Friday, February 7, 2014

Psalm 134 verses 8b-12

Lamentations over the Death of the First-Born of Egypt
Charles Sprague Pearce (1877),
The previous section of Psalm 134 deals with God's role as creator of the universe.  This next section reminds of us dominion over history, pointing to the two interventions of God that enabled the Jews to enter the promised land, namely their release from Egypt, and their defeat of kings in the lands promised to them.

There are I think, three key take out messages from these verses: first to remember that God has deliberately chosen us, and that this choice has consequences, for God will ensure our enemies are defeated; secondly, to take heed of God's will for ourselves and our nation, and do our best to help effect it, to co-operate with grace rather than to reject it; and thirdly to be prepared to fight to get to heaven.

The content of these verses, as the table below illustrates, is virtually identical to verses 10-11&17-21 of the next psalm of Wednesday Vespers, Psalm 135, save for the addition in the latter of the refrain 'quoniam in aeternam misericordia ejus' (for his mercy endures forever) after each phrase.

qui percússit primogénita ægypti ab hómine usque ad pecus.
Qui percussit primitiua Aegypti, ab homine usque ad pecus.

ὃς ἐπάταξεν τὰ πρωτότοκα Αἰγύπτου ἀπὸ ἀνθρώπου ἕως κτήνους 

qui (who) percússit (he slew) primogénita (the first born) ægypti (of Egypt) ab hómine (from men) usque  (even including) ad pecus (to the cattle/beasts).

percuto, cussi, cussum, ere 3  to smite, strike; to kill, slay.
primogenitum i n first born
usque, adv., to, up to, as far as; till, as far as; to express an extreme degree.
pecus, oris, n., pi., cattle, beasts

He slew the firstborn of Egypt from man even unto beast.
Who smote the first-born of Egypt, both of man and beast. 
He smote the first-born of Egypt from man down to cattle.
bringing the winds out of his treasures. He smote the first-born of Egypt, both of man and beast.

Et misit signa, et prodígia in médio tui, ægypte: * in pharaónem, et in omnes servos ejus.
Misit signa et portenta in medio tui, Aegypte, in Pharao et in cunctos seruos eius.

ἐξαπέστειλεν σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα ἐν μέσῳ σου Αἴγυπτε ἐν Φαραω καὶ ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς δούλοις αὐτοῦ

Et (and) misit (he sent) signa (signs) et (and) prodigia (wonders) in medio (in the midst) tui (of you), Ægypte (Egypt): in Pharaonem (on Pharaoh), et (and) in omnes (on all) servos (the servants) ejus (his).

mitto, misi, missum, ere 3,  to send; cast out,
signum, i, n., a sign, token; a portent; signs, wonders, miracles; military standards.
prodigium ii n a wonder, portent

He sent forth signs and wonders in the midst of you, O Egypt: upon Pharao, and upon all his servants.
He sent signs and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt, on Pharao, and on all his servants. 
He wrought signs and wonders in thee, Egypt, and Pharao and all his servants.
He hath sent tokens and wonders into the midst of thee, O thou land of Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and all his servants.

We often acknowledge God's role as creator of the world; we are often more reluctant to acknowledge his ongoing interventions in history.  This verse refers to perhaps the most important object lesson of this, namely the plagues of Egypt.  God told Moses to ask Pharaoh to free the people; unsurprisingly Pharaoh rejects the idea that the God of the Hebrews has any power over him.  

Chrysostom points out that God could have simply destroyed the Egyptians.  Instead he sends an escalating set of warnings in the form of the ten plagues that destroyed the country, the last of which was the slaughter of the first-born and which finally convinced Pharaoh (at least briefly) to release the slaves.   

The lesson is clear: our God is God of all, and all should fear him; for his will prevails, no matter how much we resist it.

Qui percússit gentes multas: * et occídit reges fortes:

ὃς ἐπάταξεν ἔθνη πολλὰ καὶ ἀπέκτεινεν βασιλεῖς κραταιούς 

Qui (who) percussit (he smites) gentes (the peoples/nations) multas (many), et (and) occidit (he killed) reges (the kings) fortes (strong/mighty)

fortis, e, strong, mighty

He smote many nations, and slew mighty kings:
Who smote many nations, and slew mighty kings; 
who smote many nations and slew mighty kings,
He smote divers nations, and slew mighty kings

Sehon, regem amorrhæórum, et og, regem basan, * et ómnia regna chánaan.
Seon regem Amorraeorum, et Og regem Basan, et omnia regna Chanaan:  

 τὸν Σηων βασιλέα τῶν Αμορραίων καὶ τὸν Ωγ βασιλέα τῆς Βασαν καὶ πάσας τὰς βασιλείας Χανααν 

Sehon, regem (the king) Amorrhæorum (of the Amorites), et Og, regem (the King) Basan (of Basan), et (and) omnia (all) regna (the kingdoms) Chanaan (of Canaan)

See Numbers 21:21-35 and Deuteronomy 3:1-11

Sehon king of the Amorrhites, and Og king of Basan, and all the kingdoms of Chanaan.
Seon king of the Amorites, and Og king of Basan, and all the kingdoms of Chanaan: 
Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan

Sihon and Og stand as representative of the many kings defeated before the Jews could enter the Promised Land, presumably because they were regarded as the most formidable, and their defeat the most miraculous. Some of the Fathers, including St Augustine, interpreted their names as reasons for their selection, suggesting that Amorite means 'those who make bitter', while Basan means confusion.

