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Psalm 13

Psalm 13

Psalm 13

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved. But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13, AV)

This psalm consists of a complaint, ver. 2, 3 (1, 2), a prayer for deliverance, vers. 4, 5 (3, 4), and an expression of strong confidence that God will grant it, ver. 6 (5, 6).

There is no trace of a specific reference to any particular period in the life of David, or to any persecution of the ancient Israel by heathen enemies. The psalm appears to be intended as a vehicle of pious sentiment, for the church at large and individual believers, under any affliction of the sort here described, namely, that arising from the spiteful hostility of wicked men. The tone, as in several of the foregoing psalms, varies from that of deep depression to that of an assured hope, connected, as in actual experience, by one of strong desire and fervent supplication.

1. To the Chief Musician, a Psalm of David. This title differs from that of the fourth psalm, as the title of the twelfth does from that of the sixth, to wit, by the omission of בנגינות.

2 (1). Until when, how long, Jehovah, wilt thou forget me for ever? Until when wilt thou hide thy face from me? The refusal or delay of the divine help is here, as often elsewhere, represented by the figures of forgetfulness and an averted countenance. See above, on Ps. 9:13, 19 (12, 18), 10:11, 12. The apparent solecism of combining how long with for ever may be avoided by supposing two interrogations, how long? for ever? It may also be avoided by giving to נֶצַח the sense of continuously, uninterruptedly. But even the obvious construction, which is more agreeable to usage and the masoretic interpunction of the sentence, may be justified as a strong but natural expression of the conflict between sense and faith. To the eye of sense and reason, the abandonment seemed final; but faith still prompted the inquiry, how long, which implies that it was not to last for ever. As if he had said, How long wilt thou persist in the purpose of forgetting me for ever?

3 (2). Till when, how long, shall I place (or lay up) counsels, plans, in my soul, grief in my heart by day? Till when shall my enemy be high above me? The idea in the first clause seems to be that of accumulating methods or expedients of escape, as in a storehouse, without finding any that will answer the purpose. The same figure may be continued in the second clause: (how long shall I lay up) sorrow in my heart? The sense is then that the multiplication of devices only multiplies his sorrows. Or the figure of laying up may be confined to the first clause, and the noun grief governed by a verb understood: (how long shall I feel) sorrow in my heart? The common version, having sorrow, conveys the same idea, but supplies a verb unknown to the Hebrew and its cognate languages.—By day is elsewhere put in opposition to by night, as for instance in Ps. 1:2 above. Here it may possibly mean all day, but more probably means every day, daily, as in Ezek. 30:16.—Be high: the original expression is a verb alone. How long shall my enemy soar or tower above me, i.e. be superior, prevail? This clause determines the precise form of suffering complained of, namely, that occasioned by the malice of a powerful persecutor or oppressor. In all such cases, Saul was no doubt present to the mind of David, but only as a specimen or type of the whole class to which the psalm relates.

4 (3). Look, hear me, Jehovah, my God, lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the death. The complaint is now followed by a corresponding prayer. In allusion to the hiding of the face in ver. 2 (1), he now beseeches God to look towards him, or upon him, to shew by his acts that he has not lost eight of him. As he before complained of God’s forgetting him, so here he prays that he will hear and answer him. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4). The idea of Jehovah as a God in covenant with his people, is brought out still more fully by the phrase my God, i.e. one on whom I have a right to call, with a well-founded hope of being heard. See above on Ps. 3:8 (7).—Enlighten my eyes, or make them shine, is by some understood to mean, Dispel my doubts, and extricate me out of my perplexities, with reference to the plans or counsels mentioned in the preceding verse. Others, with more probability, suppose an allusion to the dimness of the eyes produced by extreme weakness or approaching death, and understand the prayer as one for restoration and deliverance from imminent destruction. Compare 1 Sam. 14:27, 29, where the relief of Jonathan’s debility, occasioned by long fasting, is described by saying that his eyes were enlightened.—Lest I sleep (in) death, or lest I sleep the (sleep of) death, as in the common version. Compare the beautiful description of death as a sleep of perpetuity, a perpetual or everlasting sleep, in Jer. 51:39, 57.

5 (4). Lest my enemy say, I have overpowered him (and) my adversaries shout when I am shaken, or because I shall be shaken.—The verb יכלתי strictly means, I have been able. The unusual construction with a pronoun (יכלתיו) cannot be literally rendered into English, but the meaning evidently is, I have been able (to subdue) him, or, I have been strong (in comparison with) him. As to the combination of the singular and plural (enemy and adversaries), see above, on Ps. 10:11 (10).—Shout, i.e. for joy, or in a single word, triumph. See above, on Ps. 2:11.—The last verb (אֶמּוֹט) has the same sense as in Ps. 10:6, viz., that of being moved or cast down from one’s firm position.

6 (5, 6). And I in thy mercy have trusted; let my heart exult in thy salvation; I will sing to Jehovah, for he hath done me good, or acted kindly towards me. The transition indicated by the phrase and I, is the same as in Ps. 2:6 above. Such are the enemies and dangers which environ me, and (yet) I have trusted in thy mercy. The past tense of the verb describes the trust, not as something to be felt hereafter, or as just beginning to be felt at present, but as already entertained and cherished, and therefore likely to be still continued. I have trusted, and do still trust, and will trust hereafter.—There is a beautiful gradation in the clauses of this verse. First, a fact is stated: ‘I have trusted in thy mercy;’ then a desire is expressed: ‘let my heart rejoice in thy salvation;’ then a fixed purpose is announced: ‘I will sing unto Jehovah.’ The reason annexed to this determination or engagement, implies an assured expectation of a favorable issue. As if he had said, I know the Lord will treat me kindly, and I am resolved to praise him for so doing.—In thy salvation, not merely on account of it, but in the contemplation, the possession, the enjoyment of it. See above, Ps. 5:12 (11), 9:3 (2). The verb גָּמַל, which occurs above in Ps. 7:5 (4), corresponds most nearly to the English treat, in the sense of dealing with or acting towards; but when absolutely used, as here, almost invariably has a good sense, and specifically means to treat well or deal kindly with a person. The idea of requital or reward, which is frequently attached to it in the English version, is suggested, if at all, not by the word itself, but by the context.

The Septuagint has an additional clause, which is retained in the Prayer Book version, and thus rendered: Yea, I will praise the name of the Lord most Highest. The words are not found in any Hebrew manuscript.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 58–60). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)


Psalm 12

Psalm 12

“To the chief Musician upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David. Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men. They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us? For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him. The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.” (Psalm 12, AV)

This psalm consists of two parts easily distinguished: a complaint with an expression of desire, and a promise with an expression of confidence and hope. The Psalmist laments the waning number of good men, ver. 2 (1), and the abounding of iniquity, ver. 3 (2), to which he desires and expects that God will put an end, ver. 4, 5 (3, 4). In answer to this prayer, he receives an assurance of protection and deliverance for the righteous, ver. 6 (5), on which he rests as infallibly certain, ver. 7 (6), and consoles himself under present trials, ver. 8 (7).

There seems to be no specific reference to the persecution of the Jews by the Gentiles, or of David by Absalom or Saul. The contrast exhibited is rather that between the righteous and the wicked as a class, and the psalm seems designed to be a permanent vehicle of pious sentiment for the church or chosen people under persecution by malignant enemies. It contains an unusual number of difficult expressions in proportion to its length; but these are not of such a nature as to make its general import doubtful or obscure.

1. To the Chief Musician, on the eighth (or octave), a Psalm of David. This title is identical with that of the sixth psalm, except that Neginoth is here omitted.

2 (1). Save, Jehovah, for the merciful (or the object of divine mercy) ceaseth, for the faithful fail from (among) the sons of men. The adjective הָסִיד, whether taken in an active or a passive sense, is descriptive of the pious or godly man; see above, on Ps. 4:4 (3). The preterite form of the verbs (has ceased, have failed) represents the fearful process as already begun. The word rendered faithful in the last clause may also have the abstract sense of truth, fidelity; see below, Ps. 31:24 (23), and compare Isa. 26:2. In either case, the whole verse is a strong hyperbolical description of the small number of good men left in the community, and their consequent exposure to the malice of the wicked. Such expressions, as Luther well suggests, are too familiar in the dialect of common life to be mistaken or produce perplexity.

3 (2). Vanity, i.e. falsehood, they will speak; as they now do, so will they persist in doing; (each) man with his neighbor, not merely with another man, but with his friend, his brother, towards whom he was particularly bound to act sincerely; compare Eph. 4:25. A lip of smoothness, or of smooth things, i.e. flattering; see above, on Ps. 5:10 (9). This may be connected either with what goes before or with what follows: “They speak falsehood, each to his neighbor, with a flattering lip;” or, “(with) a flattering lip (and) with a double heart will they speak.” A heart and a heart, i.e. a double heart, as a stone and a stone means “divers weights.” Deut. 25:13. By a double heart we are probably to understand, not mere dissimulation or hypocrisy, but inconsistency and instability of temper, which leads men to entertain opposite feelings towards the same object. Compare the description of the “double-minded man” in James 1:8.

4 (3.) May Jehovah destroy all lips of smoothness, flattering lips, (and every) tongue speaking great things, i.e. speaking proudly, boasting. The form of the Hebrew verb is one commonly employed to express an optative meaning; but as this form is often poetically used for the future proper, it might be rendered here, Jehovah will destroy. There is no inconsistency between the flattering lips and the boastful tongue, because the subject of the boasting, as appears from what follows, is the flattery or deceit itself. As if he had said, Jehovah will destroy all flattering lips, and every tongue that boasts of their possession or use. For an example of such boasting, see Isa. 28:15.

5 (4). Who have said, By our tongues will we do mightily; our lips (are) with us: who is lord to us, or over us? This is an amplified specification of the phrase speaking great things in the preceding verse. By our tongues, literally, as to, with respect to our tongues. The idea of agency or instrumentality is suggested by the context. Do mightily, exercise power, shew ourselves to be strong. Our lips are with us may either mean they are our own, at our disposal, or, they are on our side. The idea of the whole verse is, by our own lips and our tongues we can accomplish what we will.

6 (5). From the desolation of the wretched, from the sighing of the poor, now will I arise, shall Jehovah say, I will place in safety him that shall pant for it. The preposition from has a causal meaning, because of, on account of. The wretched, afflicted, sufferers; see above, on Ps. 9:13 (12). I will arise; see above, on Ps. 3:8 (7). The future, shall Jehovah say, implies that the promise is not yet uttered, much less fulfilled. An analogous use of the same form of the same verb runs through some of the prophecies, and especially the later chapters of Isaiah.—The last clause is obscure, and may also be translated, “from him that puffeth at him,”—“him at whom they puff,”—“him whom they would blow away,” &c. The most probable meaning is the one first given, according to which the verse contains a promise of deliverance to those who especially desire and need it.

7 (6). The sayings of Jehovah are pure sayings, silver purged in a furnace of earth, refined seven times. The Psalmist does not use the term commonly translated words, but one derived from the verb to say, with obvious allusion to the use of the verb itself in the preceding verse. What Jehovah there says, the promises there given, are here declared to be true, without any mixture of mistake or falsehood. This is expressed by the favorite figure of pure metallic ore. The idea of extreme or perfect purity is conveyed by the idiomatic phrase, purified seven times, i.e. repeatedly, or sevenfold, i.e. completely. Compare Dan. 3:19. The general meaning of the verse is clear, but it contains one phrase which is among the most doubtful and disputed in the whole book. This is the phrase בעליל לארץ. To the common version above given, in a furnace of earth, and to another somewhat like it, purged in a furnace as to (i.e. from) the earth, or earthy particles, it has been objected, that ארץ never means earth as a material. Some avoid this difficulty by translating, in a furnace on the earth (or ground), or, in the workshop (laboratory) of the earth, i.e. the mine; but this is not the place where ores are purified. It is further objected to all these translations, that they attach a supposititious meaning to the noun עליל. It is therefore explained by some as a variation of בעל, lord or master, and the whole clause made to mean, purified silver of a lord of the earth, i.e. refined not for ordinary use, but for that of some great prince or noble. The obscurity which overhangs the meaning of this clause is less to be regretted, as the main idea must, on any supposition, still be that of unusual and perfect purity.

8 (7). Thou, Jehovah, wilt keep them; thou wilt guard him from this generation to eternity, i.e. for ever. In the first clause, though not in the second, the pronoun thou is expressed in Hebrew, and may therefore be regarded as emphatic; see above, on Ps. 2:6, 3:4 (3). Thou, and no other, or, thou without the aid of others, wilt preserve them. The plural pronoun in the first clause, and the singular in the second, refer to the same persons, viz., the sufferers mentioned in ver. 7 (6). By a license common in the Psalms, they are first spoken of as a plurality, and then as an ideal person; see above, on Ps. 10:10. This generation, this contemporary race of wicked men, with reference perhaps to the description, in ver 2 (1), of the disproportion between these and the righteous. For ever, as long as the necessity or danger lasts, so long shall the injured innocent experience the divine protection.

9 (8). Round about will the wicked walk. This may either mean that they shall walk at liberty and have full license, or that they shall encompass and surround the righteous. Compare Ps. 3:7 (6). The other clause is one of the most doubtful and disputed in the whole book. The particle כ may denote either time or resemblance, and the noun זֻלּוּת, which occurs nowhere else, has been variously explained to mean a storm, an earthquake, vileness or contempt, &c. Among the different senses put upon the whole phrase are the following: “When the vileness (or vilest) of men is exalted.” “Like the rising of a storm upon the sons of men.” “When they rise (or are exalted) there is shame (or disgrace) to the sons of men.” “When disgrace arises to the sons of men.” “Like exaltation is disgrace to the sons of man.” In favor of this last it has been urged, that it gives to each word its most natural and obvious sense, and that it closes with a prospect of relief, and not with an unmitigated threatening, which would be at variance with the usage of the Psalms. The meaning of the verse is then, that although the wicked are now in the ascendant, and the righteous treated with contempt, this disgrace is really an exaltation, because only external and in man’s judgment, not in God’s, who will abundantly indemnify his people for the dishonor which is put upon them. The unusual and almost unintelligible form in which this idea is expressed, is supposed to agree well with David’s fondness for obscure and enigmatical expressions; see above, on Ps. 5:1 and 7:1.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 55–57). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 11

Psalm 11

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. In the Lord put I my trust: How say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, They make ready their arrow upon the string, That they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. If the foundations be destroyed, What can the righteous do? The Lord is in his holy temple, The Lord’s throne is in heaven: His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men. The Lord trieth the righteous: But the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, And an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; His countenance doth behold the upright.” (Psalm 11, KJV 1900)

The Psalmist is advised, by friends or foes, to escape by flight from the inextricable difficulties in which he finds himself involved, ver. 1–3. This he refuses to do, as inconsistent with his faith in the righteousness and grace of God, ver. 4–7. The logical relation of these parts makes the form of the whole somewhat dramatic, although this peculiarity is much less marked than in the second psalm. The language is not so much that of an historical person as of an ideal sufferer, representing the whole class of persecuted innocents. There is no specific reference to any incidents in David’s life, although some of the images were probably suggested by his recollections, both of Saul’s persecution and of Absalom’s rebellion. The general resemblance of this psalm to that before it, and the special resemblance of ver. 2 to Ps. 10:8, 9, may account for its position in the Psalter. The very difficulties of this psalm are proofs of its antiquity and strong corroborations of the title, which ascribes it to David.

