Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Psalm 6/2: verse 1** - On God's anger

The opening verse of Psalm 6 is worth pondering carefully not least because it is exactly the same as that of the third penitential psalm, Psalm 37.

God's anger?

Vulgate (V)/
Jerome from Hebrew (JH)
Dómine, ne in furóre tuo árguas me, neque in ira tua corrípias me. 
κύριε μ τ θυμ σου λέγξς με μηδ τ ργ σου παιδεύσς με

furor, oris, m.  rage, wrath, fury, indignation – L: punishment in hell (Chrys)
arguo, ui, utum, ere 3 lit., to make clear or bright, to put in a clear light; fig., to rebuke, censure, reprove, blame, accuse
ira, ae, f, anger, wrath – L: punishment in purgatory (Chrys)
corripio, ripui, reptum, ere  to chastize, chasten;  to reprove, rebuke;seize, reproach

O Lord, rebuke me not in your indignation, nor chastise me in your wrath.
O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath, neither chasten me in thine anger.
Lord chastise me not in Thy anger and punish me not in your wrath
O LORD, rebuke me not in thy anger, nor chasten me in thy wrath.
O Lord, rebuke me not in thine indignation, neither chasten me in thy displeasure.
Lord, when thou dost reprove me, let it not be in anger; when thou dost chastise me, let it not be in displeasure. 

The first couple of words I want to focus on are furore, which comes from  furor, furoris means rage, wrath, fury, or indignation; and ira which means anger.

We tend to shy away today from the idea of an angry God, despite the frequent references to God's anger in the Old Testament (the picture below is of Cain escaping before God's anger, Flanders tapestry at Wawel Royal Castle, Arkady, 1975), and of course Our Lord's famous anger when he cleansed the Temple.  Indeed, the Latin here is actually rather softer than the Hebrew.

And it is true of course that the psalm here anthropomorphizes, since God does not literally react emotionally, with anger or other emotions, as he is unchangeable. St Augustine comments:

“Yet this emotion must not be attributed to God. Disturbance then does not attach to God as judge: but what is done by His ministers, in that it is done by His laws, is called His anger…”

Nonetheless, there is a reason why Scripture speaks of God’s anger – it puts an objective reality into terms that we can understand. Origen in Against Celsus, for example, says that:

“Anger not an emotional response on the part of God, but something he uses to correct those who have committed many serious sins.”

The verse reminds us that God does care about what we do, and from our perspective at least, reacts to it.  And fear of hell is certainly a sufficient motivation to repent of our sins!

God’s rebuke

To return to the text of the verse, though, arguas comes from the verb arguere, which literally means to make clear or bright, to put in a clear light, and thus figuratively is used to mean to rebuke, censure, reprove, while corripere means to chastize, chasten, reprove or rebuke.

So the verse is an acknowledgment by the psalmist that his sins deserve God’s anger, that he has offended God.  He is saying that there is no need for God to act further to get him to accept that he has sinned; thanks to the prophet Nathan's efforts (2 Samuel 12), he has been led to do that.  Of course, actually acknowledging that we have sinned is not always that easy, as we shall see when we look at the second penitential psalm!

Still, what the psalmist seeks here, as Verse 2 makes clear, is healing.

Prayer and contemplation

So let us too, make sure that we have listened and attended to the good counsel of those sent to us to stand in the place of Nathan, and undertake a good examination of conscience.

Psalm 6: Domine ne in furore tuo arguas me
Magistro chori. Fidibus. Super octavam. PSALMUS. David.
Unto the end, in verses, a psalm for David, for the octave.
Dómine, ne in furóre tuo árguas me, * neque in ira tua corrípias me.
O Lord, rebuke me not in your indignation, nor chastise me in your wrath.
2  Miserére mei, Dómine, quóniam infírmus sum : * sana me, Dómine, quóniam conturbáta sunt ossa mea.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak: heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
3  Et ánima mea turbáta est valde : * sed tu, Dómine, úsquequo?
And my soul is troubled exceedingly: but you, O Lord, how long?  
4  Convértere, Dómine, et éripe ánimam meam : * salvum me fac propter misericórdiam tuam.
Turn to me, O Lord, and deliver my soul: O save me for your mercy's sake.
5.  Quóniam non est in morte qui memor sit tui : * in inférno autem quis confitébitur tibi?
For there is no one in death that is mindful of you: and who shall confess to you in hell?
6  Laborávi in gémitu meo, lavábo per síngulas noctes lectum meum : * lácrimis meis stratum meum rigábo.
I have laboured in my groanings, every night I will wash my bed: I will water my couch with my tears
7  Turbátus est a furóre óculus meus : * inveterávi inter omnes inimícos meos.
My eye is troubled through indignation: I have grown old amongst all my enemies.
8  Discédite a me, omnes, qui operámini iniquitátem : *  quóniam exaudívit Dóminus vocem fletus mei.
Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity: for the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.
9  Exaudívit Dóminus deprecatiónem meam, *  Dóminus oratiónem meam suscépit.
The Lord has heard my supplication: the Lord has received my prayer.
10  Erubéscant, et conturbéntur veheménter omnes inimíci mei : * convertántur et erubéscant valde velóciter.
Let all my enemies be ashamed, and be very much troubled: let them be turned back, and be ashamed very speedily.

The next set of notes on Psalm 6 can be found here.

**Previously posted at Australia Incognita

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