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Psalm 23

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” (Psalm 23, AV)

Psalm 23

An exquisite description of God’s care over his people under the figure of a shepherd and his flock, no doubt suggested by the writer’s recollections of his own pastoral experience, although probably composed at a much later period of his life. The idea of the whole psalm is contained in ver. 1, carried out and amplified in ver. 2–5, and again summed up, without continuing the metaphor, in ver. 6. The psalm is so constructed as at the same time to express the feelings of the Psalmist, and to serve as a vehicle for those of every individual believer and of the whole body of God’s people for whose use it was intended.

1. A Psalm of David. Jehovah (is) my shepherd, I shall not want. This is the general theme or idea of the whole psalm, that the believer’s relation to Jehovah carries with it necessarily the full supply of all his wants. Spiritual gifts are neither excluded nor exclusively intended. No nice distinction between these and temporal advantages is here made for us, and none need be made by us. The comparison of God’s care to that of a shepherd is first used by Jacob, (Gen. 48:15, 49:24), then by Moses (Deut. 32:6–12, compared with Ps. 78:52), both of whom, like David, had themselves lived a pastoral life. From these the figure is frequently borrowed by the later writers of the Old Testament. See Isa. 40:11, Ezek. 34:12, Micah 7:14, Ps. 80:2 (1), 95:7. This endearing relation of Jehovah to his people was exercised under the old dispensation by the agency of human or angelic messengers, but under the new by Christ, of whom these were only types and representatives (Zech. 13:7), and to whom the figure is expressly applied by himself (John 10:11), and his apostles (1 Peter 2:25, 5:4, Heb. 13:20). From him again, on the principle of delegated representation, is derived the pastoral character of Christian ministers (Eph. 4:11). The future form, I shall not want, includes the present, I do not want, with an additional assurance that the provision will be still continued. The form of expression is derived from Deut 2:7, 8:9, and recurs below, Ps. 34:11 (10).

2. In pastures of verdure he will make me lie down; by waters of rest (or repose) he will lead me. Here begins the amplification of the general proposition in the foregoing verse. The first specification is, that he shall not want healthful and delightful rest. This is expressed by figures borrowed from the exquisite enjoyment of a flock in verdant and well-watered pastures. The allusion, in the first clause, is not to the supply of food, which is mentioned afterwards in ver. 5, but to the refreshing rest and coolness of green meadows. The first noun properly means dwellings, but is applied specifically to the dwellings of flocks, i.e. their pasture-grounds. See below, Ps. 65:13 (12), and compare Amos 1:2, Jer. 9:9 (10), 25:37. The next word in Hebrew means the fresh tender grass, here referred to, not as food, but in allusion to its cooling effect upon the eye and the skin. This explanation is confirmed by the fact, that the act expressed by the verb is not that of eating but of lying down. The verb itself is one which specially denotes the lying down of animals (Gen. 29:2, Num. 22:27, Isa. 11:6), but is sometimes transferred to the human subject (Isa. 14:30, Job. 11:19), or to other objects (Gen. 49:25, Deut. 29:19). By waters, not simply to them, but along them, which is one of the senses of the Hebrew preposition, and affords a much more pleasing image. By waters of rest we are not to understand still or quiet waters, a sense which the Hebrew word has nowhere else, and which would here suggest the idea of stagnation, or at least that of silence, which is far less agreeable than that of an audible flow. The idea really conveyed is that of waters, by or at which rest may be enjoyed. The repose is not that of the waters themselves, but of the flocks reclining near them. The last verb sometimes means to nourish, or more generally to provide for (Gen. 47:17, 2 Chron. 32:22), and the Septuagint version so explains it here. The idea would then be that the shepherd takes care of his flock, or tends it, by the waters of repose. But a more specific act is described, and therefore a more vivid image presented, by retaining the common version, leadeth, which is fully sustained by the use of the same Hebrew verb in Exod. 15:13, 2 Chron. 28:15. The form, however, should be future, as in the preceding verse.

3. My soul he will restore; he will lead me in paths of right (or rectitude) for his name’s sake. To restore the soul, here as in Ps. 19:8 (7), is to vivify or quicken the exhausted spirit. Paths of right may either mean right paths, as opposed to those which are devious and dangerous, or paths of righteousness, not man’s but God’s, not ways of upright conduct on the Psalmist’s part, but ways of faithfulness on God’s part. The righteousness of God, so often appealed to by the ancient saints, includes his covenanted mercy, the exercise of which, according to his promise, was ensured by his essential rectitude. For his name’s sake, not merely for his own sake, nor for his own glory, but for the sake of what he has already done, the previous display of his perfections, which would be dishonored by a failure to fulfil his promises. See above, on Ps. 22:23 (22).

4. Also when I walk into (or through) the valley of death-shade, I will not fear evil, for thou (wilt be) with me; thy rod and thy staff, they will comfort me. He is sure, not only of repose, restoration, and guidance, but of protection. The also shews that something new is to be added; not only this which I have said, but more. The common version (yea, though I walk) is too indefinite and hypothetical. The situation is not spoken of as possible, but certain, though still future.—Death-shade is a strong poetical expression for the profoundest darkness. See below, Ps. 44:20 (19). The common version, shadow of death, conveys more than the original, and fails to reproduce its compound form. The effect is heightened by the mention of a valley, as a deep place, often overhung with woods, and naturally darker than a plain or mountain. There may be some allusion to the dread of darkness on the part of sheep and other timid animals.—The rod and the staff are mentioned, not as weapons of defense, but as badges of the shepherd and as tokens of his presence.

5. Thou wilt spread before me a table in the presence of my adversaries; thou hast anointed with oil my head; my cup (is) overflowing. To the negative benefits before enumerated, he now adds the positive advantage of abundant sustenance. Instead of retaining the image of a sheep and its pasture, the Psalmist substitutes that of a table furnished for a human guest. The connection, however, is so close and the metaphors so near akin, that the general impression remains undisturbed.—In the presence of my enemies implies in spite of them; they are forced to witness my enjoyment without being able to disturb it.—Anointed, literally fattened, in allusion to the richness and abundance of the unction. This was a familiar part of an ancient festal entertainment, and is therefore frequently employed in Scripture as a symbol of joy. See below, on Ps. 45:8 (7).—My cup, my beverage, which, with food, makes up the supply of necessary nutriment, but with the additional suggestion of exhilaration. See above, on Ps. 16:5.—Overflowing, literally overflow, or abundant drink. The change of tense is significant and expressive. What he had just before confidently foreseen, he now describes as actually realized.

6. Only goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah to length of days. The specifications of the four preceding verses are followed by another summary expression of the general idea propounded in the first verse, but with a change of form. The Hebrew particle at the beginning has its usual and proper sense of only or exclusively. The favor which he shall experience is so great that he regards it as unmixed, or the exceptions as unworthy of consideration.—The word translated goodness may be understood to mean good fortune, good experienced, as a cognate form does in Ps. 16:2; but the other version agrees better with the parallel expression, mercy. The verb to follow or pursue seems to be chosen in allusion to the persecution of his enemies, and as a strong expression for an unbroken series or succession of divine benefactions. Dwelling in the house of Jehovah does not mean frequenting his sanctuary, but being a member of his household and an inmate of his family, enjoying his protection, holding communion with him, and subsisting on his bounty. See above, on Ps. 15:1.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 107–109). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 22

Psalm 22

Psalm 22

To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns. I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations. All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.” (Psalm 22:title–31, AV)

Psalm 22

The subject of this Psalm is the deliverance of a righteous sufferer from his enemies, and the effect of this deliverance on others. It is so framed as to be applied without violence to any case belonging to the class described, yet so that it was fully verified only in Christ, the head and representative of the class in question. The immediate speaker in the psalm is an ideal person, the righteous servant of Jehovah, but his words may, to a certain extent, be appropriated by any suffering believer, and by the whole suffering church, as they have been in all ages.

The psalm may be divided into three nearly equal parts. The first pleads the necessity of God’s interposition, arising from his covenant relation to the sufferer, ver. 2–11 (1–10). The second argues the same thing from the imminence of the danger, ver. 12–22 (11–21). The third declares the glorious effects which must follow from an answer to the foregoing prayer, ver. 23–32 (22–31). Ver. 12 (11) and 22 (21) form connecting links between the first and second, second and third parts.

1. To the Chief Musician. On the hind of the morning. A Psalm by David. Designed for the permanent use of the church, and therefore not relating to mere individual or private interests. The second clause of the inscription is one of those enigmatical titles in which David seems to have delighted. See above, on Ps. 5:1, 7:1, 9:1, 16:1. The opinion that it refers to the melody or subject of some other poem, is less probable than that it describes the theme of this. The hind may then be a poetical figure for persecuted innocence, and the morning, or rather dawn, for deliverance after long distress. Compare 2 Sam. 1:19, Prov. 6:5, Isa. 13:14, with Isa. 8:20, 47:11, 58:8, 10, Hos. 6:3, 10:15. The use of such emblems here is less surprising, as this psalm abounds in figures drawn from the animal kingdom. See below, ver. 13 (12), 14 (13), 17 (16), 21 (20), 22 (21).

2 (1). My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me, far from my deliverance, the words of my roaring? In this verse and the next we have the sufferer’s complaint, the summary description of his danger and distress, the highest point of which is here described as the sense of desertion or abandonment on God’s part. “Why hast thou left me so to suffer, that I cannot but consider myself finally deserted?” The use of these words by our Savior on the cross, with a slight variation from the Hebrew (Mat. 27:46, Mark 15:34), shews how eminently true the whole description is of him, but does not make him the exclusive subject. The divine name here used is the one descriptive of God’s power (אֵל), and may therefore be considered as including the idea of my strength. “Why hast thou, whom I regarded as my strength, my support, and my protector, thus forsaken me in this extremity?” The last clause admits of several constructions. “Far from my deliverance (are) the words of my roaring,” i.e. they are far from having the effect of saving me. Or the question may be repeated: (Why art thou) far from my help and the words of my roaring?” Or the same idea may be expressed by a simple affirmation; “(Thou art) far from my help,” &c. But the simplest construction is to put these words into apposition with the object of address in the first clause, and throw the whole into one sentence. “Why hast thou forsaken me, (standing or remaining) far from my help, i.e. too far off to help and save me, or even to hear the words of my roaring?” This last combination shews that although the figure of roaring is borrowed from the habits of the lower animals, the subject to which it is applied must be a human one, and as such capable of articulate speech. The roaring of the psalmist was not the mere instinctive utterance of physical distress, but the complaint of an intelligent and moral agent. Compare Isaiah 38:14.

3 (2). My God, I call by day and thou wilt not answer, and by night and there is no silence to me. The divine name here used is the common Hebrew word for God, denoting an object of religious worship. I call, literally I shall call, implying a sorrowful conviction that his cries will still be vain. Thou wilt not hear or answer: the original expression is a verb specifically appropriated to the favorable reception of a prayer. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4), Day and night, i.e. without intermission. See above, on Ps. 1:2. No silence implies no answer, and the parallelism is therefore an exact one.

4 (3). And thou (art) holy, inhabiting the praises of Israel. Here begins his statement of the grounds on which he might claim to be heard, and all which may be summed up in this, that Jehovah was the covenant God of Israel. The word translated holy, in its widest sense, includes all that distinguishes God from creatures, not excepting what are usually termed his natural perfections. Hence the epithet is often found connected with descriptions of his power, eternity, &c. See Isa. 6:3; 40:25, 26; 57:15; Hab. 3:3; Ps. 111:9. The primary meaning of the verb appears to be that of separation, which may here be alluded to, in reference to Jehovah’s peculiar relation to the chosen people. Or it may be taken in its wider and higher sense, leaving the other to be expressed in the last clause. “Thou art the glorious and perfect God who inhabitest the praises of Israel,” i.e. dwellest among those praises, and art constantly surrounded by them. Some prefer, however, to retain the primary meaning of the Hebrew verb, sitting (enthroned upon) the praises of Israel.

5 (4). In thee trusted our fathers; they trusted and thou savedst them. Not only was Jehovah the covenant God of Israel, and as such bound to help his people, but he had actually helped them in time past. This is urged as a reason why he should not refuse to help the sufferer in this case. The plural form, our fathers, makes the prayer appropriate to the whole church, without rendering it less so to the case of Christ, or to that of the individual believer.

6 (5.) To thee they cried and were delivered; in thee they trusted, and were not ashamed. This last word is continually used in Scripture for the disappointment and frustration of the hopes. The argument of this verse lies in the tacit contrast between the case referred to and that of the sufferer himself. As if he had said, “How is it then that I cry and am not delivered, I trust and am confounded or ashamed?”