1. To the chief musician, belonging to him as the performer, and to David, as the author. In Jehovah I have trusted, and do still trust. How will (or can) ye say to my soul, Flee (to) your mountain (as) a bird? The profession of confidence in God at the beginning is the ground of the following interrogation, which implies wonder and disapprobation. How can ye say so? really means, ye should not say so. The question seems to be addressed to timid or desponding friends, rather than to taunting and exulting enemies, as some suppose.—To my soul does not simply mean to me, but so as to affect my feelings. See above, on Ps. 3:3 (2). In the genuine text the verb flee is plural, because addressed to the whole class represented by the ideal sufferer in this case. Hence the frequent change of number throughout the psalm. See above, on Ps. 10:10. The exhortation to flee must be understood as implying that there is no longer any hope of safety.—To your mountain, as a customary place of refuge, not for birds, but for persecuted men. The comparison with a bird has no particular connection with this clause, but is a kind of after-thought, suggesting the idea of a solitary helpless fugitive. (Compare 1 Sam. 26:20, and Lam. 3:52). There may be an allusion to the words of the angel in Gen. 19:17, as there certainly is to one or both these places in our Lord’s exhortation to his followers, Matt. 24:16.

2. For lo, the wicked will tread (i.e. bend) the bow; they have fixed their arrow on the string, to shoot in darkness at the straightforward (upright) of heart. These are still the words of the advisers introduced in the preceding verse, assigning a reason for the advice there given.—Tread the bow; see above, on Ps. 7:13 (12). Will tread, are about to tread, are treading. The preterite which follows refers to a later point of time. The speakers are supposed to describe what they see actually passing. “They are bending the bow, (and now) they have fixed the arrow on the string.” The graphic vividness of the description is impaired, if not destroyed, by giving both the verbs a present form.—Fixed, i.e. in its proper place. The same verb occurs above, in Ps. 7:13 (12). Make ready is too vague in the case before us.—In darkness, in the dark, in secret, treacherously. See above, Ps. 10:8. 9.—The straight of heart, the upright and sincere. We do not use the adjective in this sense; but we have the cognate substantive, rectitude, which properly means straightness.

3. For the pillars (or foundations) will be (are about to be) destroyed: what has the righteous done, i.e. accomplished? The pillars or foundations are those of social order or society itself. These are said to be destroyed, when truth and righteousness prevail no longer, but the intercourse of men is governed by mere selfishness. The question in the last clause implies that the righteous has effected nothing, in opposition to the prevalent iniquity. The past tense represents this as a matter of actual experience, but as one which still continues. The substitution of any other form in the translation is gratuitous and ungrammatical. The true relation of the tenses is correctly given in the Prayer Book Version. For the foundations will be cast down, and what hath the righteous done?

4. Jehovah (is) in his palace (or temple) of holiness; Jehovah (or as to Jehovah), in the heavens (is) his throne. His eyes behold, his eyelids prove the sons of men. He is so exalted that he can see, and so holy that he must see and judge the conduct of his creatures. By an equally grammatical but less natural construction, the whole verse may be thrown into a single proposition. “Jehovah in his holy temple, Jehovah whose throne is in heaven, his eyes,” &c.—For the meaning of the word translated temple, see above on Ps. 5:8 (7).—Eyelids are mentioned as a poetical parallel to eyes, being the nearest equivalent afforded by the language.—Try or prove, as if by seeing through them. With the whole verse compare Ps. 102:20 (19).

5. Jehovah the righteous will prove, will prove the righteous, and the wicked and the lover of violence his soul hates. The sentence might also be divided thus: Jehovah will prove the righteous and the wicked, and the lover of violence his soul hates. Different from both is the masoretic interpunction, which seems, however to be rather musical than grammatical or logical.—The divine proof or trial of the righteous implies favor and approval like the knowledge spoken of in Ps. 1:6; but in neither case is it expressed. Violence, including the ideas of injustice and cruelty. See above, on Ps. 7:17 (16). His soul has hated and still hates. This is not simply equivalent to he hates, but denotes a cordial hatred. Odit ex animo. He hates with all his heart.

6. He will rain on wicked (men) snares, fire and brimstone, and a raging wind, the portion of their cup. The mixed metaphors shew that the whole description is a tropical one, in which the strongest figures elsewhere used, to signify destruction as an effect of the divine wrath, are combined. Rain is a natural and common figure for any copious communication from above, whether of good or evil. Snares are a favorite metaphor of David for inextricable difficulties. See above, 7:16 (15), 9:16 (15), 10:9.—Fire and brimstone are familiar types of sudden and complete destruction, with constant reference to the great historical example of Sodom and Gomorrah. See Gen. 19:24, and compare Ezek. 38:22, Job 18:16.—Raging wind, literally wind (or blast) of furies, is another natural but independent emblem of sudden irresistible inflictions. The second Hebrew word is elsewhere used for strong indignation (Ps. 119:53), and is once applied to the ragings (or ravages) of famine. (Lam. 5:10.)—The portion of their cup, or their cup-portion, something measured out for them to drink, according to the frequent Scriptural representation, both of God’s wrath and favor, as a draught, or as the cup containing it. Compare Ps. 16:5, 23:5, with Mat. 20:22, 23, 26:39. The meaning of the whole verse is that, notwithstanding the present security of the ungodly, they shall, sooner or later, be abundantly visited with every variety of destructive judgment.

7. For righteous (is) Jehovah; righteousness he loves; the upright (man) shall his face behold. The for suggests the intimate connection between God’s judgment on the wicked and his favor to the righteous. The second clause is a necessary inference from the first. The nature of God determines his judgments and his acts. He who is righteous in himself cannot but approve of righteousness in others. The righteousness of others is in fact nothing more than conformity to his will and nature. Nor does he merely approve of righteousness in the abstract; he rewards it in the person of the righteous man. This idea is expressed in the last clause, which admits of the several constructions. It may mean that the upright shall behold his face, i.e. enjoy his favorable presence, as in Ps. 17:15. But the collocation of the singular noun and the plural verb, with the analogy of ver. 4 above, is in favour of a different construction: his face shall behold (or does behold) the righteous, i.e. view them with favor and affection. Because the original expression is not properly his face, but their face or faces, Luther explains this as a reason why God loves the righteous, to wit, because their faces look upon (the) right, or that which is right. Another construction, founded on the same fact, is, the righteous shall behold (it with) their faces. It is better, however, to regard this as an instance of that remarkable idiom in Hebrew, which applies to the One True God, verbs, nouns, and pronouns in the plural, and which some explain as a pluralis majestaticus, like that employed by kings at present, and others as a form of speech transferred from polytheism to the true religion. Most probably, however, it was intended to express the fulness of perfection in the divine nature, not without a mystical allusion to the personal distinction in the Godhead. The most remarkable examples of this usage may be found in Gen. 1:26, 3:22, 11:7, Job. 35:10, Ps. 58:12, Eccles. 12:1, Isa. 6:8, 54:6.—The face is here, like the eyelids in ver. 4, a poetical equivalent to eyes, and the same parallelism reappears in Ps. 34:16, 17 (15, 16): “the eyes of Jehovah (are) towards the righteous;” “the face of Jehovah (is) against evil-doers.”[1]


[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 52–55). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 10

Psalm 10

“Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble? The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: Let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined. For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, And blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth. The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. His ways are always grievous; Thy judgments are far above out of his sight: As for all his enemies, he puffeth at them. He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: For I shall never be in adversity. His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: Under his tongue is mischief and vanity. He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: In the secret places doth he murder the innocent: His eyes are privily set against the poor. He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: He lieth in wait to catch the poor: He doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net. He croucheth, and humbleth himself, That the poor may fall by his strong ones. He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: He hideth his face; he will never see it. Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up thine hand: Forget not the humble. Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? He hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it. Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, To requite it with thy hand: The poor committeth himself unto thee; Thou art the helper of the fatherless. Break thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man: Seek out his wickedness till thou find none. The Lord is King for ever and ever: The heathen are perished out of his land. Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: Thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear: To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, That the man of the earth may no more oppress.” (Psalm 10, KJV 1900)

The Psalmist complains of God’s neglect, and of the malice of his enemies, ver. 1–11. He prays that both these subjects of complaint may be removed, ver. 12–15. He expresses the most confident assurance that his prayer will be heard and answered, ver. 16–18.

The Septuagint and Vulgate unite this with the ninth psalm as a single composition. But each is complete in itself, and the remarkable coincidences even of expression only shew that both were meant to form a pair or double psalm like the first and second, third and fourth, &c. From the same facts it is clear, that this psalm, though anonymous, is, like the ninth, the work of David, and that both were probably composed about the same time.

1. For what (cause), why, O Jehovah, wilt thou stand afar, wilt thou hide at times (when we are) in trouble? The question really propounded is, how this inaction can be reconciled with what was said of God in Ps. 9:10 (9).—To stand afar off, is to act as an indifferent, or, at the most, a curious spectator. Wilt thou hide, i.e. thyself or thine eyes, by refusing to see, as in Lev. 20:4, 1 Sam. 12:3. The futures imply present action and the prospect of continuance hereafter. The question is not merely why he does so, but why he still persists in doing so. The singular phrase, at times in trouble, occurs only here and in Ps. 9:10 (9), a strong proof of the intimate connection of the two psalms, and perhaps of their contemporary composition. This expostulation betrays no defect either of reverence or faith, but, on the contrary, indicates a firm belief that God is able, and must be willing, to deliver his own people. Such demands are never uttered either by skepticism or despair.

2. In the pride of the wicked burns the sufferer; they are caught in devices which they have contrived. This very obscure verse admits of several different constructions. The first verb sometimes means to persecute, literally to burn after, or pursue hotly. Gen. 31:36; 1 Sam. 17:53. In one case it seems to have this meaning even without the preposition after. Lam. 4:19. The sense would then be, in the pride of the wicked he will persecute, &c. But the collocation of the words seems to point out עָנִי as the subject, not the object, of the verb. The sufferer’s burning may denote either anger or anguish, or a mixed feeling of indignant sorrow.—The adjective עָנִי means afflicted, suffering, whether from poverty or pain. Poor is therefore too specific a translation. In the Psalms this word is commonly applied to innocent sufferers, and especially to the people of God, as objects of malignant persecution. It thus suggests the accessory idea, which it does not formally express, of righteousness or piety.—In the last clause there is some doubt as to the subject of the first verb. If referred to the wicked, the sense will be, that they are taken in their own devices. If to the poor, that they are caught in the devices of the wicked. The first is favored by the analogy of Ps. 7:15–17 (14–16), and Ps. 9:16, 17 (15, 16). But the other agrees better with the context, as a description of successful wickedness.

3. For a wicked (man) boasts of (or simply praises) the desire of his soul, and winning (i.e. when he wins), blesses, despises Jehovah. This seems to be a description of the last stage of corruption, in which men openly defend or applaud their own vices, and impiously thank God for their dishonest gains and other iniquitous successes.—The preterite forms, has praised, &c., denote that it always has been so, as a matter of familiar experience. The desire of his soul means his natural selfish inclination, his heart’s lust. And winning, i.e. when he wins or gains his end, with special reference to increase of wealth. Hence the word is sometimes used to signify the covetous or avaricious grasper after wealth by fraud or force. The same participle, joined with a cognate noun, is rendered “greedy of gain” in Prov. 1:19, 15:27, and “given to covetousness” in Jer. 6:3, 8:10. See also Hab. 2:9, where the true sense is given in the margin of the English Bible.—He who gains an evil gain blesses (and) despises Jehovah, i.e. expresses his contempt of him by thanking him, whether in jest or earnest, for his own success. He blesses God, and thereby shews that he despises him. An illustrative parallel is Zech. 11:4, 5. “Thus saith the Lord my God, Feed the flock of the slaughter, whose possessors slay them and hold themselves not guilty, and they that sell them say, Blessed is the Lord, for I am rich.” This parallel, moreover, shews that blesses, in the verse before us, does not mean blesses himself, as some suppose, but blesses God.

4. A wicked (man), according to his pride, will not seek. There is no God (are) all his thoughts. Pride is here expressed by one of its outward indications, loftiness of look, or as some suppose the Hebrew phrase to signify originally, elevation of the nose.—Will not seek, i.e. seek God in prayer (Ps. 34:4), or in the wider sense of worship (Ps. 14:2), or in that of inquiring the divine will (Gen. 25:22), all which religions acts are at variance with the pride of the human heart.—All his thoughts, not merely his opinions, but his plans, his purposes, which is the proper meaning of the Hebrew word. The language of his life is, that there is no God.—Another construction of the first clause is as follows. The wicked, according to his pride (says), He, i.e. God will not require, judicially investigate and punish, as in Ps. 9:13 (12), and in ver. 13 below, where there seems to be a reference to the words before us, as uttered by the wicked man himself.—A third construction thus avoids the necessity of supplying says.—‘As to the wicked in his pride—He will not require, there is no God—are all his thoughts.” This may be transferred into our idiom as follows: All the thoughts of the wicked in his pride are, that God will not require, or rather that there is no God. In favor of the first construction given is the fact that it requires nothing to be supplied like the second, and does not disturb the parallelism of the clauses like the third. Common to all is the imputation of proud self-confidence and practical atheism to the sinner.

5. His ways are firm, or will be firm, in all time, always. A height, or high thing, (are) thy judgments from before him, away from him, out of his sight. (As for) his enemies he will puff at them, as a natural expression of contempt, or he will blow upon them, i.e. blow them away, scatter them, with ease. This describes the prosperity and success of sinners, not only as a fact already familiar, but as something which is likely to continue. Hence the future forms, which indicate continuance hereafter, just as the preterites in ver. 3 indicate actual experience.—The only other sense which can be put upon the first clause is, his ways are twisted, i.e. his actions are perverse. But the Chaldee paraphrase, the cognate dialects, and the analogy of Job 20:21, are in favor of the rendering, his ways are strong, i.e. his fortunes are secure, his life is prosperous, which moreover agrees best with the remainder of the verse, as a description of the sinner’s outward state. Thus understood, the second clause describes him as untouched or unaffected by God’s providential judgments, and the third as easily ridding himself of all his human adversaries. Both together represent him as impregnable on all sides, in appearance equally beyond the reach of God and man. (Compare Luke 18:2, 4.) As this immunity from danger, strictly understood, could exist only in appearance, the whole verse may be regarded as an expression of the sinner’s own opinion rather than his true condition.

