Monthly Archives: February 2016

Psalm 56


This is another psalm which purports to be a psalm of David. The propriety of ascribing it to him cannot be called in question. It is addressed to “the chief Musician” (see the notes to Introduction of Psalm 4:1-8). Though relating to an individual case, and to the particular trials of an individual, yet it had much in it that would be appropriate to the condition of others in similar circumstances, and it contained, moreover, such general sentiments on the subject of religion, that it would be useful to the people of God in all ages. The expression in the title, “Al-taschith,” rendered in the margin, “Destroy not,” and by the Septuagint, μή διαφθείρης mē diaphtheirēs (destroy not), and in the same manner in the Latin Vulgate, occurs also in the titles of the two following psalms, and of the seventy-fifth. It is regarded by some as a musical expression – and by others as the first words of some well-known poem or hymn, in order to show that this psalm was to be set to the music which was employed in using that poem; or, as we should say, that the “tune” appropriate to that was also appropriate to this, so that the words would at once suggest the tune, in the same manner as the Latin designations De Profundis, Miserere, Non Nobis Domine, Te Deum, etc., indicate well-known tunes as pieces of music – the tunes to which the hymns beginning with those words are always sung.

The author of the Chaldee Paraphrase regards this psalm as belonging to that period of David‘s history when he was under a constant necessity of using language of this nature, or of saying “Destroy not,” and as therefore suited to all similar emergencies. The language seems to be derived from the prayer of Moses, Deuteronomy 9:26; “I prayed therefore unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, destroy not thy people,” etc. This very expression is found in 1 Samuel 26:9, in a command which David addressed to his followers, and it “may” have been a common expression with him. On the meaning of the word “Michtam” in the title, see the notes at the Introduction to Psalm 16:1-11. It is found in the three following psalms – in the two former of them, in connection with the phrase “Al-taschith, showing that probably those psalms had reference to the same period of David‘s life.

When he fled from Saul in the cave – Possibly the cave of Adullam 1 Samuel 22:1, or that of En-gedi 1 Samuel 24:1-3. Or, the word may be used in a “general” sense as referring not to any “particular” cave, but to that period of his life when he was compelled to flee from one place to another for safety, and when his home was “often” in caves.

The psalm consists of the following parts:

I. An earnest prayer of the suffering and persecuted man, with a full expression of confidence that God would hear him, Psalm 57:1-3.

II. A description of his enemies, as people that resembled lions; people, whose souls were inflamed and infuriated; people, whose teeth were like spears and arrows, Psalm 57:4.

III. The expression of a desire that God might be exalted and honored, or that all these events might result in his honor and glory, Psalm 57:5.

IV. A further description of the purposes of his enemies, as people who had prepared a net to take him, or had digged a pit into which he might fall, but which he felt assured was a pit into which they themselves would fall, Psalm 57:6.

V. A joyful and exulting expression of confidence in God; an assurance that he would interpose for him; a determination to praise and honor him; a desire that God might be exalted above the heaven, and that his glory might fill all the earth – forgetting his own particular troubles, and pouring out the desire of his heart that “God” might be honored whatever might occur to “him.”

Verse 1
Be merciful unto me, O God – The same beginning as the former psalm – a cry for mercy; an overwhelming sense of trouble and danger leading him to come at once to the throne of God for help. See the notes at Psalm 56:1.

For my soul trusteth in thee – See the notes at Psalm 56:3. He had nowhere else to go; there was no one on whom he could rely but God.

Yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge – Under the protection or covering of his wings – as young birds seek protection under the wings of the parent bird. See the notes at Psalm 17:8. Compare Psalm 36:7.

Until these calamities be overpast – Compare Job 14:13, note; Psalm 27:13, note; also at Isaiah 26:20, note. He believed that these calamities “would” pass away, or would cease; that a time would come when he would not thus be driven from place to place. At present he knew that he was in danger, and he desired the divine protection, for under “that” protection he would be safe.

Verse 2
I will cry unto God most high – The idea is – God is exalted above all creatures; all events are “under” him, and he can control them. The appeal was not to man, however exalted; not to an angel, however far he may be above man; it was an appeal made at once to the Supreme Being, the God to whom all worlds and all creatures are subject, and under whose protection, therefore, he must be safe.

Unto God that performeth all things for me – The word used here, and rendered “performeth” – גמר gâmar – means properly to bring to an end; to complete; to perfect. The idea here is, that it is the character of God, that he “completes” or “perfects,” or brings to a happy issue all his plans. The psalmist had had experience of that in the past. God had done this in former trials; he felt assured that God would do it in this; and he, therefore, came to God with a confident belief that all would be safe in his hands.

Verse 3
He shall send from heaven – That is, from himself; or, he will interpose to save me. The psalmist does not say “how” he expected this interposition – whether by an angel, by a miracle, by tempest or storm, but he felt that help was to come from God alone, and he was sure that it would come.

And save me from the reproach … – This would be more correctly rendered, “He shall save me; he shall reproach him that would swallow me up.” So it is rendered in the margin. On the word rendered “would swallow me up,” see the notes at Psalm 56:1. The idea here is, that God would “rebuke” or “reproach,” to wit, by overthrowing him that sought to devour or destroy him. God had interposed formerly in his behalf Psalm 57:2, and he felt assured that he would do it again.

Selah – This seems here to be a mere musical pause. It has no connection with the sense. See the notes at Psalm 3:2.

God shall send forth his mercy – In saving me. He will “manifest” his mercy.

And his truth – His fidelity to his promise; his faithfulness to those who put their trust in him. He will show himself “true” to all the promises which he has made. Compare Psalm 40:11.

Verse 4
My soul is among lions – That is, among people who resemble lions; men, fierce, savage, ferocious.

And I lie even among them that are set on fire – We have a term of similar import in common use now, when we say that one is “inflamed” with passion, referring to one who is infuriated and enraged. So we speak of “burning” with rage or wrath – an expression derived, perhaps, from the inflamed “appearance” of a man in anger. The idea here is not that he “would” lie down calmly among those persons, as Prof. Alexander suggests, but that he actually “did” thus lie down. When he laid himself down at night, when he sought repose in sleep, he was surrounded by such persons, and seemed to be sleeping in the midst of them.

Even the sons of men – Yet they are not wild beasts, but “men” who seem to have the ferocious nature of wild beasts. The phrase, “sons of men,” is often used to denote men themselves.

Whose teeth are spears and arrows – Spears and arrows in their hands are what the teeth of wild beasts are.

And their tongue a sharp sword – The mention of the tongue here has reference, probably, to the abuse and slander to which he was exposed, and which was like a sharp sword that pierced even to the seat of life. See the notes at Psalm 55:21.

Verse 5
Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens – Compare Psalm 8:1. The language here is that of a man who in trouble lifts his thoughts to God; who feels that God reigns; who is assured in his own soul that all things are under his hand; and who is desirous that God should be magnified whatever may become of himself. His prime and leading wish is not for himself, for his own safety, for his own deliverance from danger; it is that “God” may be honored – that the name of God may be glorified – that God may be regarded as supreme over all things – that God may be exalted in the highest possible degree – an idea expressed in the prayer that he may be exalted “above the heavens.”

Let thy glory be above all the earth – The honor of thy name; thy praise. Let it be regarded, and be in fact, “above” all that pertains to this lower world; let everything on earth, or that pertains to earth, be subordinate to thee, or be surrendered for thee. This was the comfort which David found in trouble. And this “is” the only true source of consolation. The welfare of the universe depends on God; and that God should be true, and just, and good, and worthy of confidence and love – that he should reign, – that his law should be obeyed – that his plans should be accomplished, – is of more importance to the universe than anything that merely pertains to us; than the success of any of our own plans; than our health, our prosperity, or our life.

Verse 6
They have prepared a net for my steps – A net for my goings; or, into which I may fall. See the notes at Psalm 9:15.

My soul is bowed down – The Septuagint, the Vulgate, and Luther render this in the plural, and in the active form: “They have bowed down my soul;” that is, they have caused my soul to be bowed down. The Hebrew may be correctly rendered, “he pressed down my soul,” – referring to his enemies, and speaking of them in the singular number.

They have digged a pit before me … – See Psalm 7:15-16, notes; Psalm 9:15, note; Job 5:13, note.

Verse 7
My heart is fixed, O God – Margin, as in Hebrew, “prepared.” Compare the notes at Psalm 51:10. The word “suited” or “prepared” accurately expresses the sense of the Hebrew, and it is so rendered in the Septuagint, ( ἑτοίμη hetoimē ); in the Vulgate, “paratum;” and by Luther, “bereit.” The word is used, however, in the sense of “standing erect,” Psalm 9:7; to “establish” or “strengthen,” Psalm 89:4; Psalm 10:17; and hence, to be erect; to be firm, steady, constant, fixed. This seems to be the meaning here, as it is expressed in our common version. His heart was firm and decided. He did not waver in his purpose, or lean now to one side and then to the other; he was not “swayed” or “moved” by the events that had occurred. He felt conscious of standing firm in the midst of all his troubles. He confided in God. He did not doubt his justice, his goodness, his mercy; and, even in his trials, he was ready to praise him, and was “resolved” to praise him. The repetition of the word “fixed” gives emphasis and intensity to the expression, and is designed to show in the strongest manner that his heart, his purpose, his confidence in God, did not waver in the slightest degree.

I will sing and give praise – My heart shall confide in thee; my lips shall utter the language of praise. In all his troubles God was his refuge; in all, he found occasion for praise. So it should be the fixed and settled purpose of our hearts that we will at all times confide in God, and that in every situation in life we will render him praise.

Verse 8
Awake up, my glory – By the word “glory” here some understand the tongue; others understand the soul itself, as the glory of man. The “word” properly refers to that which is weighty, or important; then, anything valuable, splendid, magnificent. Here it seems to refer to all that David regarded as glorious and honorable in himself – his noblest powers of soul – all in him that “could” be employed in the praise of God. The occasion was one on which it was proper to call all his powers into exercise; all that was noble in him as a man. The words “awake up” are equivalent to “arouse;” a solemn appeal to put forth all the powers of the soul.

Awake, psaltery and harp – In regard to these instruments, see the notes at Isaiah 5:12. The instrument denoted by the word “psaltery” – נבל nebel – was a stringed instrument, usually with twelve strings, and played with the fingers. See the notes at Psalm 33:2. The “harp” or “lyre” – כנור kinnôr – was also a stringed instrument, usually consisting of ten strings. Josephus says that it was struck or played with a key. From 1 Samuel 16:23; 1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Samuel 19:9, it appears, however, that it was sometimes played with the fingers.

I myself will awake early – That is, I will awake early in the morning to praise God; I will arouse myself from slumber to do this; I will devote the first moments – the early morning – to his worship. These words do not imply that this was an evening psalm, and that he would awake on the morrow – the next day – to praise God; but they refer to what he intended should be his general habit – that he would devote the early morning (arousing himself for that purpose) to the praise of God. No time in the day is more appropriate for worship than the early morning; no object is more worthy to rouse us from our slumbers than a desire to praise God; in no way can the day be more appropriately begun than by prayer and praise; and nothing will conduce more to keep up the flame of piety – the life of religion in the soul – than the habit of devoting the early morning to the worship of God; to prayer; to meditation; to praise.

Verse 9
I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people – So great a deliverance as he here hoped for, would make it proper that he should celebrate the praise of God in the most public manner; that he should make his goodness known as far as possible among the nations. See the notes at Psalm 18:49.

Verse 10
For thy mercy is great unto the heavens … – See this explained in the notes at Psalm 36:5.

Verse 11
Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens – See the notes at Psalm 57:5. The sentiment here is repeated as being that on which the mind of the psalmist was intensely fixed; that which he most earnestly desired; that which was the crowning aim and desire of his life.


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Psalm 55


This psalm is entitled “A Psalm of David,” and there is every reason to believe that it is properly ascribed to him. It is addressed to “the chief Musician” – to be by him set to appropriate music, that it might be employed in the public worship of God. See the notes at the title to Psalm 4:1-8. On the word “Neginoth” in the title, see also the note in the Introduction of Psalm 4:1-8.

The occasion on which the psalm was composed is not indicated in the title, nor can it be with certainty ascertained. The author of the Chaldee Paraphrase refers the psalm to the time of Absalom and to his rebellion, and this is also the opinion of the Jewish expositors in general. They suppose that the psalm was composed on occasion of the departure of David from Jerusalem, when he had heard of the rebellion, and that the psalm has special reference to the time when, having fled from the city, and having come to the ascent of the Mount of Olives, while all was consternation around him, he learned that Ahithophel also was among the conspirators, which was the consummation of his calamity, 2 Samuel 15:31. Others suppose that the psalm was composed when David was in Keilah, and when, surrounded by foes, he was apprehensive that the inhabitants of that place would deliver him into the hand of Saul, 1 Samuel 23:1-12. Of all the known events in the life of David, the supposition which regards the psalm as composed during the rebellion of Absalom, and at the special time when he learned that the man whom he had trusted – Ahithophel – was among the traitors, is the most probable. All the circumstances in the psalm agree with his condition at that time, and the occasion was one in which the persecuted and much-afflicted king would be likely to pour out the desires of his heart before God. Paulus and DeWette have remarked that it is evident from the psalm that the enemies to whom the author refers were inhabitants of the same city with himself, and that the danger was from treason within the walls of the city, Psalm 55:1 O. This seems not improbable, and this agrees well with the supposition that the scene of the psalm is laid in the time of the rebellion of Absalom.

The contents of the psalm are as follows:

(1) The prayer of the psalmist that God would hear his cry, Psalm 55:1-3.

(2) ageneral description of his trouble and sorrows, as being so great that he was overwhelmed, and such as to make him wish for the wings of a dove that he might fly away, and be at rest, Psalm 55:4-8.

(3) the causes, or sources of his trouble, Psalm 55:9-14;

(a) The general fact that he was surrounded by enemies; that there were violence, strife, and mischief in the city, Psalm 55:9-11.

(b) The particular fact that someone in whom he had put confidence, and who had been his special friend, was, to his surprise, found among his enemies, and had proved himself faithless to him, Psalm 55:12-14.

(4) his earnest prayer for the destruction of his enemies, Psalm 55:15.

(5) his own confidence in God; his reliance on the divine mercy and protection in the time of trouble and danger; and his assurance that God would interpose in his behalf, Psalm 55:16-21.

(6) a general exhortation, as a practical lesson from all that had occurred, to trust in God – to cast every burden on him – with the assurance that the righteous would never be moved, but that the wicked must be subdued, Psalm 55:22-23.

Verse 1
Give ear to my prayer – See the notes at Psalm 5:1; Psalm 17:6. This is the language of earnestness. The psalmist was in deep affliction, and he pleaded, therefore, that God would not turn away from him in his troubles.

And hide not thyself from my supplication – That is, Do not withdraw thyself, or render thyself inaccessible to my prayer. Do not so conceal thyself that I may not have the privilege of approaching thee. Compare the notes at Isaiah 1:15. See also Ezekiel 22:26; Proverbs 28:27; Leviticus 20:4; 1 Samuel 12:3. The same word is used in all these places, and the general meaning is that of “shutting the eyes upon,” as implying neglect. So also in Lamentations 3:56, the phrase “to hide the ear” means to turn away so as not to hear. The earnest prayer of the psalmist here is, that God would not, as it were, withdraw or conceal himself, but would give free access to himself in prayer. The language is, of course, figurative, but it illustrates what often occurs when God seems to withdraw himself; when our prayers do not appear to be heard; when God is apparently unwilling to attend to us.

Verse 2
Attend unto me, and hear me – This also is the language of earnest supplication, as if he was afraid that God would not regard his cry. These varied forms of speech show the intense earnestness of the psalmist, and his deep conviction that he must have help from God.

I mourn – The word used here – רוד rûd – means properly to wander about; to ramble – especially applied to animals that have broken loose; and then, to inquire after, to seek, as one does “by running up and down;” hence, to desire, to wish. Thus in Hosea 11:12 – “Judah runs wild toward God,” – in our translation, “Judah yet ruleth with God.” The word occurs also in Jeremiah 2:31, “We are lords” (margin, have dominion); and in Genesis 27:40, “When thou shalt have the dominion.” It is not elsewhere found in the Scriptures. The idea here seems not to be to mourn, but to inquire earnestly; to seek; to look for, as one does who wanders about, or who looks every way for help. David was in deep distress. He looked in every direction. He earnestly desired to find God as a Helper. He was in the condition of one who had lost his way, or who had lost what was most valuable to him; and he directed his eyes most earnestly toward God for help.

In my complaint – The word here employed commonly means speech, discourse, meditation. It here occurs in the sense of complaint, as in Job 7:13; Job 9:27; Job 21:4; Job 23:2; Psalm 142:2; 1 Samuel 1:16. It is not used, however, to denote complaint in the sense of fault-finding, but in the sense of deep distress. As the word is now commonly used, we connect with it the idea of fault-finding, complaining, accusing, or the idea that we have been dealt with unjustly. This is not the meaning in tills place, or in the Scriptures generally. It is the language of a troubled, not of an injured spirit.

And make a noise – To wit, by prayer; or, by groaning. The psalmist did not hesitate to give vent to his feelings by groans, or sobs, or prayers. Such expressions are not merely indications of deep feeling, but they are among the appointed means of relief. They are the effort which nature makes to throw off the burden, and if they are without complaining or impatience they are not wrong. See Isaiah 38:14; Isaiah 59:11; Hebrews 5:7; Matthew 27:46.

