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ANF05. Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novatian, Appendix
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On Psalm LXXVII. Or LXXVIII.12111211    Bandini, Catalog. Codd. Græc. Biblioth. Mediceo-Laurent., i. p. 91.

45. He sent the dog-fly among them, and consumed them; and the frog, and destroyed them.

46. He gave also their fruits to the mildew, and their labours to the locust.

47. He destroyed their vine with hail, and their sycamines with frost.

Now, just as, in consequence of an irregular mode of living, a deadly bilious humour may be formed in the inwards, which the physician by his art may bring on to be a sick-vomiting, without being himself chargeable with producing the sick humour in the man’s body; for excess in diet was what produced it, while the physician’s science only made it show itself; so, although it may be said that the painful retribution that falls upon those who are by choice wicked comes from God, it would be only in accordance with right reason, to think that ills of that kind find both their beginnings and their causes in ourselves. For to one who lives without sin there is no darkness, no worm, no hell (Gehenna), no fire, nor any other of these words or things of terror; just as the plagues of Egypt were not for the Hebrews,—those fine lice annoying with invisible bites, the dog-fly fastening on the body with its painful sting, the hurricanes from heaven falling upon them with hailstones, the husbandman’s labours devoured by the locusts, the darkened sky, and the rest. It is God’s counsel, indeed, to tend the true vine, and to destroy the Egyptian, while sparing those who are to “eat the grape of gall, and drink the deadly venom of asps.”12121212    Deut. xxxii. 33. And the sycamine of Egypt is utterly destroyed; not, however, that one which Zaccheus climbed that he might be able to see my Lord. And the fruits of Egypt are wasted, that is, the works of the flesh, but not the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, and peace.12131213    Gal. v. 22.

48. He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their substance to the fire.

Symmachus renders it: “Who gave up their cattle to the plague, and their possessions to birds.” For, having met an overwhelming overthrow, they became a prey for carnivorous birds. But, according to the Seventy, the sense is not that the hail destroyed their cattle, and the fire the rest of their substance, but that hail, falling in an extraordinary manner along with fire, destroyed utterly their vines and sycamines first of all, which were entirely unable to stand out against the first attack; then the cattle which grazed on the plains; and then every herb and tree, which the fire accompanying the hail consumed; and the affair was altogether portentous, as fire ran with the water, and was commingled with it. “For fire ran in the hail,” he says; and it was thus hail, and fire burning in the hail.  David also calls the cattle and the fruit of the trees “substance,” or “riches.” And it should be observed that, though the hail is recorded to have destroyed every herb and every tree, yet there were left some which the locust, as it came upon them after the fiery hail, consumed; of which it is said, that it eats up every herb, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail left behind it. Now, in a spiritual sense, there are some sheep belonging to Christ, and others belonging to the Egyptians.  Those, however, which once belonged to others may become His, as the sheep of Laban became Jacob’s; and contrariwise. Whichever of the sheep, moreover, Jacob rejected, he made over to Esau.  Beware, then, lest, being found in the flock of Jesus, you be set apart when gifts are sent to Esau, and be given over to Esau as reprobate and unworthy of the spiritual Jacob. The single-minded are the sheep of Christ, and these God saves according to the word: “O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast.”12141214    Ps. xxxvi. 6. They who in their folly attach themselves to godless doctrine, are the sheep of the Egyptians, and these, too, are destroyed by the hail. And whatsoever the Egyptians possess is given over to the fire, but Abraham’s substance is given to Isaac.

49. He discharged upon them the wrath of His anger;—anger, and wrath, and tribulation, a visitation by evil angels.

Under anger, wrath, and tribulation, he intended bitter punishments; for God is without passion. And by anger you will understand the lesser penalties, and by wrath the greater, and by tribulation the greatest. 12151215    Theodoret also, following Hippolytus, understood by “evil angels” here, not “demons,” but the ministers of temporal punishment. See on Ps. lxxviii. 54, and on Jer. xlix. 14. So, too, others, as may be seen in Poli Synops., ii. col. 1113.The angels also are called evil, not because they are so in their nature, or by their own will, but because they have this office, and are appointed to produce pains and sufferings,—being so called, therefore, with reference to the disposition of those who endure such things; just as the day of judgment is called the evil day, as being laden with miseries and pains for sinners. To the same effect is the word of Isaiah, “I, the Lord, make peace, and create evil;”12161216    Isa. xlv. 7. meaning by that, I maintain peace, and permit war.


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