7 (6). And I (am) a worm, and not a man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. The pronoun expressed at the beginning is emphatic. I, as contrasted with my fathers. Our idiom would here require an adversative particle, but I, the use of which is much less frequent in Hebrew. See above, on Ps. 2:6. The insignificance and meanness of mankind in general are elsewhere denoted by the figure of a worm (Job 25:6). But even in comparison with these, the sufferer is a worm, i.e. an object of contemptuous pity, because apparently forsaken of God, and reduced to a desperate extremity. (Compare Isa. 41:14, and 1 Sam. 24:15.) A reproach of mankind, despised by them, and disgraceful to them.—The people, not a single person or a few, but the community at large.

8 (7). All seeing me mock at me; they pout with the lip; they shake the head. This is an amplification of the last clause of the verse preceding. The verb in the second member of the sentence is of doubtful meaning. It may either mean to stretch the mouth, or to part the lips with a derisive grin. (See Ps. 35:21, Job 16:10.) The shaking of the head may be either a vague gesture of contempt, or the usual expression of negation, by a lateral or horizontal motion, equivalent to saying “No, no!” i.e. there is no hope for him. Either of these explanations is more probable than that which applies the words to a vertical movement of the head or nodding, in token of assent, and acquiescence in the sufferings of the sufferer, as just and right. The peculiar gesture here described is expressly attributed by the evangelists to the spectators of our Savior’s crucifixion (Mat. 27:39, Mark 15:29). It is one of those minor coincidences, which, although they do not constitute the main subject of the prophecy, draw attention to it, and help us to identify it.

9 (8). Trust in Jehovah! He will deliver him, he will save him, for he delights in him. The literal meaning of the first clause is, roll to (or on) Jehovah, which would be unintelligible but for the parallel expressions in Ps. 37:5, roll thy way upon Jehovah, and in Prov. 16:3, roll thy work upon Jehovah, where the idea is evidently that of a burden cast upon another by one who is unable to sustain it himself. This burden, in the first case, is his way, i.e. his course of life, his fortune, his destiny, and in the other case, his work, i.e. his business, his affairs, his interest. In evident allusion to these places, the apostle Peter says, casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you (1 Pet. 5:7). By these three parallels light is thrown on the elliptical expression now before us, roll, i.e. thy burden or thy care upon Jehovah.—A further difficulty is occasioned by the form of the original, which, according to usage, must be either the infinitive construct or the second person of the imperative. But as these seem out of place in such a context, some arbitrarily explain it as an absolute infinitive, or a third person imperative, or change the form to that of a preterite. This last is the construction in the Septuagint version retained in the New Testament (Mat. 27:43), and really included in the Hebrew, but by no means an exact representation of its form. Perhaps the best solution of the syntax is to make this clause a quotation, or derisive repetition of the sufferer’s own words, as if they had said, “This is he who was so fond of repeating the precept, Trust in Jehovah! Let him now try its virtue in his own case. He in whom he has trusted, and exhorted others to trust also, will no doubt deliver him.” The next two verbs are ironical futures, not imperatives, and should be so translated.—The last words of the verse (חָפֵץ בּוֹ) are always applied elsewhere to God’s complacency in man, and not to man’s reciprocal delight in God. The Septuagint version, retained in the New Testament, if he will (have) him, or if he will (deliver) him, although not incorrect, is much inferior in strength to the original.—By appropriating these words, the spectators of our Lord’s sufferings identified themselves with the wicked persecutors, by whom they are here supposed to be originally uttered.

10 (9). For thou didst draw me from the womb, making me trust upon the breasts of my mother. The argument from past time is here pushed still further. God had not only shewn himself to be the God of the sufferer’s forefathers, but of the sufferer himself in early life. The for connects this verse with the last clause of the one preceding. What his enemies ironically said was seriously true. God had indeed delighted in him once, for it was he that brought him into life, and through the perils of infancy. Thou didst draw me, literally, thou (art or wast) my breaking forth, i.e. the cause of it, as God is said to be the light, joy, strength of the believer, i.e. the source or the dispenser of these blessings.—Made me trust, does not refer to the literal exercise of confidence in God, which could not be asserted of a suckling, but means gave me cause to trust or feel secure, in other words, secured me, kept me safe. The original construction is, making me trust, but the Hebrew infinitive and participle used in these two clauses may be here represented by the past tense of the English verb.—As applied to the whole church or chosen people, this verse may be considered as descriptive of God’s dealings with them at the exodus from Egypt, which is elsewhere metaphorically represented as a birth. The direct and obvious reference, however, is to individual birth and infancy.

11 (10). Upon thee was I cast from the womb; from the bowels of my mother, my God (art) thou. Into thy arms I was at first received, as into those of an affectionate parent. See Ruth 4:16, and compare the opposite use of the same figure in Ezek. 16:5. In the last clause we are brought back to the point from which we set out, the sufferer having, in the mean time, as it were, established his right to say, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

12 (11). Be not far from me, for distress is near, for there is no helper. Having shewn that he was justified in expecting that God would not forsake him in extremity, he now shews that the extremity exists. The first clause constitutes the link of connection between the first and second subdivisions of the psalm. “Since, then, thou art my God, and as such must be near in my distress, Oh be not far from me now, for my distress is near, and there is no one else to help me.”—Near is not put in opposition to proximity or actual contact, but to distance. The particular form of expression was suggested by the prayer in the first clause. It was no time for God to be afar off, when trouble was so near, so close upon the sufferer.—The second for may be subordinated to the first, and introduce a reason for declaring that distress was near. But it is much more natural to make the two co-relative, and understand the second as suggesting an additional reason for the prayer, be not far from me.

13 (12). Many bulls have compassed me, strong bulls of Bashan have surrounded me. He now proceeds to amplify the last clause of the foregoing verse, by shewing that trouble was indeed at hand. The strength and fierceness of his persecutors are expressed by comparing them to cattle fed in the rich and solitary pastures of Bashan, where the absence of men would of course increase their wildness. Corresponding to the noun in the first clause is an epithet frequently applied to it in Hebrew.

14 (13). They have opened upon me their mouth, a lion tearing and roaring. The tropical nature of the language is evinced by the entire change of figure in this verse. The same persons who before were bulls of Bashan now appear as a ravening and roaring lion. There is no need of supplying a particle of comparison, the absence of which in both these verses, by substituting metaphor for simile, adds greatly to the life of the description.

15 (14). Like water I am poured out, and all my bones are parted; my heart has become like wax, melted in the midst of my bowels. Similar terms are used in Josh. 7:5, Lam. 2:19, to describe dismay and fear; but in the case before us they seem rather descriptive of extreme weakness. See Ps. 58:8 (7), 2 Sam. 14:14, and compare the symbolical action in 1 Sam. 7:6. The comparison with water is applied to moral weakness also in Gen. 49:4. The parting of the bones may either denote dislocation or extreme emaciation, making the bones prominent. In either case the essential idea is still that of desperate exhaustion and debility.

16 (15). Dried like the potsherd (is) my strength, and my tongue fastened to my jaws, and to the dust of death thou wilt reduce me. The description of debility is still continued. He is as destitute of vigor as a broken piece of earthenware is of sap or moisture.—Fastened, literally, made to cleave or stick, through dryness.—The dust of death, i.e. the grave, the place of burial, or more generally, the debased, humiliated state of the dead.—Thou wilt place me in it, or reduce me to it. The translation of this future as a preterite is not only ungrammatical, but hurtful to the sense, as the idea evidently is, that this is something not experienced already, but the end to which his sufferings are tending. The direct address to God recognizes him as the sovereign disposer, and men only as his instruments.

17 (16). For dogs have surrounded me, a crowd of evil-doers have beset me, piercing my hands and my feet. He now resumes the description of his persecutors, under figures borrowed from the animal kingdom. The comparison with dogs is much less forcible to us than to an oriental reader, because dogs in the east are less domesticated, more gregarious, wilder, and objects not of affection, but abhorrence, as peculiarly unclean. In the next clause the figurative dress is thrown aside, and the dogs described as an assembly of malefactors. The first noun seems intended to suggest the idea of a whole community or organized body as engaged in the persecution. See above, on people, in ver. 7 (6). This makes the passage specially appropriate to the sufferings of our Savior at the hands both of the mob and of the government. The Hebrew word is one of those applied in the Old Testament to the whole congregation of Israel. (See above, on Ps. 1:5, and compare Exod. 12:3, 16:1, 2, 9, Num. 27:17, Lev. 4:15.) The last clause, as above translated, contains a striking reference to our Savior’s crucifixion, which some have striven to expunge, by denying that the ancients nailed the feet as well as the hands to the cross. But although there is a singular absence of explicit declaration on the subject, both in the classical and sacred writers, the old opinion, that the feet were pierced, may be considered as completely verified by modern investigation and discussion. So far, therefore, as the question of usage is concerned, we can have no difficulty in referring this clause to our Savior’s crucifixion, and regarding it as one of those remarkable coincidences, some of which have been already noticed, all designed and actually tending to identify our Lord as the most prominent subject of the prophecy. It is very remarkable, however, that no citation or application of the clause occurs in any of the gospels. It is also worthy of remark that the clause, thus explained, although highly appropriate to one part of our Savior’s passion, is, unlike the rest of the description, hardly applicable, even in a figurative sense, to the case of any other sufferer. Even supposing the essential idea to be merely that of wounds inflicted on the body, it seems strange that it should be expressed in the specific and unusual form of piercing the hands and the feet. On further inspection it appears that, in order to obtain this meaning, we must either change the text (כָּֽאֵרוּ or כָּֽאֲרֵי for כָּֽאֲרִי) or assume a plural form so rare that some grammarians deny its existence altogether (כָּֽאֲרִי for כָּֽאֲרִים), and an equally rare form of the participle (כָּֽאֲרִים for כָּרִים), and a meaning of the verb itself which nowhere else occurs, but must be borrowed from a cognate root (כּוּר for כָּרָה); an accumulation of grammatical and lexicographical anomalies, which cannot be assumed without the strongest exegetical necessity, and this can exist only if the words admit of no other explanation more in accordance with analogy and usage. Now the very same form in Isa. 38:13, is unquestionably used to mean like the lion, and a slight modification of the same, in Num. 24:9, Ezek. 22:25, like a lion. This idea would be here the more appropriate, because the psalm abounds in such allusions, and because the lion is expressly mentioned both before and afterwards. See above, ver. 14 (13), and below, ver. 22 (21). The sense would then be: “they surround my hands and my feet, as they would a lion,” or, “as a lion would,” i.e. with the strength and fierceness of a lion. The hands and feet may be mentioned as the parts used in defense and flight. That the mention of these parts, after all, in connection with the lion is not altogether natural, cannot fairly be denied, and this objection should have all the weight to which it is entitled. But whether it can outweigh the grammatical difficulties that attend the other construction, is a serious question, which ought not to be embarrassed by any supposed conflict with New Testament authority, since no citation of the clause occurs there. It may even be possible to reconcile the two interpretations by supplying a verb and giving כָּֽאֲרִי its usual meaning. “Like the lion (they have wounded) my hands and my feet.” The point of comparison would then be the infliction of sharp wounds in those parts of the body, an idea common to the habits of the lion, and to the usages of crucifixion.

18 (17). I tell all my bones (while) they look and stare upon me. The pronoun of the last clause is expressed in Hebrew, which removes the ambiguity of the construction, by shewing that the subject of the following verbs is not the bones of the preceding clause, but something more remote, namely, the sufferer’s enemies and persecutors. The ambiguity of the English word tell corresponds to that of the Hebrew (אֲסַפֵּר), which means both to number and to relate, to count and to recount. Some suppose, not improbably, that this verse presents the sufferer as stripped by his enemies, and looking with grief and wonder at his own emaciation, while they gaze at it with delight, as the Hebrew phrase implies. See below, on Ps. 27:13.

19 (18). They (are about to) divide my garments for themselves, and on my clothing they (are ready to) cast lots. This is the last stroke necessary to complete the picture. Having stripped him, nothing more is left but to appropriate his garments, whether from cupidity or in derision. The futures intimate that things can go no further without actual loss of life, and that the case is therefore an extreme one. The providential realization of this ideal scene in our Lord’s history is expressly mentioned by all the four evangelists (Mat. 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:23, 24). This makes their silence as to ver. 17 (16) the more remarkable.

20 (19). And thou, Jehovah, be not far; my strength! to my assistance hasten. The pronoun in the first clause is emphatic. “Such is the conduct of my enemies; but as for thee, O Lord, be not far from me.” The word translated strength is used in this place only, and apparently in reference to the name of God with which the psalm begins (אֵלִי) and to the word hind (אַיֶּלֶת) in the title, both which are akin to it in etymology.

