Psalm 72  Quam bonus Israël!

The apparent fortune of the wicked

This Psalm studies a much mooted problem: "Why do the ungodly prosper in the world?"  The answer, in the verses that follow, is one of the most moving passages in the Psalter.

Statement of the problem

Quam bonus Israël Deus, * his, qui recto sunt corde!
2  Mei autem pene moti sunt pedes: * pene effúsi sunt gressus mei.
3  Quia zelávi super iníquos, * pacem peccatórum videns.

How good is God unto Israel: * even unto such as are of a clean heart.
2  Nevertheless, my feet were almost gone, * my treadings had well-nigh slipt.
3  For I was grieved at the wicked: * seeing the ungodly in such prosperity.

Fortune and arrogance of the wicked

4  Quia non est respéctus morti eórum: * et firmaméntum in plaga eórum.
5  In labóre hóminum non sunt: * et cum homínibus non flagellabúntur :
6  Ideo ténuit eos supérbia, * opérti sunt iniquitáte et impietáte sua.
7  Pródiit quasi ex ádipe iníquitas eórum: * transiérunt in afféctum cordis.
8  Cogitavérunt, et locúti sunt nequítiam: * iniquitátem in excélso locúti sunt.
9  Posuérunt in cælum os suum: * et lingua eórum transívit in terra.

4  For there is no regard to their death; * nor is there strength in their stripes.
5  They are not in the labour of men; * neither shall they be scourged like other men.
6  And this is the cause that they are so holden with pride, * they are covered with their iniquity and their wickedness.
7  Their wickedness hath come forth as it were from fatness, * they have passed even into the affection of the heart.
8  They have thought and spoken wickedness : * they have spoken wickedness on high.
9  They have stretched forth their mouth unto the heaven, * and their tongue hath passed through the earth.

The masses are deceived

10  Ideo convertétur pópulus meus hic: * et dies pleni inveniéntur in eis.
11  Et dixérunt : Quómodo scit Deus, * et si est sciéntia in excélso?
12  Ecce ipsi peccatóres, et abundántes in sæculo, * obtinuérunt divítias.

10  Therefore shall my people return here : * and full days shall be found in them.
11  And they said : How doth God know? * and is there knowledge in the Most High?
12  Lo, these are the ungodly, and yet abounding in the world, * they have riches in possession:

The psalmist, too, wavers

13  Et dixi: Ergo sine causa justificávi cor meum, * et lavi inter innocéntes manus meas.
14  Et fui flagellátus tota die, * et castigátio mea in matutínis.
15  Si dicébam: Narrábo sic: * ecce natiónem filiórum tuórum reprobávi.
16  Existimábam ut cognóscerem hoc, * labor est ante me.

13  And I said, Then have I in vain justified my heart, * and washed my hands among the innocent.
14  All the day long have I been punished, * and my chastisement hath been in the morning.
15  If I said: I will speak thus : * behold I should condemn the generation of thy children.
16  Then thought I to understand this; * but it was a labour in my sight,

Solution to the puzzle

17  Donec intrem in Sanctuárium Dei: * et intélligam in novíssimis eórum.

17  Until I go into the sanctuary of God: * and understand their last ends.

Short-lived fortune

18  Verúmtamen propter dolos posuísti eis: * dejecísti eos dum allevaréntur.
19  Quómodo facti sunt in desolatiónem, súbito defecérunt : * periérunt propter iniquitátem suam.
20  Velut sómnium surgéntium, Dómine, * in civitáte tua imáginem ipsórum ad níhilum rédiges.
21  Quia inflammátum est cor meum, et renes mei commutáti sunt: * et ego ad níhilum redáctus sum, et nescívi.

18  Namely, how thou hast set them up for their deceits, * when they were lifted up, thou hast cast them down.
19
  How are they brought to desolation, O how suddenly do they consume, * they have perished by reason of their wickedness.
20  Yea, even like as a dream when one awaketh; * so shalt thou make their image to vanish out of thy city.
21  For my heart was grieved, and it went even through my reins : * and I am brought to nothing, and I knew it not.

True blessedness

22  Ut juméntum factus sum apud te: * et ego semper tecum.
23  Tenuísti manum déxteram meam: et in voluntáte tua deduxísti me, * et cum glória suscepísti me.
24  Quid enim mihi est in cælo? * et a te quid vólui super terram?
25  Defécit caro mea, et cor meum: * Deus cordis mei, et pars mea Deus in ætérnum.
26  Quia ecce, qui elóngant se a te, períbunt: * perdidísti omnes, qui fornicántur abs te.
27  Mihi autem adhærére Deo bonum est: * pónere in Dómino Deo spem meam :
28  Ut annúntiem omnes prædicatiónes tuas, * in portis fíliæ Sion.

22  I am become as it were a beast before thee : * and I am alway by thee.
23  Thou hast holden me by my right hand : and by thy will hast thou guided me, * and with thy glory thou hast received me.
24  For what have I in heaven? * and besides thee what do I desire upon earth?
25  My flesh and my heart faileth; * but God is the strength of my heart, yea, God is my portion for ever.
26  For lo, they that forsake thee shall perish; * thou hast destroyed all them that are unfaithful unto thee.
27  But it is good for me to hold me fast by God, * to put my trust in the Lord God:
28  That I may declare all thy praises, * in the gates of the daughter of Sion.