20. Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them.
20. An reddetur pro bono malum? quia foderunt foveam animae meae; recordare quod steterim coram facie tua ad loquendum proipsis in bonum, ad avertendam iracundiam tuam ab ipsis.
The Prophet in this verse exaggerates the sin of his enemies, for they not only were ferocious against God, but also forgot everything humane, and wickedly assailed the Prophet himself. Impiety is indeed more detestable than inhumanity, inasmuch as God is far above all mortals; but inhumanity has in it more basenes, for it is, so to speak, more gross and more evident. The ungodly often hide their perfidy; but when they come to act towards men, then it appears immediately what they are. Hence the Prophet, having made known the impiety of his enemies, now adds, that they, when tried by the judgment of men, were found to be wholly intolerable, for they rendered a shameful reward to an innocent man who was sedulous in securing their salvation. We now understand the meaning of the Prophet.
Though it often happens that evil is rendered for good, and ingratitude is a common vice, yet nature itself detests ingratitude: hence it has been said that there is no law against the ungrateful, because ingratitude seems a monstrous thing. As then nature dictates that merit deserves a reward, and this ought to be a fixed principle in the hearts of all, the Prophet reasons according to the common sense and judgment of all mankind.
1 It is better to render these lines like the Septuagint and Vulgate, --
Is not evil rendered for good?
For they have dug a pit for my soul.
Or thus, --
Should evil be rendered for good? --
For they have dug a pit for me.
So should "soul" be rendered here and in many other places. There is here an allusion to the practice of digging pits to take wild beasts. -- Ed.
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