21 (20). Free from the sword my life (or soul), from the hand of the dog my lonely one (or only one). The sword is a general expression for life-destroying agents. See 2 Sam. 11:24, 25, where it is applied to archery.—My life, my soul, i.e. myself considered as a living person.—The apparent solecism, hand of the dog, shews that both terms are figurative, or as one has quaintly expressed it, that the dog meant is a dog with hands. See above, on ver. 17 (16), where the plural dogs is co-extensive in its meaning with the ideal or collective singular in this place.—My only (life), the only one I have to lose, is a good sense in itself, both here and in Ps. 35:17; but the analogy of Ps. 25:16, and 68:7 (6), recommends the sense of solitary, lonely, which is admissible in all the places.

22 (21). Save me from the mouth of the lion, and from the horns of the unicorns thou hast heard (or answered) me. The petition in the first clause is directly followed by an expression of confident assurance that his prayer will be answered, or rather that it is already heard, corresponding to the figurative expression in ver. 3 (2), thou wilt not hear (or answer), where the same Hebrew verb is used.—From the horns denotes of course the place from which the prayer proceded, not the answer. The figure is a strong one for the midst of danger. The name of any wild horned animal would be appropriate. The precise sense of the Hebrew word (רֵמִים) is therefore comparatively unimportant. The common version unicorns rests on the authority of the Septuagint; but although the unicorn, long regarded as a fabulous animal, has now been proved to be a real one, we have no reason to believe that it was ever known in Palestine, or to dissent from the common judgment of the learned, that the Hebrew word denotes the wild bull or a species of the antelope, most probably the former.

23 (22). I will declare thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the assembly I will praise thee. His certainty of audience and acceptance is further expressed by declaring his intention to give thanks for it.—To declare God’s name, in Scripture usage, is to celebrate the acts by which he has manifested his perfections. See above, on Ps. 5:12 (11).—The assembly, or congregation of Israel, to which the Hebrew word is constantly applied (Lev. 16:17, Deut. 31:30), whether present in person or by their representatives (2 Chron. 20:13–15). The same sense of the word occurs below, Ps. 35:18, 40:10 (9). The idea here is that his praise shall not be merely private or domestic, but public.

24 (23). Fearers of Jehovah, praise him! All the seed of Jacob, glorify him! And be afraid of him, all the seed of Israel! These words are uttered, as it were, in the midst of the ideal congregation mentioned in the verse preceding. That the call, though formally addressed to the whole race, was really intended for the spiritual Israel, excluding wicked Israelites and including the righteous of whatever name or nation, is indicated by the words of the first clause, while the last shews that the praise required is not familiar, but in the highest degree reverential.

25 (24). For he has not despised and not abhorred the suffering of the sufferer, and has not hid his face from him, and, in his crying to him, heard. This is the ground on which the fearers of the Lord are called upon to praise him, namely, the faithful execution of his promise to the sufferer in this case, and the pledge thereby afforded of like faithfulness in every other.

26 (25). From thee (shall be) my praise in (the) great congregation; my vows I will pay before his fearers, those who fear him. From thee is something more than of thee. It does not merely indicate the theme or subject, but the source or cause of his thanksgiving. “It is thou who givest me occasion thus to praise thee.” In the last clause there seems to be a reference to the sacrificial feasts connected with the fulfilment of vows made in distress or danger. (See Deut. 12:18, 16:11.) These were occasions of festivity, not only to the offerer and his nearest friends, but to a wide circle of invited guests, which makes the metaphor peculiarly appropriate in this place. The essential idea is the same as in ver. 23 (22).—His fearers, worshippers, the true Israel, as distinguished from the mere natural descendants of the patriarch.

27 (26). (Then) shall eat (thereof) the humble, and be satisfied; (then) shall praise Jehovah those who seek him. May your heart live for ever! The adverb then is here supplied in the translation, in order to retain the Hebrew order of the sentence. The word thereof is introduced to remove all ambiguity of syntax, and to connect the act of eating with the sacrificial feast of the foregoing verse.—To seek God, in the dialect of Scripture, is to seek to know him, and also to seek his favor, not only by specific acts of prayer, but by the whole course of the life. See above, on Ps. 14:2.—The concluding wish, your heart live for ever, comprehends an assurance that it shall live. The heart is said to die, in cases of extreme grief and distress. See 1 Sam. 25:37, and compare Ps. 109:22. The objects of address are those who seek and praise God. The sudden change of person is analogous to that in ver. 26 (25), which begins from thee, and ends with fearing him. That this is not an inadvertent irregularity, appears from its recurrence in the next verse.—The humble and the seekers of Jehovah are parallel descriptions of the same class, namely, true believers, those who are elsewhere called the righteous.

28 (27). Remember and return to Jehovah shall all the ends of the earth, and worship before thee all the kindreds of the nations. As the joyful effects of this deliverance were not to be restricted to himself or his domestic circle, but extended to the great congregation of God’s people, so too we now read that they shall not be confined to any one race, but made to embrace all. The ends of the earth, here put for the remotest nations. See above, on Ps. 2:8. These are named as the least likely to be comprehended in the promise, but of course without excluding those less distant. As if he had said, the ends of the earth and all that is between them. In the other clause, accordingly, we find as a parallel expression, not the furthest, but all nations. They shall remember this deliverance, this exhibition of God’s faithfulness and might, and shall turn unto Jehovah, be converted to his worship and his service. Some suppose an allusion to the great original apostasy, or to the temporary casting off of the Gentiles: they shall remember their original condition, and return unto the Lord, from whom they have revolted. But this, though true and really implied, is not the strict sense of the words, which would then have no perceptible connection with the general subject of the psalm, and the immediate occasion of the praise which it contains.—Worship, literally prostrate themselves, the accustomed oriental indication both of civil and religious worship.—The form of expression in the last clause is evidently borrowed from the patriarchal promise. Compare Gen. 12:3, 28:14.

29 (28). For unto Jehovah is the kingdom, and (he is) governor among the nations. This will not be a gratuitous extension to the Gentiles of what properly belongs to Israel alone, but a restoration of God’s mercies, after ages of restriction, to their original and proper scope. For Jehovah is not the king of Israel only, but of all mankind. See Rom. 3:29.—The kingdom, i.e. general ecumenical dominion.—Governor, properly a participle, ruling, the use of which may be intended to suggest that as he has always been their governor de jure, so now he begins to govern them de facto, not with a providential sway, which is invariable as well as universal, but with a spiritual sway, which is hereafter to be co-extensive with the earth itself. Compare the similar expressions, Obad. 21, Zech. 14:9, and the still closer parallels, Ps. 96:10, 97:1, 99:1.

30 (29). They have eaten and worshipped—all the fat (ones) of the earth—before him shall bend all going down (to) the dust, and (he who) his own soul did not save alive. The distinction of ranks shall be as little regarded at this feast as that of nations.—Eaten and worshipped, partaken of the sacrificial feast in honor of this great salvation. Fat, a common oriental figure for the prosperous, and especially the rich. These are particularly mentioned to exhibit a peculiar feature of the feast in question, which was not, like the sacrificial feasts of the Mosaic law, designed expressly for the poor, though these are not excluded, as appears from the parallel clause.—Going down to the dust, i.e. the dust of death, as in ver. 16 (15) above. Compare the analogous expressions used in Ps. 28:1, 4, 9 (3, 9), 88:5 (4), 115:17, 143:7. The idea is, that this enjoyment shall be common to the rich and those who are ready to perish, or as it is expressed in the last clause, he who cannot keep his soul (or himself) alive, a strong expression for the extreme of destitution. He who before, or a little while ago, no longer kept himself alive, but was just about to perish, is now seen kneeling at the sacrificial feast in honor of this great salvation.

31 (30). Posterity shall serve him; it shall be related of the Lord to the (next) generation. The last restriction to be done away is that of time. The effects of this salvation shall no more be confined to the present generation than to the higher classes of society, or the natural descendants of the patriarchs.—A seed, i.e. posterity, the seed of those who witness or first hear of the event.—Shall serve him, i.e. worship and obey Jehovah, the same thing that is expressed by eating and bowing down in ver. 30 (29) above. The means of this conversion shall be the perpetuated knowledge of what God has done.—Generation is used absolutely, as in Ps. 71:18, where it means not this generation, but the next. The complete phrase (דור אחרון) occurs below, Ps. 48:14 (13), 78:4. The Lord. The original is not Jehovah, but Adhonai, the divine name properly denoting sovereignty. See above, on Ps. 2:4, 21:2. The exposition above given of the verse before us is equally agreeable to usage, and much better suited to the context, than the one which makes it mean that a seed shall be reckoned by the Lord (as belonging) to the generation, i.e. to the generation of his people. (See below, on Ps. 24:6.) It is highly improbable that the passive verb (יְסֻפַּר) has a meaning wholly different from that of the corresponding active form (אֲסַפְּרָה) in ver. 23 (22) above.

32 (31). They shall come and shall declare his righteousness to a people born, that he hath done (it). The subjects of the first verbs are the seed and generation of the preceding verse. They shall come into existence, shall appear upon the scene. But even they shall not monopolize the knowledge thus imparted, but communicate it to a people now unborn, but then born, i.e. to their own successors. The construction of the participle as a future is unnecessary, although not unauthorized by usage. See above, on Ps. 18:4 (3). Compare with this verse the beautiful figures of Ps. 19:3 (2).—His righteousness, including the faithful execution of his gracious promise. The last clause gives the substance of the declaration to be made, to wit, that he has done what forms the subject of the whole psalm. A similar ellipsis of the object, where the context readily supplies it, may be found above in ver. 27, 28, 30 (26, 27, 29). To these words it is supposed by some that our Lord alluded in his dying exclamation, It is finished! (John 19:30). The allusion, though not obvious, is interesting, as it brings the beginning and the end of this remarkable psalm into connection with each other and with that affecting scene to which there are so many clear and pointed references in the whole composition; thus completing, as it were, the proof, already strong enough, that Christ is the great subject of the psalm, as being the great type and representative of that whole class to whom it ostensibly relates, but of whom some parts, and especially the last five verses, are true only in a modified and lower sense.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 98–107). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 21

Psalm 21

Psalm 21

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The king shall joy in thy strength, O LORD; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips. Selah. For thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head. He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever. His glory is great in thy salvation: honor and majesty hast thou laid upon him. For thou hast made him most blessed for ever: thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance. For the king trusteth in the LORD, and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved. Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies: thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee. Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the LORD shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them. Their fruit shalt thou destroy from the earth, and their seed from among the children of men. For they intended evil against thee: they imagined a mischievous device, which they are not able to perform. Therefore shalt thou make them turn their back, when thou shalt make ready thine arrows upon thy strings against the face of them. Be thou exalted, LORD, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power.” (Psalm 21, AV)

As in the eighteenth psalm, David publicly thanks God for the promises contained in 2 Sam. 7, so here he puts a similar thanksgiving into the month of the church or chosen people. In ver. 2–7 (1–6), the address is to Jehovah, and the king is spoken of in the third person. In ver. 8 (7) this form of speech is used in reference to both. In ver. 9–13 (8–12) the address is to the king. In ver. 14 (13) it returns to Jehovah. As to the substance or contents of these successive parts, the first praises God for what he has bestowed upon the king, ver. 2–7 (1–6). In the second, there is a transition to another theme, ver. 8 (7). The third congratulates the king on what he is to do and to enjoy through the divine mercy, ver. 9–13 (8–12). The fourth returns to the point from which the whole set out, ver. 14 (13). The opinion that this psalm relates to the fulfilment of the prayer in that before it, seems to be inconsistent with its structure and contents as just described. They are rather parallel than consecutive, the principal difference being this, that while the twentieth psalm relates to the specific case of assistance and success in war, the twenty-first has reference to the whole circle of divine gifts bestowed upon the Lord’s Anointed.

1. To the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David. The correctness of the first inscription is apparent from the structure of the psalm, throughout which the speaker is the ancient church. The correctness of the other may be argued from the general resemblance of the style to that of the Davidic psalms, from numerous coincidences of expression with the same, and from the tone of lively hope which seems to indicate the recent date of the divine communication, especially when compared with psalms which otherwise resemble it, such as the eighty-ninth. The particular resemblance between this psalm and the twentieth makes them mutually testify to one another’s genuineness and authenticity.

2 (1). Jehovah, in thy strength shall the king rejoice, and in thy salvation how shall he exult! This verse commences the description of God’s favor to the king with a general statement, afterwards amplified in ver. 3–7 (2–6). Thy strength, as imparted to him, or as exercised in his deliverance, which last agrees best with the parallel expression, thy salvation, i.e. thy deliverance of him from the evils which he felt or feared. In thy strength and salvation, i.e. in the contemplation and experience of it. The future verbs shew that the gift has not yet been consummated, without excluding the idea of it as begun already.