Verse 3
Because of the voice of the enemy – He now states the cause of his troubles. He had been, and was, unjustly treated by others. The particular idea in the word “voice” here is, that he was suffering from slanderous reproaches; from assaults which had been made on his character. He was charged with evil conduct, and the charge was made in such a manner that he could not meet it. The result was, that a series of calamities had come upon him which was quite overwhelming.

Because of the oppression of the wicked – The word here rendered “oppression” occurs nowhere else. The verb from which it is derived occurs twice, Amos 2:13: “Behold, I am “pressed” under you as a cart is “pressed” that is full of sheaves.” The idea is that of crushing by a heavy weight; and hence, of crushing by affliction. The “wicked” alluded to here, if the supposition referred to in the Introduction about the occasion of the psalm is correct, were Absalom and those who were associated with him in the rebellion, particularly Ahithophel, who had showed himself false to David, and had united with his enemies in their purpose to drive him from his throne.

For they east iniquity upon me – That is, they charge me with sin; they attempt to justify themselves in their treatment of me by accusing me of wrong-doing, or by endeavoring to satisfy themselves that I deserve to be treated in this manner. If this refers to the time of the rebellion of Absalom, the allusion would be to the charges, brought by him against his father, of severity and injustice in his administration, 2 Samuel 15:2-6.

And in wrath they hate me – In their indignation, in their excitement, they are full of hatred against me. This was manifested by driving him froth his throne and his home.

Verse 4
My heart is sore pained within me – Heavy and sad; that is, I am deeply afflicted. The word rendered is “sore pained,” means properly to turn round; to twist; to dance in a circle; to be whirled round; and then to twist or writhe with pain, especially applied to a woman in travail, Isaiah 13:8; Isaiah 23:4; Isaiah 26:18. Here the idea is, that he was in deep distress and anguish. It is easy to see that this would be so, if the psalm refers to the revolt of Absalom. The ingratitude and rebellion of a son – the fact of being driven away from his throne – the number of his enemies – the unexpected news that Ahithophel was among them – and the entire uncertainty as to the result, justified the use of this strong language.

And the terrors of death are fallen upon me – The Septuagint, the Vulgate, and Luther, render this “the fear of death,” as if he were afraid for his life, or afraid that the result of all this would be his death. A more natural construction, however, is to suppose that the reference is to the ordinary pains of death, and that he means to say that the pangs which he endured were like the pangs of death. The words “are fallen” suggest the idea that this had come suddenly upon him, like a “horror of great darkness” (compare Genesis 15:12), or as if the gloomy shadow of death had suddenly crossed his path. Compare the notes at Psalm 23:4. The calamities had come suddenly upon him; the conspiracy had been suddenly developed; and he had been suddenly driven away.

Verse 5
Fearfulness and trembling – Fear so great as to produce trembling. Compare the notes at Job 4:14. He knew not when these things would end. How far the spirit of rebellion had spread he knew not, and he had no means of ascertaining. It seemed as if he would be wholly overthrown; as if his power was wholly at an end; as if even his life was in the greatest peril.

And horror hath overwhelmed me – Margin, as in Hebrew, “covered me.” That is; it had come upon him so as to cover or envelop him entirely. The shades of horror and despair spread all around and above him, and all things were filled with gloom. The word rendered “horror” occurs only in three other places; – Ezekiel 7:18, rendered (as here) “horror;” Job 21:6, rendered “trembling;” and Isaiah 21:4, rendered “fearfulness.” It refers to that state when we are deeply agitated with fear.

Verse 6
And I said – That is, when I saw these calamities coming upon me, and knew not what the result was to be.

Oh, that I had wings like a dove! – literally, “Who will give me wings like a dove?” or, Who will give me the pinion of a dove? The original word – אבר ‘êber – means properly, “a wing-feather;” a pinion; the penna major or flagfeather of a bird‘s wing by which he steers his course, – as of an eagle, Isaiah 40:31, or of a dove, as here. It is distinguished from the wing itself, Ezekiel 17:3: “A great eagle, with great wings, “long-winged,” full of feathers.” The reference here is supposed to be to the turtle-dove – a species of dove common in Palestine. Compare the notes at Psalm 11:1. These doves, it is said, are never tamed. “Confined in a cage, they droop, and, like Cowper, sigh for ‹A lodge in some vast wilderness – some boundless contiguity of shade;‘ and no sooner are they set at liberty, than they flee to their mountains.” Land and the Book (Dr. Thomson), vol. i., p. 416.

For then would I fly away, and be at rest – I would escape from these dangers, and be in a place of safety. How often do we feel this in times of trouble! How often do we wish that we could get beyond the reach of enemies; of sorrows; of afflictions! How often do we sigh to be in a place where we might be assured that we should be safe from all annoyances; from all trouble! There is such a place, but not on earth. David might have borne his severest troubles with him if he could have fled – for those troubles are in the heart, and a mere change of place does not affect them; or he might have found new troubles in the place that seemed to him to be a place of peace and of rest. But there is a world which trouble never enters. That world is heaven; to that world we shall soon go, if we are God‘s children; and there we shall find absolute and eternal rest. Without “the wings of a dove,” we shall soon fly away and be at rest. None of the troubles of earth will accompany us there; no new troubles will spring up there to disturb our peace.

Verse 7
Lo, then would I wander far off – literally, “Lo, I would make the distance far by wandering;” I would separate myself far from these troubles.

And remain in the wilderness – literally, I would sojourn; or, I would pass the night; or, I would put up for the night. The idea is taken from a traveler who puts up for the night, or who rests for a night in his weary travels, and seeks repose. Compare Genesis 19:2; Genesis 32:21; 2 Samuel 12:16; Judges 19:13. The word “wilderness” means, in the Scripture, a place not inhabited by man; a place where wild beasts resort; a place uncultivated. It does not denote, as with us, an extensive forest. It might be a place of rocks and sands, but the essential idea is, that it was not inhabited. See the notes at Matthew 4:1. In such a place, remote from the habitations of people, he felt that he might be at rest.

Verse 8
I would hasten my escape – I would make haste to secure an escape. I would not delay, but I would flee at once.

From the windy storm and tempest – From the calamities which have come upon me, and which beat upon me like a violent tempest. If this psalm was composed on occasion of the rebellion of Absalom, it is easy to see with what propriety tiffs language is used. The troubles connected with that unnatural rebellion had burst upon him with the fury of a sudden storm, and threatened to sweep everything away.

Verse 9
Destroy, O Lord – The word rendered “destroy,” properly means to “swallow up;” to “devour” with the idea of greediness. Isaiah 28:4; Exodus 7:12; Jonah 1:17; Jeremiah 51:34. Then it is used in the sense of “destroy,” Job 20:18; Proverbs 1:12. The reference here is to the persons who had conspired against David. It is a prayer that they, and their counsels, might be destroyed: such a prayer as people always offer who pray for victory in battle. It is a prayer that the may be successful in what they regard as a righteous cause; but this implies a prayer that their enemies may be defeated and overcome. That is, they pray for success in what they have undertaken; and if it is right for them to attempt to do the thing, it is not wrong to pray that they may be succesful.

And divide their tongues – There is evident allusion here to the confusion of tongues at Babel Genesis 11:1-9; and as the language of those who undertook to build that tower was confounded so that they could not understand each other, so the psalmist prays that the counsels of those engaged against him might be confounded, or that they might be divided and distracted in their plans, so that they could not act in harmony. It is very probable that there is an allusion here to the prayer which David offered when he learned that Ahithophel was among the conspirators 2 Samuel 15:31; “And David said, O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.” This would tend to divide and distract; the purposes of Absalom, and secure his defeat.

For I have seen violence and strife in the city – In Jerusalem. Perhaps he had learned that among the conspirators there was not entire harmony, but that there were elements of “strife” and discord which led him to hope that their counsels would be confounded. There was little homogeneoushess of aim and purpose among the followers of Absalom; and perhaps David knew enough of Ahithophel to see that his views, though he might be enlisted in the cause of the rebellion, would not be likely to harmonize with the views of the masses of those who were engaged in the revolt.

Verse 10
Day and night they go about it, upon the walls thereof – That is, continually. The word “they” in this place probably refers to the violence and strife mentioned in the preceding verse. They are here personified, and they seem to surround the city; to be everywhere moving, even on the very walls. They are like a besieging army. Inside and outside; in the midst of the city and on the walls, there was nothing but violence and strife – conspiracy, rebellion, and crime.

Mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it – Crime abounded, and the result was anguish or sorrow. This language would well describe the scenes when Absalom rebelled; when the city was filled with conspirators and rebels; and when crime and anguish seemed to prevail in every part of it.

Verse 11
Wickedness is in the midst thereof – That is, the wickedness connected with rebellion and revolt.

Deceit and guile depart not from her streets – They are everywhere. They are found in every street and alley. They pervade all classes of the people. The word rendered “deceit” means rather “oppression.” This was connected with “guile,” or with “deceit.” That is, wrong would be everywhere committed, and the perpetration of those wrongs would be connected with false representations, and false pretences – a state of things that might be expected in the unnatural rebellion under Absalom.

Verse 12
For it was not an enemy that reproached me – The word “reproached” here refers to slander; calumny; abuse. It is not necessarily implied that it was in his presence, but he was apprized of it. When he says that it is not an enemy that did this, the meaning is that it was not one who had been an avowed and open foe. The severest part of the trial did not arise from the fact that it was done by such an one, for that he could have borne. That which overwhelmed him was the fact that the reproach came from one who had been his friend; or, the reproach which he felt most keenly came from one whom he had regarded as a personal confidant. It is not to be supposed that the psalmist means to say that he was not reproached by his enemies, for the whole structure of the psalm implies that this was so; but his anguish was made complete and unbearable by the discovery that one especially who had been his friend was found among those who reproached and calumniated him. The connection leads us to suppose, if the right view (Introduction) has been taken of the occasion on which the psalm was composed, that the allusion here is to Ahithophel 2 Samuel 15:31; and the particular distress here referred to was that which David experienced on learning that he was among the conspirators. A case of trouble remarkably resembling this is referred to in Psalm 41:9. See the notes at that place.

Then I could have borne it – The affliction would have been such as I could bear. Reproaches from an enemy, being known to be an enemy, we expect; and and we feel them comparatively little. We attribute them to the very fact that such an one is an enemy, and that he feels it necessary to sustain himself by reproaching and calumniating us. We trust also that the world will understand them in that way; and will set them down to the mere fact that he is our enemy. In such a case there is only the testimony against us of one who is avowedly our foe, and who has every inducement to utter malicious words against us in order to sustain his own cause. But the case is different when the accuser and slanderer is one who has been our intimate friend. He is supposed to know all about us. He has been admitted to our counsels. He has known our purposes and plans. He can speak not “slanderously” but “knowingly.” It is supposed that he could have no motive to speak ill of us except his own conviction of truth, and that it could be only the strongest conviction of truth – the existence of facts to which not even a friend could close his eyes – that could induce him to abandon us, and hold us up to repreach and scorn. So Ahithophel – the confidential counselor and friend of David – would be supposed to be acquainted with his secret plans and his true character; and hence, reproaches from such a one became unendurable. “Neither was it he that hated me.” That avowedly and openly hated me. If that had been the case, I should have expected such usage, and it would not injure me.

That did magnify himself a against me – That is, by asserting that I was a bad man, thus exalting himself in character above me, or claiming that he was more pure than I am. Or, it may mean, that exalted himself above me, or sought to reach the eminence of power in my downfall and ruin.

Then I would have hid myself from him – I should have been like one pursued by an enemy who could hide himself in a cave, or in a fastness, or in the mountains, so as to be safe from his attacks. The arrows of malice would fly harmlessly by me, and I should be safe. Not so, when one reproached me who had been an intimate friend; who had known all about me; and whose statements would be believed.

Verse 13
But it was thou, a man mine equal – Margin, “a man according to my rank.” Septuagint, ἰσόψυχε isopsuche equal-souled, like-souled, “second self” (Thompson); Vulgate, “unanimus,” of the same mind; Luther, “Geselle,” companion. The Hebrew word used here – ערך ‛êrek – means properly a row or pile, as of the showbread piled one loaf on another, Exodus 40:23; then it would naturally mean one of the same row or pile; of the same rank or condition. The word also means price, estimation, or value, Job 28:13; Leviticus 5:15, Leviticus 5:18; Leviticus 6:6. Here the expression may mean a man “according to my estimation, value, or price;” that is, of the same value as myself (Gesenius, Lexicon); or more probably it means a man of my own rank; according to my condition; that is, a man whom I esteemed as my equal, or whom I regarded and treated as a friend.

My guide – The word used here properly denotes one who is familiar – a friend – from the verb אלף ‘âlaph – to be associated with; to be familiar; to be accustomed to. The noun is frequently used to denote a military leader – the head of a tribe – a chieftain; and is, in this sense, several times employed in Genesis 36 to denote the leaders or princes of the Edomites, where it is rendered duke. But here it seems to be used, not in the sense of a leader or a guide, but of a familiar friend.

And mine acquaintance – The word used here is derived from the verb to know – ידע yâda‛ – and the proper idea is that of “one well known” by us; that is, one who keeps no secrets from us, but who permits us to understand him thoroughly. The phrase “mine acquaintance” is a feeble expression, and does not convey the full force of the original, which denotes a more intimate friend than would be suggested by the word “acquaintance.” It is language applied to one whom we thoroughly “know,” and who “knows us;” and this exists only in the case of very intimate friends. All the expressions used in this verse would probably be applicable to Ahithophel, and to the intimacy between him and David.

Verse 14
We took sweet counsel together – Margin, “who sweetened counsel.” Literally, “We sweetened counsel together;” that is, We consulted together; we opened our minds and plans to each other; in other words, We found that happiness in each other which those do who freely and confidentially communicate their plans and wishes – who have that mutual satisfaction which results from the approval of each other‘s plans.

And walked unto the house of God in company – We went up to worship God together. The word rendered “company” means properly a noisy crowd, a multitude. The idea here is not that which would seem to be conveyed by our translation – that they went up to the house of God in company “with each other,” but that both went with the great company – the crowd – the multitude – that assembled to worship God. They were engaged in the same service, they united in the worship of the same God; associated with those that loved their Maker; belonged to the companionship of those who sought his favor. There is nothing that constitutes a stronger bond of friendship and affection than being united in the worship of God, or belonging to his people. Connexion with a church in acts of worship, ought always to constitute a strong bond of love, confidence, esteem, and affection; the consciousness of having been redeemed by the same blood of the atonement should be a stronger tie than any tie of natural friendship; and the expectation and hope of spending an eternity together in heaven should unite heart to heart in a bond which nothing – not even death – can sever.

Verse 15
Let death seize upon them – This would be more correctly rendered, “Desolations (are) upon them!” That is, Desolation, or destruction will certainly come upon them. There is in the original no necessary expression of a wish or prayer that this might be, but it is rather the language of certain assurance – the expression of a fact – that such base conduct – such wickedness – would make their destruction certain; that as God is just, they must be overwhelmed with ruin. Injury is sometimes done in the translation of the Scriptures by the insertion of a wish or prayer, where all that is necessarily implied in the original is the statement of a fact. This has been caused here by the somewhat uncertain meaning of the word which is used in the original. That phrase is ישׁימות yaśimâveth It occurs nowhere else. Our translators understood it (as the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and Luther do) as made up of two words. More correctly, however, it is to be regarded as one word, meaning “desolations,” or “destructions.” So Gesenius (Lexicon), Rosenmuller, and Prof. Alexander understand it.

And let them go down quick into hell – “Alive,” or “living,” for that is the meaning of the word “quick” here – חיים chayiym – as it commonly is in the Scriptures. Compare Leviticus 13:10; Numbers 16:30; Acts 10:42; 2 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 4:5. The word “hell” is rendered in the margin “the grave.” The original word is “sheol,” and means here either the grave, or the abode of departed spirits. See the notes at Isaiah 14:9; notes at Job 10:21-22. There is a harshness in the translation of the term here which is unnecessary, as the word “hell” with us now uniformly refers to the place of punishment for the wicked beyond death. The meaning here, however, is not that they would be consigned to wrath, but that they would be cut off from the land of the living. The idea is that their destruction might be as sudden as if the earth were to open, and they were to descend alive into the chasm. Probably there is an implied allusion here to the manner in which the company of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram was destroyed, Numbers 16:31-33. Compare Psalm 106:17.

For wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them – Wickedness abounds in all their transactions. It is in their houses, and in their hearts. This is mentioned as a reason why they should be cut off and consigned to the grave. It is the reason why people are cut down at all; it is often a fact that wicked people are most manifestly cut down for their sins. And because it will be better for the community that the wicked should be punished than that they should escape, so there is no evidence that David cherished malice or ill-will in his heart. See General Introduction, Section 6 (5).

Verse 16
As for me, I will call upon God – That is, I have no other refuge in my troubles, yet I can go to him, and pour out all the desires of my heart before him.

And the Lord shall save me – This expresses strong confidence. On the supposition that the psalm refers to the rebellion of Absalom, David was driven from his home, and his throne, and from the house of God – a poor exile, forsaken by nearly all. But his faith did not fail. He confided in God, and believed that He was able to effect his deliverance, and that He would do it. Rarely can we be placed in circumstances so trying and discouraging as were those of David; never should we, in any circumstances, fall to believe, as he did, that God can deliver us, and that, if we are his friends, we shall be ultimately safe.

Verse 17
Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray – In another place Psalm 119:164 the psalmist says that he engaged in acts of devotion seven times in a day. Daniel prayed three times a day, Daniel 6:10. David went, in his troubles, before God evening, morning, and mid-day, in solemn, earnest prayer. So Paul, in a time of great distress, gave himself on three set occasions to earnest prayer for deliverance. See the notes at 2 Corinthians 12:8. This verse, therefore, does not prove that it was a regular habit of David to pray three times a day; but in view of the passage, it may be remarked

(a) that it is proper to have regular seasons for devotion, of frequent occurrence; and

(b) that there are favorable and suitable times for devotion.