6. He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved; to generation and generation, (I am one) who (shall) not (be) in evil, or as the same Hebrew phrase is rendered in the English version of Exod. 5:19, in evil case, i.e. in trouble, in distress. This is a natural expression of the proud security engendered in the natural man by great prosperity. He hath said, implying that the cause has already been in operation long enough to shew its natural effect. In his heart, to himself, in a spirit of self-gratulation and self-confidence. To age and age, throughout all ages or all generations. The strength of this expression shews that the speaker is not a real person, but the ideal type of a whole class. The sinner, who thus says in his heart, is not the sinner of one period or country, but the sinner of all times and places, one who never disappears, or ceases thus to feel and act.—The form of the last clause in Hebrew is peculiar and emphatic. He does not simply say, I shall never be in evil or adversity, but I am he, I am the man, who shall never be in evil, as if the very supposition of such a contingency, however justified by general experience, would be not only groundless but absurd in this one case. (Compare Isaiah 47:8–10.) There could scarcely be a stronger expression of the self-relying spirit of the sinner, as contrasted with the saints’ implicit confidence in God’s will and power, not only to preserve him from falling, but to raise him when he does fall.

7. (Of) cursing his mouth is full, and deceits, and oppression. Under his tongue (are) trouble and iniquity. He now gives a more particular description of the wicked man, beginning with his sins against his neighbor, and among these, with his sins of word or speech. If this be a correct view of the whole verse, the cursing, mentioned in the first clause, is most probably false swearing, or the invocation of God’s name, and imprecation of his wrath upon one’s self, in attestation of a falsehood. This kind of cursing is closely connected with the fraud and violence which follow. The Hebrew word תֹּךְ, to which the older writers gave the sense of fraud, is now commonly explained to mean oppression; so that with the noun preceding, it denotes injustice, injury to others, both by fraud and violence.—Under the tongue may have reference to the poison of serpents, or to the use of the tongue for speaking, as in Ps. 66:17, where the same phrase occurs in the original, though not in the common version.—Toil, labor, trouble, endured by others as the consequence of his deceits and violence.—For the meaning of the last word in the verse, see above, on Ps. 5:6 (5).—Oppression is here reckoned among sins of speech, because the latter may be made the means of violent injustice, by tyrannical command, by unjust judgment, or by instigating others to deprive the victim of his rights. If only fraud had been referred to, this description of the sins committed with the tongue would have been palpably defective.

8. He will sit in the lurking-place of villages; in the secret places he will slay the innocent; his eyes for the sufferer will hide, watch secretly, or lie in wait. From sins of word he now proceeds to those of deed or outward action. The wicked enemy is here represented as a robber. The futures, as in ver. 5, imply that what is now is likely to continue. Sitting implies patient waiting for his prey or victim. The lurking-place, the place where murderers and robbers usually lurk or lie in wait. Where such crimes are habitually practiced, there is commonly some spot especially associated with them, either as the scene of the iniquity itself, or as a place of refuge and resort to those who perpetrate it.—The mention of villages is no proof that the psalm relates to any specific case of lawless violence, but only that the Psalmist gives individuality to his description by traits directly drawn from real life. A slight change in the form of expression would convert it into a poetic simile. ‘As the robber sits in the lurking-place of villages,’ &c. The verb hide has the same sense as in Prov. 1:11, 18.—The word translated sufferer (חַֽלְכָה for חֵֽילְךָ) is peculiar to this psalm, and was not improbably coined for the occasion, as a kind of enigmatical description, in which David seems to have delighted. A Jewish tradition makes it mean thy host, i.e. the church of God; but this, besides being forced in itself, is forbidden by the use of the plural in ver. 10 below. Others derive it from an Arabic root, meaning to be black, dark, gloomy, sad, unhappy. A third hypothesis explains it as a compound of two Hebrew words, one meaning weak or sick, the other sad or sorrowful, and both together representing the object of the enemy’s malice, in the strongest light, as a sufferer both in mind and body.

9. He will lurk in the hiding-place as a lion in his den; he will lurk (or lie in wait) to catch the sufferer; he will catch the sufferer by drawing him into his net, or in drawing him (towards him) with his net. That the preceding verse contains a simile, and not a description of the enemy as an actual robber, is here rendered evident by the addition of two new comparisons, applied to the same object. In the first clause he is compared to a lion, in the second to a hunter. See above, on Ps. 7:16 (15), 9:16 (15), and below, on Ps. 35:7, 57:7 (6). The force of the futures is the same as in the foregoing verse.—His den, his shelter, covert, hiding-place. The Hebrew word is commonly applied to any temporary shed or booth, composed of leaves and branches. He lies in wait to seize the prey, and he succeeds, he accomplishes his purpose. A third possible construction of the last clause is, in his drawing (i.e. when he draws) his net. The whole verse, with the one before it, represents the wicked as employing craft no less than force for the destruction of the righteous.

10. And bruised he will sink; and by (or in, i.e. into the power of) his strong ones fall the sufferers, the victims. These are represented, in the first clause, by a collective singular, and in the second by a plural proper, that of the unusual word used in ver. 8 above. Its peculiar etymology and form might be imitated in an English compound, such as sick-sad, weak-sad, or the like. By his strong ones some would understand the strong parts of the lion, teeth, claws, &c.; others the same parts personified as warriors. But even in the foregoing verse, the figure of a lion is exchanged for that of a hunter; and this again gives place here to that of a military leader or a chief of robbers, thus insensibly returning to the imagery of ver. 8. These numerous and rapid changes, although not in accordance with the rules of artificial rhetoric, add greatly to the life of the description, and are not without their exegetical importance, as evincing that the whole is metaphorical, a varied tropical exhibition of one and the same object, the combined craft and cruelty of wicked men, considered as the enemies of God and of his people. According to this view of the passage, by his strong ones we may understand the followers of the hostile chief, those who help him and execute his orders, or the ideal enemy himself, before considered as an individual, but now resolved into the many individuals, of whom the class which he represents is really composed.

11. He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten, he hath hidden his face, he hath not seen, doth not see, and will not see, forever. The opening words are the same, and have the same sense, as in ver. 6 above. The three parallel clauses which follow all express the same idea, namely, that God takes no note of human offences. This is first expressed by the figure of forgetfulness; then by that of deliberately refusing to see, as in ver. 1 above; then by a literal and direct affirmation that he does not see, either the sufferings of his people or the malice of their enemies; and that this is not a transient or occasional neglect, but one likely to continue forever.

12. Arise, Jehovah! Almighty (God), raise thy hand! Forget not sufferers (or the wretched)! The impious incredulity, expressed in the preceding verse, is now made the ground of an importunate petition. God is besought to do away with the appearance of inaction and indifference. See above, on Ps. 7:7 (6). Raise thy hand, exert thy power. The second name by which God is addressed (אֵל) is one expressive of omnipotence, and may be correctly rendered by our phrase, Almighty God. As the name Jehovah appeals to his covenant relation to his people, as a reason for granting their requests, so this invokes his power as necessary to their deliverance and the vindication of his own honor from the imputation of forgetfulness cast upon him by his enemies. This imputation he is entreated, in the last clause, to wipe off by shewing that he does remember. Forget not is, in this connection, tantamount to saying, shew that thou dost not forget. Here, as in Ps. 9:13 (12), the margin of the Hebrew Bible reads (ענוים) meek or humble, while the text has (עניים) suffering or afflicted. The Kethib, or textual reading, is regarded by the highest critical authorities as the more ancient, and therefore, except in some rare cases, entitled to the preference.

13. On what (ground) has the wicked contemned God, has he said in his heart, Thou wilt not require? The question implies the sin and folly of the conduct described. The past tense suggests the inquiry why it has been suffered to go on so long. Contemned, i.e. treated with contempt. The reference is not to inward feeling merely, but to its external manifestation. The second clause shews how the feeling has been manifested. Said in his heart, is here repeated for the third time in this psalm. See ver. 6, 11, above. The direct address to God in the last clause is peculiarly emphatic. The wicked man not only speaks irreverently of him, but insults him to his face. Thou wilt not require. The Hebrew verb includes the ideas of investigation and exaction. Thou wilt not inquire into my conduct, or require an account of it. See ver. 4 above, and compare Ps. 9:13 (12). The whole verse contains an indirect expostulation or complaint of the divine forbearance towards such high-handed and incorrigible sinners.

14. Thou hast seen (this particular instance of iniquity); for trouble, the suffering occasioned by such sins, and provocation, that afforded by such sins, thou wilt behold, it is thy purpose and thy habit to behold it, to give with thy hand a becoming recompense, or to give into thy hand, i.e. to lay it up there in reserve, as something to be recompensed hereafter. Upon thee the sufferer wilt leave (his burden), will rely. An orphan, here put for the whole class of innocent and helpless sufferers, thou hast been helping; God has ever been a helper of the friendless, and may therefore be expected to do likewise now. The whole verse is an argument drawn from the general course of the divine administration. Hence the preterite and future forms. Thou hast seen in this case, for thou always wilt see in such cases. For the meaning of trouble and provocation, see above, on Ps. 6:8 (7), 7:15 (14).

15. Break thou the arm, destroy the power, of the wicked, and the bad (man), or as to the bad man, thou wilt seek for his wickedness (and) not find it. This may either mean, thou wilt utterly destroy him and his wickedness, so that when sought for it cannot be found (Ps. 37:36), or thou wilt judicially investigate his guilt, and punish it till nothing more is left to punish. The Hebrew verb (דרש) has then the same sense as in ver. 4, 13, above, and there is a direct allusion to the sinner’s boast that God will not inquire into men’s acts or require an account of them. There may be a latent irony or sarcasm, as if he had said, Thou wilt find nothing, as he boasts, but in a very different sense; not because there is nothing worthy of punishment, but because there will be nothing left unpunished.

16. Jehovah (is) king! He is not dethroned, as his enemies imagine; he is still king, and will so remain, perpetuity and eternity, for ever and ever. Lost, perished, are nations, the heathen, i.e. hostile nations, from, out of, his land, the Holy Land, the Land of Israel, the land of which he is the king in a peculiar sense, distinct from that of providential ruler. The Psalmist sees Jehovah still enthroned, not only as the sovereign of the world, but as the sovereign of his people. (See Num. 23:21, Deut. 33:5). The stations or heathen of this verse may be either literal or spiritual gentiles (Jer. 9:25, Ezek. 16:3). The psalm is so framed as to express the feelings of God’s people in various emergencies. The preterite tense in the last clause represents the destruction of God’s enemies as already past, not only on account of its absolute certainty, but because the process of destruction, although not completed, is begun and will infallibly continue. Here, as often elsewhere, earnest prayer is followed by the strongest expression of confidence and hope.

17. The desire of the meek (or humble) thou hast heard, Jehovah! Their desire is already accomplished. And this not merely once for all. Thou wilt settle (or confirm) their heart, i.e. dispel their fears and give them courage, by new assurances of favor and repeated answers to their prayers. Thou wilt incline thine ear, or make it attentive, cause it to listen, to their future no less than their past petitions. The figure of a fixed or settled heart recurs more than once below. See Ps. 51:12 (10), 57:8 (7), 112:7. The essential idea is that of a firm resolution, as opposed to timid doubt and vacillation.

18. To judge, or do justice to, the orphan and the bruised, or oppressed. See above, on Ps. 9:10 (9). This clause seems properly to form a part of the preceding verse; thou wilt incline thine ear to judge, &c. The remainder of the verse is a distinct proposition. He shall not add (or continue) any longer to resist, or defy, i.e. to set God at defiance. The subject of these verbs is placed last for the sake of greater emphasis. Man, frail man, from the earth, springing from it, and belonging to it; see Gen. 3:19. For the full sense of the word translated man, see above, on Ps. 8:5 (4), 9:20 (19), and compare the whole prayer in the latter passage with the one before us. The sense here is, that weak and short-lived man shall not continue to insult and defy Almighty God. It implies a wish or prayer, but is in form a strong expression of the Psalmist’s confident assurance that it will be so, and in connection with the similar expressions of the two preceding verses, forms a worthy and appropriate close of the entire composition. The original of this verse is commonly supposed to exhibit an example of the figure called paronomasia, an intentional resemblance, both in form and sound, between two words of very different meaning. The words supposed to be so related here are those translated to defy (ערץ) and earth (ארץ). This peculiarity of form, if really designed and significant, is one which cannot be completely reproduced in any version. There is reason to suspect, however, that in this, as in many other cases, the resemblance is fortuitous, like that which frequently occurs in a translation, without anything to match it in the original; e.g. in the Vulgate version of Gen. 8:22, æstus and æstas, and in that of Gen. 12:16, oves et boves.[1]


[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 46–52). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 9

Psalm 9

“I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. When my enemies turn back, They shall fall and perish at Your presence. For You have maintained my right and my cause; You sat on the throne judging in righteousness. You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever. O enemy, destructions are finished forever! And you have destroyed cities; Even their memory has perished. But the Lord shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness, And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness. The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people. When He avenges blood, He remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the humble. Have mercy on me, O Lord! Consider my trouble from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death, That I may tell of all Your praise In the gates of the daughter of Zion. I will rejoice in Your salvation. The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made; In the net which they hid, their own foot is caught. The Lord is known by the judgment He executes; The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Meditation. Selah The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God. For the needy shall not always be forgotten; The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever. Arise, O Lord, Do not let man prevail; Let the nations be judged in Your sight. Put them in fear, O Lord, That the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah” (Psalm 9:1–20, NKJV)

THIS psalm expresses, in a series of natural and striking alternations, gratitude for past deliverances, trust in God’s power and disposition to repeat them, and direct and earnest prayer for such repetition. We have first the acknowledgment of former mercies, ver. 2–7 (1–6); then the expression of trust for the future, ver. 8–13 (7–12); then the petition founded on it, ver. 14, 15 (13, 14). The same succession of ideas is repeated: recollection of the past, ver. 16, 17 (15, 16); anticipation of the future, ver. 18, 19 (17, 18); prayer for present and immediate help, ver. 20, 21 (19, 20). This parallelism of the parts makes the structure of the psalm remarkably like that of the seventh. The composition was intentionally so framed as to be a vehicle of pious feeling to the church at any period of strife and persecution. The form is that of the Old Testament; but the substance and the spirit are common to both dispensations.

