the most bitter that ever fell from the lips of man. In particular Judas, who was guide to them who took Jesus, is pointed out; but, as Augustine observes, he represented the person of the whole synagogue; therefore, it is involved necessarily. But some understanding these curses as uttered by the Jews against David. See the note on ver. 20.
1. "Set thou a wicked man over him," &c.: A fearful imprecation.
Subject him to the will of some impious and wicked man, to whose lust and violence he may be no better than a slave. Others understand by a wicked man a false teacher, who may seduce him by false doctrines.
2. "Let Satan stand at his right hand:" Have full power over him. Let him stand; which signifies a perpetual endeavour to urge him forward till he effect his intended mischief. And so it was with Judas and the Jews; Satan was their guide, and they followed him.
The second is, "When he shall be judged, let him be condemned;"- find no mercy, no favour, at the judge's hands; thus, when Judas, accused and condemned by his own conscience, went to the high priest, who had bribed him, he would not acquit him; and Judas, in despair and grief for his sin, "went out and hanged himself." The third, "Let his prayer become sin:" He turned his ear from hearing God, why then should God hear him? No prayer is acceptable to God but through Christ, and that out of a sincere heart; any other prayers become sin.
The fourth is the shortening of their life and honour.
1. "Let his days be few:" Length of days is promised only to the obedient, and is a blessing: but the prayer is that this man's life be a short one, and so Judas's was.
2. "And let another take his office:" Which must be applied to Judas, since St. Peter ( Acts i. 20) so interprets it; and it is at this day as true of the Jews, for they have no high priest. Another, after the order of Melchizedek has succeeded Aaron's priesthood.
"The fifth is: " - 1. "Let his children be fatherless," &c.: Which follows on the former curse.
2. "Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg:" And such the Jews are to this day; and beggars they were for a long time after the overthrow of Jerusalem.
The sixth execration is upon his goods.
1. "Let the extortioner catch all that he hath:" Probably the publicans.
2. "And let the strangers spoil his labour:" Which was verified by the soldiers of Titus, who ripped up the bellies of the captive Jews to see if they had swallowed gold.
But the prophet again returns to his children.
1. "Let there be none to extend mercy unto him," &c.: To beg, or to want, is a misery; but there is some comfort in it when beggars meet with some to relieve it. But the prophet says, Let there be none to pity him, or his. Judas found none to pity him.
2. Men, because they must die themselves, desire, if possible, to be immortal in their issue. Bellbarmine observes that Judas had no issue; for that Matthias, who came in his place, did not derive his office from him. Though a posterity of the Jews remained after the flesh, yet, in the next generation, their ecclesiastical and civil polity was at an end; and since their dispersion they are without king, without priest, without sacrifice, without altar, without ephod, and without teraphim, as foretold by Hosea.
3. "Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered," &c.: This imprecation answers God's threat: "I will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children." And this curse has come upon the Jews to the uttermost; they are self-devoted: "Let his blood be upon us, and upon our children." The guilt of his blood is yet upon them; the iniquity of their fathers is yet remembered; and the sin of their mother, the synagogue, is not yet done away.
He repeats again the sin of their fathers, and the sin of the synagogue; this verse being but the exposition of the former.
1. "Let them be before the Lord continually:" The sin their father and mother committed, never let it be forgotten by God.
2. "That he may cut off the memory," &c.: Except it be in contempt.
The prophet having now finished his execrations, acquaints us with the causes of them.
1. Their want of pity to them in distress: "Have ye no regard, all ye that pass by?" Lam. i. 12. It is but just then "that they find judgment without mercy, that would show no mercy." 2. So far from that, "that he persecuted the poor and needy man," &c., which is the second cause ; the inhumanity of Judas and the Jews against Christ, who is here called-1. Poor, because, "when he was rich, for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich;" 2 Cor. ix. 2. The needy man: "For the foxes have holes,a' &c., Luke ix. 58. 3. The broken in heart. For he was in agony, and his soul was troubled, when he sweated great drops of blood; when he cried, "My God, my God!" not with compunction or contrition for any fault he had committed, but from a sense of pain, and his solicitude for the salvation of mankind.
In this verse there is noted the extreme cruelty and inhumanity of the Jews; for whoever persecutes a man for his life is inclined to it either from some real or supposed injury, or else through envy: but Christ was humble and lowly in heart; he went about doing good, and yet they persecuted him.
But, thirdly, he complains: "He loved cursing;" therefore, it is but reason that he should have what he loved: "As he clothed himself with cursing-so let it come," &c. No man can love a curse or hate a blessing, if it be proposed to the will under the form of a curse or blessing: but a man is said to love a curse when he follows a wicked course, and avoids the blessing of a good life. This Judas and the Jews did: Judas, by loving money more than his Master; the Jews, by- "Let his blood," &c.