The morning and the evening are obviously appropriate; and it is well to divide the day also by prayer – to seek, at mid-day, the rest titan bodily and mental toil which is secured by communion with God – and to implore that strength which we need for the remaining duties of the day. True religion is cultivated by frequent and regular seasons of devotion.

And cry aloud – The word here employed properly means to murmur; to make a humming sound; to sigh; to growl; to groan. See the notes at Psalm 42:5. Here the language means that he would give utterance to his deep feelings in appropriate tones – whether words, sighs, or groans. To the deep thoughts and sorrows of his soul he would often give suitable expression before God.

And he shall hear my voice – The confident language of faith, as in Psalm 55:16.

Verse 18
He hath delivered my soul in peaee – The Hebrew is, “He has redeemed;” so also the Septuagint and Vulgate. The meaning is, He has “rescued” me, or has saved me from my enemies. Either the psalmist composed the psalm “after” the struggle was over, and in view of it, here speaks of what had actually occurred; or he is so confident of being redeemed and saved that he speaks of it as if it were already done. See Psalm 55:19. There are many instances in the Psalms in which the writer is so certain that what he prays for will be accomplished that he speaks of it as if it had already actually occurred. The words “in peace” mean that God ad given him peace; or that the result of the divine interposition was that he had calmness of mind.

From the battle that was against me – The hostile array; the armies prepared for conflict.

For there were many with me – This language conveys to us the idea that there were many on his side, or many that were associated with him, and that this was the reason why he was delivered. It is doubtful, however, whether this is the meaning of the original. The idea may be that there were many contending with him; that is, that there were many who were arrayed against him. The Hebrew will admit of this construction.

Verse 19
God shall hear and afflict them – That is, God will hear my prayer, and will afflict them, or bring upon them deserved judgments. As this looks to the future, it would seem to show that when in the previous verse he uses the past tense, and says that God “had” redeemed him, the language there, as suggested above, is that of strong confidence, implying that he had such certain assurance that the thing would be, that he speaks of it as if it were already done. Here he expresses the same confidence in another form – his firm belief that God “would” hear his prayer, and would bring upon his enemies deserved punishment.

Even he that abideth of old – The eternal God; he who is from everlasting. Literally, “He inhabits antiquity;” that is, he sits enthroned in the most distant past; he is eternal and unchanging. The same God who has heard prayer, will hear it now; he who has always shown himself a just God and an avenger, will show himself the same now. The fact that God is from everlasting, and is unchanging, is the only foundation for our security at any time, and the only ground of success in our plans. To a Being who is always the same we may confidently appeal, for we know what he will do. But who could have confidence in a changeable God? Who would know what to expect? Who can make any “calculation” on mere chance?

Because they have no changes … – Margin, “With whom there be no changes, yet they fear not God.” Literally, “To whom there are no changes, and they fear not God.” Prof. Alexander supposes this to mean that God will “hear” the reproaches and blasphemies of those who have no changes, and who, therefore, have no fear of God. The meaning of the original is not exactly expressed in our common version. According to that version, the idea would seem to be that the fact that they meet with no changes or reverses in life, or that they are favored with uniform prosperity, is a “reason” why they do not fear or worship God. This may be true in fact (compare the notes at Job 21:9-14), but it is not the idea here. The meaning is, that the God who is unchanging – who is always true and just – will “afflict,” that is, will bring punishisment on those who heretofore have had no changes; who have experienced no adversities; who are confident of success because they have always been prosperous, and who have no fear of God. Their continual success and prosperity “may” be a reason – as it often is – why they do “not” feel their need of religion, and do “not” seek and serve God; but the precise truth taught here is, that the fact of continued prosperity is no argument for impunity and safety in a course of wrong doing. God is unchangeable in fact, as they seem to be; and an unchangeable God will not suffer the wicked always to prosper. To constitute safety there must be a better ground of assurance than the mere fact that we have been uniformly prospered, and have experienced no reverses hitherto.

They fear not God – They do not regard him. They do not dread his interposition as a just God. How many such there are upon the earth, who argue secretly that because they have always been favored with success, therefore they are safe; who, in the midst of abundant prosperity – of unchanging “good fortune,” as they would term it – worship no God, feel no need of religion, and are regardless of the changes of life which may soon occur, and even of that one great change which death must soon produce!

Verse 20
He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him – Against those who were his friends, or who had given him no occasion for war. The Septuagint and Vulgate render this, “He hath put forth his hands in recompensing;” that is, in taking vengeance. The Hebrew would bear this construction, but the more correct rendering is that in our common version. The “connection” here would seem to indicate that this is to be referred to God, as God is mentioned in the previous verse. But evidently the design is to refer to the enemies, or the principal enemy of the psalmist – the man whom he had particularly in his eye in the composition of the psalm; and the language is that of one who was “full” of the subject – who was thinking of one thing – and who did not deem it necessary to specify by name the man who had injured him, and whose conduct had so deeply pained him. He, therefore, begins the verse, “He hath put forth his hands,” etc.; showing that his mind was fixed on the base conduct of his enemy. The language is such as leads us to suppose that the psalmist had Ahithophel in view, as being eminently the man that had in this cruel and unexpected manner put forth his hands against one who was his friend, and who had always treated him with confidence.

He hath broken his covenant – He, Ahithophel. The margin, as the Hebrew, is, “He hath profaned.” The idea is, that he had defiled, or polluted it; or he had treated it as a vile thing – a thing to be regarded with contempt and aversion, as a polluted object is. The “covenant” here referred to, according to the views expressed above, may be supposed to refer to the compact or agreement of Ahithophel with David as an officer of his realm – as an adviser and counselor – that he would be faithful to the interests of the king and to his cause. All this he had disregarded, and had treated as if it were a worthless thing, by identifying himself with Absalom in his rebellion. See 2 Samuel 15:12, 2 Samuel 15:31.

Verse 21
The words of his mouth were smoother than butter – Prof. Alexander renders this, “Smooth are the butterings of his mouth.” This is in accordance with the Hebrew, but the general meaning is well expressed in our common version. The idea is, that he was a hypocrite; that his professions of friendship were false; that he only used pleasant words – words expressive of friendship and love – to deceive and betray. We have a similar expression when we speak of “honeyed words,” or “honeyed accents.” This would apply to Ahithophel, and it will apply to thousands of similar cases in the world.

But war was in his heart – He was base, treacherous, false. He was really my enemy, and was ready, when any suitable occasion occurred, to show himself to be such.

His words were softer than oil – Smooth, pleasant, gentle. He was full of professions of love and kindness.

Yet were they drawn swords – As swords drawn from the scabbard, and ready to be used. Compare Psalm 28:3; Psalm 57:4.

Verse 22
Cast thy burden upon the Lord – This may be regarded as an address of the psalmist to himself, or to his own soul – an exhortation to himself to roll all his care upon the Lord, and to be calm. It is expressed, however, in so general language, that it may be applicable to all persons in similar circumstances. Compare Matthew 11:28-29; Philemon 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:7. The Margin here is, “gift.” The “literal” rendering would be, “Cast upon Jehovah what he hath given (or laid upon) thee; that is, thy lot.” (Gesenius, Lexicon) The phrase, “he gives thee,” here means what he appoints for thee; what he allots to thee as thy portion; what, in the great distribution of things in his world, he has assigned to “thee” to be done or to be borne; cast it all on him. Receive the allotment as coming from him; as what “he” has, in his infinite wisdom, assigned to thee as thy portion in this life; as what “he” has judged it to be best that then shouldest do or bear; as “thy” part of toil, or trouble, or sacrifice, in carrying out his great arrangements in the world. All that is to be “borne” or to be “done” in this world he has “divided up” among people, giving or assigning to each one what He thought best suited to his ability, his circumstances, his position in life – what “he” could do or bear best – and what, therefore, would most conduce to the great end in view. That portion thus assigned to “us,” we are directed to “cast upon the Lord;” that is, we are to look to him to enable us to do or to bear it. As it is “his” appointment, we should receive it, and submit to it, without complaining; as it is “his” appointment, we may feel assured that no more has been laid upon us than is commensurate with our ability, our condition, our usefulness, our salvation. We have not to rearrange what has been thus appointed, or to adjust it anew, but to do all, and endure all that he has ordained, leaning on his arm.

And he shall sustain thee – He will make you sufficient for it. The word literally means “to measure;” then to hold or contain, as a vessel or measure; and then, to hold up or sustain “by” a sufficiency of strength or nourishment, as life is sustained. Genesis 45:11; Genesis 47:12; Genesis 50:21; 1 Kings 4:7; 1 Kings 17:4. Here it means that God would give such a “measure” of strength and grace as would be adapted to the duty or the trial; or such as would be sufficient to bear us up under it. Compare the notes at 2 Corinthians 12:9.

He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved – literally, “He will not give moving forever to the righteous.” That is, he will not so appoint, arrange, or permit things to occur, that the righteous shall be “ultimately” and “permanently” removed from their steadfastness and their hope; he will not suffer them to fall away and perish. In all their trials and temptations he will sustain them, and will ultimately bring them off in triumph. The meaning here cannot be that the righteous shall never be “moved” in the sense that their circumstances will not be changed; or that none of their plans will fail; or that they will never be disappointed; or that their minds will never in any sense be discomposed; but that whatever trials may come upon them, they will be “ultimately” safe. Compare Psalm 37:24.

Verse 23
But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction – The word “them,” here evidently refers to the enemies of the psalmist; the wicked people who were arrayed against him, and who sought his life. The “pit of destruction” refers here to the grave, or to death, considered with reference to the fact that they would be “destroyed” or “cut off,” or would not die in the usual course of nature. The meaning is, that God would come forth in his displeasure, and cut them down for their crimes. The word “pit” usually denotes “a well,” or “cavern” Genesis 14:10; Genesis 37:20; Exodus 21:34, but is often used to denote the grave (Job 17:16; Job 33:18, Job 33:24; Psalm 9:15; Psalm 28:1; Psalm 30:3, Psalm 30:9, et al.); and the idea here is that they would be cut off for their sins. The word “destruction” is added to denote that this would be by some direct act, or by punishment inflicted by the hand of God.

Bloody and deceitful men – Margin, as in Hebrew, “Men of bloods and deceit.” The allusion is to people of violence; people who live by plunder and rapine; and especially to such people considered as false, unfaithful, and treacherous – as they commonly are. The special allusion here is to the enemies of David, and particularly to such as Ahithophel – men who not only sought his life, but who had proved themselves to be treacherous and false to him.

Shall not live out half their days – Margin, as in Hebrew, “shall not halve their days.” So the Septuagint, and the Latin Vulgate. The statement is general, not universal. The meaning is, that they do not live half as long as they might do, and would do, if they were “not” bloody and deceitful. Beyond all question this is true. Such people are either cut off in strife and conflict, in personal affrays in duels, or in battle; or they are arrested for their crimes, and punished by an ignominious death. Thousands and tens of thousands thus die every year, who, “but” for their evil deeds, might have doubled the actual length of their lives; who might have passed onward to old age respected, beloved, happy, useful. There is to all, indeed, an outer limit of life. There is a bound which we cannot pass. That natural limit, however, is one that in numerous cases is much “beyond” what people actually reach, though one to which they “might” have come by a course of temperance, prudence, virtue, and piety.

God has fixed a limit beyond which we cannot pass; but, wherever that may be, as arranged in his providence, it is our duty not to cut off our lives “before” that natural limit is reached; or, in other words, it is our duty to live on the earth just as long as we can. Whatever makes us come short of this is self-murder, for there is no difference in principle between a man‘s cutting off his life by the pistol, by poison, or by the halter, and cutting it off by vice, by crime, by dissipation, by the neglect of health, or by those habits of indolence and self-indulgence which undermine the constitution, and bring the body down to the grave. Thousands die each year whose proper record on their graves would be “self-murderers.” Thousands of young people are indulging in habits which, unless arrested, “must” have such a result, and who are destined to an early grave – who will not live out half their days – unless their mode of life is changed, and they become temperate, chaste, and virtuous. One of the ablest lawyers that I have ever known – an example of what often occurs – was cut down in middle life by the use of tobacco. How many thousands perish each year, in a similar manner, by indulgence in intoxicating drinks!

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Psalm 26


This psalm is entitled “A Psalm of David;” and there is no reason for doubting the correctness of the inscription. But, as in some of the previous psalms, neither the title nor the contents contain any intimation as to the time or the circumstances of its composition.

It has, in some respects, a strong resemblance to Psalm 26:1-12. The leading idea in this, as in that, is the strong affection of the author for those who revered and loved God; his strong desire to be associated with them in character and destiny; his earnest wish that he might not be drawn away from them, and that his lot might not be with the wicked. It would seem from the psalm itself, especially from Psalm 28:3, that it was composed when its author was under some powerful temptation from the wicked, or when there were strong allurements offered by them which tended to lead him into the society of those who were strangers to God; and, under this temptation, he urges this earnest prayer, and seeks to bring before his own mind considerations why he should not yield to these influences.

The contents of the psalm, therefore, may be presented in the following analysis:

I. The consciousness of danger so pressing upon him as to lead him to break out in an earnest cry to God, Psalm 28:1-2.

II. The source of his anxiety or his danger; and his earnest prayer that he might not be left to the powerful temptation, and be drawn into the society of the wicked, Psalm 28:3.

III. Considerations which occurred to the mind of the psalmist himself why he should not yield to the temptation, or why he should not be associated with the wicked. These considerations are stated in Psalm 28:3-5. They are drawn from the character and the certain destiny of the wicked.

IV. A sense of relief, or a feeling that God had answered his prayer, and that he was safe from the danger, Psalm 28:6-7.

The psalm is especially appropriate to those who are in danger of being led away by the acts of the ungodly – or who are under strong temptations to be associated with the frivolous, the sensual, and the worldly – or to whom strong inducements are offered to mingle in their pleasures, their vices, and their follies. They who before their conversion were the companions of the ungodly; they who were devoted to guilty pleasures but have been rescued from them; they who have contracted habits of intemperance or sensuality in the society of the dissolute, and who feel the power of the habit returning upon them, and are invited by their former associates to join them again – are in the condition contemplated in the psalm, and will find its sentiments appropriate to their experience.

Verse 1
Unto thee will I cry – That is, under the consciousness of the danger to which I am exposed – the danger of being drawn away into the society of the wicked. In such circumstances his reliance was not on his own strength; or on his own resolutions; on his own heart; or on his fellowmen. He felt that he was safe only in God, and he appeals to Him, therefore, in this earnest manner, to save him.

O Lord my rock – See the notes at Psalm 18:2.

Be not silent to me – Margin, “from me.” So the Hebrew. The idea is that of one who will not speak to us, or who will not attend to us. We pray, and we look for an “answer” to our prayers, or, as it were, we expect God to “speak” to us; to utter words of kindness; to assure us of His favor; to declare our sins forgiven.

Lest, if thou be silent to me – If thou dost not answer my supplications.

I become like unto them that go down into the pit – Like those who die; or, lest I be crushed by anxiety and distress, and die. The word “pit” here refers to the grave. So it is used in Psalm 30:3; Psalm 88:4; Isaiah 38:18; Isaiah 14:15, Isaiah 14:19. The meaning is, that if he did not obtain help from God he despaired of life. His troubles would overwhelm and crush him. He could not bear up under them.

Verse 2
Hear the voice of my supplications – It was not mental prayer which he offered; it was a petition uttered audibly.

When I lift up my hands – To lift up the hands denotes supplication, as this was a common attitude in prayer. See the notes at 1 Timothy 2:8.

Toward thy holy oracle – Margin, as in Hebrew, “toward the oracle of thy holiness.” The word “oracle” as used here denotes the place where the answer to prayer is given. The Hebrew word – דביר debı̂yr – means properly the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle or the temple, the place where God was supposed to reside, and where He gave responses to the prayers of His people: the same place which is elsewhere called the holy of holies. See the notes at Hebrews 9:3-14. The Hebrew word is found only here and in 1 Kings 6:5, 1 Kings 6:16, 1 Kings 6:19-23, 1 Kings 6:31; 1 Kings 7:49; 1 Kings 8:6, 1 Kings 8:8; 2 Chronicles 3:16; 2 Chronicles 4:20; 2 Chronicles 5:7, 2 Chronicles 5:9. The idea here is that he who prayed stretched out his hands toward that sacred place where God was supposed to dwell. So we stretch out our hands toward heaven – the sacred dwelling-place of God. Compare the notes at Psalm 5:7. The Hebrew word is probably derived from the verb to “speak;” and, according to this derivation, the idea is that God spoke to His people; that he “communed” with them; that He answered their prayers from that sacred recess – His special dwelling-place. See Exodus 25:22; Numbers 7:89.

Verse 3
Draw me not away with the wicked – See the notes at Psalm 26:9. The prayer here, as well as the prayer in Psalm 26:9, expresses a strong desire not to be united with wicked people in feeling or in destiny – in life or in death – on earth or in the future world. The reason of the prayer seems to have been that the psalmist, being at this time under a strong temptation to associate with wicked persons, and feeling the force of the temptation, was apprehensive that he should be left to “yield” to it, and to become associated with them. Deeply conscious of this danger, he earnestly prays that he may not be left to yield to the power of the temptation, and fall into sin. So the Saviour Matthew 6:13 has taught us to pray, “And lead us not into temptation.” None who desire to serve God can be insensible to the propriety of this prayer. The temptations of the world are so strong; the amusements in which the world indulges are so brilliant and fascinating; they who invite us to partake of their pleasures are often so elevated in their social position, so refined in their manners, and so cultivated by education; the propensities of our hearts for such indulgences are so strong by nature; habits formed before our conversion are still so powerful; and the prospect of worldly advantages from compliance with the customs of those around us are often so great – that we cannot but feel that it is proper for us to go to the throne of grace, and to plead earnestly with God that he will keep us and not suffer us to fall into the snare.