1. To the Chief Musician, Al-muth-labben. This enigmatical title has been variously explained. Some understand it as descriptive of the subject, and make labben an anagram of Nabal, the name of one of David’s enemies, and, at the same time, an appellative denoting fool, in which sense it is frequently applied to the wicked; see, for example, Ps. 14:1. The whole would then mean on the death of the fool, i.e. the sinner. Such enigmatical changes are supposed to occur in Jer. 25:26, 51:1, 41; Zech. 9:1. Others, by a change of pointing in the Hebrew, for al-muth read alamoth, a musical term occurring in the title of Ps. 46, or a cognate form almuth, and explain labben to mean for Ben, or the (children of) Ben, one of the Levitical singers mentioned in 1 Chron. 15:18. Neither of these explanations seem so natural as a third, which supposes muth-labben to be the title, or the first words, or a prominent expression of some other poem, in the style, or to the air of which, this psalm was composed. After the manner, or to the air, of (the song or poem) Death to the son, or the death of the son. Compare 2 Sam. 1:18, where David’s elegy on Saul appears to be called Kesheth or the Bow, because that word is a prominent expression in the composition. As it cannot be supposed that the expression was originally without meaning, the obscurity, in this and many similar cases, is rather a proof of antiquity than of the opposite.

2 (1). I will thank Jehovah, praise him for his benefits, with all my heart, sincerely, cordially, and with a just appreciation of the greatness of his favors. I will recount all thy wonders, the wonderful things done by thee, with special reference to those attested by his own experience. The change from the third to the second person is entirely natural, as if the Psalmist’s warmth of feeling would not suffer him to speak any longer merely of God, as one absent, but compelled him to turn to him, as the immediate object of address. There is no need, therefore, of supplying thee in the first clause, and construing Jehovah as a vocative.

3 (2). I will joy and triumph in thee, not merely in thy presence, or because of thee, i.e. because of what thou hast done, but in communion with thee, and because of my personal interest in thee. The form of the verbs, both here and in the last clause of the preceding verse, expresses strong desire and fixed determination; see above, on Ps. 2:3. I will praise, or celebrate in song; see above, on Ps. 7:18 (17). Thy name, thy manifested excellence; see above, on Ps. 5:12 (11). (Thou) Highest, or Most High! see above, on Ps. 7:18 (17). Here again there is special reference to the proofs of God’s supremacy afforded by his recent dealings with the Psalmist and his enemies.

4 (3). In the turning of my enemies back, i.e. from their assault on me, which is equivalent to saying, in their retreat, their defeat, their disappointment. This may either be connected with what goes before, and understood as a statement of the reason or occasion of the praise there promised: “I will celebrate thy name when (or because) my enemies turn back;” or it may begin a new sentence, and ascribe their defeat to the agency of God himself: “When my enemies turn back (it is because) they are to stumble, and perish from thy presence, from before thee, or at thy presence, i.e. as soon as thou appearest.” The Hebrew preposition has both a causative and local meaning. The form of the verbs does not necessarily imply that the deliverance acknowledged was still future, but only that it might occur again, and that in any such case, whether past or yet to come, Jehovah was and would be the true author of the victory achieved. The act of stumbling implies that of falling as its natural consequence, and is often used in Scripture as a figure for complete and ruinous failure.

5 (4). This was not a matter of precarious expectation, but of certain experience. For thou hast made, done, executed, wrought out, and thereby maintained, my cause and my right. This phrase is always used elsewhere in a favorable sense, and never in the vague one of simply doing justice, whether to the innocent or guilty. See Deut. 10:18; 1 Kings 8:45, 49; Ps. 140:12; and compare Isa. 10:2. And this defense was not merely that of an advocate, but that of a judge, or rather of a sovereign in the exercise of those judicial functions which belong to royalty. See Prov. 20:8. Thou hast sat, and sittest, on a throne, the throne of universal sovereignty, judging right, i.e. rightly, or a judge of righteousness, a righteous judge. See above, on Ps. 7:12 (11). In this august character the Psalmist had already seen Jehovah, and he therefore gives it as a reason for expecting him to act in accordance with it now.

6 (5). The forensic terms of the preceding verse are now explained as denoting the destruction of God’s enemies. Thou hast rebuked nations, not merely individuals, but nations. God’s chastisements are often called rebukes, because in them he speaks by act as clearly as he could by word. Thou hast destroyed a wicked (one), i.e. many a wicked enemy, in former times, in other cases, and that not with a partial ruin, but with complete extermination even of their memory. Their name, that by which men are distinguished and remembered, thou hast blotted out, erased, effaced, obliterated, to perpetuity and eternity, an idiomatic combination, coincident in sense, though not in form, with the English phrase, for ever and ever. This verse does not refer exclusively to any one manifestation of God’s power and wrath, but to the general course of his dealings with his enemies, and especially to their invariable issue, the destruction of the adverse party.

7 (6). The enemy, or as to the enemy, a nominative absolute placed at the beginning of the sentence for the sake of emphasis—finished, completed, are (his) ruins, desolations, for ever, i.e. he is ruined or made desolate for ever. The construction of the first word as a vocative—O enemy, ended are (thy) desolations for ever, i.e. the desolations caused by thee—affords a good sense, but is neither so agreeable to usage nor to the context as the one first given. Still less so are the other versions which have been given of this difficult clause. E.g. The enemies are completely desolate for ever;—the enemies are consumed, (there are) ruins (or desolations) for ever, &c. The address is still to Jehovah, as in the preceding verse. And (their) cities, viz. those of the enemy, hast thou destroyed. According to the second construction above given, this would mean, thou (O enemy) hast destroyed cities, but art now destroyed thyself. The same reasons as before require us to prefer Jehovah as the object of address. Gone, perish, is their very memory. The idiomatic form of the original in this clause cannot be retained in a translation. The nearest approach to it would be, gone is their memory, themselves. This may either mean their memory, viz. (that of) themselves, i.e. their own; or, perished is their memory (and) themselves (with it). There seems to be an obvious allusion to the threatenings against Amalek in the books of Moses (Exod. 17:14; Num. 24:20; Deut. 25:19), which received their literal fulfilment in the conquests of Saul and David (1 Sam. 15:3, 7, 27:8, 9, 30:1, 17; 2 Sam. 8:12; 1 Chron. 4:43). But this is evidently here presented merely as a sample of other conquests over the surrounding nations (2 Sam. 8:11–14), and even these as only samples of the wonders wrought by God for his own people, and celebrated in ver. 2 (1) above.

8 (7). And Jehovah to eternity, for ever, will sit, as he sits now, upon the throne and judgment-seat. He has set up for judgment, for the purpose of acting as a judge, his throne. It is not as an absolute or arbitrary ruler, but as a just judge, that Jehovah reigns. This recognition of God’s judicial character and office as perpetual is intended to prepare the way for an appeal to his righteous intervention in the present case.

9 (8). And he, himself, with emphasis upon the pronoun, is to judge the world, the fruitful and cultivated earth, as the Hebrew word properly denotes, here put for its inhabitants, in justice, or righteousness, i.e. in the exercise of this divine perfection. He will judge, a different Hebrew verb, to which we have no equivalent, he will judge nations, peoples, races, not mere individuals, in equities, in equity, the plural form denoting fulness or completeness, as in Ps. 1:1. As the preceding verse describes Jehovah’s kingship as judicial, so the verse before us represents him in the actual exercise of his judicial functions.

10 (9). And (so) will Jehovah be a high place, out of reach of danger, hence a refuge, for the oppressed, literally the bruised or broken in pieces, a high place, refuge, in times of distress, literally at times in distress, i.e. at times (when men are) in distress. God’s judicial sovereignty is exercised so as to relieve the sufferer and deliver those in danger.

11 (10). And in thee will trust, as now so in all times to come, the knowers of thy name, those who know the former exhibitions of thy greatness and thy goodness, all which are included in the name of God. See ver. 3 (2), and Ps. 8:2 (1), 7:18 (17), ver. 12 (11). For thou hast not forsaken thy seekers, or (those) seeking thee, O Lord, Jehovah, i.e. seeking thy favor in general, and thy protection against their enemies in particular. The certain knowledge of this fact is laid as the foundation of the confidence expressed in the first clause.

12 (11). Sing, make music, give praise by song or music, to Jehovah, as the God of Israel, inhabiting Zion, i.e. the sanctuary there established. Or the words may mean sitting, as a king, enthroned, (in) Zion, which agrees well with the use of the same verbs in ver. 5, 8 (4, 7) above, although the other version is favoured by the obvious allusion to the symbolical import of the sanctuary under the Mosaic law, as teaching the great doctrine of God’s dwelling among men. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4), 5:8 (7). Zion is here represented as the centre of a circle reaching far beyond the house of Israel, and indeed co-extensive with the earth. Tell, declare, make known, in, among, the nations, his exploits, his noble deeds, the wonders mentioned in ver. 2 (1). We have here, in his inspired formula of worship, a clear proof that the ancient church believed and understood the great truth, that the law was to go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, Isa. 2:3, Mic. 4:2.

13 (12). For seeking blood, or as an inquisitor of blood, he has remembered, he remembers, it, i.e. the blood; he has not forgotten the cry of the distressed. God is here revealed in the character which he assumes in Gen. 9:5, where the same verb and noun are used in the first clause of the verse before us. The word translated blood is in the plural form. See above, on Ps. 5:7 (6). Hence the literal translation of the next word is, he has remembered them, i.e. the bloods or murders. The cry meant is the cry of suffering and complaint, with particular reference to Gen. 4:10. According to another reading of the last clause, the cry is that of the meek or humble, not of the distressed. But the common text affords a better sense, and really includes the other, as the innocence of the sufferers is implied, though not expressed. The general import of the verse is that God’s judgments, though deferred, are not abandoned, that he does not forget even what he seems to disregard, and that sooner or later he will certainly appear as an avenger. Murder is here put as the highest crime against the person, for all others, and indeed for wickedness in general.

14 (13). Have mercy upon me, or be gracious to me, O Jehovah, see my suffering from my haters, raising me from the gates of death. The view previously taken of God’s faithfulness and justice is now made the ground of an importunate petition for deliverance from present dangers and distress. My haters, those who hate me. From my haters may be taken as a pregnant construction, meaning, see my suffering (and free me) from my enemies. Thus in 2 Sam. 18:19, “Jehovah hath judged him from the hand of his enemies,” means “hath done him justice (and so freed him) from the power of his enemies.” See a similar expression in Ps. 22:22 (21) below. It seems more natural and obvious, however, in the case before us, to give from a causal meaning. “See my distress (arising) from, or caused by, those who hate me.” Raising me does not denote an accompanying act, as if he had said, see my distress, and at the same time lift me up, &c. It is rather descriptive of a certain divine character or habit, and agrees with the pronoun of the second person understood. “Thou that liftest me up,” that art accustomed so to do, that has done so in other cases, with an implied prayer, do so now. The gates of death may have reference to the image of a subterranean dungeon, from which no prisoner can free himself; or it may be simply a poetical expression for the entrance to the grave or the state of the dead. Compare Isa. 38:10, and Mat. 16:18.

15 (14). That I may recount all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion, may joy in thy salvation. This is one important end for which he asks to be delivered, namely, that God may have the praise of his deliverance. There is a trace, in the Hebrew text, of an original plural form, praises, which might then denote praiseworthy deeds, actions worthy to be celebrated. But the singular form occurs with all in Ps. 106:2 below. The gates here mentioned are contrasted with those of the preceding verse. The God who saves him from the gates of death shall be praised for this deliverance in the gates of the daughter of Zion. This last expression is supposed by some to be a personification of the people inhabiting Zion or Jerusalem, who are then put for Israel at large, as the church or chosen people. Others regard the genitive construction as equivalent to a simple apposition, as in river of Euphrates, or in our familiar phrase, the city of Jerusalem. The personification is then that of the city itself, considered as an ideal virgin, and on that account called daughter, by a usage similar to that of the corresponding word in French. In either case, there is an obvious reference to the ancient church, as the scene or the witness of the Psalmist’s praises. The verb in the last clause may be made to depend upon the particle at the beginning of the verse, (that) I may exult: or it may be still more emphatically construed as an independent proposition, I will exult in thy salvation. The form of the verb is the same as in Ps. 2:3 above. The second verb itself occurs in ver. 11 of that psalm, and as in that case, may either denote an inward emotion or the outward expression of it, I will shout. In thy salvation, i.e. in the possession or experience of it, and in acknowledgment of having thus experienced or possessed it.

16 (15). Sunk are nations in a pit they made; in a net which they hid, taken is their foot. This may be either a confident anticipation of the future as if already past, or a further reference to previous deliverance, as a ground of hope for others yet to come. Nations, whole nations, when opposed to God. Compare Ps. 2:1. The accessory idea of Gentiles, heathen, would be necessarily suggested at the same time to a Hebrew reader. Most versions have the definite forms, the pit, the net; but the indefinite form of the original is equally intelligible in English, and therefore preferable as a more exact translation. The ellipsis of the relative, a pit (which) they made, is common to the Hebrew idiom and our own. The figures are borrowed from ancient modes of hunting. See above, on Ps. 7:16 (15). Their foot, their own foot, not that of the victim whose destruction they intended.

17 (16). Known is Jehovah, or has made himself known. Justice has he done, or judgment has he executed. In the work of his (own) hands ensnared is a wicked (man). Higgaion, meditation. Selah, pause. God has revealed himself as present and attentive, notwithstanding his apparent oblivion and inaction, by doing justice on his enemies, or rather by making them do justice on themselves, converting their devices against others into means of self-destruction. In view of this most striking attestation of God’s providential government, the reader is summoned to reflect, and enabled so to do by a significant and solemn pause. The sense of meditation or reflection is clear from Ps. 19:15 (14), and Lam. 3:62. See below, on Ps. 92:4 (3). The addition of Higgaion to Selah here confirms the explanation already given of the latter word. See above, on Ps. 3:3 (2). With this understanding of the terms, we may well say, to ourselves or others, in view of every signal providential retribution, especially where sin is conspicuously made its own avenger, Higgaion Selah!

18 (17). The wicked shall turn back even to hell, to death, or to the grave, all nations forgetful of God. The enemies of God and of his people shall be not only thwarted and repulsed, but driven to destruction; and that not merely individuals, but nations. For the meaning of Sheol see above, on Ps. 6:6 (5). The figure of turning back, retreating, failing, is the same as in ver. 4 (3) above. The idea expressed is not that of being turned directly into hell, but that of turning back, first to one’s original position, and then beyond it, to the grave or hell. In the last clause there is an allusion to the implied charge of forgetfulness on God’s part in ver. 13 (12) above. He had not forgotten the “poor innocents,” as they feared, and as their enemies believed; but these very enemies had forgotten him, and must now abide the consequences of their own forgetfulness. The future forms of this verse may have reference to the same things mentioned in the verse preceding as already past. It seems more natural, however, to explain them as a confident anticipation of results precisely similar to those which had already been produced by the same causes. As Jehovah had already caused the heathen to become their own destroyers, so he might be expected to renew the same judicial process in another case.