Neque enim lex justior ulla est. &c.
It is just that a man should suffer for his own wicked inventions. But the prophet adds, Let it sit close to him as a garment; let it be converted into his substance: let him carry it perpetually, &c.
1. "As he clothed himself with cursing," &c. As in clothes he delights in.
2. "So let it come as waters," &c. As the stomach concocts and turns every thing into the very flesh of the animal; so let his curse be converted into his nature and manners.
3. "Let it come as oil into his bones," &c. Oil will pierce the bones; water will not.
This curse must be of great efficacy; he must always carry it.
1. "Let it be unto him," &c. Stick close as a garment.
2. "And for a girdle," &c. Compass him round about.
For a garment some read pallium; a cloak that a man puts off at home, and calls for when he goes abroad: thus let God set an outward mark upon him; let him be known as a cast-away.
If Doeg were the type of Judas, as most agree, in this Psalm, then by the girdle might be understood cingulum militare, the military girdle, which, while they were of that profession they cast not off: and he, Doeg, being a military man, the curse was to cleave to him, and compass him as his girdle.
The prophet concludes this part of the Psalm with an exclamation, as being persuaded his curses were not in vain.
"Let this be the reward of mine adversaries," &c., who say that I am a deceiver, and deny me to be the saviour of the world.
III. The prophet now turns from curses to prayer: and in the person of Christ, directs it to God for protection and deliverance both of himself and the whole Church.
1. "But do thou for me," &c. He asks help against his persecutors on these three grounds:
1. Because his Lord was Jehovah, the fountain of all being and power. 2. Because it would be for his honour: "Do it for thy name's sake." Thy faithfulness and goodness to the Church, and justice in executing vengeance on her enemies. 3. Do it, because thy mercy is good-easily inclined to succour the miserable.
2. "Deliver me," may have reference to Christ's prayer, "Father, save me from this hour," &c.
1. "Deliver me," for I am destitute of all human help.
2. "Deliver me," for my heart is wounded within me.
And to these he adds many other reasons; and uses two similes, the one drawn from the shadow of the evening, the other from the locust.
1. "I am gone like a shadow: " &c. Which passes away in a moment silently: so was Christ led away as a prisoner, without any murmur: "He was led as a lamb," &c., Isa. liii. Thus the apostles and martyrs died patiently.
2. "I am tossed up and down as the locust." From one tribunal to another, as the locust carried from place to place, Exod. x. 12, 19.
Secondly, he reasons from his bodily debility.
1. "My knees are weak through fasting." The little sustenance Christ took before his passion and his watching in prayer all night.
2. "And my flesh faileth of fatness," through the excess of his fatigue, and the anguish of his Spirit: thus he could not bear his cross.
3. A third reason why God should pity and deliver is drawn from the opprobrious usage and the scorn they put upon him, than which there is nothing more painful to an ingenuous and noble nature: "I am become also a reproach unto them," &c. The four Gospels are an ample comment upon this verse.
The second part of his prayer is for a speedy resurrection: "Help me, O Lord my God: O save me," &c. And he supports his petition with a strong reason, drawn from the final cause: "Save me, that they may know," &c.
That all men, the Jews especially may be convinced by my rising again, in despite of the watch and the seal, that it was not their malice and power that brought me to this ignominious death, but that my passion, suffering, and death proceeded from thy hand: "By his resurrection he was declared," Rom. i. 4. And in the close of his prayer he sings a triumph over his enemies the devil, Judas, the Jews, those bitter enemies, to him and his Church.
1. "Let them curse." Speak evil of me and my followers.
2. "But bless thou." Bless all nations that have faith in me.
3. "When they arise." For, 1. Arise they will, and endeavour by every means to destroy my kingdom; 2. But "let them be ashamed." Confounded that their wishes are frustrated.
4. "But let thy servant (which condition Christ took upon himself) rejoice;" because thy game is thereby glorified.
And he continues his exercrations by way of explanation. "Let mine adversaries," &c, be confounded at the last day, for their ingratitude and malice, before angels and men.
IV. He closes all with thanks, which he opposes to the confusion of the wicked.
1. "I will greatly praise the Lord." With affection and a great jubilee.
2. "I will praise him among the multitude." Before all the world.
"For which he assigns this reason: " - 1. "He shall stand at the right hand of the poor." That is, such as are poor in spirit, who ask and find mercy from God: to such I will be as a shield and buckler.
2. "I will stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him," &c. From the devil and all his instruments. Christ is the all-covering shield of his Church: "He hath blotted out the handwriting of ordinances," &c. So that, cum a mundo damnamur, a Christo ab solvemur. "When we are condemned by the world, we are absolved by Christ."