Especially is this true of those who before they were converted had indulged in habits of intemperance, or in sensual pleasures of any kind, and who are invited by their old companions in sin again to unite with them in their pursuits. Here all the power of the former habit returns; here often there is a most fierce struggle between conscience and the old habit for victory; here especially those who are thus tempted need the grace of God to keep them; here there is special appropriateness in the prayer, “Draw me not away with the wicked.”

And with the workers of iniquity – In any form. With those who do evil.

Which speak peace to their neighbours – Who speak words of friendliness. Who “seem” to be persuading you to do that which is for your good. Who put on plausible pretexts. They appear to be your friends; they profess to be so. They use flattering words while they tempt you to go astray.

But mischief is in their hearts – They are secretly plotting your ruin. They wish to lead you into such courses of life in order that you may fall into sin; that you may dishonor religion; that you may disgrace your profession; or that they may in some way profit by your compliance with their counsels. So the wicked, under plausible pretences, would allure the good; so the corrupt would seduce the innocent; so the enemies of God would entice his friends, that they may bring shame and reproach upon the cause of religion.

Verse 4
Give them according to their deeds – Deal righteously with them. Recompense them as they deserve.

And according to the wickedness of their endeavours – Their designs; their works; their plans.

Give them after the work of their hands – Reward them according to what they do.

Render to them their desert – A just recompense. This whole verse is a prayer that God would deal “justly” with them. There is no evidence that there is anything of vindictiveness or malice in the prayer. In itself considered, there is no impropriety in praying that “justice” may be done to the violators of law. See the general introduction, section 6.

Verse 5
Because they regard not the works of the Lord – What the Lord does in creation; in his providence; through His commands and laws; and by His Spirit. They do not find pleasure in His works; they do not give heed to the intimations of His will in His providential dealings; they do not listen to His commands; they do not yield to the influences of His Spirit. “Nor the operation of his hands.” What He is now doing. The sense is essentially the same as in the former member of the sentence.

He shall destroy them – He will pull them down, instead of building them up. They expose themselves to His displeasure, and He will bring deserved punishment upon them.

And not build them up – He will not favor them; He will not give them prosperity. Health, happiness, salvation are to be found only in conformity with the laws which God has ordained. Neither can be found in violating those laws, or in any other method than that which He has ordained. Sooner or later the violation of law, in regard to these things, and in regard to everything, must lead to calamity and ruin.

Verse 6
Blessed be the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications – This is one of those passages which frequently occur in the Psalms, when there has been an earnest and anxious prayer offered to God, and when the answer to the prayer seems to be immediate. The mind of the anxious and troubled pleader becomes calm; the promises of God are brought directly to the soul; the peace which was sought is obtained; and he who began the psalm with deep anxiety and trouble of mind, rejoices at the close of it in the evidences of the divine favor and love. What thus happened to the psalmist frequently occurs now. The answer to prayer, so far as giving calmness and assurance to the mind is concerned, is often immediate. The troubled spirit becomes calm; and whatever may be the result in other respects, the heart is made peaceful and confiding, and feels the assurance that all will be well. It is sufficient for us to feel that God hears us, for if this is so, we have the assurance that all is right. In this sense, certainly, it is right to look for an immediate answer to our prayers. See Isaiah 65:24, note; Daniel 9:21, note.

Verse 7
The Lord is my strength – See the notes at Psalm 18:1.

And my shield – See the notes at Psalm 3:3. Compare Psalm 33:20; Psalm 59:11; Psalm 84:9; Psalm 89:18; Genesis 15:1.

My heart trusted in him – I trusted or confided in him. See Psalm 13:5.

And I am helped – I have found the assistance which I desired.

Therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth – I greatly rejoice. I am happy. He had found the assurance of the divine favor which he desired, and his heart was glad.

And with my song will I praise him – I will sing praises to Him. Compare Psalm 22:25.

Verse 8
The Lord is their strength – Margin, “his strength.” The Hebrew is, “their strength,” or “strength to them.” The allusion is to the people of God. The course of thought seems to be, that the psalmist, having derived in his own case assistance from God, or having found God a strength to him, his mind turns from this fact to the general idea that God was the strength of “all” who were in similar circumstancaes; or that all His people might confide in Him as he had done.

And he is the saving strength – Margin, as in Hebrew, “strength of salvations.” That is, In Him is found the strength which produces salvation. See the notes at Psalm 27:1.

Of his anointed – See Psalm 2:2, note; Psalm 20:6, note. The primary reference here is doubtless to the psalmist himself, as one who had been annointed or set apaart to the kingly office; but the connection shows that he intended to include all the people of God, as those whom He had consecrated or set apart to His service. See 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9.

Verse 9
Save thy people – All thy people. The psalm appropriately closes with a prayer for all the people of God. The prayer is offered in view of the deliverance which the psalmist had himself experienced, and he prays that all the people of God might experience similar deliverance and mercy.

And bless thine inheritance – Thy heritage; Thy people. The Hebrew word properly means “taking possession of anything; occupation.” Then it comes to mean “possession; domain; estate:” Num, Psalm 18:21. Thus it is used as applied to the territory assigned to each tribe in the promised land: Joshua 13:23. Thus also it is applied to the people of Israel – the Jewish nation – as the “possession” or “property” of Yahweh; as a people whom he regarded as His own, and whom, as such, He protected: Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 9:26, Deuteronomy 9:29. In this place the people of God are thus spoken of as His special possession or property on earth; as that which He regards as of most value to Him; as that which belongs to Him, or to which He has a claim; as that which cannot without injustice to Him be alienated from Him.

Feed them also – Margin, “rule.” The Hebrew word refers to the care which a shepherd extends over his flock. See Psalm 23:1, where the same word, under another form – “shepherd” – is used. The prayer is, that God would take the same care of His people that a shepherd takes of his flock.

And lift them up for ever – The word used here may mean “sustain” them, or “support” them; but it more properly means “bear,” and would be best expressed by a reference to the fact that the shepherd carries the feeble, the young, and the sickly of his flock in his arms, or that he lifts them up when unable themselves to rise. See Isaiah 40:11, note; Isaiah 63:9, note. The word “forever” here means simply “always” – in all circumstances; at all times. In other words, the psalmist prays that God would “always” manifest Himself as the Friend and Helper of His people, as He had done to him. It may be added here, that what the psalmist thus prays for God‘s “will” to be done. God “will” save His people; He will bless His heritage; He will be to them a kind and faithful shepherd; He will sustain, comfort, uphold, and cherish them always – in affliction; in temptation; in death, forever. They have only to trust in Him, and they will find Him to be more kind and faithful than the most tender shepherd ever was to his flock.

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Psalm 21


This psalm likewise purports to be “A Psalm of David,” and there is no cause to doubt the correctness of the superscription which ascribes it to him. There is, however, no certain intimation at what time of his life, or on what occasion, it was composed, and it is impossible to determine these points.

The most probable supposition in regard to its composition seems to me to be, that it is a song of thanksgiving for the victory secured in answer to the prayer of himself and the people in the previous psalm. Nothing can be argued, indeed, on this point, from the mere fact that it stands in close connection with the previous psalm; but there are, it seems to me, internal marks that this was its design, and that it is the expression of a heart overflowing with gratitude, and, therefore, recalling not merely the immediate blessings of a recent victory, but also the other blessings with which God had crowned his life, Psalm 21:3-4.

Thus understood in regard to its origin, the psalm may be regarded as divided into the following parts:

I. Thanksgiving for success, or for granting the object which had been so earnestly sought, Psalm 21:1-7. In this thanksgiving the psalmist says that God had not only granted what had been asked Psalm 21:1-3, but that he had greatly “exceeded” this: he had granted far more than had been the literal request. He had added blessings which had not been specifically sought; he had made those blessings permanent and eternal, Psalm 21:4-7.

II. The general truth that “all” the foes of God would thus be overcome, and that the cause of truth would be finally triumphant, Psalm 21:8-12. This was “suggested” by the victory which had been achieved. As God had granted that victory, as he had so easily subdued the enemies of himself and of his people – as he had gone so far beyond the expectations and the hopes of those who had gone forth to the conflict, the idea is naturally suggested that it would be thus with all his foes, and that there would be ultimately a complete victory over them.

III. The expression of an earnest “desire” that God might be thus exalted, and might thus achieve a complete and final victory, Psalm 21:13,

For the meaning of the phrase, “To the chief Musician,” in the title to the psalm, see the notes at Psalm 4:1-8.

Verse 1
The king shall joy in thy strength – King David, who had achieved the victory which he had desired and prayed for, Psalm 20:1-9. This is in the third person, but the reference is doubtless to David himself, and is to be understood as his own language. If it be understood, however, as the language of “the people,” it is still an ascription of praise to God for his favor to their king. It seems better, however, to regard it as the language of David himself. The word ““strength”” here implies that all the success referred to was to be traced to God. It was not by the prowess of a human arm; it was not by the valor or skill of the king himself; it was by the power of God alone.

And in thy salvation – In the salvation or deliverance from foes which thou hast granted, and in all that thou doest to save. The language would embrace all that God does to save his people.

How greatly shall he rejoice! – Not only does he rejoice now, but he ever will rejoice. It will be to him a constant joy. Salvation, now to us a source of comfort, will always be such; and when we once have evidence that God has interposed to save us, it is accompanied with the confident anticipation that this will continue to be the source of our highest joy forever.

Verse 2
Thou hast given him his heart‘s desire – See the notes at Psalm 20:4. This had been the prayer of the people that God would “grant him according to his own heart, and fulfil all his counsel,” and this desire had now been granted. All that had been wished; all that had been prayed for by himself or by the people, had been granted.

And hast not withholden – Hast not denied or refused.

The request of his lips – The request, or the desire which his lips had uttered. The meaning is, that his petitions had been filly granted.

Selah – See the notes at Psalm 3:2.

Verse 3
For thou preventest him – Thou goest before him; thou dost anticipate him. See Psalm 17:13, margin. Our word “prevent” is now most commonly used in the sense of “hinder, stop, or intercept.” This is not the original meaning of the English word; and the word is never used in this sense in the Bible. The English word, when our translation was made, meant to “go before,” to “anticipate,” and this is the uniform meaning of it in our English version, as it is the meaning of the original. See the notes at Job 3:12. Compare Psalm 59:10; Psalm 79:8; Psalm 88:13; Psalm 95:2; Psalm 119:147-148; Amos 9:10; see the notes at 1 Thessalonians 4:15. The meaning here is, that God had “anticipated” him, or his desires. He had gone before him. He had designed the blessing even before it was asked.

With the blessings of goodness – Blessings “indicating” goodness on his part; blessings adapted to promote the “good” or the welfare of him on whom they were bestowed. Perhaps the meaning here is, not only that they were “good,” but they “seemed” to be good; they were not “blessings in disguise,” or blessings as the result of previous calamity and trial, but blessings where there was no trial – no shadow – no appearance of disappointment.

Thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head – This does not refer to the time of his coronation, or the period when he was crowned a king, but it refers to the victory which he had achieved, and by which he had been made truly a king. He was crowned with triumph; he was shown to be a king; the victory was like making him a king, or setting a crown of pure gold upon his head. He was now a conqueror, and was indeed a king.

Verse 4
He asked life of thee – An expression similar to this occurs in Psalm 61:5-6, “For thou, O God, hast heard my vows; … Thou wilt prolong the king‘s life, and his years to many generations.” The expression in both cases implies that there had been a prayer for “life,” as if life were in danger. The expression itself would be applicable to a time of sickness, or to danger of any kind, and here it is used doubtless in reference to the exposure of life in going into battle, or in going forth to war. In this apprehended peril he prayed that God would defend him. He earnestly sought protection as he went forth to the perils of war.

And thou gavest it him – Thou didst hear and answer his prayer. He was saved from danger.

Even length of days forever and ever – Thou didst grant him more than he asked. He sought life for himself; thou bast not only granted that, but hast granted to him the assurance that he should live in his posterity to all generations. The idea is, that there would be an indefinite contination of his race. His posterity would occupy his throne, and there would be no end to his reign thus prolonged. Beyond all his petitions and his hopes, God bad given the assurance that his reign would be permanent and enduring. We cannot suppose that he understood this as if it were a promise made to him personally, that “he” would live and would occupy the throne forever; but the natural interpretation is that which would refer it to his posterity, and to the perpetuity of the reign of his family or descendants. A similar promise occurs elsewhere: 2 Samuel 7:13, 2 Samuel 7:16; compare the notes at Psalm 18:50. It is by no means an uncommon thing that God gives us more than we asked in our prayers. The offering of prayer is not only the means of securing the blessing which we asked, but also often of securing much more important blessings which we did not ask. If the expression were allowable it might be said that the prayer “suggested” to the divine mind the conferring of all needed blessings, or it indicates such a state of mind on the part of him who prays that God “takes occasion” to confer blessings which were not asked; as a request made by a child to a parent for a specific favor is followed not only by granting “that” favor, but by bestowing others of which the child did not think. The state of mind on the part of the child was such as to “dispose” the parent to grant much larger blessings.

Verse 5
His glory is great in thy salvation – Not in himself; not in anything that he has done, but in what thou hast done. The fact that thou hast saved him, and the manner in which it has been done, has put upon him great honor. He felt indeed that his condition as king, and as to the prospects before him, was one of great “glory” or honor; but he felt at the same time that it was not in “himself,” or for anything that he had done: it was only in the ““salvation”” which “God” had conferred upon him. Every child of God, in like manner, has great “glory” conferred upon him, and his “glory” will be great forever; but it is not in himself, or in virtue of anything that he has done. It is “great” in the “salvation” of God:

(a) in the “fact” that God has interposed to save him; and

(b) in the “manner” in which it has been done.

The highest honor that can be put upon man is in the fact that God will save him.

Honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him –

(a) In making him a king;

(b) in the victories and triumphs which thou hast now given him, placing on his head, as it were, a brighter crown;

(c) in the promised perpetuity of his reign.

So we may say of the ransomed sinner – the child of God – now. Honour and majesty have been laid on him:

(a) in the fact that God has redeemed him;

(b) in the manner in which this has been accomplished;

(c) in his adoption into the family of God;

(d) in the rank and dignity which he occupies as a child of God;

(e) in the hope of immortal blessedness beyond the grave.

Verse 6
For thou hast made him most blessed for ever – Margin, as in Hebrew, “set him” to be “blessings.” The expression in our translation, as it is now commonly understood, would mean that God had made him “happy” or “prosperous.” This does not seem to be the sense of the original. The idea is, that he had made him a blessing to mankind or to the world; or, that he had made him to be a source of blessing to others. Blessings would descend through him; and though in the consciousness of this fact he would be “happy,” and in that sense be “blessed,” yet the idea is rather that blessings would be imparted or scattered through him. Blessings would abound to others through his own reign; blessings through the reigns of those who should succeed him in the throne; blessings would be imparted to men as far as the import of the promise extended, that is, forever, Psalm 21:4. The word “forever” here undoubtedly, as it was used by the Spirit of inspiration, was designed to refer to the eternal blessings which would descend on mankind through the Messiah, the illustrious descendant of David. How far David himself understood this, is not material inquiry. He was undoubtedly directed by the Spirit of inspiration to use such language as would fairly and properly express this. It is right, therefore, for us so to regard it, and so to interpret and apply it.

Thou hast made him exceeding glad – Margin, as in Hebrew, “gladded him with joy.” The Hebrew phrase means, as it is expressed in our translation, that he had been made very glad, or very happy. The favors of God to him, alike in his protection and in the promises which had been made in reference to the future, were such as to make him happy in the highest degree.

With thy countenance – With thy favor. By lifting the light of thy countenance upon him; or, as we should express it, by “smiling” upon him. See the notes at Psalm 4:6.

Verse 7
For the king – David, the author of the psalm.

Trusteth in the Lord – All these blessings have resulted from his confiding in God, and looking to him for his favor and protection.

And through the mercy of the Most High – The favor of Him who is exalted above all; the most exalted Being in the universe. The word “mercy” here is equivalent to “favor.” He had already experienced God‘s favor; he looked for a continuance of it; and through that favor he was confident that he would never be shaken in his purposes, and that he would never be disappointed.

He shall not be moved – He shall be firmly established. That is, his throne would be firm; he himself would live a life of integrity, purity, and prosperity; and the promises which had been so graciously made to him, and which extended so far into the future, would all be acomplished. The truth taught here is, that however firm or prosperous our way seems to be, the continuance of our prosperity, and the completion of our hopes and our designs, depend wholly on the “mercy” or the favor of the Most High. Confiding in that, we may feel assured that whatever changes and reverses we may experience in our temporal matters, our ultimate welfare will be secure. Nothing can shake a hope of heaven that is founded on his gracious promises as made through a Saviour.

Verse 8
Thine hand shall find out – That is, Thou wilt find out – the hand being that by which we execute our purposes. This verse commences a new division of the psalm (see the introduction) – in which the psalmist looks forward to the complete and final triumph of God over “all” his enemies. He looks to this in connection with what God had done for him. He infers that he who had enabled him to achieve such signal conquests over his own foes and the foes of God would not withdraw his interposition until he had secured a complete victory for the cause of truth and holiness. In connection with the promise made to him respecting his permanent reign and the reign of his successors on the throne Psalm 21:4, he infers that God would ultimately subdue the enemies of truth, and would set up his kingdom over all.