19 (18). For not for ever shall the poor be forgotten, (and) the hope of the humble perish to eternity. However long God may appear to be forgetful of his suffering people, even this seeming oblivion is to have an end. Still another allusion to the charge or imputation of forgetfulness implied in ver. 13 (12) above. The difference between the readings humble and afflicted (ענוים and עניים) is not essential, as the context shews that the humble meant are humble sufferers.
20 (19). Arise, Jehovah! Let not man, frail man, be strong. Let nations, or the heathen, be judged, and as a necessary consequence condemned, before thy face, in thy presence, at thy bar. Here again, as in ver. 13, 14 (12, 13), the expression of strong confidence is made the occasion of an earnest prayer. So far is an implicit trust from leading men to cast off fear and restrain prayer before God. On the exhortation to arise, as from a state of previous inaction, see above, Ps. 3:7 (6). For the full sense of the word translated man, see above, on Ps. 8:5 (4). Let him not be strong, i.e. let him not so appear, or so esteem himself. Let him have no occasion, by indulgence or prolonged impunity, to cherish this delusion, or to practice this imposture. The absurdity of making man the stronger party in this strife with God is so preposterous, that God is summoned to arise for the purpose of exploding it. To be judged, in the case of the wicked, is of course to be condemned. To be judged in God’s presence, or at his tribunal, is of course to be condemned without appeal.

21 (20). Set, place, or join, O Jehovah, fear to them. Let nations know, or then shall nations know, (that) man, not God, (are) they. Selah. God is entreated so to frighten them, that they may become conscious of their own insignificance and weakness. The word translated fear is elsewhere used to signify a razor. Hence some would render the first clause, apply the razor to them, i.e. shave them, in allusion to the oriental feeling with respect to the beard. But this seems far-fetched, and the masoretic reading yields a better sense. The precise import of the first phrase seems to be, set fear as a guard over them (Ps. 141:3), or join it to them as a constant companion. The word translated man is still the same as in the foregoing verse, and was therefore intended to suggest the idea of human frailty, as contrasted with divine omnipotence.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 40–46). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Palm 8

Psalm 8

“For the music director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of David. Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, You who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! From the mouths of infants and nursing babies You have established strength Because of Your enemies, To do away with the enemy and the revengeful. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have set in place; What is man that You think of him, And a son of man that You are concerned about him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You have him rule over the works of Your hands; You have put everything under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the animals of the field, The birds of the sky, and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8, NASB 2020)


This psalm begins and ends with an admiring recognition of God’s manifested excellence, ver. 2 (1) and 10 (9). In the intermediate verses the manifestation is traced, first in the inanimate creation, ver. 3, 4 (2, 3), and then in animated nature, vers. 5–9 (4–8), with particular reference to man’s superiority. This is indeed the main subject of the psalm, the glory of God in nature being only introduced to heighten his goodness to mankind. We have here, therefore, a description of the dignity of human nature, as it was at first, and as it is to be restored in Christ, to whom the descriptive terms may therefore be applied, without forced or fanciful accommodation on the one hand, and without denying the primary generic import of the composition on the other.
1. To the Chief Musician, on (or according to) the Gittith. This word, which reappears in the titles of two other psalms (the eighty-first and eighty-fourth), would seem, from its form, to be the feminine of Gitti, which always means a Gittite or inhabitant of Gath. See Josh. 13:3; 2 Sam. 6:10, 15:18. As David once resided there, and had afterwards much intercourse with the inhabitants, the word may naturally here denote an instrument there invented or in use, or an air, or a style of performance, borrowed from that city. Some prefer, however, to derive it from the primary sense of Gath in Hebrew, which is wine-press, and apply it either to an instrument of that shape, or to a melody or style which usage had connected with the joy of vintage or the pressing of the grapes. Either of these explanations is more probable than that which derives Gittith from the same root with Neginoth in the titles of Ps. 4 and 6, and gives it the same sense, viz. stringed instruments, or the music of stringed instruments. Besides the dubious etymology on which this explanation rests, it is improbable that two such technical terms would have been used to signify precisely the same thing. The only further observation to be made upon this title is, that all the psalms to which it is prefixed are of a joyous character, which agrees well with the supposition that it signifies an air or style of musical performance. The ascription of this Psalm to David, as its author, is fully confirmed by its internal character.
2 (1). Jehovah, our Lord, not of the Psalmist only, but of all men, and especially all Israel, how glorious (is) thy name, thy manifested excellence (see above, Ps. 5:11, 7:17), in all the earth, which gave thy glory, i.e. which glory of thine give or place, above the heavens. The verbal form here used is, in every other place where it occurs, an imperative, and should not therefore, without necessity, be otherwise translated. Thus understood, the clause contains a prayer or wish, that the divine glory may be made still more conspicuous. To give or place glory on an object is an idiomatic phrase repeatedly used elsewhere, to denote the conferring of honor on an inferior. See Num. 27:20; 1 Chron. 29:25; Dan. 11:21. It here is plies that the glory belonging to the frame of nature is not inherent but derivative.
3 (2.) From the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast founded strength. The instinctive admiration of thy works, even by the youngest children, is a strong defense against those who would question thy being or obscure thy glory. The Septuagint version of the last words in this clause, thou hast prepared (or provided) praise, conveys the same idea with a change of form, since it is really the praise or admiration of the child that is described in the original as strength. This version is adopted by Matthew, in his record of our Lord’s reply to the Pharisees, when they complained of the hosannas uttered by the children in the temple (Mat. 21:16). That allusion does not prove that Christ was the primary subject of this psalm, but only that the truth expressed in the words quoted was exemplified in that case. If the Scriptures had already taught that even the unconscious admiration of the infant is a tribute to God’s glory, how much more might children of maturer age be suffered to join in acclamations to his Son. The sense thus put upon the words of David agrees better with the context than the one preferred by some interpreters, viz., that the defense in question is afforded by the structure and progress of the child itself. If this had been intended, he would hardly have said from the mouth, or have confined his subsequent allusions to the splendor of the firmament.—The effect, or rather the legitimate tendency of this spontaneous testimony is to silence enemy and avenger, i.e. to stop the mouths of all malignant railers against God, whose cavils and sophisms are put to shame by the instinctive recognition of God’s being and his glory by the youngest children.
4 (3). When I see thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, an expression borrowed from the habits of men, to whom the fingers are natural organs of contrivance and construction, the moon and the stars which thou hast fixed, or settled in their several spheres. As we constantly associate the sky and sun together, the latter, although not expressly mentioned, may be considered as included in the subject of the first clause. Or the mention of the moon and stars without the sun may be understood to mark this as an evening hymn. There is no ground, however, for referring this psalm to the pastoral period of David’s life, or for doubting that it was composed when he was king.
5 (4). The sentence begun in the preceding verse is here completed. When I see thy heavens, &c., what is man, frail man, as the original word signifies, that thou shouldst remember him, think of him, attend to him, and (any) son of man, or the son of man, as a generic designation of the race, that thou shouldst visit him, i.e. according to the usage of this figure, manifest thyself to him, either in wrath or mercy. See Gen. 18:14, 21:1, Ruth 1:6, &c. Here of course the latter is intended. The scriptural idea of a divine visitation is of something which reveals God’s special presence and activity, whether as a friend or foe. The interrogation in this verse implies a strong negation of man’s worthiness to be thus honored, not in comparison with the material universe, to which he is in truth superior, but with the God whose glory the whole frame of nature was intended to display and does display, even to the least matured and cultivated minds. It was with a view to this comparison, and not for its own sake, or as the main subject of the psalm, that the glory of creation was referred to the foregoing verse.
6 (5). And remove him little from divinity, i.e. from a divine and heavenly, or at least a superhuman state. The Hebrew noun is the common one for God, but being plural in its form, is sometimes used in a more vague and abstract sense, for all conditions of existence higher than our own. 1 Sam. 28:13, Zech. 9:7. Hence it is sometimes rendered angels in the Septuagint, which version, although inexact, is retained in the New Testament (Heb. 2:7), because it sufficiently expresses the idea which was essential to the writer’s argument. The verb in this clause strictly means to make or let one want, to leave deficient. Eccles. 4:8, 6:2. The form here used (that of the future with vav conversive), connects it in the closest manner with the verb of the preceding verse, a construction which may be imperfectly conveyed by the omission of the auxiliary verbs in English. “What is man, that thou shouldst remember him, and visit him, and make him want but little of divinity, and crown him with honor and glory?” The Hebrew order of the last clause is, and (with) honor and glory crown him. These nouns are elsewhere put together to express royal dignity. Ps. 21:1, 6 (5), 45:4 (3), Jer. 22:18, 1 Chron. 29:25. There is an obvious allusion to man’s being made in the image of God, with dominion over the inferior creation. Gen. 1:26, 28; 9:2. This is predicated not of the individual but of the race, which lost its perfection in Adam and recovers it in Christ. Hence the description is pre-eminently true of him, and the application of the words in Heb. 2:7, is entirely legitimate, although it does not make him the exclusive subject of the psalm itself.
7 (6). The same construction is continued through the first clause of this verse. Make him rule, i.e. what is man that thou shouldst make him rule, in, among, and by implication over, the works, the other and inferior creatures, of thy hands. The use of the future form in Hebrew up to this point is dependent on the question and contingent particle (what is man that) in ver. 5 (4). The question being now exhausted or exchanged for a direct affirmation, the past tense is resumed. All, everything, hast thou put under his feet, i.e. subjected to his power. The application of these terms to Christ (1 Cor. 15:27, Eph. 1:22), as the ideal representative of human nature in its restored perfection, is precisely similar to that of the expressions used in the preceding verse.
8 (7). This verse contains a mere specification of the general term all in the verse before it. Sheep, or rather flocks, including sheep and goats, and oxen, as a generic term for larger cattle, and also, not only these domesticated animals, but also, beasts of the field, which always means in Scripture wild beasts (Gen. 2:20, 3:14, 1 Sam. 17:44, Joel 1:20), field being used in such connections to denote, not the cultivated land, but the open, unenclosed, and wilder portions of the country. The whole verse is a general description of all quadrupeds or beasts, whether tame or wild.
9 (8). To complete the cycle of animated nature, the inhabitants of the air and water are now added to those of the earth. Bird of heaven, a collective phrase, denoting the birds of the sky, i.e. those which fly across the visible heavens. The common version, “fowl of the air,” is descriptive of the same objects, but is not a strict translation. And fishes of the sea, and (every thing) passing in, or through, the paths of the sea. Some read without supplying anything, fishes of the sea passing through the paths of the sea. But this weakens the expression, and is also at variance with the form of the original, where passing is a singular. Others construe it with man, who is then described as passing over the sea and ruling its inhabitants. But neither the syntax nor the sense is, on the whole, so natural as that proposed above, which makes this a residuary comprehensive clause, intended to embrace whatever might not be included in the more specific terms by which it is preceded. The dominion thus ascribed to man, as a part of his original prerogative, is not to be confounded with the coercive rule which he still exercises over the inferior creation (Gen. 9:2, James 3:7), although this is really a relic of his pristine state, and at the same time an earnest of his future restoration.
10 (9). Jehovah, our Lord, how glorious is thy name in all the earth, not only made so by the splendor of the skies, but by God’s condescending goodness to mankind. With this new evidence and clearer view of the divine perfection, the Psalmist here comes back to the point from which he started, and closes with a solemn repetition of the theme propounded in the opening sentence.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 37–40). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 7

Psalm 7

“O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver. O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust. Selah Arise, O Lord, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment. Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; over it return on high. The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous— you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.” (Psalm 7:1–17, ESV)

The Psalmist still prays for deliverance from his enemies, ver. 2, 3 (1, 2), on the ground that he is innocent of that wherewith they charge him, ver. 4–6 (3–5). He prays for justice to himself and on his enemies, as a part of that great judicial process which belongs to God as the universal judge, ver. 7–10 (6–9). He trusts in the divine discrimination between innocence and guilt, ver. 11, 12 (10, 11). He anticipates God’s vengeance on impenitent offenders, ver. 13, 14 (12, 13). He sees them forced to act as self-destroyers, ver. 15–17 (14–16). At the same time he rejoices in God’s mercy to himself, and to the whole class whom he represents, ver. 18 (17).

The penitential tone, which predominated in the sixth psalm, here gives way again to that of self-justification, perhaps because the Psalmist here speaks no longer as an individual, but as the representative of the righteous or God’s people. The two views which he thus takes of himself are perfectly consistent, and should be suffered to interpret one another.

1. Shiggaion, i.e. wandering, error. The noun occurs only here, and in the plural form, Hab. 3:1, but the verb from which it is derived is not uncommon, and is applied by Saul to his own errors with respect to David (1 Sam. 26:21). See also Ps. 119:10, 118. Hence some explain the word here as denoting moral error, sin, and make it descriptive of the subject of the psalm. See above on Ps. 5:1. Still more in accordance with the literal meaning of the root is the opinion that it here denotes the wandering of David at the period when the psalm was probably conceived. In either case, it means a song of wandering or error, which he sang, in the literal sense, or in the secondary one of poetical composition, as Virgil says, I sing the man and arms, i.e. they are the subject of my poem. To the Lord, Jehovah, to whom a large part of the psalm is really addressed. Concerning (or because of) the words of Cush the Benjamite. It is clear from ver. 4–6 (3–5), that the words referred to were calumnious reports or accusations. These may have been uttered by one Cush, a Benjamite, who nowhere else appears in history. But as this very circumstance makes it improbable that he would have been singled out, as the occasion of this psalm, from among so many slanderers, some suppose Cush to be Shimei, who cursed David when he fled from Absalom (2 Sam. 16:5–13). As the psalm, however, seems much better suited to the times of Saul, some suppose Cush, which is properly the Hebrew name of Ethiopia, to be here an enigmatical name applied to Saul himself, in reference to the blackness of his heart, and perhaps to his incorrigible wickedness. See Jer. 13:23, and Amos 9:7. The description Benjamite, is equally appropriate to Saul (1 Sam. 9:1, 2; 16:5, 11) and Shimei, who, indeed, were kinsmen. This explanation of the word Cush is less forced than it might otherwise appear, because enigmatical descriptions of the theme are not infrequent in the titles of the Psalms. See above, on Ps. 5:1, and below, on Ps. 9:1; 22:1; 53:1; 57:1; 60:1.