3 (2). The desire of his heart thou hast given unto him, and the quest of his lips hast not withholden. Selah. The occasion of the joy and exultation mentioned in the preceding verse is now more particularly set forth. It is easy to imagine, although not recorded, that the great promise in the seventh chapter of 2 Samuel was in answer to the fervent and long-continued prayers of David for a succession in his own family.—The word translated quest occurs only here, but its sense is determined by the parallelism and the Arabic analogy. The combination of the positive and negative expressions of the same idea (given and not withholden) is a favorite Hebrew idiom.

4 (3). For thou wilt come before him with blessings of goodness, thou wilt set upon his head a crown of gold. This, as Luther observes, is an answer to the question what he had desired. The for connects it with the statement in the foregoing verse, which is here explained and justified. As the preterites in ver. 3 (2) shew that his request was granted in the divine purpose, so the futures here shew how it was to be fulfilled in fact. Come before, come to meet in a friendly manner. See above, on Ps. 17:13, 18:6 (5), and compare Deut. 23:5 (4).—Blessings of good, not blessings prompted by the divine goodness, but conferring, or consisting in, good fortune, happiness. See above, on Ps. 16:2.—The reference in the last clause is not to David’s literal coronation at the beginning of his reign, nor to the golden crown which he took from the Ammonitish king of Rabbah (2 Sam. 12:30), but to his ideal coronation by the granting of these glorious favors to himself and his successors. The divine communication in the seventh of 2 Samuel seems to be here viewed, as the only real coronation of David as a theocratic sovereign. The last word in the sentence is the same that was translated pure gold when contrasted with the ordinary word for gold, Ps. 19:11 (10).

5 (4). Life he asked of thee, thou hast given (it) to him, length of days, perpetuity and eternity. By disregarding the masoretic interpunction, the construction may be simplified without a change of sense. “Life he asked of thee, thou hast given him length of days,” &c. The last words of the verse are often used adverbially to mean for ever and ever; but as they are both nouns, it is best to put them here in apposition with the same part of speech which immediately precedes. This last clause shews that the life which David prayed for was not personal longevity, but the indefinite continuation of his race, an honor which was granted to him, even beyond his hopes and wishes, in the person of our Savior. Compare 2 Sam. 7:13, 16. Ps. 89:5 (4), 132:12.

6 (5). Great shall be his majesty in thy salvation; glory and honor thou wilt put upon him. His personal experience of God’s saving grace, and his connection with the great scheme of salvation for mankind, would raise him to a dignity far beyond that of any other monarch, and completely justifying even the most exalted terms used in Scripture, from the charge of adulation or extravagance.

7 (6). For thou wilt make him a blessing to eternity; thou wilt gladden him with joy by thy countenance (or presence). He shall not only be blessed himself, but a blessing to others, the idea and expression being both derived from the promise to Abraham in Gen. 12:2, an allusion which serves also to connect the Davidic with the Abrahamic covenant, and thus to preserve unbroken the great chain of Messianic prophecies. Make him a blessing, literally, place him for (or constitute him) blessing. The plural form suggests variety and fullness, as in Ps. 18:51 (50), 20:7 (6). By thy countenance, or with thy face, i.e. by looking on him graciously, not merely in thy presence or before thee, as the place of the enjoyment, but by the sight of thee, as its cause or source. See above, on Ps. 16:11.

8 (7). For the king (is) trusting in Jehovah, and in the grace of the Most High he shall not be moved. The consummation of this glorious promise was indeed far distant, but to the eye of faith distinctly visible. In the grace seems to mean something more than through the grace (or favor) of the Most High, as the ground of his assurance, or the source of his security. The words appear to qualify the verb itself, and to denote that he shall not be shaken from his present standing in God’s favor. The use of the third person in this verse, with reference both to God and the king, makes it a kind of connecting link between the direct address to God in the first part of the psalm, and the direct address to the king in the second.

9 (8). Thy hand shall find out all thine enemies; thy right hand shall find (those) hating thee. Having shewn what God would do for his Anointed, the psalm now describes what the latter shall accomplish through divine assistance. Corresponding to this variation in the subject, is that in the object of address, which has been already noticed. By a kind of climax in the form of expression, hand is followed by right hand, a still more emphatic sign of active strength. To find, in this connection, includes the ideas of detecting and reaching. Compare 1 Sam. 23:17, Isa. 10:10; in the latter of which places the verb is construed with a preposition (ל), as it is in the first clause of the verse before us, whereas in the other clause it governs the noun directly. If any difference of meaning was intended, it is probably not greater than that between find and find out in English.

10 (9). Thou shalt make them like a fiery furnace at the time of thy presence; Jehovah in his wrath shall swallow them up, and fire shall devour them. The ascription of this destroying agency to God in the last clause serves to shew that the king acts merely as his instrument. Thou shalt make, literally set or place, i.e. put them in such or such a situation. A fiery furnace, literally a furnace (or oven) of fire. To make them like a furnace here means, not to make them the destroyers of others, but, by a natural abbreviation, to make them as if they were in a fiery furnace. At the time of thy presence, literally thy face, which may be understood to mean, when thou lookest at them.

11 (10). Their fruit shalt thou make to perish from the earth, and their seed from (among) the sons of man (or Adam). This extends the threatened destruction of the enemies to all their generations. The same figurative use of fruit occurs in Hos. 9:16.

12 (11). For they stretched out evil over thee; they devised a plot; they shall not be able (to effect it). The figure of the first clause is the same as in 1 Chron. 21:10. (Compare 2 Sam. 24:12.) The idea here is that they threatened to bring evil on thee. As the verb to be able is sometimes used absolutely, it is translated, they shall not prevail.

13 (12). For thou shalt make them turn their back; with thy (bow) strings shalt make ready against their face. The common version of the first word (therefore) is not only contrary to usage, but disturbs the sense by obscuring the connection with the foregoing verse, which is this: “they shall not prevail, because thou shalt make them turn their back.” This last phrase, in Hebrew, is so strongly idiomatic that it scarcely admits of an exact translation. Thou shalt make (or place) them shoulder. See above, on Ps. 18:41 (40), where a similar idiom occurs. In the verse before us, the chronological succession is reversed; it was by shooting at their face that he should make them turn their back. The true relation of the clauses is denoted, in the English Bible, by supplying a particle of time: “thou shalt make them turn their back (when) thou shalt make ready (thine arrows) upon thy strings against the face of them.” The version make ready is also a correct one, although some translate the phrase take aim, which is really expressed by another form of the same verb. The true sense of the one here used is clear from Ps. 11:2, and the distinctive use of both from Ps. 7:13, 14 (12, 13).

14 (13). Be high, Jehovah, in thy strength; we will sing and celebrate thy power. Here the psalm returns to God as its great theme, and gives him all the glory. Be high, exalted, both in thyself and in the praises of thy people. See above, on Ps. 18:47 (46). Thy strength and power, as displayed in the strength given to thine anointed. Celebrate by music, as the Hebrew verb always means. There is a beautiful antithesis in this verse, as if he had said: thou hast only to deserve praise, we will give it.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 95–98). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 20

Psalm 20

Psalm 20

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion; Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah. Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel. We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfil all thy petitions. Now know I that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright. Save, LORD: let the king hear us when we call.” (Psalm 20, AV)

A prayer for the use of the ancient church in time of war. Addressing her visible head, she wishes him divine assistance and success, ver. 2–6 (1–5), and expresses a strong confidence that God will answer her petition, ver. 7–9 (6–8), which she then repeats and sums up in conclusion, ver. 10 (9).

There is no trace of this psalm having been composed with reference to any particular occasion, its contents being perfectly appropriate to every case in which the chosen people, under their theocratic head, engaged in war against the enemies of God and Israel.

To the Chief Musician. Written for his use and entrusted to him for execution. As in all other cases, this inscription shews the psalm to have been written, not for the expression of mere personal feelings, but to be a vehicle of pious sentiment to the collective body of God’s people.—A Psalm by David. The correctness of this statement is not only free from any positive objection, but confirmed by the whole tone and style of the performance, as well as by its intimate connection with the next psalm. See below, on Ps. 21:1.

2 (1). Jehovah hear thee in the day of trouble! The name of Jacob’s God exalt thee! The name of God, the revelation of his nature in his acts. “May those divine attributes, which have been so often manifested in the experience of the chosen people, be exercised for thy protection. See above, on Ps. 5:12 (11).—The God of Jacob, of the patriarch so called, and of his seed. See Mat. 22:32.—Exalt thee, raise thee beyond the reach of danger. See above, on Ps. 9:10 (9), 18:3, 49 (2, 48).

3 (2). (May Jehovah) send thee help from (his) sanctuary, and from Zion sustain thee. The mention of Zion and the sanctuary shews that Jehovah is appealed to as the king of his people, and as such not only able but bound by covenant to afford them aid. See below, on ver. 10 (9). Sustain thee, hold thee up, the same verb that is used in Ps. 18:36 (35). Both verbs may also be translated as simple futures, will send, will sustain; but see below.

4 (3). (May Jehovah) remember all thy gifts and accept thy offering. Selah. The word remember in the first clause seems to involve an allusion to the memorial (אַזְכָּרָה), a name given in the sacrificial ritual to that part of the vegetable offering which was burnt upon the altar. See Lev. 2:2, 6:8 (15).—The word translated gifts, although properly generic, is specially used to denote the vegetable offerings of the law, while the word translated offering is the technical name of the principal animal sacrifice. They are put together to describe these two species of obligation. Compare Ps. 40:7 (6), Jer. 17:26, Dan. 9:27.—The verb translated accept means elsewhere to make fat (Ps. 23:5), or to remove the ashes of the altar. (Exod. 27:3, Num. 4:13). Some give it here the sense of turning into ashes or consuming, others that of pronouncing fat, and therefore fit for sacrifice. In either case acceptance is implied. The optative form of the verb in the original seems to confirm the sense already put upon the foregoing futures. From this verse it has been inferred, with some probability, that the whole psalm was specially intended to be used at the sacrifice offered by the Israelites before a campaign or a battle. (See 1 Sam. 13:9, 10). To this some add the supposition, that the selah, in the verse before us, marks the pause in the performance of the psalm, during which the sacrifice was actually offered. See above, on Ps. 3:3 (2).

5 (4). (May he) give thee according to thy heart, and all thy counsel (or design) fulfil. This is not a vague wish for success in general, but a prayer for success on the particular occasion when the psalm was to be used.—Thy heart, thy desire. Thy counsel, the plan which thou hast formed and undertaken to execute in God’s name, and for the protection or deliverance of his people.

6 (5). May we rejoice in thy deliverance, and in the name of our God display a banner! May Jehovah fulfil all thy petitions! The phrase thy deliverance may mean that wrought or that experienced by thee. In all probability both ideas are included. In the name of our God, and therefore not as a mere secular triumph. The second verb (נִדְגֹּל) seems to be connected with a noun (דָּגָל) used by Moses to denote the banners under which the four great divisions of the host marched through the wilderness (Num. 1:52, 2:2, 3, 10, 18, 25, 10:14). Hence the conjectural translation, “may we set up (or display) a banner.” But as the participle of the same verb seems, in the only other place where it occurs (Song of Sol. 5:10), to signify distinguished or exalted, others follow the Septuagint and Vulgate in translating, may we be lifted up or magnified.—The last clause is a comprehensive prayer, equivalent in meaning to ver. 5 (4) above, and including not merely what had been expressly specified, but all that the theocratic sovereign might desire or attempt in conformity with God’s will, whether known to the whole body of his followers or not. This clause concludes the first division of the psalm by recurring to the theme with which it opens, and with which again the whole psalm closes. See below, on ver. 10 (9).

7 (6). Now I know that Jehovah has saved his Anointedhe will hear him from his holy heavenswith the saving strength of his right hand. What was asked in the foregoing context is here said to be already granted. Hence some imagine that a battle or other decisive event must be supposed to intervene. But this, besides being highly improbable and forced in so brief a composition, is forbidden by the immediate recurrence to the future form, he will hear. A far more natural solution is, that this verse expresses a sudden conviction or assurance that the preceding prayers are to be answered. As if he had said: “Such are my requests, and I know that Jehovah has already granted them, so that in his purpose and to the eye of faith, his Anointed is already safe, and has already triumphed.” The change to the first person singular does not indicate a different speaker, but merely puts what follows into the mouth of each individual believer, or of the whole body viewed as an ideal person.

The second member of the sentence may be best explained as a parenthesis, leaving the third to be construed directly with the first, as in the version above given. In this verse we have two examples of a common Hebrew idiom, one of them a very strong one. The phrase translated from his holy heavens might seem to mean the heavens of his holiness; but the true construction is his heavens of holiness, i.e. the heavens where the Holy One resides, and from which his assistance must proceed. See above, on Ps. 2:6, 11:4. The attribute of holiness is mentioned to exalt still further the divine and sacred nature of the warfare and the victory to which the psalm relates. Another example of the Hebrew idiom before referred to is the saving strength of his right hand, which literally rendered is the strengths of the salvation of his right hand. The plural strengths may either be intensive, or refer to the various exertions of the power here described. The right hand has the same sense as in Ps. 18:36 (35). Here, as in Ps. 18:51 (50), His Messiah or Anointed One includes the whole succession of genuine theocratic kings, not excepting him whose representatives they were, and in whom the royal line was at the same time closed and made perpetual.