All thine enemies – However they may attempt to conceal themselves – however they may evade the efforts to subdue them – yet they shall “all” be found out and overcome. As this was intended by the Spirit of inspiration, it undoubtedly refers to the final triumph of truth on the earth, or to the fact that the kingdom of God will be set up over all the world. All that are properly ranked among the enemies of God – all that are in any way opposed to him and to his reign – will be found out and conquered. All the worshippers of idols – all the enemies of truth – all the rejecters of revelation – all the workers of iniquity, – all that are infidels or scoffers – shall be found out and subdued. Either by being made to yield to the claims of truth, and thus becoming the friends of God, or by being cut off and punished for their sins – they will be all so overcome that God shall reign over all the earth. An important truth is further taught here, to wit, that no enemy of God can escape him. There is no place to which he can flee where God will not find him. “There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves,” Job 34:22.

Thy right hand – See the notes at Psalm 17:7.

Those that hate thee – All thine enemies.

Verse 9
Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger – Thou shalt consume or destroy them, “as if” they “were” burned in a heated oven. Or, they shall burn, as if they were a flaming oven; that is, they would be wholly consumed. The word rendered “oven” – תנור tannûr – means either an “oven” or a “furnace.” It is rendered “furnace and furnaces” in Genesis 15:17; Nehemiah 3:11; Nehemiah 12:38; Isaiah 31:9; and, as here, “oven” or “ovens,” in Exodus 8:3; Leviticus 2:4; Leviticus 7:9; Leviticus 11:35; Leviticus 26:26; Lamentations 5:10; Hosea 7:4, Hosea 7:6-7; Malachi 4:1. It does not occur elsewhere. The oven among the Hebrews was in the form of a large “pot,” and was heated from within by placing the wood inside of it. Of course, while being heated, it had the appearance of a furnace. The meaning here is that the wicked would be consumed or destroyed “as if” they were such a burning oven; as if they were set on fire, and burned up.

The Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath – The same idea of the utter destruction of the wicked is here presented under another form – that they would be destroyed as if the earth should open and swallow them up. Perhaps the allusion in the language is to the case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Numbers 16:32; compare Psalm 106:17.

And the fire shall devour them – The same idea under another form. The wrath of God would utterly destroy them. That wrath is often represented under the image of “fire.” See Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 32:22; Psalm 18:8; Matthew 13:42; Matthew 18:8; Matthew 25:41; Mark 9:44; 2 Thessalonians 1:8. Fire is the emblem by which the future punishment of the wicked is most frequently denoted.

Verse 10
Their fruit – Their offspring; their children; their posterity, for so the parallelism demands. The “fruit” is that which the tree produces; and hence, the word comes to be applied to children as the production of the parent. See this use of the word in Genesis 30:2; Exodus 21:22; Deuteronomy 28:4, Deuteronomy 28:11, Deuteronomy 28:18; Psalm 127:3; Hosea 9:16; Micah 6:7.

Shalt thou destroy from the earth – Thou shalt utterly destroy them. This is in accordance with the statement so often made in the Scriptures, and with what so often occurs in fact, that the consequences of the sins of parents pass over to their posterity, and that they suffer in consequence of those sins. Compare Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Leviticus 20:5; Leviticus 26:39; compare the notes at Romans 5:12-21.

And their seed – Their posterity.

From among the children of men – From among men, or the human family. That is, they would be entirely cut off from the earth. The truth taught here is, that the wicked will ultimately be destroyed, and that God will obtain a complete triumph over them, or that the kingdom of righteousness shall be at length completely established. A time will come when truth and justice shall be triumphant, when all the wicked shall be removed out of the way; when all that oppose God and his cause shall be destroyed, and when God shall show, by thus removing and punishing the wicked, that he is the Friend of all that is true, and good, and right. The “idea” of the psalmist probably was that this would yet occur on the earth; the “language” is such, also, as may be applied to that ultimate state, in the future world, when all the wicked shall be destroyed, and the righteous shall be no more troubled with them.

Verse 11
For they intended evil against thee – literally, “They stretched out evil.” The idea seems to be derived from “stretching out” or laying snares, nets, or gins, for the purpose of taking wild beasts. That is, they formed a plan or purpose to bring evil upon God and his cause: as the hunter or fowler forms a purpose or plan to take wild beasts or fowls. It is not merely a purpose in the head, as our word “intended” would seem to imply; it supposes that arrangements had been entered into, or that a scheme had been formed to injure the cause of God – that is, through the person referred to in the psalm. The purposes of wicked men against religion are usually much more than a mere “intention.” The intention is accompanied with a scheme or plan in their own mind by which the act may be accomplished. The evil here referred to was that of resisting or overpowering him who was engaged in the cause of God, or whom God had appointed to administer his laws.

They imagined a mischievous device – They thought, or they purposed. The word rendered “mischievous device” מזמה mezimmâh – means properly “counsel, purpose; then prudence, sagacity;” then, in a bad sense, “machination, device, trick.” Gesenius, Lexicon. Proverbs 12:2; Proverbs 14:17; Proverbs 24:8.

Which they are not able to perform – literally, “they could not;” that is, they had not the power to accomplish it, or to carry out their purpose. Their purpose was plain; their guilt was therefore clear; but they were prevented from executing their design. Many such designs are kept from being carried into execution for the want of power. If all the devices and the desires of the wicked were accomplished, righteousness would soon cease in the earth, religion and virtue would come to an end, and even God would cease to occupy the throne.

Verse 12
Therefore shalt thou make them turn their back – Margin, “Thou shalt set them as a butt.” The word back also is rendered in the margin “shoulder.” The word translated “therefore” means in this placer or, and the rendering “therefore” obscures the sense. The statement in this verse in connection with the previous verse, is, that they would not be able to “perform” or carry out their well-laid schemes, “for” or “because” God would make them turn the back; that is, he had vanquished them. They were going forward in the execution of their purposes, but God would interpose and turn them back, or compel them to “retreat.” The word rendered “back” in this place – שׁכם shekem – means properly “shoulder,” or, more strictly, the “shoulder-blades,” that is, the part where these approach each other behind; and then the upper part of the back. It is not, therefore, incorrectly rendered by the phrase “thou shalt make them turn “the back.”” The expression is equivalent to saying that they would be defeated or foiled in their plans and purposes.

When thou shalt make ready thine arrows upon thy strings – Compare the notes at Psalm 11:2. That is, when God should go forth against them, armed as a warrior.

Against the face of them – Against them; or, in their very front. He would meet them as they seemed to be marching on to certain conquest, and would defeat them. It would not be by a side-blow, or by skillful maneuver, or by turning their flank and attacking them in the rear. Truth meets error boldly, face to face, and is not afraid of a fair fight. In every such conflict error will ultimately yield; and whenever the wicked come openly into conflict with God, they must be compelled to turn and flee.

Verse 13
Be thou exalted, Lord, in thine own strength – This is the concluding part of the psalm (see the introduction), expressing a desire that God “might” be exalted over all his foes; or that his own strength might he so manifestly put forth that he would be exalted as he ought to be. This is the ultimate and chief desire of all holy created beings, that God might be exalted in the estimation of the universe above all other beings – or that he might so triumph over all his enemies as to reign supreme.

So will we sing and praise thy power – That is, as the result of thy being thus exalted to proper honor, we will unite in celebrating thy glory and thy power. Compare Revelation 7:10-12; Revelation 12:10; Revelation 19:1-3. This will be the result of all the triumphs which God will achieve in the world, that the holy beings of all worlds will gather around his throne and “sing and praise his power.” The “thought” in the psalm is that God will ultimately triumph over all his foes, and that this triumph will be followed by universal rejoicing and praise. Come that blessed day.

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Psalm 16


This psalm expresses a confident expectation of eternal life and happiness, founded on the evidence of true attachment to God. It expresses the deep conviction that one who loves God will not be left in the grave, and will not be suffered to see permanent “corruption,” or to perish in the grave, forever.

The contents of the psalm are the following:

(1) An earnest prayer of the author for preservation on the ground that he had put his trust in God, Psalm 16:1.

(2) A statement of his attachment to God, Psalm 16:2-3, founded partly on his consciousness of such attachment Psalm 16:2, and partly on the fact that he truly loved the friends of God, Psalm 16:3.

(3) A statement of the fact that he had no sympathy with those who rejected the true God; that he did not, and would not, participate in their worship. The Lord was his portion, and his inheritance, Psalm 16:4-5.

(4) Thankfulness that the lines had fallen unto him in such pleasant places; that he had had his birth and lot where the true God was adored, and not in a land of idolaters, Psalm 16:6-7.

(5) A confident expectation, on the ground of his attachment to God, that he would be happy forever; that he would not be left to perish in the grave; that he would obtain eternal life at the right hand of God, Psalm 16:8-11. This expectation implies the following particulars:

(a) That he would never be moved; that is, that he would not be disappointed and cast off, Psalm 16:8.

(b) That, though he was to die, his flesh would rest in hope, Psalm 16:9.

(c) That he would not be left in the regions of the dead, nor suffered to lie forever in the grave, Psalm 16:10.

(d) That God would show him the path of life, and give him a place at his right hand, Psalm 16:11.

Nothing can be determined with certainty in regard to the occasion on which the psalm was composed. It is such a psalm as might be composed at any time in view of solemn reflections on life, death, the grave, and the world beyond; on the question whether the grave is the end of man, or whether there will be a future. It is made up of happy reflections on the lot and the hopes of the pious; expressing the belief that, although they were to die, there was a brighter world beyond – although they were to be laid in the grave, they would not always remain there; that they would be released from the tomb, and be raised up to the right hand of God. It expresses more clearly than can be found almost anywhere else in the Old Testament a belief in the doctrine of the resurrection – an assurance that those who love God, and keep his commandments, will not always remain in the grave.

The psalm is appealed to by Peter Acts 2:25-31, and by Paul Acts 13:35-37, as referring to the resurrection of Christ, and is adduced by them in such a manner as to show they regarded it as proving that He would be raised from the dead. It is not necessary to suppose, in order to a correct understanding of the psalm, that it had an exclusive reference to the Messiah, but only that it referred to him in the highest sense, or that it had its complete fulfillment in him. Compare Introduction to Isaiah, Section 7, iii: It undoubtedly expressed the feelings of David in reference to himself – his own hopes in view of death; while it is true that he was directed to use language in describing his own feelings and hopes which could have a complete fulfillment only in the Messiah. In a more full and complete sense, it was true that he would not be left in the grave, and that he would not be allowed “to see corruption.”

It was actually true in the sense in which David used the term as applicable to himself that he would not be “left” permanently and ultimately in the grave, under the dominion of corruption; it was literally true of the Messiah, as Peter and Paul argued, that he did not “see corruption;” that he was raised from the grave without undergoing that change in the tomb through which all others must pass. As David used the language (as applicable to himself), the hope suggested in the psalm will be fulfilled in the future resurrection of the righteous; as the words are to be literally understood, they could be fulfilled only in Christ, who rose from the dead without seeing corruption. The argument of Peter and Paul is, that this prophetic language was found in the Old Testament, and that it could have a complete fulfillment only in the resurrection of Christ. David, though he would rise as he anticipated, did, in fact, return to corruption. Of the Messiah it was literally true that his body did not undergo any change in the grave. The reference to the Messiah is, that it had its highest and most complete fulfillment in him. Compare the notes at Acts 2:25-31.

The title of the psalm is, “Michtam of David.” The word “Michtam” occurs only in the following places, in all of which it is used as the title of a psalm: Psalm 16:1-11; Psalm 56:1-13; Psalm 57:1-11; Psalm 58:1-11; 59; Psalm 60:1-12. Gesenius supposes that it means a “writing,” especially a poem, psalm, or song; and that its sense is the same as the title to the psalm of Hezekiah Isaiah 38:9, where the word used is rendered “writing.” According to Gesenius the word used here – מכתם miktâm – is the same as the word employed in Isaiah – מכתב miktâb – the last letter ב (b ), having been gradually changed to ם (m ). Others, unaptly, Gesenius says, have derived the word from כתם kethem gold,” meaning a “golden” psalm; that is, precious, or pre-eminent. DeWette renders it: “Schrift,”” writing. It is, perhaps, impossible now to determine why some of the psalms of David should have been merely termed “writings,” while others are mentioned under more specific titles.

Verse 1
Preserve me, O God – Keep me; guard me; save me. This language implies that there was imminent danger of some kind – perhaps, as the subsequent part of the psalm would seem to indicate, danger of death. See Psalm 16:8-10. The idea here is, that God was able to preserve him from the impending danger, and that he might hope he would do it.

For in thee do I put my trust – That is, my hope is in thee. He had no other reliance than God; but he had confidence in him – he felt assured that there was safety there.

Verse 2
O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord – The words “O my soul” are not in the original. A literal rendering of the passage would be, “Thou hast said unto the Lord,” etc., leaving something to be supplied. De Wette renders it: “To Yahweh I call; thou art my Lord.” Luther: “I have said to the Lord.” The Latin Vulgate: “Thou, my soul, hast said to the Lord.” The Septuagint: “I have said unto the Lord.” Dr. Horsley: “I have said unto Jehovah.” The speaker evidently is the psalmist; he is describing his feelings toward the Lord, and the idea is equivalent to the expression “I have said unto the Lord.” Some word must necessarily be understood, and our translators have probably expressed the true sense by inserting the words, “O my soul.” the state of mind indicated is that in which one is carefully looking at himself, his own perils, his own ground of hope, and when he finds in himself a ground of just confidence that he has put his trust in God, and in God alone. We have such a form of appeal in Psalm 42:5, Psalm 42:11; Psalm 43:5, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?”

Thou art my Lord – Thou hast a right to rule over me; or, I acknowledge thee as my Lord, my sovereign. The word here is not Yahweh, but Adonai – a word of more general signification than Yahweh. The sense is, I have acknowledged Yahweh to be my Lord and my God. I receive him and rest upon him as such.

My goodness extendeth not to thee – This passage has been very variously rendered. Prof. Alexander translates it: “My good (is) not besides thee (or, beyond thee);” meaning, as he supposes: “My happiness is not beside thee, independent of, or separable from thee?” So DeWette: “There is no success (or good fortune) to me out of thee.” Others render it: “My goodness is not such as to entitle me to thy regard.” And others, “My happiness is not obligatory or incumbent on thee; thou art not bound to provide for it.” The Latin Vulgate renders it: “My good is not given unless by thee.” Dr. Horsley: “Thou art my good – not besides thee.” I think the meaning is: “My good is nowhere except in thee; I have no source of good of any kind – happiness, hope, life, safety, salvation – but in thee. My good is not without thee.” This accords with the idea in the other member of the sentence, where he acknowledges Yahweh as his Lord; in other words, he found in Yahweh all that is implied in the idea of an object of worship – all that is properly expressed by the notion of a God. He renounced all other gods, and found his happiness – his all – in Yahweh.

Verse 3
But to the saints that are in the earth – This verse also has been very variously rendered. Our translators seem to have understood it, in connection with the previous verse, as meaning that his “goodness,” or piety, was not of so pure and elevated a character that it could in any way extend to God so as to benefit him, but that it “might” be of service to the saints on earth, and that so, by benefiting them, he might show his attachment to God himself. But if the interpretation of the previous verse above proposed be the correct one, then this interpretation cannot be admitted here. This verse is probably to be regarded as a further statement of the evidence of the attachment of the psalmist to God. In the previous verse, according to the interpretation proposed, he states that his happiness – his all was centered in God. He had no hope of anything except in him; none beyond him; none besides him.

In this verse he states, as a further proof of his attachment to him, that he regarded with deep affection the saints of God; that he found his happiness, not in the society of the wicked, but in the friendship of the excellent of the earth. The verse may be thus rendered: “As to the saints in the earth (or in respect to the saints in the earth), and to the excellent, all my delight is in them.” In the former verse he had stated that, as to God, or in respect to God, he had no source of blessing, no hope, no joy, beyond him, or independent of him; in this verse he says that in respect to the saints – the excellent of the earth – all his delight was in them. Thus he was conscious of true attachment to God and to his people. Thus he had what must ever be essentially the evidence of true piety – a feeling that God is all in all, and real love for those who are his; a feeling that there is nothing beyond God, or without God, that can meet the wants of the soul, and a sincere affection for all who are his friends on earth. DeWette has well expressed the sense of the passage, “The holy, who are in the land, and the noble – I have all my pleasure in them.”

In the earth – In the land; or, perhaps, more generally, “on earth.” God was in heaven, and all his hopes there were in him. In respect to those who dwelt on the earth, his delight was with the saints alone.

And to the excellent – The word used here means properly “large, great,” mighty; then it is applied to “nobles, princes, chiefs;” and then to those who excel in moral qualities, in piety, and virtue. This is the idea here, and thus it corresponds with the word “saints” in the former member of the verse. The idea is that he found his pleasure, not in the rich and the great, not in princes and nobles, but in those who were distinguished for virtue and piety. In heaven he had none but God; on earth he found his happiness only in those who were the friends of God.

In whom is all my delight – I find all my happiness in their society and friendship. The true state of my heart is indicated by my love for them. Everywhere, and at all times, love for those who love God, and a disposition to find our happiness in their friendship, will be a characteristic of true piety.

Verse 4
Their sorrows shall be multiplied – The word here rendered “sorrows – עצבוּת ‛atstsebôth – may mean either idols or sorrows. Compare Isaiah 48:5; Psalm 139:24; Job 9:28; Psalm 147:3. Some propose to render it, “Their idols are multiplied;” that is, many are the gods which others worship, while I worship one God only. So Gesenius understands it. So also the Aramaic Paraphrase renders it. But the common construction is probably the correct one, meaning that sorrow, pain, anguish, must always attend the worship of any other gods than the true God; and that therefore the psalmist would not he found among their number, or be united with them in their devotions.

