Augustine. Exposition on the Book of Psalms. Schaff, Philip (editor). New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co, 1886. Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers: Series 1: Volume VIII. Re-published 2014, Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle electronic edition, ISBN-13: 978-1-78379-372-3.
Commenting on Psalm 68:1, Augustine points out that God has already arisen and scattered his enemies, since Christ has risen and the unbelieving Jews have been dispersed into all nations, though they remain opposed to Him, even as they flee from him. He observes, “The flight indeed of the mind is fear” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 328902). As suggested by verse two, the victory over Christ was only temporary. In the long run, Christ showed himself to be the victor. This gives reason for verse three and the delight of those who trust the Lord, resulting in singing to God (v. 4). Augustine therefore sees this as a call to turn toward Christ, the risen, victorious Lord (Augustine Psalms, loc. 328922). Though there will be trials and troubles as we turn to God (v. 5), Augustine recognizes God as the Lord of all consolation (Augustine Psalms, loc. 328932).
Augustine considers that the people who seek the Lord come to be of one mind (v. 6). This mind is a unity with the Lord, whose holy place it is. Augustine finds that since God is present everywhere but has no corporeal location which contains him, his presence would naturally be a state of mind which is shared by His people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 328937). ugstine further describes God’s people as those who have been delivered from bondage to sin (Augustine Psalms, loc. 328953). Regardless of the nature of their sin, they are converted for God’s purposes.
The metaphor shifts in verse 8 as God is depicted going through the desert before His people. Augustine sees the nations who did not know God as a desert place, where God revealed himself to them (Augustine Psalms, loc. 328968). In the desert, God provided for His people, endured their complaining, and finally allowed all but two of the original Israelites who had departed from Egypt to die in the wilderness (Augustine Psalms, loc. 328973). On the other hand, God shows forth His blessing from the Mountain, being Mount Sinai. From the mountain, God pours out the rain which people need, a rain which Augustine takes to be God’s grace (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329003).
Verse 10 speaks of the animals as belonging to God. They are subject to Him and dependent on Him (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329014). As verse 11 speaks of God giving his Word to men, Augustine takes the whole world as dependent on God’s Word, bringing the virtue we need as a gift (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329024). With a slight sense of irony, Augustine notes that the enemies of Christ wish to despoil him, robbing him, but he remains the one who distributes virtues, including all sorts of spiritual gifts (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329054). Ultimately, God’s people and all his creation dwells in God, their place of rest and provision. God, above all (v. 14), purifies all his people (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329120).
Verse 15 speaks of a mountain of God, which is fruitful and “full of curds” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329137). Augustine questions what mountain this would be, and concludes it refers to Christ, the place of provision. The English translation is unclear at this point, as Augustine compares two possible translations which would exist in Latin based on the case uses of the nouns. They are rendered the same in English, as it is a less inflected language (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329148). Regardless, God has chosen to indwell a particular place, where his people find their needs supplied. His power to do so is affirmed in verse 17, where he uses “myriads” of chariots (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329163), which Augustine sees as God’s saints, bearing his name and being guided by him.
Augustine considers the location in verse 17, Sinai, and takes an allegorical tack, noting that the word may mean “commandment.” God’s command is made in his holy place, where God is present (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329173). There, in verse 18, he has taken captivity captive and received gifts. Paul sees this as a work performed by Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329178). Augustine takes the gifts to be the return of gifts God has given to men. The reference of captivity probably refers to humans who were in captivity to the devil (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329189). When they are no longer captive to the devil they can rejoice as bondservants of God. These sing out the praises of God day after day (v. 19) and are protected in their journey by God (v. 20) (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329214).
Counter to the destiny of those who trust the Lord, in verse 21 those who walk in transgressions will be broken (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329219). Verse 22 again points to the idea of God turning. Augustine finds this turning to be a move that pulls people from sin and confusion into righteousness (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329234).
The subsequent mention of dogs attracts Augustine’s interest. He notes that these seem to be not wild and vicious dogs, but the kind who belong to the Lord and lick things up under his table. Augustine especially notes their tongue, not teeth, are mentioned (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329254). Augustine continues with mention of other dogs in Scripture, as well as the soldiers of Gideon, who lapped water like dogs.
Verse 24 speaks of God’s path being visible. Augustine notes that in Christ God is visible, going to different locations (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329264). The steps of God are visible, in verse 25, by a group of princes and their followers who draw attention to God. Augustine compares the princes to the apostles (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329274). The procession is not something wanton and earthy. Verse 26 identifies it as happening in a place of worship. This activity strikes Augustine as being a great miracle, evidenced by his allegorical reading of verse 27, referring to Benjamin. He observes that the apostle Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin and was selected by the Lord relatively late in time (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329285).
Verse 28 calls on God to command his virtue, an action Augustine sees as being carried out in the coming of Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329305). Continuing to verse 29, gifts are brought to God. Augustine sees these as the praises of kings (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329310). He makes statements about verse 30 and a rebuke of “beasts of the cane” by means of an oblique reference to a writing tool. Unfortunately, his metaphor does not translate well into English (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329315). It is clear, however, that Augustine is concerned that we distinguish between the wise, who understand the Scriptures, and fools. who neglect learning. He continues to speak about several specific views of different heretical groups, indicating that the wise should recognize truth and error (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329330). The world belongs to God, not to the heretics. Verse 32 calls all the nations to sing to God. Augustine affirms that they come before God in faith, then their works, such as singing to God, follow (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329360). In the end, in verse 34, all the glory is returned to God, who draws people to himself (Augustine Psalms, loc. 329380). He is seen in this Psalm and elsewhere, as the Lord of all.