8 (7). These in chariots and these in horses, and we in the name of Jehovah our God, will glory. All the objects are connected by the same preposition with the same verb, namely, that at the end of the sentence. In order to retain the preposition, which must otherwise be varied, and thereby obscure the structure of the sentence, the verb glory, which is construed with the preposition in, has been substituted for the strict sense of the verb, we will cause to be remembered, i.e. mention or commemorate. See Exod. 23:13, Amos 6:10, Isa. 48:1, 63:7. The insertion of the verb trust, in the English versions of the first clause, is entirely gratuitous. These and these is the Hebrew idiom for some and others. Compare this to this, in Exod. 14:20, Isa. 6:3.—The verb, in the case before us, may have been selected in allusion to the cognate form in ver. 4 (3) above. “As God has remembered thy offerings, so we will cause his name to be remembered.”—Our God is again emphatic and significant, as shewing that the whole psalm has reference to the covenant relation between God and his people represented by their theocratic sovereign. With the contrast in this verse compare 1 Sam. 17:45, Isa. 31:3, Ps. 33:16, 17.

9 (8). They have bowed and fallen, and we have risen and stood upright. Here, as in ver. 7 (6), the past tense expresses the certainty of the event, or rather the confidence with which it is expected. The emphatic they at the beginning means the enemies and oppressors of God’s people. We have arisen seems to imply a previous prostration and subjection.—The last verb occurs only here in this form, which is properly reflexive, and may be explained to mean, we have straightened ourselves up.

10 (9). Jehovah, save! Let the King hear us in the day we call, or still more closely, in the day of our calling. The Septuagint and Vulgate make the king a part of the first clause: “Jehovah, save the king” (Domine salvum fac regem). But this not only violates the masoretic accents, which, though not ultimately binding, are entitled to respect as a traditional authority, but separates the verb in the last clause from its subject, so that both the ancient versions just referred to have been under the necessity of changing the third into the second person (hear us). The first clause is besides more expressive and emphatic without the king than with it. Nothing could be more pregnant or sonorous than the laconic prayer, Jehovah, save! The object is, of course, to be supplied from ver 7 (6), and from the tenor of the whole psalm. The other construction, it is true, enables us to make the King of this verse the same person with the Anointed of ver. 7 (6). But far from any disadvantage, there is great force and beauty, in referring the expected blessing to the true King of Israel, whom David and his followers only represented. See Deut. 33:5, Ps. 48:3 (2), Mat. 5:35.—By taking the last verb as a future proper (the King will hear us) the psalm may be made to close with a promise, or rather with a confident anticipation of God’s blessing. Most interpreters, however, prefer to make it optative, and thus to let the psalm conclude as it began, with an expression of intense desire.[1]

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 92–95). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 19

Psalm 19

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19, AV)

This psalm consists of three parts. The subject of the first is God’s revelation of himself in his material works, ver. 2–7 (1–6). That of the second is the still more glorious revelation of himself in his law, ver. 8–11 (7–10). The third shews the bearing of these truths upon the personal character and interest of the writer, and of all who are partakers of his faith, ver. 12–15 (11–14).

The object of the psalm is not to contrast the moral and material revelations, but rather to identify their author and their subject. The doctrinal sum of the whole composition is, that the same God who reared the frame of nature is the giver of a law, and that this law is in all respects worthy of its author.

1. To the Chief Musician, a Psalm by David. The form of this inscription is the same as that of Ps. 13. Its historical correctness is attested by its position in the Psalter, its resemblance to Ps. 8, and its peculiar style and spirit.

2 (1). The heavens (are) telling the glory of God, and the work of his hands (is) the firmament declaring. The participles are expressive of continued action. The glory of God is the sum of his revealed perfections (compare Ps. 24:7–10, 29:3, Rom. 1:20. The expanse or firmament is used as an equivalent to heaven, even in the history of the creation, Gen. 1:8. To declare the work of his hands is to shew what he can do and has actually done. The common version handywork means nothing more than handwork; to take handy as an epithet of praise is a vulgar error.

3 (2). Day to day shall pour out speech, and night to night shall utter knowledge. Both verbs are peculiar to the poetical dialect and books of the Old Testament. Pour out, in a copious ever-gushing stream. As the participles of ver. 2 (1) express constant action, so the futures here imply continuance in all time to come. Speech means the declaration of God’s glory, and knowledge the knowledge of the same great object. The idea of perpetual testimony is conveyed by the figure of one day and night following another as witnesses in unbroken succession.

4 (3). There is no speech, and there are no words; not at all is their voice heard. As the first clause might have seemed to contradict the first clause of ver. 3 (2), the Psalmist adds no words, to shew that he here uses speech in the strict sense of articulate language.—The first word of the last clause is properly a noun, meaning cessation or defect, non-entity, and here used as a more emphatic negative, expressed in the translation by the phrase not at all.—Their voice might either be referred exclusively to the heaven and firmament of ver. 2 (1), or extended to the day and night of ver. 3 (2). But the first is the true construction, as appears from the next verse. The absence of articulate language, far from weakening the testimony, makes it stronger. Even without speech or words, the heavens testify of God to all men. This construction of the sentence is much simpler, as well as more exact, than the ancient one, retained in the common version, “there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard,” or that preferred by others, “it is not a speech or language whose voice is not heard.” The true sense is given in the margin of the English Bible.

5 (4.) In all the earth has gone out their line, and in the end of the world (are) their words. For the sun he has pitched a tent in them. The word rendered line always means a measuring line, and in Jer. 31:39 is combined in that sense with the same verb as here. The idea is, that their province or domain is co-extensive with the earth, and that they speak with authority even in its remotest parts.—Words may also be construed with the verb of the first clause, but it will then be necessary to translate the preposition to. The explanation of line as meaning the string of a musical instrument, and then the sound which it produces, although favoured by the ancient versions, is entirely at variance with Hebrew usage. The subject of the verb in the last clause is the name of God expressed in ver. 2 (1) above.—Pitched a tent, provided a dwelling, or without a figure, assigned a place. In them must refer to the heavens mentioned in ver. 2 (1), which makes it probable that all the plural pronouns in the intervening clauses have the same antecedent. The sun is introduced in this sentence probably because his apparent course is a measure of the wide domain described in the first clause. It must be co-extensive with the earth, because the sun which visits the whole earth has his habitation in the sky. The boundless extension of the heavens and their testimony is used by Paul (Rom. 10:18) to signify the general diffusion of the gospel, and the same thing might have taught the earlier Jews that their exclusive privileges were granted only for a time, and as a means to a more glorious end.

6 (5). And he (is) as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; he rejoices as a mighty man to run a race. The second simile has reference to the sun’s daily course, the first to his vigorous and cheerful reappearance after the darkness of the night. By a fine transition, the general idea of a tent or dwelling is here exchanged for the specific one of a nuptial couch or chamber. Rejoices, literally will rejoice, forever as he now does.

7 (6). From the end of the heavens (is) his outgoing, and his circuit even to the ends of them, and there is none (or nothing) hidden from his heat. What is said in ver. 5 (4) of the heavens is here said of the sun, to wit, that his domain is coextensive with the earth or habitable world. The last clause is added to shew that it is not an ineffective presence, but one to be felt as well as seen. The sun’s heat is mentioned, not in contrast with his light, but as its inseparable adjunct.—The plural ends seems to be added to the singular in order to exhaust the meaning, or at least to strengthen the expression. The word translated circuit includes the idea of return to a starting-point. The Hebrew preposition properly means up to (or down to) their very extremity.

8 (7). The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple. The God, whose glory is thus shewn forth by the material creation, is the author of a spiritual law, which the Psalmist now describes in the next three verses, by six characteristic names, six qualifying epithets, and six moral effects produced by it. In the verse before us, besides the usual term law, it is called God’s testimony, i.e. the testimony which he bears for truth and against iniquity. It is described as perfect, i.e. free from all defect or blemish, and as sure, i.e. definite, decided, and infallible. Its two effects, mentioned in this verse. are, first, that of restoring the soul, i.e. the life and spirits exhausted by calamity. See below, on Ps. 23:3, and compare Ruth. 4:15, Lam. 1:11, 16. The effect of converting the soul would not have been attributed to the law in this connection, where the writer is describing the affections cherished towards the law by men already converted, which removes all apparent inconsistency with Paul’s representation of the law as working death, and at the same time the necessity of making the law mean the gospel, or in any other way departing from the obvious and usual import of the Hebrew word. The other effect ascribed to the law is that of making wise the simple, not the foolish, in the strong sense in which that term is applied to the ungodly—see above, on Ps. 14:1—but those imperfectly enlightened and still needing spiritual guidance, a description applicable, more or less, to all believers. It is a singular fact, that while this usage of the Hebrew word is peculiar to David, Solomon constantly applies it to the culpable simplicity of unconverted men. (See Ps. 116:6, 119:130, Prov. 1:22, 7:7, 9:4, 14:15, &c.)—In like manner Paul describes the “sacred scriptures” as able to make wise unto salvation, 2 Tim. 3:15.

9 (8). The statutes of Jehovah (are) right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes. The words translated statute and commandment differ very slightly from each other, the one expressing more distinctly the idea of a charge or commission, the other that of a prescription or direction. There is also no great difference between the epithets applied in this verse to the law of God, which is right, as being an exact expression of his rectitude, and pure, as being free from all taint of injustice or iniquity. The first effect described is that of rejoicing the heart, to wit, the heart loving righteousness, and consequently desirous of knowing what is right by knowing what is acceptable to God, and what required by him. The other effect, enlightening the eyes, is understood by some of intellectual illumination with respect to spiritual things. But it is more agreeable to Hebrew usage to suppose an allusion to the dimness of the eyes produced by extreme weakness and approaching death, recovery from which is figuratively represented as an enlightening of the eyes. See above, on Ps. 13:4 (3), and compare Ps. 34:6 (5). The figure, thus explained, bears a strong resemblance to restoring the soul in the preceding verse, the one referring rather to the sense, and the other to the life itself.

10 (9). The fear of Jehovah is clean, standing for ever; the judgments of Jehovah are truth, they are righteous altogether. As the fear of Jehovah, in its proper sense, would here be out of place, and as the law was designed to teach men how to fear the Lord (Deut. 17:19), the phrase may here be understood as a description of the law viewed in reference to this peculiar purpose, the fear of the Lord being put for that which leads or teaches men to fear him, a sense which the expression is supposed to have in several other places. See Ps. 34:12 (11), Prov. 1:29, 2:5, 15:33.—Standing forever, of perpetual obligation. Even Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfil. See Mat. 5:17, 18. With the form of expression here compare Ps. 33:11, 112:3.—Judgments are properly judicial decisions, but are here put, as in Ps. 18:23 (22), for all God’s requisitions. They are truth (itself) may be a strong expression, meaning they are perfectly and absolutely true; but as this would make the last clause little more than a tautology, the first phrase may be understood to mean that they are really that which they purport and claim to be, and therefore must be righteous altogether, i.e. all, without exception, righteous, which is tantamount, in fact, though not in form, to wholly or completely righteous.

11 (10). (Judgments) to be desired more than gold, and much fine gold; and sweeter than honey and the dropping of the combs. The description of the law of God is wound up by comparing it to the costliest and sweetest substance in common use. The sense of the passive participle is like that in Ps. 18:4 (3). Its plural form, and the article prefixed to it in Hebrew, shew that it is to be construed with judgments, and that the sentence is continued from the foregoing verse, as in Ps. 18:31 (30), 33 (32), 34 (33), 35 (34), 48 (47), 51 (50).—The Hebrew answering to fine gold is a single word (פָּז), not used in prose, and by some supposed to mean solid or massive gold, but according to a more probable etymology denoting purified or fine gold. The combination here used is found also in Ps. 119:127. See also Prov. 8:19, and compare Ps. 21:4 (3), below. To make the resemblance of the clauses perfect, the usual word for honey is followed by a beautiful periphrasis, denoting that kind which was most highly valued, The ideas expressed by both comparisons are those of value and delightfulness.—As the preceding verses describe what the law is in itself and in its general effects, so this seems to express what it is to the Psalmist’s apprehensions and affections, thus affording a transition from the comprehensive doctrines of the foregoing context to the practical and personal approbation of those doctrines, which now follows and concludes the psalm.