2 (1). The psalm opens with an expression of strong confidence in God, and a prayer founded on it. O Lord, Jehovah, my God, not merely by creation, but by special covenant, in thee, as such, and therefore in no other, I have trusted, and do still trust. This relation and this trust entitle him to audience and deliverance. Save me from all my persecutors, or pursuers, a term frequently employed in David’s history. See 1 Sam. 24:15 (14); 26:20. By these we are here to understand the whole class of worldly and ungodly men, of which Saul was the type and representative. The all suggests the urgency of the necessity, as a motive to immediate interposition. And extricate me, or deliver me. The primary idea of the verb translated save is that of making room, enlarging. See above, on Ps. 4:2 (1).

3 (2). Lest he tear, like a lion, my soul. The singular form, following the plural in the foregoing verse, may have particular reference to Saul, or to the class of which he was a type, personified as an ideal individual. The imagery of the verse is borrowed from the habits of wild beasts, with which David was familiar from a child. See 1 Sam. 17:34–37. The soul or life is mentioned as the real object of attack, and not as a mere periphrasis for the personal pronoun, as if my soul were equivalent to me. Rending, or breaking the bones, and there is none delivering, or with none to deliver.

4 (3.) He proceeds upon the principle that God will not hear the prayer of the wicked, and that he must hear that of the righteous. He proceeds, therefore, to assert his innocence, not his freedom from all sin, but from that particular offence with which he had been charged. O Lord, Jehovah, my God, as in ver. 2 (1), if I have done this, which follows, or this of which I am accused, referring to "the words of Cush," the calumnies, which gave occasion to the psalm itself. If there is, with emphasis on the verb, which might have been omitted in Hebrew, and is therefore emphatic, if there is indeed, as my accusers say, perverseness, iniquity, in my palms, in the palms of my hands, here mentioned as instruments of evil. The apodosis of the sentence is contained in ver. 6 (5) below.

5 (4). If I have repaid my friend, one at peace with me, evil, and spoiled, plundered, (one) distressing me, acting as my enemy, without a cause. There seems to be an allusion here to the two periods of David’s connection with Saul, that of their friendly intercourse, and that of their open enmity. During neither of these had David been guilty of the sins charged upon him. He had not conspired against Saul while in his service (1 Sam. 22:7, 8), and when persecuted by him he had spared his life (1 Sam. 24:10, 11). Some suppose this last fact to be here referred to, and translate the second clause, yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy. The Hebrew verb is certainly used elsewhere in this sense (2 Sam. 22:20, Ps. 6:5), but its primary meaning seems to be that of stripping or spoiling a conquered enemy. The first construction above given is moreover much more natural, and agrees better with the grammatical dependence of the second verb upon the first.

6 (5). His consciousness of innocence is expressed in the strongest manner by invoking the divine displeasure if the charge can be established. An enemy, or by poetic license, the enemy, whether Saul or the ideal enemy referred to in verse 3 (2), shall pursue, or may pursue, which is equivalent to saying, Let the enemy pursue my soul, the figure being still the same as in verse 3 (2) above, but carried out with more minuteness, and overtake (it), and trample to the earth my life, and my honor in the dust make dwell, i.e. completely prostrate and degrade. Some regard honor as equivalent to soul and life, the intelligent and vital part, which is the glory of man’s constitution. But the analogy of Ps. 3:4 (3) and 4:3 (2) makes it more probable that in this case also there is reference to the Psalmist’s personal and official honor. The allusion, however, is not so much to posthumous disgrace as to present humiliation. All this he imprecates upon himself if really guilty of the charges calumniously brought against him. The solemnity of this appeal to God, as a witness and a judge, is enhanced by the usual pause. Selah.

7 (6). Upon this protestation of his innocence he founds a fresh prayer for protection and deliverance. Arise, arouse thyself, O Lord, Jehovah. See above, on Ps. 3:8 (7). Arise in thine anger, raise thyself, or be exalted, in, i.e. amidst, the ragings of my enemies. The idea because of my enemies is rather implied than expressed. The sense directly intended seems to be that, as his enemies are raging, it is time for God to arise in anger too. As they rage against him, he calls upon God to rise in anger against them. And awake, a still stronger figure than arise, because implying sleep as well as inactivity. Awake unto me, at my call and for my benefit. Judgment hast thou commanded, or ordained. Let that judgment now be executed. He appeals to the general administration of God’s justice, as a ground for expecting it in this one case. As it was part of the divine plan or purpose to do justice, both on friends and foes, here was an opportunity to put it into execution.

8 (7). And the congregation of nations shall surround thee, which in this connection is equivalent to saying, let it surround thee. The most probable sense of these obscure words is, appear in the midst of the nations as their judge. The same connection between God’s judicial government in general and his judicial acts in a particular case, that is implied in the preceding verse, is here embodied in the figure of an oriental king dispensing justice to his subjects in a popular assembly. And above it, the assembly, to the high place, or the height, return thou. This may either mean, return to heaven when the judgment is concluded, or, which seems more natural, Resume thy seat as judge above this great ideal congregation. Above it, thus assembled to receive thee, to the high place, or the judgment-seat, return thou, after so long an absence, previously intimated by the summons to arise and awake. Inaction, sleep, and absence from the judgment-seat, are all bold metaphors for God’s delay to save his people and destroy their enemies.

9 (8). The same thing is now expressed in a direct and formal manner. Jehovah will judge, is to judge, the nations. This is laid down as a certain general proposition, from which the Psalmist draws a special inference in the shape of a petition. Judge me, O Lord, Jehovah! If it be true that God will judge the world, redress all wrong, and punish all iniquity, let him begin with me. Let me share now in the justice which is to be universally administered. Judge me, O Lord, according to my right, and my completeness, or perfection, over me, i.e. according to my innocence which covers and protects me. All such expressions must be qualified and explained by the confession of unworthiness in Ps. 6 and elsewhere, which sufficiently demonstrates that the Psalmist here makes no claim to absolute perfection and innocence, nor to any whatever that is independent of God’s sovereign mercy.

10 (9). Let cease, I pray, the badness of wicked (men). The future has an optative meaning given to it by the Hebrew particle (נָא), which is often rendered now, not as an adverb of time, but of entreaty. Between man and man, it is frequently equivalent to if you please in modern parlance. When addressed to God, it scarcely admits of any other version than I pray. The assonance or paronomasia in the common version, wickedness of the wicked, is not found in the original, where two words, not akin to one another, are employed. The plural form of wicked is also lost or left ambiguous in the common version. And thou wilt confirm, or establish, a righteous (man), and a trier of hearts and reins, constantly used in Scripture for the internal dispositions, (is the) righteous God, or (art thou) O righteous God, which last agrees best with the direct address to God in the preceding clauses. This does not merely mean that God is omniscient, and therefore able thus to try the hearts and reins, but that he actually does it. Here he is specially appealed to, as a judge or umpire between Saul, or "the wicked" whom he represented, and "the righteous," of whom David was the type and champion.

11 (10). My shield (is) upon God. My protection or defense depends on him alone. The figure is the same as in Ps. 3:4 (3) and 5:13 (12). Here again the hope of personal deliverance is founded on a general truth, as to the course of the divine administration. My shield (is) upon God, saving, or who saves, the Savior of the upright, straightforward, or sincere in heart. This is a new indirect assertion of his own integrity and innocence.

12 (11). The second word in the original of this verse may be either a participle or a noun, so that the clause admits of two translations, God (is) a righteous judge, and, God is judging, i.e. judges, the righteous. The first would be a repetition of the general truth taught in ver. 9 (8) above, but here applied to the punishment of the wicked, as it is there to the salvation of the innocent. According to the other construction, the verse before us presents both ideas: God judges the righteous, i.e. does him justice, and God is angry every day. The object of this anger, although not expressed, is obvious, and is even rendered more conspicuous by this omission. As if he had said, "God, who does justice to the righteous, has likewise objects for his indignation."

13 (12). If he, the sinner at whom God is angry, will not turn, i.e. turn back from his impious and rebellious undertakings, his sword he will whet, i.e. with a natural though sudden change of subject, God will whet his sword, often referred to as an instrument of vengeance. His bow he has trodden on, alluding to the ancient mode of bending the large and heavy bows used in battle, and made it ready. The bow and the sword were the most common weapons used in ancient warfare. The past tense of these verbs implies that the instruments of vengeance are prepared already, and not merely viewed as something future.

14 (13). And at him (the wicked enemy) he has aimed, or directed, the instruments of death, his deadly weapons. This is still another step in advance. The weapons are not only ready for him, but aimed at him. His arrows to (be) burning he will make, i.e. he will make his arrows burning arrows, in allusion to the ancient military custom of shooting ignited darts or arrows into besieged towns, for the purpose of setting them on fire, as well as that of personal injury. The figurative terms in these two verses all express the certainty and promptness of the divine judgments on incorrigible sinners. For even these denunciations are not absolute, but suspended on the enemy’s repentance or persistency in evil. That significant phrase, if he will not turn, may be tacitly supplied as qualifying every threatening in the book, however strong and unconditional in its expressions.

15 (14). Behold, he, the wicked man, will writhe, or travail (with) iniquity, (towards others), and conceive mischief (to himself), and bring forth falsehood, self-deception, disappointment. The meaning seems to be, that while bringing his malignant schemes to maturity, he will unconsciously conceive and bring forth ruin to himself.

16 (15) The same idea is then expressed by other figures, borrowed perhaps from certain ancient modes of hunting. A well he has digged, i.e. a pitfall for his enemy, and hollowed it, or made it deep, and fallen into the pit he is making, or about to make. The change from the past tense to the future seems to place the catastrophe between the inception and completion of the plan. The translation of the last verb as a simple preterite is entirely ungrammatical.

17 (16). Still a third variation of the same theme. His mischief shall return upon his own head, literally into it, like a falling body which not only rests upon an object, but sinks and is imbedded in it. And on his own crown his violence, including the ideas of injustice and cruelty, shall come down.

18 (17). While the wicked enemy of God and his people is thus made to execute the sentence on himself, the Psalmist already exults in the experience of God’s saving mercy. I will praise the Lord, Jehovah, i.e. acknowledge his favors. See above, on Ps. 6:6 (5). According to his right, desert, or due, as in ver. 9 (8) above. Or according to his righteousness, his justice, i.e. the praise shall correspond to the display just made of this attribute, as well in the deliverance of the Psalmist as in the destruction of his enemies. And I will sing praise, praise by singing, praise in song, the name, the manifested excellence (see above, on Ps. 5:12 (11),) of the Lord, Jehovah, High or Most High. He will praise the Lord in this exalted character as manifested by his dealings in the case which gave occasion to the psalm. The resolution thus expressed may be considered as fulfilled in the psalm itself, so confident is he that it cannot be performed before his prayer is answered. Or the words may be understood as engaging to continue these acknowledgments hereafter.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained. Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 6

Psalm 6

“O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long? Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer. All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.” (Psalm 6:1–10, ESV)

The psalmist prays for the removal of God’s chastisements, ver. 2 (1), because they have already brought him very low, ver. 3, 4 (2, 3), because the divine glory will be promoted by his rescue, ver. 5 (4), and obscured by his destruction, ver. 6 (5), and because, unless speedily relieved, he can no longer bear up under his sufferings, ver. 7, 8 (6, 7). He is nevertheless sure of the divine compassion, ver. 9 (8). His prayer is heard and will be answered, ver. 10 (9), in the defeat and disappointment of his enemies, by whose malignant opposition his distress was caused, ver. 11 (10). This reference to his enemies constitutes the link of connection between this psalm and the foregoing series, and maintains the contrast, running through that series, between two great classes of mankind, the righteous and the wicked, the subjects of Messiah and the rebels against him, the friends and foes of the theocracy, the friends and foes of David, as an individual, a sovereign, and a type of the Messiah. At the same time, this psalm differs wholly from the others in its tone of querulous but humble grief, which has caused it to be reckoned as the first of the Penitential psalms. This tone is suddenly exchanged, in ver. 9 (8), for one of confident assurance, perfectly in keeping with what goes before, and true to nature.

1. For the Chief Musician, (to be sung) with stringed instruments upon the eighth. This last word corresponds exactly to our octave; but its precise application in the ancient music we have now no means of ascertaining. An instrument of eight strings, which some suppose to be the sense, could hardly be described by the ordinal number eighth. We probably lose little by our incapacity to understand these technical expressions, while, at the same time, their very obscurity may serve to confirm our faith in their antiquity and genuineness, as parts of the original composition. This psalm, like the three which immediately precede it, describes itself as a psalm of (or by) David, belonging to David, as its author. The correctness of this statement there is as little reason to dispute in this as in either of the other cases.

2 (1). O Lord, Jehovah, do not in thine anger rebuke me, and do not in thy heat, or hot displeasure, chasten me. Both the original verbs properly denote the conviction and reproof of an offender in words, but are here, as often elsewhere, applied to providential chastisements, in which God speaks with a reproving voice. This is not a prayer for the mitigation of the punishment, like that in Jer. 10:24, but for its removal, as appears from the account of the answer in ver. 9–11 (8–10). Such a petition, while it indicates a strong faith, at the same time recognises the connection between suffering and sin. In the very act of asking for relief, the psalmist owns that he is justly punished. This may serve to teach us how far the confident tone of the preceding psalms is from betraying a self-righteous spirit, or excluding the consciousness of personal unworthiness and ill-desert. The boldness there displayed is not that of self-reliance, but of faith.

3 (2). Have mercy upon me, or be gracious unto me, O Lord, Jehovah, for drooping, languishing, am I. The original construction is, for I am (one who) droops or withers, like a blighted plant. Like a child complaining to a parent, he describes the greatness of his suffering as a reason for relieving him. Heal me, O Lord, Jehovah, for shaken, agitated with distress and terror, are my bones, here mentioned as the strength and framework of the body. This might seem to indicate corporeal disease as the whole from which he prays to be delivered. But the absence of any such allusion in the latter part of the psalm, and the explicit mention there of enemies as the occasion of his sufferings, shews that the pain of body here described was that arising from distress of mind, and which could only be relieved by the removal of the cause. To regard the bodily distress as a mere figure for internal anguish, would be wholly arbitrary and destructive of all sure interpretation. The physical effect here ascribed to moral causes is entirely natural and confirmed by all experience.

4 (3). The Psalmist himself guards against the error of supposing that his worst distresses were corporeal. And my soul, as well as my body, or more than thy body, which merely sympathizes with it, is greatly agitated, terror-stricken, the same word that was applied to the bones in the preceding verse. The description of his suffering is then interrupted by another apostrophe to God. And thou, O Lord, Jehovah, until when, how long? The sentence is left to be completed by the reader: how long wilt thou leave me thus to suffer? how long before thou wilt appear for my deliverance? This question, in its Latin form, Domine quousque, was Calvin’s favourite ejaculation in his times of suffering, and especially of painful sickness.