That hasten after another god – Prof. Alexander renders this, “Another they have purchased.” Dr. Horsley, “Who betroth themselves to another.” The Septuagint, “After these things they are in haste.” The Latin Vulgate, “Afterward they make haste.” The Hebrew word – מהר mâhar – properly means to hasten; to be quick, prompt, apt. It is twice used Exodus 22:16 in the sense of “buying or endowing;” that is, procuring a wife by a price paid to her parents; but the common meaning of the word is to hasten, and this is clearly the sense here. The idea is that the persons referred to show a readiness or willingness to forsake the true God, and to render service to other gods. Their conduct shows that they do not hesitate to do this when it is proposed to them; that they embrace the first opportunity to do it. Men hesitate and delay when it is proposed to them to serve the true God; they readily embrace an opposite course – following the world and sin.

Their drink-offerings of blood – It was usual to pour out a drink-offering of wine or water in the worship of idol gods, and even of the true God. Thus Jacob Genesis 35:14 is said to have set up a pillar in Padan-aram, and to have “poured a drink-offering thereon.” Compare Exodus 29:40-41; Exodus 30:9; Lev, Leviticus 23:13; Numbers 15:5. The phrase “drink-offerings of blood” would seem to imply that the blood of the animals slain in sacrifice was often mingled with the wine or water that was thus poured out in the services of the pagan gods. So Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Michaelis suppose. It would seem, also, that the worshippers themselves drank this mingled cup. They did this when they bound themselves by a solemn oath to perform any dangerous service. DeWette. The eating, and consequently the drinking of blood, was solemnly forbidden to the Israelites (compare Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26; Leviticus 17:10); and the idea here is, that the psalmist had solemnly resolved that he would not partake of the abominations of the pagan, or be united with them in any way in their worship.

Nor take up their names into my lips – As objects of worship. That is, I will not in any way acknowledge them as gods, or render to them the homage which is due to God. The very mention of the name of any other god than the true God was solemnly forbidden by the law of Moses Exodus 23:13, “And make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of your mouth.” So the apostle Paul says Ephesians 5:3, “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not once be named among you, as becometh saints.” The idea in these places seems to be, that the mere mention of these things would tend to produce dangerous familiarity with them, and by such familiarity take off something of the repugnance and horror with which they should be regarded, They were, in other words, to be utterly avoided; they were never to be thought of or named; they were to be treated as though they were not. No one can safely so familiarize himself with vice as to render it a frequent subject of conversation. Pollution will flow into the heart from words which describe pollution, even when there is no intention that the use of such words should produce contamination. No one can be familiar with stories or songs of a polluted nature, and still retain a heart of purity. “The very passage of a polluted thought through the mind leaves pollution behind it.” How much more is the mind polluted when the thought is dwelt upon, and when utterance is given to it in language!

Verse 5
The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance – In contradistinction from idols. The margin here is, “of my part.” The word properly means “lot, portion, part;” and is applicable to the portion of booty or plunder that fell to anyone; or to the portion of land that belonged to anyone in the division of an estate, 2 Kings 9:10, 2 Kings 9:36-37. The meaning here is, that Yahweh was the being whom the psalmist worshipped as God, and that he sought no possession or comfort which did not proceed from him.

And my cup – The allusion here is to what we drink; and hence, the term is used in the sense of “lot” or “portion.” See the notes at Isaiah 51:17. Compare the notes at Psalm 11:6. The idea here is this: “The cup that I drink – that cheers, refreshes, and sustains me – is the Lord. I find comfort, refreshment, happiness, in him alone; not in the intoxicating bowl; not in sensual joys; but in God – in his being, perfections, friendship.”

Thou maintainest my lot – Thou dost defend my portion, or that which is allotted to me. The reference is to what he specifies in the following verse as his inheritance, and he says that that which was so valuable to him was sustained or preserved by God. He was the portion of his soul; he was the source of all his joy; he maintained or preserved all that was dear to his heart.

Verse 6
The lines – The word used here refers to the “lines” employed in measuring and dividing land, Amos 7:17; 2 Samuel 8:2. Hence, the word comes to denote a portion of land that is “measured out” (or that is “surveyed off”) to anyone – his possession or property; and hence, the word refers to the condition in life. The meaning here is, that in running out such a survey, “his” inheritance had been fixed in a pleasant and desirable part of the land.

Are fallen unto me – Referring to the appropriation of the different parts of the land by lot. The idea is, that the land was surveyed into distinct portions, and then that the part which fell to anyone was determined by lot. This was actually the case in distributing the land of Canaan, Numbers 26:55; Numbers 33:54; Numbers 36:2; Joshua 1519.

In pleasant places – In a pleasant or desirable part of the land.

Yea, I have a goodly heritage – A good, a desirable inheritance. The meaning is, that he regarded it as a desirable heritage that he lived where the true God was known; where he enjoyed his favor and friendship.

Verse 7
I will bless the Lord, who hath given the counsel – Probably the reference here is to the fact that the Lord had counseled him to choose him as his portion, or had inclined him to his service. There is nothing for which a heart rightly affected is more disposed to praise God than for the fact that by his grace it has been inclined to serve him; and the time when the heart was given away to God is recalled ever onward as the happiest period of life.

My reins … – See the notes at Psalm 7:9. The “reins” are here put for the mind, the soul. They were regarded as the seat of the affections, Jeremiah 11:20; Job 19:27. The meaning here is, that in the wakeful hours of night, when meditating on the divine character and goodness, he found instruction in regard to God. Compare Psalm 17:3. Everything then is favorable for reflection. The natural calmness and composure of the mind; the stillness of night; the starry heavens; the consciousness that we are alone with God, and that no human eye is upon us – all these things are favorable to profound religious meditation. They who are kept wakeful by night “need” not find this an unprofitable portion of their lives. Some of the most instructive hours of life are those which are spent when the eyes refuse to close themselves in slumber, and when the universal stillness invites to contemplation on divine things.

Verse 8
I have set the Lord always before me – By night as well as by day; in my private meditations as well as in my public professions. I have regarded myself always as in the presence of God; I have endeavored always to feel that, his eye was upon me. This, too, is one of the certain characteristics of piety, that we always feel that we are in the presence of God, and that we always act as if his eye were upon us. Compare the notes at Acts 2:25.

Because he is at my right hand – The right hand was regarded as the post of honor and dignity, but it is also mentioned as a position of defense or protection. To have one at our right hand is to have one near us who can defend us. Thus, in Psalm 109:31, “He shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him,” etc. So Psalm 110:5, “The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.” Psalm 121:5, “the Lord is thy Keeper; the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.” The idea is, that as we use the right hand in our “own” defense, we seem to have an additional and a needed helper when one is at our right hand. The sense here is, that the psalmist felt that God, as his Protector, was always near him; always ready to interpose for his defense. We have a somewhat similar expression when we say of anyone that he is “at hand;” that is, he is near us.

I shall not be moved – I shall be safe; I shall not be disturbed by fear; I shall be protected from my enemies. See Psalm 10:6; Psalm 15:5. Compare Psalm 46:5. The language here is that of one who has confidence in God in time of great calamities, and who feels that he is safe under the divine favor and protection.

Verse 9
Therefore my heart is glad – In view of this fact, that my confidence is in God alone, and my belief that he is my Protector and Friend. See the notes at Acts 2:26.

And my glory rejoiceth – The Septuagint translate this, “my tongue,” and this translation is followed by Peter in his quotation of the passage in Acts 2:26. See the notes at that passage. The meaning here is, that whatever there was in him that was honorable, dignified, or glorious – all the faculties of his soul, as well as his heart – had occasion to rejoice in God. His whole nature – his undying soul – his exalted powers as he was made by God – all – all, found cause of exultation in the favor and friendship of God. The heart – the uuderstanding – the imagination – the whole immortal soul, found occasion for joy in God.

My flesh also – My body. Or, it may mean, his whole person, he himself, though the direct allusion is to the body considered as lying in the grave, Psalm 16:10. The language is such as one would use of himself when he reflected on his own death, and it is equivalent to saying, “I myself, when I am dead, shall rest in hope; my soul will not be left to abide in the gloomy place of the dead; nor will my body remain permanently in the grave under the power of corruption. In reference to my soul and my body – my whole nature – I shall descend to the grave in the hope of a future life.”

Shall rest – Margin, “dwell confidently.” The Hebrew is literally “shall dwell in confidence” or hope. The word here rendered “shall rest” means properly to let oneself down; to lie down, Numbers 9:17; Exodus 24:16; then, to lay oneself down, to lie down, as, for example, a lion lying down, Deuteronomy 33:20; or a people in tents, Numbers 24:2; and hence, to rest, to take rest, Judges 5:17; and then to abide, to dwell. Gesenius, Lexicon. Perhaps the sense here is that of “lying down,” considered as lying in the grave, and the expression is equivalent to saying, “When I die I shall lie down in the grave in hope or confidence, not in despair. I shall expect to rise and live again.”

In hope – The word used here means “trust, confidence, security.” It is the opposite of despair. As used here, it would refer to a state of mind in which there was an expectation of living again, as distinguished from that state of mind in which it was felt that the grave was the end of man. What is particularly to be remarked here is, that this trust or confidence extended to the “flesh” as well as to the “soul;” and the language is such as would be naturally used by one who believed in the resurrection of the body. Language of this kind occurs elsewhere in the Old Testament, showing that the doctrine of the resurrection of the body was one to which the sacred writers were not strangers, and that although the doctrine was not as explicitly and formally stated in the Old Testament as in the New, yet that it was a doctrine which had been at some time communicated to man. See Isaiah 26:19, note; Daniel 12:2, note. As applicable to David, the language used here is expressive of his belief that “he” would rise again, or would not perish in the grave when his body died; as applicable to the Messiah, as applied by Peter Acts 2:26, it means that when “he” should die it would be with the hope and expectation of being raised again without seeing corruption. The language is such as to be applicable to both cases; and, in regard to the interpretation of the “language,” it makes no difference whether it was supposed that the resurrection would occur before the body should moulder back to dust, or whether it would occur at a much more remote period, and long after it had gone to decay. In either case it would be true that it was laid in the grave “in hope.”

Verse 10
For thou will not leave – The language used here implies, of course, that what is here called the soul would be in the abode to which the name hell is given, but “how long” it would be there is not intimated. The thought simply is, that it would not be “left” there; it would not be suffered to “remain” there. Whether it would be restored to life again in a few days, or after a longer period, is not implied in the term used. It would be fulfilled, though, as in the case of the Lord Jesus, the resurrection should occur in three days; or though, as in the case of David, it would occur only after many ages; or though, as Abraham believed of Isaac if he was offered as a sacrifice Hebrews 11:19, he should be restored to life at once. In other words, there is no allusion in this language to time. It is only to the “fact” that there would be a restoration to life.

My soul – DeWette renders this, “my life.” The Hebrew word – נפשׁ nephesh – which occurs very frequently in the Scriptures, means properly “breath;” then, the vital spirit, life; then, the rational soul, the mind; then, an animal, or animated thing – that which “lives;” then, oneself. Which of these senses is the true one here must be determined from the connection, and the meaning could probably be determined by a man‘s asking himself what he would think of if he used similar language of himself – “I am about to die; my flesh will go down to the grave, and will rest in hope – the hope of a resurrection; my breath – my soul – will depart, and I shall be dead; but that life, that soul, will not be extinct: it will not be “left” in the grave, the abode of the dead; it will live again, live on forever.” It seems to me, therefore, that the language here would embrace the immortal part – that which is distinct from the body; and that the word here employed may be properly understood of the soul as we understand that word. The psalmist probably understood by it that part of his nature which was not mortal or decaying; that which properly constituted his life.

In hell – – לשׁאול lishe’ôl “to Sheol.” See Psalm 6:5, note; Isaiah 5:14, note. This word does not necessarily mean hell in the sense in which that term is now commonly employed, as denoting the abode of the wicked in the future world, or the place of punishment; but it means the region or abode of the dead, to which the grave was regarded as the door or entrance – the under-world. The idea is, that the soul would not be suffered to remain in that under-world – that dull, gloomy abode (compare the notes at Job 10:21-22), but would rise again to light and life. This language, however, gives no sanction to the words used in the creed, “he descended into hell,” nor to the opinion that Christ went down personally to “preach to the spirits in prison “ – the souls that are lost (compare the notes at 1 Peter 3:19); but it is language derived from the prevailing opinion that the soul, through the grave, descended to the under-world – to the abodes where the dead were supposed still to reside. See the notes at Isaiah 14:9. As a matter of fact, the soul of the Saviour at his death entered into “paradise.” See the notes at Luke 23:43.

Neither wilt thou suffer – literally, “thou wilt not give;” that is, he would not give him over to corruption, or would not suffer him to return to corruption.

Thine Holy One – See the notes at Acts 2:27. The reading here in the text is in the plural form, “thy holy ones;” the marginal reading in the Hebrew, or the Qeri‘, is in the singular, “thine Holy One.” The singular form is followed by the Aramaic Paraphrase, the Latin Vulgate, the Septuagint, the Arabic, and in the New Testament, Acts 2:27. The Masoretes have also pointed the text as if it were in the singular. Many manuscripts and earlier editions of the Bible, and all the ancient versions, read it in the same manner. It is probable, therefore, that this is the true reading. The Hebrew word rendered holy one – חסיד châsı̂yd – means properly kind, benevolent, liberal, good, merciful, gracious, pious. Gesenius, Lexicon. It would be applicable to any persons who are pious or religious, but it is here restricted to the one whom the psalmist had in his eye – if the psalm referred to himself, then to himself; if to the Messiah, then to him. The term is several times given to the Saviour as being especially adapted to him. See Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; Acts 3:14; compare Luke 1:35. It is applied to him as being eminently holy, or as being one whom God regarded as especially his own. As the passage here is expressly applied to him in the Acts of the Apostles Acts 2:27, there can be no doubt that it was intended by the Spirit of inspiration to designate him in this place, whatever reference it may have had primarily to David himself.

To see – That is, to experience; to be acquainted with. The word is used often to denote perceiving, learning, or understanding anything by experience. Thus, “to see life,” Ecclesiastes 9:9; “to see death,” Psalm 89:48; “to see sleep,” Ecclesiastes 8:16; “to see famine,” Jeremiah 5:12; “to see good,” Psalm 34:12; “to see affliction,” Lamentations 3:1; “to see evil,” Proverbs 27:12. Here it means that he would not “experience” corruption; or would not return to corruption.

Corruption – – שׁחת shachath This word is frequently used in the Scriptures. It is translated “ditch” in Job 9:31; Psalm 7:15; “corruption” (as here), in Job 17:14; Psalm 49:9; Jonah 2:6; “pit,” in Job 33:18, Job 33:24, Job 33:28, Job 33:30; Psalm 9:15; Psalm 30:9; Psalm 35:7; Proverbs 26:27; Isaiah 38:17; Isaiah 51:14; Ezekiel 19:4; Ezekiel 28:8; “grave,” in Job 33:22; and “destruction,” in Psalm 55:23. The common idea, therefore, according to our translators, is the grave, or a pit. The “derivation” seems not to be certain. Gesenius supposes that it is derived from שׁוח shûach – “to sink or settle down;” hence, a pit or the grave. Others derive it from שׁחת shāchath not used in Qal, to destroy. The verb is used in various forms frequently; meaning to destroy, to ruin, to lay waste. It is translated here by the Latin Vulgate, “corruptionem;” by the Septuagint, διαφθοράν diaphthoran corruption; by the Arabic in the same way.

The same word which is employed by the Septuagint is employed also in quoting the passage in the New Testament, where the argument of Peter Acts 2:27, and of Paul Acts 13:35-37, is founded on the supposition that such is the sense of the word here; that it does not mean merely “the pit, or the grave;” that the idea in the psalm is not that the person referred to would not go down to the grave, or would not “die,” but that he would not moulder back to dust in the grave, or that the “change” would not occur to him in the grave which does to those who lie long in the tomb. Peter and Paul both regard this as a distinct prophecy that the Messiah would be raised from the grave “without” returning to corruption, and they argue from the fact that David “did” return to corruption in the grave like other men, that the passage could not have referred mainly to himself, but that it had a proper fulfillment, and its highest fulfillment, in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This interpretation the believer in the inspiration of Peter and Paul is bound to defend, and in reference to this it may be remarked,

(1) that it cannot be demonstrated that this is not the meaning of the word. The word may be as “fairly” derived from the verb to corrupt, as from the verb to sink down, and, indeed, more naturally and more obviously. The grammatical form would rather suggest this derivation than the other.

(2) It “is” a fair construction of the original word. It is such a construction as may be put upon it without any “forced” application, or any design to defend a theory or an opinion. In other words, it is not a mere “catch,” or a grasp at a “possible” meaning of the word, but it is a rendering which, on every principle of grammatical construction, may be regarded as a “fair” interpretation. Whatever may have been the exact idea in the mind of David, whether he understood this as referring only to himself, and to the belief that he would not “always” remain in the grave, and under the power of corruption; or whether he understood it as referring primarily to himself, and ultimately and mainly to the Messiah; or whether he understood it; as referring solely to the Messiah; or whether he did not at all understand the language which the Holy Spirit led him to employ (compare the notes at 1 Peter 1:11-12), it is equally true that the sense which the apostles put on the words, in their application of the passage to the Messiah, is a suitable one.