12 (11). Moreover, thy servant is enlightened by them; in keeping them there is much reward. The verb in the first clause is used with special reference to admonition and warning against danger. See Eccles. 4:13, Exod. 33:4, 5, 6, Eccles. 12:12. The plural suffixes have reference to judgments in ver. 10 (9) above.—Reward is here used not to signify a recompense earned in strict justice, but a gratuity bestowed. The spirit of the passage is the same as in 1 Cor. 15:19, 1 Tim. 4:8. The phrase thy servant brings the general doctrines of the foregoing context into personal application to the writer.

13 (12). Errors who shall understand? Clear thou me from hidden ones! The word translated errors is akin to one sometimes used in the Law to denote sins of inadvertence, error, or infirmity, as distinguished from deliberate, willful, and high-handed sins, such as are deprecated in the next verse. See Lev. 4:2–27, Num. 15:27. Against such sins no wisdom or vigilance can wholly guard.—The word translated clear is also borrowed from the Law, and means not so much to cleanse by renovation of the heart, as to acquit by a judicial sentence. See Exod. 34:7, Num. 14:18. Such an acquittal, in the case of sinners against God, involves the idea of a free forgiveness.

14 (13). Also from presumptuous (ones) withhold thy servant; then shall I be perfect and be clear from much transgression. As he prays for the forgiveness of his inadvertent sins, so he prays for the prevention of deliberate ones. The Hebrew word (זֵדִים) properly denotes proud men, but seems to be here applied to sins by a strong personification. The use of the verbal root and its derivatives in the Old Testament may be seen by comparing Exod. 21:14, Deut. 17:12, 18:22, 1 Sam. 17:28.—To be perfect has the same sense as in Ps. 18:24–26 (23–25). That it does not there mean sinless perfection is confirmed by the language of the verse before us.—The great transgression, as if referring to some one particular offence, is not the true sense of the Hebrew phrase, which is indefinite and perfectly analogous to that rendered much (or great) reward in ver. 12 (11) above.

15 (14). (Then) shall be for acceptance (or acceptable) the sayings of my mouth, and the thought of my heart before thee, Jehovah, my rock and my redeemer. The simplest and most obvious construction of the Hebrew sentence makes it a direct continuation of the last clause of ver. 14 (13), and like it an anticipation of the happy effects to be expected from an answer to the foregoing prayers. If his sins of ignorance could be forgiven, and the deliberate sins, to which his natural corruption prompts him, hindered by divine grace, he might hope not only to avoid much guilt but to be the object of God’s favor. As this confident anticipation really involves a wish that it may be fulfilled, there is little real difference between the construction above given and the common version: let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable, &c. It is much more natural, however, to connect the words before thee with my meditation, which immediately precedes, than with the first words of the verse as in the English Bible. What I think in thy presence is then joined with the words of my mouth, to express all prayer, whether clothed in words or not. See above, on Ps. 5:2 (1). The prayer or expectation of acceptance in this clause derives peculiar beauty from the obvious allusion to the frequent use of the same Hebrew phrase (לְרָצוֹן) in the law of Moses, to denote the acceptance of the sacrificial offerings, or rather the acceptance of the offerer on account of them. See Exod. 28:38, Lev. 19:5, 7, 22:19, 20, 29, 23:11, Isa. 56:7, 60:7, Rom. 12:1. This allusion also serves to suggest the idea, not conveyed by a translation, of atonement, expiation, as the ground of the acceptance which the Psalmist hopes or prays for.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 87–92). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 18

Psalm 18

Psalm 18

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: And he said, I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire. Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils. He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me. They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay. He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me. The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity. Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight. With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward. For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks. For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God? It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places. He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed. I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet. For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me. Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me. They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not. Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets. Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me. As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me. The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places. The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted. It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me. He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man. Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name. Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.” (Psalm 18, AV)

This psalm consists of five unequal parts. In the first, David announces his desire to praise God for his wonderful deliverances, ver. 2–4 (1–3). In the second, these are described, not in historical form, but by the use of the strongest poetical figures, ver. 5–20 (4–19). In the third, he declares them to have been acts of righteousness as well as mercy, and in strict accordance with the general laws of the divine administration, ver. 21–28 (20–27). In the fourth, he goes again into particulars, but less in the way of recollection than of anticipation, founded both on what he has experienced and on what God has promised, ver. 29–46 (28–45). In the fifth, this change of form is accounted for by summing up the promises referred to, and applying them not merely to David as an individual, but to his posterity forever, thus including Christ, and shewing the whole composition to be one of those Messianic psalms, in which he is the principal subject of the prophecy, though not the only one, nor even the one nearest to the eye of the observer, ver. 46–51 (45–60).

1. To the Chief Musician. By a Servant of Jehovah. By David, who spake unto Jehovah the words of this song, in the day Jehovah freed him from the hand of all his foes and from the hand of Saul. The first clause of the title shews, in this as in other cases, that the composition was designed from the beginning to be used in the public worship of the ancient church, and has reference therefore to the experience of the writer, not as a private person, but as an eminent servant of the Lord, i.e. one entrusted with the execution of his purposes, as an instrument or agent. The expressions, spake unto Jehovah, &c., are borrowed from Exod. 15:1, and Deut. 31:30. This is the more observable, because the psalm contains obvious allusions to the song of Moses in Deut. ch. 32. An analogous case is found in 2 Sam. 23:1, where the form of expression is evidently borrowed from Num. 24:3.—The repetition of hand is not found in the original, where the first word (כַּף) properly denotes the palm or inside of the hand, but is poetically used as an equivalent to יָד. The hand is a common figure for power and possession. This whole clause bears a strong analogy to Exod. 18:10, where “out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh” corresponds exactly to “out of the hand of all his foes and out of the hand of Saul,” i.e. and especially of Saul. Compare “Judah and Jerusalem,” Isa. 1:1; “the land and Jericho,” Josh. 2:1. This form of expression does not imply that Saul was the last of his enemies, but rather that he was the first, both in time and in importance, so that he might be considered equal to all the others put together. And accordingly we find their idea carried out in the structure of this psalm, one half of which seems to relate especially to Saul, and the remainder to his other enemies. The general expressions of this title shew that the psalm was not occasioned by any particular event, but by a retrospect of all the deliverances from persecution which the writer had experienced.

2 (1). And said, I will love thee, Jehovah, my strength! The sentence is continued from the foregoing verse, who sang unto the Lord … and said. The future form, I will love, represents it as a permanent affection, and expresses a fixed purpose. I not only love thee now, but am resolved to do so for ever. The verb itself occurs nowhere else in its primitive form, but often in one of its derived forms, to express the compassionate regard of a superior to an inferior. The simple form is here used to denote the reciprocal affection of the inferior party. From its etymology the verb seems to express the strongest and most intimate attachment, being properly expressive of στοζγὴ, or parental love. The noun translated strength is also peculiar to this passage, though its root and cognate forms are very common. Combined with one of the divine names, it constitutes the name Hezekiah, which may have been suggested by the verse before us. My strength, i.e. the giver of my strength or the supplier of its deficiencies, the substitute for my strength, my protector and deliverer.

3 (2). Jehovah (is) my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my o (is) my rock, I will trust in him; my shield and my horn of salvation, my height (or high place). By this accumulation of descriptive epithets, the Psalmist represents God as the object of his trust and his protector. The first two figures, my rock and my fortress, contain an allusion to the physical structure of the Holy Land, as well as to David’s personal experience. The caves and fissures of the rocks, with which the land abounded, had often afforded him shelter and concealment when pursued by Saul. See Judges 6:2, 1 Sam. 24:8, 2 Sam. 5:7. The literal expression, my deliverer, seems to be added as an explanation of the figures which precede. My God may also be explained as one of the descriptive terms; but it seems more natural to make it the subject of a new proposition, equivalent and parallel to that in the first clause. Here again we are obliged to use the same English word as a translation of two different words in Hebrew. As the rock (סָלַע) of the first clause suggests the idea of concealment and security, so the rock (צוּר) of the second clause suggests that of strength and immobility. The figure is borrowed from Deut. 32:4, and reappears in Ps. 92:16 (15). Compare Isaiah’s phrase, a rock of ages (Isa. 26:4), and Jacob’s phrase, the stone of Israel (Gen. 49:24), where stone, like rock in the clause before us, denotes not the place but the material, not a stone, but stone, as one of the hardest and least mutable substances with which we are acquainted, and therefore an appropriate figure for combined immutability and strength. For the figurative use of shield in such connections, see above on Ps. 3:4 (3). The next phrase has allusion to the defensive habits of horned animals. The figure seems to be borrowed from Deut. 33:17. (Compare 1 Sam. 2:10, Job. 16:15.) My horn of salvation may be understood to mean, my horn, to wit, my salvation, so that the second noun is explanatory of the first. More probably, however, the expression means the horn that saves me, by repelling or destroying all my enemies. In Luke 1:69, the same phrase is applied to Christ by Zacharias. The last term in the description belongs to the same class with the first, and was probably suggested by the Psalmist’s early wanderings among the rocks and caverns of Judea. The Hebrew word properly denotes a place so high as to be beyond the reach of danger. See above, on Ps. 9:10 (9), where the same word is twice used in the same sense and figurative application.

4 (3). To be praised I will call Jehovah, and from my enemies I shall be saved. “I will invoke God as a being worthy of all praise.” The first Hebrew word, which has the force of a future passive participle, is a standing epithet of Jehovah in the lyrical style of the Old Testament. See Ps. 48:2 (1), 96:4, 113:3, 145:3, 1 Chron. 16:25. The connection of the clauses is, that the believing invocation of Jehovah in his true character, and with a just appreciation of his excellence, must needs be followed by the experience of his favor. They who cry and are not heard, as we read in ver. 42 (41) below, cry indeed to Jehovah, but they do not invoke him as the one to be praised, they do not see him as he is, and cannot pray to him as they ought. They ask and receive not, because they ask amiss (James 4:3).

5 (4). The bands of death have enclosed me, and the streams of worthlessness (or Belial) will (still) affright me. From the general acknowledgment contained in ver. 1–4, he proceeds to a more particular description of his danger. By bands we are probably to understand the cordage of a net, such as fowlers spread for birds. This is a favorite metaphor with David to denote dangers, and particularly those of an insidious and complicated kind. See below, Ps. 116:3. The word Belial properly means worthless, good for nothing. The reference is here to wicked men, whose number and violence are indicated by the figure of torrents, overflowing streams. The use of the future in the last clause shews that the writer, as in many other cases, takes his position in the midst of the event, and views it as partly past and partly future. This bold assumption of an ideal situation greatly adds to the life and vividness of the description.

6 (5). The bands of hell surrounded me, the snares of death encountered me. This verse merely repeats and amplifies the first clause of the fifth. Hell, in the wide old English sense, is a poetical equivalent to death. See above, on Ps. 6:6 (5). The explicit mention of snares in the last clause confirms the explanation before given of bands. Encountered, met me, crossed my path. The sense prevented or anticipated does not suit the context, and that of surprised is not sufficiently justified by usage. See above, on Ps. 17:13.

7 (6). In my distress I will invoke Jehovah, and to my God will cry; he will hear from his palace my voice, and my prayer before him will come, into his ears. The verbs are in the future, because they express the feelings not of one looking back upon the danger as already past, but of one actually implicated in it. See above, on ver. 5 (4). The literal meaning of the words is, in distress to me. Compare the phrase, at times in distress, Ps. 9:10 (9), 10:1. My God implies a covenant relation and a hope of audience founded on it. The verb translated cry is specially appropriated to a cry for help. His palace here means heaven, as God’s royal residence. See above, on Ps. 11:4. Into his ears is a kind of after-thought, designed to strengthen the preceding expression. It shall not only reach his presence, but, as it were, shall penetrate his ears. The whole expresses an assured hope of being heard, and is really tantamount to an assertion that he was heard.

8 (7). Then did the earth shake and quake, and the foundations of the mountains trembled and were shaken because he was angry. The idea of succession expressed by the English then is conveyed in Hebrew by the form of the verb. The resemblance, in form and sound, of shake and quake, corresponds to that of the original verbs (וַתִּגְעַשׁ וַתִּרְעַשׁ). A reflexive or emphatic passive form of the first verb appears in the second clause. The closing words of this clause strictly mean because it was inflamed (or enkindled) to him with an ellipsis of the noun (אַף) anger. The full construction may be found in Deut. 6:15, and Ps. 124:3. The phrase foundations of the mountains is copied from Deut. 32:22.