5 (4). The expostulatory question is now followed by direct petition. Return, O Lord, Jehovah, deliver my soul, my life, my self, from this impending death. As God seems to be absent when his people suffer, so relief is constantly described as his return to them. (Oh) save me, a still more comprehensive term than that used in the first clause, for the sake of thy mercy, not merely according to it, as a rule or measure, but to vindicate it from reproach, and do it honour, as a worthy end to be desired and accomplished.

6 (5). As a further reason for his rescue, he now urges that without it God will lose the honour, and himself the happiness, of his praises and thanksgivings. For there is not in death, or the state of the dead, thy remembrance, any remembrance of thee. In Sheol, the grave, as a general receptacle, here parallel to death, and, like it, meaning the unseen world or state of the dead, who will acknowledge, or give thanks, to thee? The Hebrew verb denotes that kind of praise called forth by the experience of goodness. The question in the last clause is equivalent to the negative proposition in the first. This verse does not prove that David had no belief or expectation of a future state, nor that the intermediate state is an unconscious one, but only that in this emergency he looks no further than the close of life, as the appointed term of thanksgiving and praise. Whatever might eventually follow, it was certain that his death would put an end to the praise of God, in that form and those circumstances to which he had been accustomed. See below, on Ps. 30:10 (9); 88:11–13 (10–12), 115:17, 18, and compare Isa. 38:18. So far is the argument here urged from being weakened by our clearer knowledge of the future state, that it is greatly strengthened by the substitution of the second or eternal death.

7 (6). I am weary in (or of) my groaning, I have become wearied with it, and unless I am relieved, I shall (still as hitherto) make my bed swim every night, my couch with tears I shall dissolve, or make to flow. The uniform translation of the verbs as presents does not bring out their full meaning, or express the idea, suggested in the Hebrew by the change of tense, that the grief which had already become wearisome must still continue without mitigation, unless God should interpose for his deliverance. Thus understood, the verse is not a mere description, but a disguised prayer.

8 (7). Mine eye has failed, grown dim, a common symptom both of mental and bodily distress, from vexation, not mere grief, but grief mixed with indignation at my enemies. It has grown old, dim like the eye of an old man, a still stronger expression of the same idea, in (the midst of) all my enemies, or in (consequence of) all my enemies, i.e. of their vexatious conduct. Compare Ps. 31:10 (9). In these two verses he resumes the description of his own distress, in order to shew that the argument in ver. 6 (5) was appropriate to his case, as that of one drawing near to death, and therefore likely soon to lose the capacity and opportunity of praising God.

9 (8). Here the key abruptly changes from the tone of sorrowful complaint to that of joyful confidence. No gradual transition could have so successfully conveyed the idea that the prayer of the psalmist has been heard, and will be answered. The effect is like that of a whisper in the sufferer’s ear, while still engrossed with his distresses, to assure him that they are about to terminate. This he announces by a direct and bold address to his persecuting enemies. Depart from me, all ye doers of iniquity, the same phrase that occurs in Ps. 5:6 (5). The sense is not that he will testify his gratitude by abjuring all communion with the wicked, but that his assurance of divine protection relieves him from all fear of his wicked foes. When God arises, then his enemies are scattered. This sense is required by the last clause of ver. 8 (7), and confirmed by a comparison with ver. 11 (10), For the Lord, Jehovah, hath heard the voice of my weeping, or my weeping voice. The infrequency of silent grief is said to be characteristic of the orientals, and the same thing may be observed in Homer’s pictures of heroic manners.

10 (9). Jehovah hath heard my supplication. The assurance of this fact relieves all fear as to the future. Jehovah my prayer will receive. The change of tense is not unmeaning or fortuitous. The combination of the past and future represents the acceptance as complete and final, as already begun, and certain to continue. The particular petition thus accepted is the one expressed or implied in the next verse.

11 (10). Ashamed and confounded, i.e. disappointed and struck with terror, shall be all my enemies. The desire that they may be is not expressed, but involved in the confident anticipation that they will be. In the second verb there is an obvious allusion to its use in ver. 3, 4 (2, 3). As he had been terror-stricken, so shall they be. As they filled him with consternation, so shall God fill them. They shall return, turn back from their assault repulsed; they shall be ashamed, filled with shame at their defeat; and that not hereafter, (in) a moment, instantaneously.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained. Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 5

Psalm 5

“To the choirmaster: for the flutes. A Psalm of David. Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:title–12, ESV)

The Psalmist prays for the divine help, ver. 2 (1), on the ground that Jehovah is his King and his God, ver. 3 (2), that he early and constantly invokes his aid, ver. 4 (3), that the enemies, from whom he seeks to be delivered, are the enemies of God, ver. 5, 6 (4, 5), and as such must inevitably perish, ver. 7 (6), while he, as the representative of God’s friends, must be rescued, ver. 8 (7). He then goes over the same ground afresh, asking again to be protected from his enemies, ver. 9 (8), again describing them as desperately wicked, ver. 10 (9), again appealing to God’s justice to destroy them, ver. 11 (10), and again anticipating certain triumph, ver. 12 (11), on the ground of God’s habitual and uniform dealing with the righteous, ver. 13 (12). As the two preceding psalms appear to constitute a pair, so this one seems to contain such a pair or double psalm within itself. It is also obvious that this is but a further variation of the theme which runs through the preceding psalms, and therefore an additional proof that their arrangement in the book is not fortuitous or arbitrary. If ver. 4 (3) of this psalm be supposed to mark it as a morning hymn, its affinity to the two before it becomes still more close and striking.

1. To (or for) the Chief Musician. See above on Ps. 4:1. To (or for) Nehiloth. This, though undoubtedly a part of the original inscription, is obscure and enigmatical. Its very obscurity indeed may be regarded as a proof of its antiquity and genuineness. Some understand it to mean flutes or wind-instruments in general, as Neginoth, in the title of the fourth psalm, means stringed instruments. The sense would then be: (to be sung) to (an accompaniment of) flutes or wind-instruments. But as the Hebrew word is nowhere else used in this sense, and the preposition here employed is not the one prefixed to names of instruments, and flutes are nowhere mentioned as a part of the temple music, others make Nehiloth the name of a tune, or of another song to the melody of which this was to be adapted: (to be sung) to (the air of) Nehiloth. Others follow the ancient version in making it refer, not to the musical performance, but the subject of the psalm: (as) to inheritances, lots, or destinies, viz. those of the righteous and the wicked. This is favored by the circumstance, that most of the other enigmatical inscriptions of the psalms may be more probably explained as having reference to their theme or subject than in any other manner. The title closes, as in the foregoing psalm, by ascribing it to David as its author. Nor is there anything, as we shall see, to militate against the truth of this inscription.

2 (1). To my words, O Lord, Jehovah, give ear, perceive my thought. Attend not only to my vocal and audible petitions, but to my unexpressed desires, to those "groanings which cannot be uttered," but are no less significant to God than language (Rom. 8:26, 27). The second verb suggests the idea of attention, as well as that of simple apprehension.

3 (2). Hearken to the voice of my crying, or my cry for help, to which the Hebrew word is always specially applied. My king and my God, not as a mere creator and providential ruler, but as the covenant God and king of Israel, whom David represented. As he was himself the king of Israel, so God was his king, the lord paramount or sovereign, in whose right he reigned. This address involves a reason why his prayer must be heard. God, as the king of his people, could not deny them his protection, and they asked no other. For to thee, and thee only, will I pray. As if he had said, It is in this capacity that I invoke thee, and I therefore must be heard. This is a specimen of that παῤῥησία, or freedom of speech towards God, which is recognized as an effect and evidence of faith, in the New as well as the Old Testament, Heb. 4:16, 10:19, 35; 1 John 2:28, 3:21, 4:17, 5:14.

4 (3). O Lord, Jehovah, (in) the morning thou shalt hear my voice. This is not so much a request to be heard as a resolution to persist in prayer. The reference may be either to stated hours of prayer or to early devotion as a proof of earnestness and faith. See Ps. 55:18 (17), 88:14 (13.) (In) the morning I will set (my prayer) in order, to (or for) thee. There is here a beautiful allusion to the Mosaic ritual, which is unavoidably lost in a translation. The Hebrew verb is the technical term used in the Old Testament to signify the act of arranging the wood upon the altar (Gen. 22:9, Lev. 1:7, 1 Kings 18:33), and the shewbread on the table (Exod. 40:23, Lev. 24:6, 8). It would therefore necessarily suggest the idea of prayer as an oblation, here described as a kind of morning sacrifice to God. And I will look out, or watch, for an answer to my prayers. The image presented is that of one looking from a wall or tower in anxious expectation of approaching succor. A similar use of the same verb occurs in Hab. 2:1, and Micah 7:7. True faith is not contented with the act of supplication, but displays itself in eager expectation of an answer.

5 (4). Here, as elsewhere, the Psalmist identifies his cause with God’s, and anticipates the downfall of his enemies because they are sinners and therefore odious in God’s sight. For not a God delighting in wickedness (art) thou, as might appear to be the case if these should go unpunished. It is necessary, therefore, for the divine honor, that they should not go unpunished. Not with thee, as thy guest or friend, shall evil, or the bad (man), dwell. For an opposite use of the same figure, see below, Ps. 15:1, 61:5 (4). It is still implied, that the impunity of sinners would appear as if God harbored and abetted them, and therefore must be inconsistent with his honor as a holy God.

6 (5). What was said in the preceding verse of sin is here, to prevent misapprehension, said of sinners. They shall not stand, the proud, or insolent, here put for wicked men in general and for the Psalmist’s enemies in particular, before thine eyes. Thou canst not bear the presence of thy moral opposites. Sin is not only opposed to God’s will, but repugnant to his nature. By ceasing to hate it, he would cease to be holy, cease to be perfect, cease to be God. This idea is expressed more directly in the other clause. Thou hast hated, and must still hate, all doers of iniquity. This last word is originally a negative, meaning inanity or nonentity, but like several other negatives in Hebrew, is employed as a strong term to denote moral deficiency and worthlessness.

7 (6). As the preceding verse extends what was said of sin in the abstract to personal offenders, so here what was said of the divine dispositions is applied to divine acts. That which God hates he must destroy. Particular classes of transgressors are here put, as before, by way of specimen or sample, for the whole; with special reference, however, to the sins of David’s enemies. Thou wilt destroy speakers of falsehood; see above, on Ps. 4:3 (2). A man of blood, literally bloods, the plural form being commonly used where there is reference to blood-guiltiness or murder. See Gen. 4:10, 11; Ps. 51:16 (14). A man of blood and fraud, a bloody and deceitful man, the Lord, Jehovah, will abhor; he must and will shew his abhorrence by the punishment of such offenders. This confident anticipation of God’s righteous retributions really involves a prayer for the deliverance of the Psalmist from his enemies.

8 (7). For the same reason he is equally confident in the anticipation of his own deliverance. Since his enemies must perish as the enemies of God, he must escape, not on account of his own merit, nor simply as an object of God’s favor, but as the champion of his cause, his earthly vicegerent, the type and representative of his Messiah. And I, as distinguished from these sinners, in the abundance of thy mercy, which excludes all reliance on his own strength or goodness, will come to thy house, the tabernacle set up on Mount Zion by David. I will worship, literally prostrate or bow myself, towards thy temple of holiness, thy holy temple, or rather palace, so called as the residence of Israel’s divine King, and therefore no less applicable to the tabernacle than the temple. See 1 Sam. 1:9, 3:3, Ps. 27:4, 28:2. Towards, not in, because the worshippers did not go into the sanctuary itself, but worshipped in the court, with their faces turned towards the place of God’s manifested presence. Such usages are now superseded by the advent of the true sanctuary. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4). In thy fear, the reverence engendered even by the view and the experience of God’s mercy. There may be an allusion in this verse to David’s painful sense of his exclusion from the house of God (2 Sam. 15:25); but it cannot be merely an anticipation of renewed access to the sanctuary, which was equally open to all others, and could not therefore be used to indicate the contrast between his condition and that of others. The verse is rather an engagement to acknowledge God’s delivering mercy in the customary manner. See below, Ps. 66:13. As if he had said, While my enemies perish by the hand of God, I shall be brought by his mercy to give thanks for my deliverance at his sanctuary.

9 (8). The Psalmist here begins his prayer and argument anew, pursuing the same order as before. O Lord, Jehovah, lead me, guide me safely, in thy righteousness, i.e. in the exercise of that same justice which destroys my enemies, on account of my enemies, that they may not triumph; make straight before my face thy way, i.e. mark out a safe and easy path for me to tread. The explanation of the way as that of duty and obedience, although not at variance with scriptural usage, is less suited to the context here, in which the prayer throughout is for protection and deliverance.

10 (9). The same reason as before is now assigned for his deliverance from his enemies, viz. because they were the enemies of God, and they were such because they were atrocious sinners. For there is nothing in his mouth, i.e. the mouth of any one of them, or of all concentrated in one ideal person, sure or certain, i.e. true. Their inside, their heart, their real disposition, as distinguished from the outward appearance, (is) mischiefs, injuries, or crimes, consists of nothing else. A grave opened, to receive the victim, (is) their throat, like that of a devouring monster. Or the throat may be mentioned as an organ of speech, as in Ps. 149:6, 115:7, and compared with the grave as a receptacle of corruption or a place of destruction. Their tongue they smooth, or make smooth, by hypocrisy or flattery, as the wicked woman is said to make her words smooth, Prov. 2:16, 7:5. The Septuagint version of this clause is quoted by Paul (Rom. 3:13), with several other passages from the Old Testament, as a strong description of human depravity. The last words are rendered in that version, "with their tongues they have used craft or deceit," an idea really included in the literal translation.

11 (10). Condemn them, literally make them guilty, i.e. recognise and treat them as such, O God! They shall fall, i.e. they must, they cannot but fall, a common figure for destruction (Ps. 36:13, 141:10), from their plans, i.e., before they can accomplish them, or in consequence, by means of them. (Compare Hos. 11:6). In the fulness, or abundance, of their sins, thrust them forth, cast them out from thy presence, and down from their present exaltation. For they have rebelled against thee, not me, or against me only as thy instrument and representative. Or the opposition may be between rebelling against God and simply sinning against man. The imperative and future forms, in this verse, both express the certainty of the event, with an implication of approving acquiescence. Such expressions, in the Psalms, have never really excited or encouraged a spirit of revenge in any reader, and are no more fitted to have that effect than the act of a judge who condemns a criminal to death, or of the officer who executes the sentence. The objections often urged against such passages are not natural, but spring from over-refinement and a false view of the Psalms as expressions of mere personal feeling. See below, on Ps. 7:13 (12).