(3) The ancient versions, as has been seen above, confirm this. Without an exception they give the sense of “corruption” – the very sense which has been given to the word by Peter and Paul. The authors of these versions had no theory to defend, and it may be presumed that they had a just knowledge of the true meaning of the Hebrew word.

(4) It may be added that this interpretation accords with the connection in which the word occurs. Though it may be admitted that the connection would not “necessarily” lead to this view, yet this interpretation is in entire harmony with the statements in the previous verses, and in the following verse. Thus, in the previous verse, the psalmist had said that “his flesh would rest in hope,” – a sentiment which accords with either the idea that he would at some future period be raised from the grave, and would not perish forever, though the period of the resurrection might be remote; or with the idea of being raised up so soon that the body would not return to corruption, that is, before the change consequent on death would take place. The sentiment in the following verse also agrees with this view. That sentiment is, that there is a path to life; that in the presence of God there is fulness of joy; that at his right hand there are pleasures forevermore – a sentiment, in this connection, founded on the belief of the resurrection from the dead, and equally true whether the dead should be raised immediately or at some remote period. I infer, therefore, that the apostles Peter and Paul made a legitimate use of this passage; that the argument which they urged was derived from a proper interpretation of the language; that the fair construction of the psalm, and the fact that David “had” returned to corruption, fully justified them in the application which they made of the passage; and that, therefore, it was the design of the Holy Spirit to convey the idea that “the Messiah” would be raised from the dead without undergoing the change which others undergo in the grave; and that it was thus “predicted” in the Old Testament, that be would be raised from the dead in the manner in which he was.

Verse 11
Thou wilt show me the path of life – In this connection this means that though he was to die – to descend to the regions of the dead, and to lie down in the dark grave – yet there WAS a path again to the living world, and that that path would be pointed out to him by God. In other words, he would not be suffered to remain among the dead, or to wander away forever with those who were in the under world, but he would be brought back: to the living world. This is language which, in this connection, could be founded only on a belief of the resurrection of the dead. The word “life” here does not necessarily refer to heaven – to eternal life – though the connection shows that this is the ultimate idea. It is life in contradistinction from the condition of the dead. The highest form of life is that which is found in heaven, at the right hand of God; and the connection shows it was that on which the eye of the psalmist was fixed.

In thy presence – literally, “with thy face.” Before thy face; or, as the sense is correctly expressed in our version, “in thy presence.” The reference is to God‘s presence in heaven, or where he is supposed to dwell. This is shown by the additional statement that the joy mentioned was to be found at his “right hand” – an expression which properly refers to heaven. It is not merely a return to earth which is anticipated; it is an exaltation to heaven.

Is fulness of joy – Not partial joy; not imperfect joy; not joy intermingled with pain and sorrow; not joy which, though in itself real, does not satisfy the desires of the soul, as is the case with much of the happiness which we experience in this life – but joy, full, satisfying, unalloyed, unclouded, unmingled with anything that would diminish its fulness or its brightness; joy that will not be diminished, as all earthly joys must be, by the feeling that it must soon come to an end.

At thy right hand – The right hand is the place of honor (Notes, Psalm 16:8). Compare Mark 16:19; Hebrews 1:3; Acts 7:56; and it here refers to the place which the saints will occupy in heaven. This language could have been used only by one who believed in the doctrine of the resurrection and of the future state. As applicable to the author of the psalm, it implies that he had a firm belief in the resurrection of the dead, and a confident hope of happiness hereafter; as applicable to the Messiah, it denotes that he would be raised up to exalted honor in heaven; as applicable to believers now, it expresses their firm and assured faith that eternal happiness and exalted honor await them in the future world.

There are pleasures for evermore – Happiness that will be eternal. It is not enjoyment such as we have on earth, which we feel is soon to terminate; it is joy which can have no end. Here, in respect to any felicity which we enjoy, we cannot but feel that it is soon to cease. No matter how secure the sources of our joy may seem to be, we know that happiness here cannot last long, for life cannot long continue; and even though life should be lengthened out for many years, we have no certainty that our happiness will be commensurate even with our existence on earth. The dearest friend that we have may soon leave us to return no more; health, the source of so many comforts, and essential to the enjoyment of any comfort here, may soon fail; property, however firmly it may be secured, may “take to itself wings and fly away.” Soon, at any rate, if these things do not leave us, we shall leave them; and in respect to happiness from them, we shall be as though they had not been. Not so will it be at the right hand of God. Happiness there, whatever may be its nature, will be eternal. Losses, disappointment, bereavement, sickness, can never occur there; nor can the anticipation of death, though at the most distant period, and after countless million of ages, ever mar our joys. How different in all these things will heaven be from earth! How desirable to leave the earth, and to enter on those eternal joys!

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Psalm 15


This psalm refers to a single subject, but that the most important which can come before the human mind. It is the question. Who is truly religious? who will enter heaven? who will be saved? The psalm contains a statement of what real religion is; one of the most explicit and formal of the statements which we have in the Old Testament on that subject. The form in which the matter is presented is that of a question in the first verse, and of the answer to that question in the other verses of the psalm.

I. The question. Psalm 15:1. The question is, who shall be permitted to reside with God in his tabernacle? who shall be entitled to the privilege of dwelling on his holy hill (that is, Zion, regarded as the dwelling-place of God, and the emblem of heaven)? In other words, who has such a character as to be entitled to hope for the favor and friendship of God?

II. The answer, Psalm 15:2-5. The answer embraces the following particulars:

(1) The man who is upright, just, honest, truthful, Psalm 15:2.

(2) The man who treats his neighbor properly; who does not slander or reproach him; who does not readily listen to calumnious reports in regard to him, Psalm 15:3.

(3) The man who regards the righteous and the wicked as they should be regarded; who looks with proper disapprobation on all who are “vile” in their character, and with true respect on all who fear the Lord, Psalm 15:4.

(4) The man who is faithful to an engagement, though it proves to be against his own interest, Psalm 15:4.

(5) The man who does not take advantage of the necessities of others, who does not put out his money “to usury,” and who, if a magistrate, does not take a bribe to induce him to condemn the innocent, Psalm 15:5.

These are characteristics of true religion everywhere, and it is as true now as it was when this psalm was composed that it is only those who possess this character who have a right to regard themselves as the friends of God, or who have a well-founded hope of dwelling with him in heaven.

The psalm purports, in the title, to be “A Psalm of David.” It is not known on what occasion it was written, nor is it material to know this in order to understand the psalm. It has been supposed by some that it was composed on the occasion when the ark was carried up from the house of Obed-edom (2 Samuel 6:12 ff), but there is nothing in the psalm itself which should lead us to refer it to that occasion, or to any other special occasion. It seems rather – like Psalm 1:1-6 – to be adapted to all times and all places. It contains a general illustration of the nature of true religion, and there has been no state of things in the world in which such a psalm might not be appropriately composed; there is none in which it may not be appropriately read and pondered.

Verse 1
Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? – Margin, “sojourn.” The Hebrew word means properly to “sojourn;” that is, to abide in a place as a sojourner or stranger; not permanently, but only for a while. The idea in this place is taken from the word “tabernacle” or “tent,” with which one naturally associates the thought of sojourning, rather than that of a permanent abode. Compare Hebrews 11:9. It should not be inferred, however, that it is meant here that the residence with God would be “temporary.” The idea of permanency is fully expressed in the other member of the sentence, and the language here is only such as was customary in speaking of the righteous – language derived from the fact that in early times men dwelt in tents rather than in permanent habitations.

Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? – Zion, regarded as the dwelling-place of God, and the type of heaven – the eternal abode of the Most High. See the note at Psalm 2:6. The question is equivalent to asking, who is qualified to dwell with God? who may properly be regarded as his friend? who has a title to his favor? who is truly pious? By us the same question would be put in another form, though implying the same thing: Who is qualified to become a member of the church; who has evidence of true conversion and real piety? who is he who is prepared for heaven?

Verse 2
He that walketh uprightly – Hebrew, “walking perfectly;” that is, one who walks or lives “perfectly.” The word “walk” in the Scriptures is often used to denote the manner of life; life being represented as a journey. See the note at Psalm 1:1. The word here rendered “uprightly,” or, in the Hebrew, “perfectly,” means that which is complete in all its parts; where no part is missing or is defective. See the word explained in the notes at Job 1:1. The Word is not used in the sense in which it is often employed now, as denoting absolute freedom from sin, but as meaning that the character was complete in all its parts; or that the person referred to was upright alike in regard to God and to man. See the sentiment here expressed explained in the notes at Isaiah 33:15.

And worketh righteousness – Does right. That is, he does what is proper to be done in relation to God and to man. Compare Micah 6:8. The doctrine is everywhere laid down in the Scriptures that no man can be a friend of God who does not do habitually what is right. See 1 John 3:6-10.

And speaketh the truth in his heart – He uses language that is sincere, and that is in accordance with his real belief. This is opposed to all mere outward professions, and all hypocritical pretences. His religion has its seat in the heart, and is not the religion of forms; his acts are the expressions of upright intentions and purposes, and are not performed for selfish and hypocritical ends. This is everywhere the nature of true religion.

Verse 3
He that backbiteth not with his tongue – The word “backbite” means to censure; slander; reproach; speak evil of. The Hebrew word – רגל râgal – a verb formed from the word foot, means properly “to foot it,” and then “to go about.” Then it means to go about as a tale-bearer or slanderer; to circulate reports unfavorable to others. It is not improperly rendered here “backbite;” and the idea is, that it is essential to true piety that one should “not” be a slanderer, or should “not” circulate evil reports in regard to others. On the use of the “tongue,” see the note at James 3:2-11.

Nor doeth evil to his neighbor – That does his neighbor no harm. This refers to injury in any way, whether by word or deed. The idea is, that the man who will be admitted to dwell on the holy hill of Zion, the man who is truly religious, is one who does no injury to anyone; who always does that which is right to others. The word “neighbor” usually refers to one who resides near us; and their it denotes all persons who are near to us in the sense that we have business relations with them; all persons with whom we have anything to do. It is used in this sense here as referring to our dealings with other persons.

Nor taketh up a reproach – Margin, “or receiveth,” or, “endureth.” The idea is that of “taking up,” or receiving as true, or readily giving credit to it. He is slow to believe evil of another. He does not grasp at it greedily as if he had pleasure in it. He does not himself originate such a reproach, nor does he readily and cheerfully credit it when it is stated by others. If he is constrained to believe it, it is only because the evidence becomes so strong that he cannot resist it, and his believing it is contrary to all the desires of is heart. This is true religion every where; but this is contrary to the conduct of no small part of the world. There are large classes of persons to whom nothing is more acceptable than reproachful accusations of others, and who embrace no reports more readily than they do those which impute bad conduct or bad motives to them. Often there is nothing more marked in true conversion than the change which is produced in this respect. He who delighted in gossip and in slanderous reports of others; who found pleasure in the alleged failings and errors of his neighbors; who gladly lent a listening ear to the first intimations of this kind, and who cheerfully contributed his influence in giving circulation to such things, augmenting such reports as they passed through his hands – now sincerely rejoices on hearing everybody well spoken of, and does all that can be done consistently with truth to check such reports, and to secure to every man a good name.

Verse 4
In whose eyes a vile person is contemned – That is, who does not show respect to a man of base or bad character on account of his wealth, his position, or his rank in life. He estimates character as it is in itself, and not as derived from rank, relationship, or station. While, as stated in the previous verse, he is not disposed to take up a false or evil report against another, he is at the same time disposed to do justice to all, and does not honor those who do not deserve to be honored, or apologise for base conduct because it is committed by one of exalted station or rank. Loving virtue and piety for their own sake, he hates all that is opposite; and where conduct deserves reprobation, no matter where found, he does not hesitate to avow his conviction in regard to it. The sentiment here is substantially the same as in Psalm 1:1. See the notes at that verse.

But he honoreth them that fear the Lord – No matter in what rank or condition of life they may be found. Where there is true piety he honors it. He is willing to be known as one that honors it, and is willing to bear all the reproach that may be connected with such a deeply cherished respect, and with such an avowal. Compare Psalm 1:1.

He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not – Who has made a promise, or entered into a contract, that is likely to turn out contrary to his expectations, to his own disadvantage; but who still adheres to his engagement. If the thing itself is wrong; if he has made a promise, or pledged himself to do a wicked thing, he cannot be under obligation to execute it; he should at once abandon it (compare the notes at Matthew 14:9); but he is not at liberty to violate an agreement simply because it will be a loss to him, or because he ascertains that it will not be, as he supposed, to his advantage. The principles here laid down will extend to all contracts or agreements, pecuniary or otherwise, and should be a general principle regulating all our transactions with our fellow-men. The only limitation in the rule is that above stated, when the promise or the contract would involve that which is morally wrong.

Verse 5
He that putteth not out his money to usury – The word “usury” formerly denoted legal interest, or a premium for the use of money. In this sense the word is no longer used in our language, but it always now denotes unlawful interest; “a premium or compensation paid, or stipulated to be paid, for the use of money borrowed or retained, beyond the rate of interest established by law.” “Webster.” The Hebrew word used here – נשׁך neshek – means “interest,” that is, a premium or compensation for the use of money in any manner, or to any extent. The reference is to the law of the Hebrews, which forbade such a loaning of money to the poor, and especially to poor Israelites, Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-37. Although this was forbidden in respect to the Israelites, yet the lending of money on interest, or “usury” in a lawful sense, was allowed toward “strangers,” or toward the people of other nations.

See Deuteronomy 23:19-20. The ground of the distinction was, that the Hebrews were regarded as a nation of brethren; that, as such, they should be willing to accommodate and aid each other; that they should not do anything that could be regarded as unbrotherly. In respect to other people it was allowed, not because it was proper to take advantage of their wants, and to oppress them, but because this special reason did not exist in regard to them. That might be improper “in a family,” among brothers and sisters, which would be entirely proper toward those who did not sustain this special relation; and we may conceive of cases – such cases in fact often occur – when it would be unkind in the highest degree to exact interest of a brother, or an intimate friend, while it is perfectly proper to receive the ordinary allowance for the use of money in our business transactions (that is, the ordinary rate of interest) of those who do not sustain to us this special relation.

The fact that it was allowed to the Hebrews to take interest of the people of other nations, shows that there was nothing morally wrong in the thing itself; and, in fact, there can be no reason why a man, to whom it is an accommodation, should not pay for the use of money as well as for the use of any other property. The thing forbidden here, therefore, is not the taking of interest in any case, but the taking of interest in such a way as would be oppressive and hard – as of a Hebrew demanding it from his poor and needy brother; and, by consequence, it would forbid the exacting of unusual and unlawful rates of interest, or taking advantage of the necessities of others – by evading the provisions of law, and making their circumstances an occasion of extortion. In one word, the thing forbidden is a harsh, grasping, griping disposition; a disposition to take advantage of the embarrassments of others to increase our own gains. Kindness, and an accommodating spirit in business transactions, are as much demanded now by the principles of religion as they were when this psalm was written, or as they were under the law which forbade the taking of interest from a poor and needy brother.

Nor taketh reward against the innocent – Who does not take a bribe; that is, does not accept a pecuniary consideration, or any other consideration, to induce him to decide a cause against justice. He is not, in any way, to allow any such considerations to influence him, or to sway his judgment. The taking of bribes is often expressly forbidden in the Scriptures. See Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; Deuteronomy 27:25; Proverbs 17:23.

He that doeth these things shall never be moved – That is, in answer to the question in Psalm 15:1, he shall be permitted to “abide in the tabernacle” of God, and to “dwell in his holy hill.” He shall have a solid foundation of hope; he is a friend of God, and shall enjoy his favor forever. In other words, these things constitute true religion; and he who has such a character will obtain eternal life. His foundation is sure; he will be safe in all the storms of life, and safe when the cold waves of death beat around him. Compare Matthew 7:24-25.

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Psalm 14


This purports to be one of David‘s psalms, and there is no reason to doubt the correctness of the superscription. Yet we are entirely ignorant of the time and the circumstances of its composition. There is nothing in the psalm that throws any light on this point, and conjecture would be vain. It would seem to have been composed under the influence of an affecting conviction of the depth and extent of human depravity, and in view of prevalent impiety and neglect of God; but such a state of things was not confined to any one period of the life of David, as it is not to any one country or period of the world. Unhappily there has been no country and no age in which, in view of existing facts, such a psalm as this might not have been composed; or in which the entire proof on which the psalmist relies to support his melancholy conclusions, might not have been found.

The psalm embraces the following points:

I. A statement of prevalent depravity, particularly in denying the existence of God, or in expressing the wish that there were no God, Psalm 14:1.

II. The evidence of this, Psalm 14:2-4. This is found in two things:

(a) first, in the representation that the Lord looked down from heaven for the very purpose of ascertaining whether there were any that “understood and sought after God,” and that the result of this investigation was that all had gone aside, and had become defiled with sin, Psalm 14:2-3.

(b) The second proof is a prevailing disposition on the part of the wicked to judge severely of the conduct of God‘s people; to magnify their errors and faults; to make use of their imperfections to sustain themselves in their own course of life – represented by their “eating up the sins of God‘s people as they eat bread,” Psalm 14:4.

There was all utter want of kindness and charity in regard to the imperfections of others; and a desire to find the people of God so offending that they could, by “their” imperfections and faults, sustain and vindicate their own conduct in neglecting religion. The idea is that, in their apprehension, the religion of such persons was not desirable – that the God whom they professed to serve could not be God.

III. Yet, the psalmist says, they were not wholly calm and satisfied with the conclusion which they were endeavoring to reach, that there was no God. Notwithstanding their expressed wish or desire Psalm 14:1, that there was, or that there might be no God, their minds were not at ease in that conclusion or desire.