9 (8). There went up smoke in his wrath, and fire from his mouth devours: coals are kindled from it. Smoke and fire are mentioned as natural concomitants and parallel figures, both denoting anger, and suggested by the phrase it was inflamed to him in the preceding verse. Compare Deut. 32:22, 29:19 (20), Ps. 24:1. The translation nostrils rests on a confusion of two collateral derivatives from the verb to breathe. (See my note on Isa. 48:9.) Nor is this sense required by the parallelism, unless mouth and nose must always go together. There seems to be some allusion to the fire and smoke at Sinai, Exod. 19:18. From it may have reference to fire; but the nearest antecedent is his mouth. Compare Job 41:11–13 (19–21). There is no need of supplying any object with devours; the idea is that of a devouring fire, i.e. one capable of consuming whatever combustible material it may meet with.

10 (9). So he bowed the heavens and came down, and gloom (was) under his feet. The scene seems here to be transferred from heaven to earth, where the psalmist sees not only the divine operation but the personal presence of Jehovah. The word so, familiarly employed in English to continue a narrative, here represents the vau conversive of the Hebrew. The word translated gloom is not the usual term for darkness, but a poetical expression specially applied to dense clouds and vapors. The expression seems to be derived from Deut. 5:22. Compare with this clause, Exod. 19:16, and with the first, Isa. 63:19 (64:1).

11 (10). And he rode on a cherub and flew, and soared on the wings of a wind. The cherubim of the Mosaic system were visible representations of the whole class of creatures superior to man. The singular form cherub seems to be used here to convey the indefinite idea of a superhuman but created being. The whole verse is a poetical description of God’s intervention, as a scene presented to the senses. As earthly kings are carried by inferior animals, so the heavenly king is here described as borne through the air in his descent by beings intermediate between himself and man. The word soared, in the second clause, is used to represent a poetical term in the original borrowed from Deut. 28:49. With the whole verse compare Ps. 68:18 (17), and 104:3.

12 (11). (And) set darkness (as) his covert about him, his shelter, darkness of waters, clouds of the skies, This concealment suggests the idea of a brightness insupportable by mortal sight. Compare Deut. 4:11, Job 36:29, Ps. 97:2. Darkness of waters does not mean dark waters, but watery darkness, a beautiful description of clouds charged with rain. The two nouns in the last clause both mean clouds, but the second is used only in the plural, and seems properly to designate the whole body of vapors constituting the visible heavens or sky. A somewhat similar combination occurs in Exod. 19:9.

13 (12). From the blaze before him his clouds passedhail and coals of fire. The dark clouds which enveloped him are now described as penetrated by the light within. Passed, i.e. passed away, were dispelled. The last clause may be construed as an exclamation such as an eye-witness might have uttered. The combination is borrowed from Exod. 9:24. (Compare Ps. 78:47, 48.) Hail, as an instrument of the divine vengeance, is also mentioned in Josh. 10:11.

14 (13). Then thundered in the heavens Jehovah, and the Highest gave his voicehail and coals of fire. The second clause is a poetical repetition of the first. “The Most High gave his voice,” means in this connection neither more nor less than that he “thundered in the heavens.” Though visibly present upon earth he is described as still in heaven. Compare Gen. 11:5, 7; 18:21; John 3:13. The last clause may be construed as in ver. 13, or made dependent on the verb gave, as in Exod. 9:23: “Jehovah gave thunder and hail.” This clause is repeated because the hail and lightning were not merely terrific circumstances, but appointed instruments of vengeance and weapons of destruction.

15 (14). Then sent he his arrows and scattered them, and shot forth lightnings and confounded them. The lightnings of the last clause may be understood as explaining the arrows of the first. Instead of shot forth lightnings some translate and lightnings much, i.e. many, in which sense the Hebrew word (רָב) occurs sometimes elsewhere (Exod. 19:21, 1 Sam. 14:6, Num. 26:54). In several other places it seems to mean enough or too much (Gen. 45:28, Exod. 9:28, Num. 16:3, 7, Deut. 1:6). If either of these constructions is adopted, the verb sent must be repeated from the other clause. The version first given, shot, is justified by the analogy of Gen. 49:23. The last verb in the sentence is a military term denoting the confusion of an army produced by a surprise or sudden panic; see Exod. 14:24, 23:27, Josh. 10:10, and with the whole verse compare Ps. 144:6.

16 (15). Then were seen the channels of water and uncovered the foundations of the world, at thy rebuke, Jehovah, at the blast of the breath of thy wrath. The idea meant to be conveyed by this poetical description is that of sudden and complete subversion, the turning of the whole earth upside down. The language is not designed to be exactly expressive of any real physical change whatever. From, or at thy rebuke, i.e. after it and in consequence of it. The breath of thy wrath, thy angry breath, might also be rendered, the wind of thy wrath, thy angry or tempestuous wind. That the Hebrew words do not mean thy nose or nostrils, see above, on ver. 9 (8). Some suppose an allusion, in the figures of this verse, to the floods of worthlessness in ver 5 (4), and the bands of hell in ver. 6 (5).

17 (16). He will send from above, he will take me, he will draw me out of many waters. Here again the writer seems to take his stand between the inception and the consummation of the great deliverance, and to speak just as he might have spoken while it was in progress. “All this he has done in preparation, and now he is about to send,” &c. This seems to be a more satisfactory explanation of the future forms than to make them simple presents, and still more than to make them preterites, which is wholly arbitrary and ungrammatical, although the acts described by these futures were in fact past at the time of composition. To send from above in our idiom means to send a messenger; but in Hebrew this verb is the one used with hand, where we say stretch out, e.g. in the parallel passage Ps. 144:7. (See also Gen. 8:9, 48:14). The noun, however, is sometimes omitted, and the verb used absolutely to express the sense of the whole phrase, as in 2 Sam. 6:6, Ps. 57:4 (3). From above, from on high, from the height or high place, i.e. heaven, the place of God’s manifested presence. There is peculiar beauty in the word translated draw, which is the root of the name Moses, and occurs, besides the place before us, only in the explanation of that name recorded by himself, Exod. 2:10. The choice of this unusual expression here involves an obvious allusion both to the historical fact and the typical meaning of the deliverance of Moses, and a kind of claim upon the part of David to be regarded as another Moses.

18 (17). He will free me from my enemy (because he is) strong, and from my haters, because they are mightier than I. The futures are to be explained as in the verse preceding. The enemy here mentioned is an ideal person, representing a whole class, of whom Saul was the chief representative. The idiomatic phrase, my enemy strong, may be understood as simply meaning my strong enemy; but the true construction seems to be indicated by the parallelism. His own weakness and the power of his enemies is given as a reason for the divine interposition.

19 (18). They will encounter me in the day of my calamity; and Jehovah has been for a stay to me. The first clause seems to express a belief that his trials from this quarter are not ended, while the other appeals to past deliverances as a ground of confidence that God will still sustain him. Most interpreters, however, make the future and preterite forms of this verse perfectly equivalent. “They encountered me in the day of my calamity, and the Lord was for a stay to me.” As to the meaning of the first verb, see above, on ver. 6 (5). It is not improbable that David here alludes to his sufferings in early life when fleeing before Saul; see above on ver. 3 (2).

20 (19). And brought me out into the wide place; he will save me because he delights in me. The construction is continued from the foregoing sentence. As confinement or pressure is a common figure for distress, so relief from it is often represented as enlargement, or as coming forth into an open space. See above, on Ps. 6:2 (1). Here, as in the preceding verse, most interpreters make no distinction between preterite and future. The meaning may, however, be that he expects the same deliverance hereafter which he has experienced already.

21 (20). Jehovah will treat me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands will he repay me. The future verbs have reference to the condition of the Psalmist under his afflictions, and the hopes which even then he was enabled to cherish. At the same time they make this the announcement of a general and perpetual truth, a law by which God’s dispensations are to be controlled for ever. The hands are mentioned as organs or instruments of action. Compare Isa. 1:15, Job 9:30, 22:30. The righteousness here claimed is not an absolute perfection or entire exemption from all sinful infirmity, but what Paul calls submission to the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:3), including faith in his mercy and a sincere governing desire to do his will. This is a higher and more comprehensive sense than innocence of some particular charge, or innocence in reference to man, though not in reference to God.

22 (21). For I have kept the ways of Jehovah, and have not apostatized from my God. The Lord’s ways are the ways which he marks out for us to walk in, the ways of duty and of safety. To keep them is to keep one’s self in them, to observe them so as to adhere to them and follow them. The last clause strictly means, I have not been wicked (or guilty) from my God; a combination of the verb and proposition which shews clearly that the essential idea in the writer’s mind was that of apostasy or total abjuration of God’s service. Its is of this mortal sin, and not of all particular transgressions, that the Psalmist here professes himself innocent.

23 (22). For all his judgments (are) before me, and his statutes I will not put from me. Judicial decisions and permanent enactments are here used as equivalent expressions for all God’s requisitions. To have these before one is to observe them, and the opposite of putting them away or out of sight. The terms of this profession have been evidently chosen in allusion to such dicta of the law itself as Deut. 5:29, 17:11. From the past tense of the foregoing verse he here insensibly slides into the present and the future, so as to make his profession of sincerity include his former life, his actual dispositions, and his settled purpose for all time to come.

24 (23). And I have been perfect with him, and have kept myself from my iniquity. He not only will be faithful, but he has been so already, in the sense before explained. There is evident reference in the first clause to the requisition of the Law, “thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God,” Deut. 18:13. (Compare Gen. 17:1.) With means not merely in his presence, or his sight, as distinguished from men’s estimate of moral objects, but “in my intercourse and dealing with him.” Compare 1 Kings 11:4, and the description of David in 1 Kings 14:8, 15:5. In the last clause some see an allusion to David’s adventure in the cave, when his conscience smote him for meditating violence against Saul. See 1 Sam. 24:6, and compare 1 Sam. 26:23, 24. But whether this be so or not, the clause undoubtedly contains a confession of corruption. My iniquity can only mean that to which I am naturally prone and subject. We have here, then, a further proof that the perfection claimed in the first clause is not an absolute immunity from sin, but an upright purpose and desire to serve God.

25 (24). And Jehovah has requited me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands before his eyes. This verse shews clearly that the futures in ver. 21 (20) must be strictly understood. What he there represents himself as confidently hoping, he here professes to have really experienced. In the intervening verses he shews how he had done his part, and now acknowledges that God had faithfully performed his own.

26, 27 (25, 26). With the gracious thou wilt shew thyself gracious; with the perfect man thou wilt shew thyself perfect; with the purified thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the crooked thou wilt shew thyself perverse. What he had previously mentioned as the method of God’s dealings towards himself, he now describes as a general law of the divine administration. The essential idea is that God is, in a certain sense, to men precisely what they are to him. The particular qualities specified are only given as examples, and might have been exchanged for others without altering the general sense. The form of expression is extremely strong and bold, but scarcely liable to misapprehension, even in ver. 27 (26). No one is in danger of imagining that God can act perversely even to the most perverse. But the same course of proceeding which would be perverse in itself or towards a righteous person, when pursued towards a sinner becomes a mere act of vindicatory justice. In the first clause of ver. 26 (25), the ambiguous word gracious has been chosen to represent the similar term חָסִיד, for the comprehensive use of which we see above, on Ps. 4:4 (3), 12:2 (1). Perfect has the same sense as in ver. 23 (22), namely, that of freedom from hypocrisy and malice. The verbs are all of the reflexive form and might be rendered, thou wilt make thyself gracious, thou wilt act the gracious, or simply thou wilt be gracious, &c., but the common version approaches nearest to the force of the original expression. The first verb of ver. 27 (26) occurs once elsewhere (Dan. 12:10), the rest only here. The forms may have been coined for the occasion, to express the bold conception of the writer. The resemblance of the last clause of ver. 27 (26) to Lev. 26:23, 24, makes it highly probable that the whole form of this singular dictum was suggested by that passage, the rather as this Psalm abounds in allusions to the Pentateuch and imitations of it.

28 (27). For thou wilt save the afflicted people, and lofty eyes thou wilt bring down. Another general description of God’s dealings with mankind, repeated more than once in the New Testament. See Mat. 23:12, Luke 14:11, 18:14. High looks or lofty eyes is a common Old Testament expression for pride and haughtiness. See below, on Ps. 101:5, 131:1, and compare Prov. 21:4, 30:13, Isa. 10:12, 37:23. The afflicted people means the people of God when in affliction, or considered as sufferers. Thou is emphatic: “however men may despise and maltreat thy afflicted people, I know that thou wilt save them.”