12 (11). The transition and contrast are the same as in ver. 8 (7) above. While the wicked perish, the righteous shall have cause for everlasting joy. And all (those) trusting in thee, making thee their refuge, shall be glad; for ever shall they shout (or sing) for joy, and (not without cause, for) thou wilt cover over (or protect) them; and in thee, in thy presence and thy favour, shall exult, or triumph, (the) lovers of thy name, i.e. of thy manifested excellence, which is the usual sense of this expression in the Old Testament. The believers and lovers of God’s name, here spoken of, are not merely friends of the psalmist who rejoice in his deliverance, but the great congregation of God’s people, to which he belonged, and of which he was the representative, so that his deliverance was theirs, and a rational occasion of their joy, not only on his account but on their own.

13 (12). The confident hope expressed in the foregoing verse was not a groundless or capricious one, but founded on the nature of God and the uniform tenor of his dispensations. The psalmist knows what God will do in this case, because he knows what he does and will do still in general. For thou wilt bless, and art wont to bless, the righteous, the opposite of those described in ver. 5–7 (4–6) and 10, 11 (9, 10), O Lord, Jehovah! Like the shield, as the shield protects the soldier (so with) favour thou wilt surround him, or enclose him, still referring to the righteous; see the same comparison in Ps. 3:4 (3.) The confident assertion that God will do so, implies that he has done so, and is wont to do so, to the righteous as a class. And this affords a reasonable ground for the belief, expressed in the preceding verse, that he will do so also in the present case.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained. Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 4

Psalm 4

“To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David. Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4, ESV)


The Psalmist prays God to deliver him from present as from past distresses, ver. 2 (1). He assures the haters of his regal dignity that God bestowed it, and will certainly protect it, ver. 3, 4 (2, 3). He exhorts them to quiet submission, righteousness, and trust in God, ver. 5, 6 (4, 5). He contrasts his own satisfaction, springing from such trust, with the hopeless disquietude of others, even in the midst of their enjoyments, ver. 7, 8 (6, 7). He closes with an exquisite proof of his tranquility by falling asleep, as it were, before us, under the divine protection, ver. 9 (8). The resemblance of the last verse to ver. 6 (5) of the preceding psalm, together with the general similarity of structure, shews that, like the first and second, they were meant to form a pair, or double psalm. For the reasons given in explaining Ps. 3:6 (5), the third may be described as a morning, and the fourth as an evening psalm. The historical occasion is of course the same in both, though mentioned only in the title of the third, while the musical directions are given in the title of the fourth. The absence of personal and local allusions is explained by the object of the composition, which was not to express private feelings merely, but to furnish a vehicle of pious sentiment for other sufferers, and the church at large.

1. To the chief musician, literally the overseer or superintendent, of any work or labor (2 Chron. 2:1, 17, 34:12), and of the temple music in particular (1 Chron. 15:21). The psalm is described as belonging to him, as the performer, or as intended for him, to be given to him. This shews that it was written for the use of the ancient church, and not for any merely private purpose. That this direction was not added by a later hand is clear from the fact that it never appears in the latest psalms. The same formula occurs at the beginning of fifty-three psalms, and at the close of the one in the third chapter of Habakkuk. A more specific musical direction follows. In, on, or with stringed instruments. This may either qualify chief musician, as denoting the leader in that particular style of performance, or direct him to perform this particular psalm with that kind of accompaniment. A psalm to David, i.e. belonging to him as the author, just as it belonged to the chief musician, as the performer. The original expression is the same in both cases. Of David conveys the sense correctly, but is rather a paraphrase than a translation.

2 (1). The psalm opens with a prayer for deliverance founded on previous experience of God’s mercy. In my calling, when I call, hear me, in the pregnant sense of hearing favorably, hear and answer me, grant me what I ask. O my God of righteousness, my righteous God! Compare my hill of holiness, Ps. 2:6, and his hill of holiness, Ps. 3:5 (4). The appeal to God, as a God of righteousness, implies the justice of the Psalmist’s cause, and shews that he asks nothing inconsistent with God’s holiness. The same rule should govern all our prayers, which must be impious if they ask God to deny himself. The mercy here asked is no new or untried favor. It is because he has experienced it before that he dares to ask it now. In the pressure, or confinement, a common figure for distress, which I have heretofore experienced, thou hast widened, or made room for me, the corresponding figure for relief. All he asks is that this may be repeated. Have mercy upon me, or be gracious unto me, now as in former times, and hear my prayer. This appeal to former mercies, as a ground for claiming new ones, is characteristic of the Bible and of true religion. Among men past favors may forbid all further expectations; but no such rule applies to the divine compassions. The more we draw from this source, the more copious and exhaustless it becomes.

3 (2). Sons of man! In Hebrew, as in Greek, Latin, and German, there are two words answering to man, one generic and the other specific. When placed in opposition to each other, they denote men of high and low degree, as in Ps. 49:3 (2), 62:10 (9), Prov. 8:4. It seems better, therefore, to give the phrase here used its emphatic sense, as signifying men of note or eminence, rather than the vague one of men in general or human beings. This agrees, moreover, with the probable occasion of this psalm, viz., the rebellion of Absalom, in which the leading men of Israel were involved. To what (time), i.e. how long, or to what (point), degree of wickedness; most probably the former. How long (shall) my honor, not merely personal, but official, (be) for shame, i.e. be so accounted, or (be converted) into shame, by my humiliation? David never loses sight of his religious dignity as a theocratical king and a type of the Messiah, or of the insults offered to the latter in his person. The question, how long? implies that it had lasted long enough, nay, too long, even when it first began; in other words, that it was wrong from the beginning. (How long) will ye love vanity, or a vain thing, in the sense both of a foolish, hopeless undertaking, and of something morally defective or worthless. The same word is used above in reference to the insurrection of the nations against God and Christ (Ps. 2:1). (How long) will ye seek a lie, i.e. seek to realize a vain imagination, or to verify a false pretension, with particular reference perhaps to the deceitful policy of Absalom (2 Sam. 15:4, 7). As the love of the first clause denotes the bent of their affections, so the seek of this clause signifies the acting out of their internal dispositions. Compare Ps. 34:15 (14), and Zeph. 2:3. The feeling of indignant surprise implied in the interrogation is expressed still further by a solemn pause. Selah. See above, on Ps. 3:3 (2). The position of this word, here and in ver. 5 (4) below, seems to forbid the division of the psalm into strophes or stanzas of equal length.

4 (3). The pause at the close of the preceding verse expresses feeling. The connection of the verses, as to sense, is as intimate as possible. The and at the beginning of the verse before us has reference to the exhortation implied in the foregoing question. (See above, on Ps. 2:6.) Cease to love vanity and seek a lie, and know, be assured, that the Lord, Jehovah, hath set apart, the same verb used to signify the segregation of Israel from the rest of men (Ex. 8:18, 9:4, 11:7, 33:16), here applied to the designation of an individual to the highest theocratical dignity. The Lord hath set apart for himself, for his own service, the execution of his own plans, and the promotion of his own honor. It was not, therefore, an attack on David, but on God himself and the Messiah whom he represented. The Hebrew word חָסִיד, derived from חֶסֶד, love to God or man, may either signify an object of the divine mercy, or one actuated by religions love. If both ideas are included, which is altogether probable, neither godly nor any other single word in English is an adequate translation. The predominant idea seems to be the passive one, so that the words are not so much descriptive of religious character as of divine choice: and know that the Lord hath set apart for the accomplishment of his own purpose one selected in his sovereign mercy for that purpose. This is mentioned as a proof that their hostility was vain, and that the prayer of verse 2 (1) would certainly be heard and answered. This followed as a necessary consequence from the relation which the Psalmist bore to God, not only as a godly man, but as a theocratic sovereign. The Lord, Jehovah, will hear, in my calling, when I call, unto him. The terms of the opening petition are here studiously repeated, so as to connect the prayer itself with the expression of assured hope that it will be answered.

5 (4). The address to his enemies is still continued, but merely as a vehicle of truth and his own feelings. Rage and sin not, i.e. do not sin by raging, as you have done, against me, the Lord’s Anointed, and indirectly therefore against himself. This construction of the Hebrew words, though not the most obvious or agreeable to usage, agrees best with the context and with the Septuagint version, adopted by Paul in Ephesians 4:26, where the precept, Be ye angry and sin not, seems to be a positive prohibition of anger, i.e., of its willful continuance, as appears from what the apostle adds, perhaps in allusion to the last clause of the verse before us. Some, it is true, have understood Paul as meaning, Be angry upon just occasions, but be careful not to sin by groundless anger or excess. But even if this be the sense of the words there, it is entirely inappropriate here, where the anger of the enemies was altogether sinful, and they could not therefore be exhorted to indulge it. There is still another meaning which the Hebrew words will bear. The verb strictly means to be violently moved with any passion or emotion, whether anger (Prov. 29:9), grief (2 Sam. 18:32), or fear (Isa. 32:11). It might therefore be translated here, tremble, stand in awe, and sin not. But this, although it yields a good sense, cuts off all connection between David’s words and those of Paul, and makes the explanation of the latter still more difficult. The English word rage not only conveys the sense of the original correctly, but is probably connected with it in its etymology. The command to cease from raging against God and his Anointed, is still further carried out in the next clause. Say in your heart, to yourselves, and not aloud, much less with clamor, what you have to say. The Hebrew verb does not mean to speak but to say, and, like this English word, is always followed by the words spoken, except in a few cases where they can be instantly supplied from the context. E.g. Exod. 19:25, "So Moses went unto the people and said (not spake) to them" what God had just commanded him. Gen. 4:8, "And Gain said to Abel his brother (not talked with him)," let us go into the field, as appears from what immediately follows. Compare 2 Chron. 2:10 (11). It might here be rendered, say (so) in your heart, i.e. say we will no longer sin by raging against David; but the other is more natural, and agrees better with what follows. Say (what you do say) in your heart, upon your bed, i.e. in the silence of the night, often spoken of in Scripture as the season of reflection (Eph. 4:26), and be still, be silent, implying repentance and submission to authority. The effect of this exhortation to be still is beautifully strengthened by a pause in the performance. Selah.

6 (5). Before his enemies can be successful they must have a fear of God and a faith, of which they are entirely destitute. This confirmation of the Psalmist’s hopes is clothed in the form of an exhortation to his enemies. Offer offerings, or sacrifice sacrifices, of righteousness, i.e. righteous sacrifices, prompted by a right motive, and implying a correct view of the divine nature. There may be an allusion to the hypocritical services of Absalom, and especially his pretended vow (2 Sam. 15:7, 8). The form of expression here is borrowed from Deut. 33:19. As an indispensable prerequisite to such a service, he particularly mentions faith. And trust in the Lord, Jehovah, not in any human help or temporal advantages.

7 (6). Many (there are) saying, Who will shew us good? This may be in allusion to the anxious fears of his companions in misfortune, but is more probably a picture of the disquiet and unsatisfied desire arising from the want of faith and righteousness described in the foregoing verse. Of all who do not trust in God it may be said, that they are continually asking Who will shew us good, who will shew us wherein happiness consists, and how we may obtain it? In contrast with this restlessness of hope or of despair, he shews his own acquaintance with the true source of tranquility by a petition founded on the ancient and authoritative form in which the High Priest was required to bless the people (Num. 6:24–26). "The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make his face shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace." Two of these solemn benedictions are here mingled in a prayer. Lift upon us the light of thy countenance, O Lord, Jehovah! The light of the countenance is a favorite figure in the Psalms, for a favorable aspect or expression. See Ps. 31:17 (16), 44:4 (3), 80:4 (3). The lifting up may have reference to the rising of the sun, or be put in opposition to the act of looking down or away from any object, as a token of aversion or displeasure. Upon us extends the prayer to his companions in misfortune, or to all God’s people, or to men in general, as if he had said, This is the only hope of our lost race. The plural form may be compared with those in the Lord’s Prayer, as indicating the expansive comprehensive spirit of true piety.

8 (7). The faith, of which his enemies were destitute, he possessed in such a measure, that the mere anticipation of God’s favor made him happier, in the midst of his distresses, than his foes in the actual possession of their temporal advantages. Thou hast given gladness in my heart, not to my heart, but to me in my heart, i.e. a real, inward, heartfelt gladness, more than the time, or more than when, i.e. more than they ever enjoyed when their corn and their wine abounded, or increased. The original nouns properly denote the new corn and wine of the passing year, the fresh fruits of the field and vineyard. The reference may be either to the proverbial joy of harvest and of vintage, or to the abundant stores of David’s enemies contrasted with his own condition when dependent on a faithful servant for subsistence (2 Sam. 16:1, 2).

9 (8). With this faith in the divine protection, he has nothing even to disturb his rest. In peace, tranquility, composure, at once, or at the same time, by the same act, I will lie down and will sleep, or rather go to sleep, fall asleep, which is the meaning of the Hebrew verb in Gen. 2:21, 41:5, 1 Kings 19:5, and elsewhere. Nothing could be more natural and beautiful, as a description of complete tranquility, than this trait borrowed from the physical habits of the young, the healthy, and those free from all anxiety, to whom the act of lying down and that of sleeping are almost coincident. The ground of this security is given in the last clause. For thou, Lord, Jehovah, alone in safety, or security, wilt make me dwell. The future form, though not exclusive of the present (see above, on Ps. 1:2), should be retained because it indicates the Psalmist’s assured hope of something not yet realized, and is thus in perfect keeping with ver. 8 (7). Alone may be connected with what goes before: for thou Lord, and no other, thou, even though all other friends and advantages should fail me, art sufficient to protect and provide for me. Or it may be connected with what follows: alone, in safety, thou wilt make me dwell. There is then an allusion to the repeated application of the same Hebrew word to Israel as dwelling apart from other nations under God’s protection and in the enjoyment of his favor. See Num. 23:9, Duet. 33:28, 29, and compare Micah 7:14, Jer. 49:31, Deut. 4:7, 8, 2 Sam. 7:23. What was originally said of the people is then transferred, as in ver. 4 (3) above, to David, not as a private member of the ancient church, however excellent, but as its theocratic head and representative, in whom, as afterwards more perfectly in Christ, the promises to Israel were verified and realized. This last interpretation of alone is so striking, and agrees so well with the other allusions in this context to the Pentateuch, e.g. to Lev. 25:18, 19, and Deut. 33:12 in this verse, and to Num. 6:24–26 in ver. 7 (6), that some combine the two constructions, and suppose alone to have a kind of double sense, as if he had said, Thou alone wilt make me dwell alone. Although the form of this verse has respect to the particular historical occasion of the psalm, the sentiment is so expressed as to admit of an unforced application to the case of every suffering believer, and to the distresses of the church at large, for whose use it was not only left on record but originally written.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained. Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)


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