They were, says the psalmist, “in great fear,” for there was evidence which they could not deny or resist that God was “in the generation of the righteous,” or that there was a God such as the righteous served, Psalm 14:5. This evidence was found in the manifestation of his favor toward them; in his interposition in their behalf, in the proof which could not be resisted or denied that he was their friend. These facts produced “fear” or apprehension in the minds of the wicked, notwithstanding all their efforts to be calm.

IV. The psalmist says that their course was designed to bring shame upon the counsel or purposes of the “poor” (that is, the people of God, who were mainly among the poor, or the humble and oppressed classes of the community) – because they regarded God as their refuge, Psalm 14:6. As God was their only refuge, as they had no human hope or reliance, as all their hope would fail if their hope in God failed, so the attempt to show that there was no God was adapted and designed to overwhelm them with shame and confusion – still more to aggravate their sufferings by taking away their only hope, and leaving them to die. Their religion was their only consolation and the purpose of those who wished that there were no God was to take even this last comfort away.

V. The psalm closes, in view of these thoughts, with an earnest prayer that God would interpose to deliver his poor and oppressed people, and with the statement that when this should occur, his people would rejoice, Psalm 14:7. Instead of their low and oppressed condition – a condition wherein their enemies triumphed over them, and endeavored still further to aggravate their sorrows by taking away even their faith in God – they would rejoice in him, and in the full proof of his existence and of his favor toward them.

The psalm, therefore, is designed to describe a condition of things in which wickedness abounds, and when it takes this form – an attempt to show that there is no God; that is, when there is a prevalence of atheism, and when the design of this is to aggravate the sufferings and the trials of the professed friends by unsettling their faith in the divine existence.

The title is the same as in Psalm 11:1-7; Psalm 12:1-8. Compare the note at the title to Psalm 4:1-8.

Verse 1
The fool – The word “fool” is often used in the Scriptures to denote a wicked man – as sin is the essence of folly. Compare Job 2:10; Psalm 74:18; Genesis 34:7; Deuteronomy 22:21. The Hebrew word is rendered “vile person” in Isaiah 32:5-6. Elsewhere it is rendered “fool, foolish,” and “foolish man.” It is designed to convey the idea that wickedness or impiety is essential folly, or to use a term in describing the wicked which will, perhaps, more than any other, make the mind averse to the sin – for there is many a man who would see more in the word “fool” to be hated than in the word “wicked;” who would rather be called a “sinner” than a “fool.”

Hath said – That is, has “thought,” for the reference is to what is passing in his mind.

In his heart – See the note at Psalm 10:11. He may not have said this to others; he may not have taken the position openly before the world that there is no God, but such a thought has passed through his mind, and he has cherished it; and such a thought, either as a matter of belief or of desire, is at the foundation of his conduct. He “acts” as if such were his belief or his wish.

There is no God – The words “there is” are not in the original. The literal rendering would be either “no God,” “nothing of God,” or “God is not.” The idea is that, in his apprehension, there is no such thing as God, or no such being as God. The more correct idea in the passage is, that this was the belief of him who is here called a “fool;” and it is doubtful whether the language would convey the idea of desire – or of a wish that this might be so; but still there can be no doubt that such is the wish or desire of the wicked, and that they listen eagerly to any suggestions or arguments which, in their apprehension, would go to demonstrate that there is no such being as God. The exact state of mind, however, indicated by the languaqe here, undoubtedly is that such was the opinion or the belief of him who is here called a fool. If this is the true interpretation, then the passage would prove that there have been people who were atheists. The passage would prove, also, in its connection, that such a belief was closely linked, either as a cause or a consequent, with a corrupt life, for this statement immediately follows in regard to the character of those who are represented as saying that there is no God. As a matter of fact, the belief that there is no God is commonly founded on the desire to lead a wicked life; or, the opinion that there is no God is embraced by those who in fact lead such a life, with a desire to sustain themselves in their depravity, and to avoid the fear of future retribution. A man who wishes to lead an upright life, desires to find evidence that there is a God, and to such a man nothing would be more dark and distressing than anything which would compel him to doubt the fact of God‘s existence. It is only a wicked man who finds pleasure in an argument to prove that there is no God, and the wish that there were no God springs up only in a bad heart.

They are corrupt – That is, they have done corruptly; or, their conduct is corrupt. “They have done abominable works.” They have done that which is to be abominated or abhorred; that which is to be detested, and which is fitted to fill the mind with horror.

There is none that doeth good – Depravity is universal. All have fallen into sin; all fail to do good. None are found who are disposed to worship their Maker, and to keep his laws. This was originally spoken, undoubtedly, with reference to the age in which the psalmist lived; but it is applied by the apostle Paul, Romans 3:10 (see the note at that passage), as an argument for the universal depravity of mankind.

Verse 2
The Lord looked down from heaven – The original word here – שׁקף shâqaph – conveys the idea of “bending forward,” and hence, of an intense and anxious looking, as we bend forward when we wish to examine anything with attention, or when we look out for one who is expected to come. The idea is that God looked intently, or so as to secure a close examination, upon the children of men, for the express purpose of ascertaining whether there were any that were good. He looked at all men; he examined all their pretensions to goodness, and he saw none who could be regarded as exempt from the charge of depravity. Nothing could more clearly prove the doctrine of universal depravity than to say that an Omniscient God made “an express examination” on this very point, that he looked over all the world, and that in the multitudes which passed under the notice of his eye not “one” could be found who could be pronounced righteous. If God could not find such an one, assuredly man cannot.

Upon the children of men – Upon mankind; upon the human race. They are called “children,” or “sons” (Hebrew), because they are all the descendants of the man that God created – of Adam. Indeed the original word here is “Adam” – אדם ‘âdâm And it may be questionable whether, since this became in fact a proper name, designating the first man, it would not have been proper to retain the idea in the translation – “the sons of Adam;” that is, all his descendants. The phrase occurs frequently to denote the human race, Deuteronomy 32:8; Psalm 11:4; Psalm 21:10; Psalm 31:19; Psalm 36:7; Psalm 57:4; et soepe.

To see if there were any that did understand – If there were one acting wisely – to wit, in seeking God. “Acting wisely” here stands in contrast with the folly referred to in the first verse. Religion is always represented in the Scriptures as true wisdom.

And seek God – The knowledge of him; his favor and friendship. Wisdom is shown by a “desire” to become acquainted with the being and perfections of God, as well as in the actual possession of that knowledge; and in no way can the true character of man be better determined than by the actual interest which is felt in becoming acquainted with the character of him who made and who governs the universe. It is one of the clearest proofs of human depravity that there is no prevailing desire among people thus to ascertain the character of God.

Verse 3
They are all gone aside – This verse states the result of the divine investigation referred to in the previous verse. The result, as seen by God himself, was, that “all” were seen to have gone aside, and to have become filthy. The word rendered “gone aside” means properly to go off, to turn aside or away, to depart; as, for example, to turn out of the right way or path, Exodus 32:8. Then it means to turn away from God; to fall away from his worship; to apostatize, 1 Samuel 12:20; 2 Kings 18:6; 2 Chronicles 25:27. This is the idea here – that they had all apostatized from the living God. The word “all” in the circumstances makes the statement as universal as it can be made; and no term could be used more clearly affirming the doctrine of universal depravity.

They are all together become filthy – The word “all” here is supplied by the translators. It was not necessary, however, to introduce it in order that the idea of universal depravity might be expressed, for that is implied in the word rendered “together,” יחדו yachedâv That word properly conveys the idea that the same character or conduct pervaded all, or that the same thing might be expressed of all those referred to. They were united in this thing – that they bad become defiled or filthy. The word is used with reference to “persons,” as meaning that they are all “in one place,” Genesis 13:6; Genesis 22:6; or to “events,” as meaning that they occurred at one time, Psalm 4:8. They were all as one. Compare 1 Chronicles 10:6. The idea is that, in respect to the statement made, they were alike. What would describe one would describe all. The word rendered “become filthy” is, in the margin, rendered “stinking.” In Arabic the word means to become “sharp,” or “sour” as milk; and hence, the idea of becoming corrupt in a moral sense. Gesenius, Lexicon. The word is found only here, and in the parallel Psalm 53:3, and in Job 15:16, in each of which places it is rendered “filthy.” It relates here to character, and means that their character was morally corrupt or defiled. The term is often used in that sense now.

There is none that doeth good, no, not one – Nothing could more clearly express the idea of universal depravity than this expression. It is not merely that no one could be found who did good, but the expression is repeated to give emphasis to the statement. This entire passage is quoted in Romans 3:10-12, in proof of the doctrine of universal depravity. See the note at that passage.

Verse 4
Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? – literally, “Do they not know, all the workers of iniquity, eating my people, they eat bread; Jehovah they call not.” The several statements in this verse in confirmation of the fact of their depravity are:

(a) that they have no knowledge of God;

(b) that they find pleasure in the errors and imperfections of the people of God – sustaining themselves in their own wickedness by the fact that the professed friends of God are inconsistent in their lives; and

(c) that they do not call on the name of the Lord, or that they offer no worship to him.

The whole verse might have been, and should have been put in the form of a question. The first statement implied in the question is, that they have “no knowledge.” This can be regarded as a proof of guilt only

(1) as they have opportunities of obtaining knowledge;

(2) as they neglect to improve those opportunities, and remain in voluntary ignorance; and

(3) as they do this from a design to practice wickedness.

See this argument stated at length by the apostle Paul in Romans 1:19-28. Compare the note at that passage. This proof of human depravity is everywhere manifested still in the world – in the fact that men have the opportunities of gaining the knowledge of God if they chose to do it; in the fact that they voluntarily neglect those opportunities; and in the fact that the reason of this is that they love iniquity.

Who eat up my people as they eat bread – They sustain themselves in their own course of life by the imperfections of the people of God. That is, they make use of their inconsistencies to confirm themselves in the belief that there is no God. They argue that a religion which produces no better fruits than what is seen in the lives of its professed friends can be of no value, or cannot be genuine; that if a professed belief in God produces no happier results than are found in their lives, it could be of no advantage to worship God; that they are themselves as good as those are who profess to be religious, and that, therefore, there can be no evidence from the lives of the professed friends of God that religion is either true or of any value. No inconsiderable part of the evidence in favor of religion, it is intended, shall be derived from the lives of its friends; and when that evidence is not furnished, of course no small part of the proof of its reality and value is lost. Hence, so much importance is attached everywhere in the Bible to the necessity of a consistent life on the part of the professed friends of religion. Compare Isaiah 43:10. The words “my people” here are properly to be regarded as the words of the psalmist, identifying himself with the people of God, and speaking of them thus as “his own people.” Thus one speaks of his own family or his own friends. Compare Rth 1:16 . Or this may be spoken by David, considered as the head or ruler of the nation, and he may thus speak of the people of God as his people. The connection does not allow of the construction which would refer the words to God.

And call not upon the Lord – They do not worship Yahweh. They give this evidence of wickedness that they do not pray; that they do not invoke the blessing of their Maker; that they do not publicly acknowledge him as God. It is remarkable that this is placed as the last or the crowning thing in the evidence of their depravity; and if rightly considered, it is so. To one who should look at things as they are; to one who sees all the claims and obligations which rest upon mankind; to one who appreciates his own guilt, his dependance, and his exposure to death and woe; to one who understands aright why man was made – there can be no more striking proof of human depravity than in the fact that a man in no way acknowledges his Maker – that he renders him no homage – that he never supplicates his favor – never deprecates his wrath – that, amidst the trials, the temptations, the perils of life, he endeavors to make his way through the world “as if there were no God.” The highest crime that Gabriel could commit would be to renounce all allegiance to his Maker, and henceforward to live as if there were no God. All other iniquities that he might commit would spring out of that, and would be secondary to that. The great sin of man consists in renouncing God, and attempting to live as if there were no Supreme Being to whom he owes allegiance. All other sins spring out of that, and are subordinate to it.

Verse 5
There were they in great fear – Margin, as in Hebrew, “they feared a fear.” The idea is, that they were in great terror or consternation. They were not calm in their belief that there was no God. They endeavored to be. They wished to satisfy themselves that there was no God, and that they had nothing to dread. But they could not do this. In spite of all their efforts, there was such proof of his existence, and of his being the friend of the righteous, and consequently the enemy of such as they themselves were, as to fill their minds with alarm. People cannot, by an effort of will, get rid of the evidence that there is a God. In the face of all their attempts to convince themselves of this, the demonstration of his existence will press upon them, and will often fill their minds with terror.

For God is in the generation of the righteous – The word “generation” here, as applied to the righteous, seems to refer to them as a “race,” or as a “class” of people. Compare Psalm 24:6; Psalm 73:15; Psalm 112:2. It commonly in the Scriptures refers to a certain age or duration, as it is used by us, reckoning an age or generation as about thirty or forty years (compare Job 42:16); but in the use of the term before us the idea of an “age” is dropped, and the righteous are spoken of merely as a “class” or “race” of persons. The idea here is, that there were such manifest proofs that God was among the righteous, and that he was their friend, that the wicked could not resist the force of that evidence, however much they might desire it, and however much they might wish to arrive at the conclusion that there was no God. The evidence that he was among the righteous would, of course, alarm them, because the very fact that he was the friend of the righteous demonstrated that he must be the enemy of the wicked, and, of course, that they were exposed to his wrath.

Verse 6
Ye have shamed – The address here is made directly to the wicked themselves, to show them the baseness of their own conduct, and, perhaps, in connection with the previous verse, to show them what occasion they had for fear. The idea in the verse seems to be, that as God was the protector of the “poor” who had come to him for “refuge,” and as they had “shamed the counsel of the poor” who had done this, they had real occasion for alarm. The phrase “ye have shamed” seems to mean that they had “despised” it, or had treated it with derision, that is, they had laughed at, or had mocked the purpose of the poor in putting their trust in Yahweh.

The counsel – The purpose, the plan, the act – of the poor; that is, in putting their trust in the Lord. They had derided this as vain and foolish, since they maintained that there was no God Psalm 14:1. They therefore regarded such an act as mere illusion.

The poor – The righteous, considered as poor, or as afflicted. The word here rendered “poor” – עני ‛ânı̂y – means more properly, afflicted, distressed, needy. It is often rendered “afflicted,” Job 34:28; Psalm 18:27; Psalm 22:24; Psalm 25:16; Psalm 82:3; et al. in Psalm 9:12; Psalm 10:12 it is rendered “humble.” The common rendering, however, is “poor,” but it refers properly to the righteous, with the idea that they are afflicted, needy, and in humble circumstances. This is the idea here. The wicked had derided those who, in circumstances of poverty, depression, want, trial, had no other resource, and who had sought their comfort in God. These reproaches tended to take away their last consolation, and to cover them with confusion; it was proper, therefore, that they who had done this should be overwhelmed with fear. If there is anything which deserves punishment it is the act which would take away from the world the last hope of the wretched – “that there is a God.”

Because the Lord is his refuge – He has made the Lord his refuge. In his poverty, affliction, and trouble, he has come to God, and put his trust in him. This source of comfort, the doctrine of the wicked – that there “was no God” – tended to destroy. Atheism cuts off every hope of man, and leaves the wretched to despair. It would put out the last light that gleams on the earth, and cover the world with total and eternal night.

Verse 7
Oh that the salvation of Israel – Margin, “Who will give,” etc. The Hebrew literally is, “Who will give out of Zion salvation to Israel?” The word “Israel” refers primarily to the Hebrew people, and then it is used generally to denote the people of God. The wish here expressed is in view of the facts referred to in the previous verses – the general prevalence of iniquity and of practical atheism, and the sufferings of the people of God on that account. This state of things suggests the earnest desire that from all such evils the people of God might be delivered. The expression in the original, as in the margin, “Who will give,” is a common expression in Hebrew, and means the same as in our translation, “Oh that.” It is expressive of an earnest desire, as if the thing were in the hand of another, that he would impart that blessing or favor.

Out of Zion – On the word “Zion,” see the note at Isaiah 1:8. It is referred to here, as it is often, as the seat or dwelling-place of God; the place from where he issued his commands, and from where he put forth his power. Thus in Psalm 3:4, “He heard me out of his holy hill.” Psalm 20:2, “the Lord … strengthen thee out of Zion.” Psalm 128:5, “the Lord shall bless thee out of Zion.” Here the phrase expresses a wish that God, who had his dwelling in Zion, would put forth his power in granting complete deliverance to his people.

When the Lord bringeth back – literally, “In Yahweh‘s bringing back the captivity of his people.” That is, the particular salvation which the psalmist prayed for was that Yahweh would return the captivity of his people, or restore them from captivity.

The captivity of his people – This is “language” taken from a captivity in a foreign land. It is not necessary, however, to suppose that any such literal captivity is here referred to, nor would it be necessary to infer from this that the psalm was written in the Babylonian captivity, or in any other particular exile of the Hebrew people. The truth was, that the Hebrews were often in this state (see the Book of Judges, “passim”), and this language came to be the common method of expressing any condition of oppression and trouble, or of a low state of religion in the land. Compare Job 42:10.

Jacob shall rejoice – Another name for the Hebrew people, as descended from Jacob, Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 41:21; Isaiah 10:21; Isaiah 14:1; Amos 7:2; et soepe. Prof. Alexander renders this, “Let Jacob exult; let Israel joy.” The idea seems to be, that such a restoration would give great joy to the people of God, and the language expresses a desire that this might soon occur – perhaps expressing the idea also that in the certainty of such an ultimate restoration, such a complete salvation, the people of God might now rejoice. Thus, too, it will not only be true that the redeemed will be happy in heaven, but they may exult even now in the prospect, the certainty, that they will obtain complete salvation.

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