Et dedit terram eórum hereditátem, * hereditátem israël, pópulo suo.

καὶ ἔδωκεν τὴν γῆν αὐτῶν κληρονομίαν κληρονομίαν Ισραηλ λαῷ αὐτοῦ

et (and) dedit (he gave) terram (the land) eorum (of them/their) hæreditatem (an inheritance/permanent possession), hæreditatem (an inheritance) Israël populo (the people) suo (his).

hereditas, atis, f. an inheritance, possession;  the chosen people, the Israelites, the Church,

And gave their land for an inheritance, for an inheritance to his people Israel.
and gave their land for an inheritance, an inheritance to Israel his people.
and gave their land to be an heritage, even an heritage unto Israel his people.
and marked down their lands for a dwelling-place where his own people of Israel should dwell.

St John Chrysostom points out that the granting of the land permanently to the people of Israel was surely the greater miracle  than simply defeating individual enemies.  Pope Benedict XVI commented:

"Finally, there is the long-awaited and hoped-for destination, the promised land:  "He let Israel inherit their land; on his people their land he bestowed" (v. 12). Divine love becomes concrete and can almost be experienced in history with all of its bitter and glorious vicissitudes."

All the same, as many of the Fathers point out, the Jews then proceeded to lose the land through their transgressions.  The events of Exodus then, merely prefigure the true reality that is yet to be realised in the kingdom of heaven.  And it is something we must be prepared to suffer and fight for, with God's aid, as St Robert Bellarmine points out:

"...God, then, gave all that country to his people of Israel, to be held by them as their own inheritance, just as he wishes the kingdom of heaven, of which it was a type, to be had by fighting and labouring for it.  However, if he did not go before, accompany, and follow up all our labours with his grace, we could do nothing whatsoever.  He it is, then, that saves us, frees us from captivity, and bestows on us an everlasting inheritance."

Psalm 134 (135) – Laudate nomen Domini
1 Laudáte nomen Dómini, * laudáte, servi Dóminum.
Praise the name of the Lord: O you his servants, praise the Lord:
2  Qui statis in domo Dómini, * in átriis domus Dei nostri.
2 You that stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God.
3  Laudáte Dóminum, quia bonus Dóminus: * psállite nómini ejus, quóniam suáve.
3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good: sing to his name, for it is sweet.
4  Quóniam Jacob elégit sibi Dóminus, * Israël in possessiónem sibi.
4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob unto himself: Israel for his own possession.
5  Quia ego cognóvi quod magnus est Dóminus, * et Deus noster præ ómnibus diis.
5 For I have known that the Lord is great, and our God is above all gods.
6  Omnia quæcúmque vóluit, Dóminus fecit in cælo, et in terra, * in mari, et in ómnibus abyssis.
6 Whatsoever the Lord pleased he has done, in heaven, in earth, in the sea, and in all the deeps.
7  Edúcens nubes ab extrémo terræ: * fúlgura in plúviam fecit.
7 He brings up clouds from the end of the earth: he has made lightnings for the rain. He brings forth winds out of his stores:
8  Qui prodúcit ventos de thesáuris suis: * qui percússit primogénita Ægypti ab hómine usque ad pecus.
8 He slew the firstborn of Egypt from man even unto beast.
9  Et misit signa, et prodígia in médio tui, Ægypte: * in Pharaónem, et in omnes servos ejus.
9 He sent forth signs and wonders in the midst of you, O Egypt: upon Pharao, and upon all his servants.
10  Qui percússit gentes multas: * et occídit reges fortes:
10 He smote many nations, and slew mighty kings:
11  Sehon, regem Amorrhæórum, et Og, regem Basan, * et ómnia regna Chánaan.
11 Sehon king of the Amorrhites, and Og king of Basan, and all the kingdoms of Chanaan.
12  Et dedit terram eórum hereditátem, * hereditátem Israël, pópulo suo.
12 And gave their land for an inheritance, for an inheritance to his people Israel.
13  Dómine, nomen tuum in ætérnum: * Dómine, memoriále tuum in generatiónem et generatiónem.
13 Your name, O Lord, is for ever: your memorial, O Lord, unto all generations.
14  Quia judicábit Dóminus pópulum suum: * et in servis suis deprecábitur
14 For the Lord will judge his people, and will be entreated in favour of his servants.
15  Simulácra Géntium argéntum et aurum: * ópera mánuum hóminum.
15 The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold, the works of men's hands.
16  Os habent, et non loquéntur: * óculos habent, et non vidébunt.
16 They have a mouth, but they speak not: they have eyes, but they see not.
17  Aures habent, et non áudient: * neque enim est spíritus in ore ipsórum.
17 They have ears, but they hear not: neither is there any breath in their mouths.
18  Símiles illis fiant qui fáciunt ea: * et omnes qui confídunt in eis.
18 Let them that make them be like to them: and every one that trusts in them.
19  Domus Israël,  benedícite Dómino: * domus Aaron, benedícite Dómino.
19 Bless the Lord, O house of Israel: bless the Lord, O house of Aaron.
20  Domus Levi, benedícite Dómino: * qui timétis Dóminum, benedícite Dómino.
20 Bless the Lord, O house of Levi: you that fear the Lord, bless the Lord.
21  Benedíctus Dóminus ex Sion, * qui hábitat in Jerúsalem.
21 Blessed be the Lord out of Sion, who dwells in Jerusalem.

And for the next part in this series, continue on here.

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