29 (28). For thou wilt light my lamp; Jehovah, my God, will illuminate my darkness. Having ascended from particulars to generals, he now reverses the process. On his own experience, as described in ver. 4–25 (3–24), he had founded a general declaration of God’s mode of dealing with men, which statement he proceeds now to illustrate by recurring to his own experience. In this second part there is reason to believe that he has reference to the other cases of deliverance in his history, besides those from Saul’s persecutions which had furnished the theme of his thanksgiving in the first part of the psalm. In accordance with this difference of subject, it has been observed that in this second part he appears more active, and not merely as an object but an instrument of God’s delivering mercy. As to the form of expression in this part, it has been determined by the writer’s assuming his position at the close of the Sauline persecution, and describing his subsequent deliverances as still prospective. This was the more convenient, as he wished to express a confident assurance of God’s goodness, not only to himself individually but to his posterity. A lamp or candle in the house is a common Hebrew figure for prosperity, and its extinction for distress. See Job 18:5, 6, 21:17, Prov. 24:20. The first clause may also be translated, thou wilt make my light shine. The verb in the parallel clause is from another root, and there is consequently no such assonance as in the English version (light, enlighten). The pronoun in the first clause is again emphatic. “Whatever I may suffer at the hands of others, thou at least wilt light my candle.” The emphasis is sustained in the last clause by a sudden change of person and introduction of the divine name.

30 (29). For in thee I shall run (through or over) a troop, and in my God I shall leap a wall. From his ideal post of observation he foresees the military triumphs which awaited him, and which were actually past at the time of composition. The ‘for’, as in the two preceding verses, connects the illustration with the general proposition in ver. 27–29 (26–28). “This is certainly God’s mode of dealing, for I know that he will deal thus with me.” In thee, and in my God, i.e. in intimate union with him and possession of him, a much stronger sense than that of mere assistance (by thee), which however, is included. See below, on Ps. 44:6 (5).—The ellipsis of the preposition, with which the verbs are usually construed, belongs to the license of poetical style. Even in prose, however, we can say, to walk the streets, to leap a wall. To run a troop may either mean to run against or through it; the phrase may therefore be completed so as to have either an offensive or defensive sense. In like manner, leaping a wall may either mean escaping from an enemy or storming his defenses. Most interpreters prefer the stronger meaning of attack, which is certainly entitled to the preference, unless the writer be supposed to have selected his expressions with a view to the suggestion of both these ideas, which together comprehend all possible varieties of success in war. As if he had said, “Weak though I be in myself, I am sure that in conjunction with thee, neither armies nor fortifications shall be able to subdue or even to resist me.” With David’s tone of triumphant confidence in this verse, compare Paul’s in 2 Cor. 2:14, and Philip. 4:13.

31 (30). The Almightyperfect is his waythe word of Jehovah is trieda shield (is) he to all those trusting in him. The first clause seems to be an amplification of my God in the preceding verse. In my God, the Mighty (God), whose way is perfect, i.e. his mode of dealing, as before described, is free from all taint of injustice. This explanation suggests a further description of Jehovah as a sure protector. His word here means especially his promise, perhaps with specific allusion to the seventh chapter of 2 Samuel. Tried, as metals are tried by fire, and thus proved to be genuine; see above, on Ps. 12:7 (6). A shield; see above, on Ps. 3:4 (3). Trusting in him; see above, on Ps. 2:12.

32 (31). For who is God save Jehovah? And who is a rock besides our God? The ‘for’ shows that this verse gives the ground of the strong assurances contained in that before it. “I affirm all this because I recognize Jehovah as the only true God.” Rock has the same sense as in ver. 3 (2). The whole verse bears a strong resemblance to 2 Sam. 7:22.

33 (32). The Almighty girding me with strength, and (who) has given (or rendered) my way perfect. The connection of the verses is the same as that between ver. 31 (30) and 32 (31). The our God of the preceding verse is here described as the Almighty girding me, &c. For the true sense of the divine name here and in ver. 32 (31), see above, on Ps. 5:5 (4). 7:12, (11), 10:11, 12, 16:1, 17:6. The imparting of a quality or bestowing of a gift is in various languages described as clothing. Thus the English words endue and invest have almost lost their original meaning. The figure of girding is peculiarly significant, because in the oriental dress the girdle is essential to all free and active motion. Compare Ps. 65:13 (12), as translated in the margin of the English Bible, and Isa. 11:5. The last clause may either mean, “who is faultless in the way by which he leads me,” i.e. whose dispensations towards me are free from all injustice; or, “who gives my conduct the perfection which belongs to it.” The first construction gives the words the same sense as in ver. 31 (30), but the other is by far the simplest and most natural, and as such entitled to the preference.

34 (33). Making my feet like hinds, and on my heights he makes me stand. The first word properly means equaling, assimilating, the idea of resemblance being expressed in Hebrew both by the verb and by the particle of comparison. The female animal is supposed by some to be mentioned because it was regarded as more fleet, and accordingly we find it used in the Egyptian hieroglyphics as a symbol of swiftness. The name, however, may be used generally, as in English we apply either the masculine or feminine pronoun to some whole species. My heights, those which are to be mine by right of conquest and by divine gift. The heights may be either the natural highlands of the country or the artificial heights of its fortified places. It has been disputed whether the swiftness mentioned in the first clause has reference to attack or flight. Most probably both were meant to be included, as in ver. 30 (29) above. For both reasons swiftness of foot was prized in the heroic age, as appears from Homer’s standing description of Achilles. See 2 Sam. 2:18, 1 Chron. 12:8.

35 (34). Teaching my hands to war, and my arms have bent a bow of brass. The construction is continued from the preceding verse, all the participles having reference to the name of God in ver. 33 (32). The last clause is a strong expression for extraordinary strength, which is mentioned merely as a heroic quality. The translation broken rests on what is now regarded as a false etymology. Brass was used before iron in Egypt and other ancient countries as a material for arms.

36 (35). And hast given me a shield, thy salvation; and thy right hand is to hold me up, and thy condescension is to make me great. In the first clause we may also read the shield of thy salvation, or thy shield of salvation, i.e. thy saving shield, without material variation of the sense. The futures have reference to the point from which he is surveying things past as still future. The noun in the last clause means humility, as an attribute of human character (Prov. 15:33), but when applied to God, benignant self-abasement, condescending kindness to inferiors. Compare Ps. 8:5 (4), Isai. 66:1, 2.

37 (36). Thou wilt enlarge my steps under me, and my ankles shall not swerve. To enlarge the steps is to afford ample room for walking freely without hindrance. The opposite figure is that of confined steps. See Prov. 4:12, Job 18:7. The meaning of the whole verse is, thou wilt guide me safely.

38 (37). I am to pursue my enemies and overtake them, and not to turn back until I destroy them. This is not a threat of vengeance, but a confident anticipation of perpetual triumphs, either in his own person or in that of his descendants. The form of expression in the first clause is borrowed from the Song of Moses, Exod. 15:9. See above on Ps. 7:6 (5), where the same two verbs are combined. The reference of all these future forms to past time would be not only gratuitous but ungrammatical.

39 (38). I shall smite them and they cannot rise, they shall fall beneath my feet. This simply carries out the idea of successful pursuit in the preceding verse.

40 (39). And thou hast girded me with strength for the war (or battle), thou wilt bow down my assailants under me. He returns to God as the author of his triumphs and successes. The first clause blends the ideas expressed in the corresponding clauses of ver. 33, 36 (32, 35).—My assailants, literally, my insurgents, those rising up against me. See ver. 49 below, and compare Ps. 44:6 (5), 59:2 (1), Job 27:7. Here again the spirit of the Psalmist is not that of an ambitious conqueror, but of a willing instrument in God’s hand, to be used for the promotion of his sovereign purpose.

41 (40). And my enemiesthou hast given to me the backand my hatersI will destroy them. Each clause begins with an absolute nominative which might be rendered, as to my enemies, as to my haters. The remainder of the first clause is highly idiomatic in its form, and scarcely admits of an exact translation. The word translated back properly means the back of the neck, but is frequently used in such connections. The meaning of the whole phrase is, thou hast given me their back, i.e. made them to turn it towards me by putting them to flight. This is also a Mosaic form of speech. See Exod. 23:27, and compare Josh. 7:8, 2 Chron. 29:6. Ps. 21:13 (12).

42 (41), They shall call for help, and there is no delivererupon Jehovah, and he hears them not. Because they have no covenant relation to him, as the Psalmist had. Their calling on Jehovah does not exclude all reference to heathen foes, as appears from Jonah 1:14.—Hear, in the pregnant sense of hearing favorably, granting, answering a prayer. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4).

43 (42). And I shall beat them small as dust before the wind, as dirt in the streets I will pour them out. The comparisons in this verse are intended to express the Psalmist’s superiority to his enemies, his consequent contempt for them, and the facility with which he will destroy them. Similar images are not unfrequent in the Old Testament. See for example Isa. 10:6, Zeph. 1:17. Zech. 10:5.

44 (43). Thou wilt save me from the strifes of the people; thou wilt place me at the head (or for a chief) of nations; a people I have not known shall serve me. He was not only to be freed from the internal strifes of his own people, but by that deliverance enabled to subdue other nations. The closing words of the psalm, and its obvious connection with the promises in 2 Sam. 7, shew that this anticipation was not limited to David’s personal triumphs, either at home or abroad, but meant to comprehend the victories of his successors, and especially of him in whom the royal line was at once to end and be perpetuated. It may, therefore, be affirmed with truth that this prediction had its complete fulfilment only in Christ.

45, 46 (44, 45). At the hearing of the ear they will obey me, the sons of outland will lie to me; the sons of outland will decay, and tremble out of their enclosures. The meaning of the first words of this verse is clear from Job 42:5, where the hearing of the ear is put in opposition to the sight of the eye, report or hearsay to personal and ocular inspection. The verb translated will obey, whenever it occurs elsewhere, is a simple passive of the verb to hear, and accordingly some render it here, they who have only been heard of by the hearing of the ear, i.e. those whom I have only heard of, but have never seen, will feign obedience. But as the corresponding form of the verb to lie (יִכָּחֲשׁוּ) is used by Moses actively in Deut. 33:29, to which place there is an obvious allusion here, the first translation above given is entitled to the preference, and the sense is, that as soon as foreign nations hear of him they will lie to him, i.e. yield a feigned obedience through the influence of fear, in which sense another form of the same verb is used not only in the passage of the Pentateuch just cited, but in Ps. 66:3, 81:16 (15).—The old word outland, which may still be traced in its derivative adjective outlandish, has been here employed to represent a Hebrew word for which we have no equivalent in modern English, and which means foreign parts indefinitely or collectively. The marginal version in the English Bible (sons of the stranger) is only an inexact approximation to the form of the original. The verb decay, which properly denotes the withering of plants (see above, Ps. 1:3), is applied to the wasting of the human subject, and indeed of whole communities, in Exod. 18:18. To tremble from, or out of, is a pregnant phrase, involving the idea of a verb of motion, and meaning to come forth with fear. The same form of expression may be found in Micah 7:17, and analogous ones in 1 Sam. 16:4, Hosea 11:11.—Their enclosures, their retreats or refuges, perhaps with special reference to military enclosures, such as fortresses and camps.

47 (46). Jehovah lives, and blessed be my rock, and high shall be the God of my salvation. The first phrase, (חַי יְהֹוָה) which is elsewhere always used as a formula of swearing (as the Lord liveth, i.e. as certainly as God exists), is by some interpreters confounded with a kindred phrase (יְחִי הַמָּלָךְ) vive le roi, (long) live the king, and regarded as a kind of acclamation, similar to those which were uttered at the coronation of the Jewish kings (1 Sam. 10:24, 1 Kings 1:25, 39, 2 Kings 11:12). But besides, the difference of form in Hebrew, such a wish is inappropriate to any but a mortal. There may, however, be an intentional allusion to the custom in question, as well as to the practice of swearing by the life of Jehovah, both of which would naturally be suggested to a Hebrew reader. Jehovah is described as the living God, in contrast to dead idols, or imaginary deities, which, as Paul says (1 Cor. 8:4), are nothing in the world. Blessed be my rock, the foundation of my hope, my refuge and protector; see above, on ver. 3 (2). The word translated blessed does not mean happy, but praised, and may here have the peculiar sense of worthy to be praised, like מְהֻלָּל in ver. 4 (3) above. It may be rendered as an affirmation: My rock (is) worthy to be praised. Or it may be taken as a wish: Praised (be) my rock, to which there is the less objection, as the preceding proposition is, in fact though not in form, a doxology, i.e. a declaration of what God is in himself, and of that to which he is in consequence entitled. The third phrase, he shall be high, may be understood to mean, not only he shall still be glorious, but he shall be magnified as such, exalted by the praises of his creatures. The God of my salvation, or, my God of salvation, does not merely mean the God who saves me, but my God who is a Saviour, of whom this is one essential character. Compare Luke 1:47. This epithet is common in the Psalms, and occurs once or twice in the Prophets. Isa. 17:10, Mic. 7:7, Hab. 3:18.

48 (47). The Mighty (God) who gives revenges to me and has subdued nations under me. The construction is the same as in ver. 31, 33 (30, 32) above. This verse contains a further description of the God of his salvation, and at the same time justifies the affirmations of the preceding verse. What the Psalmist here rejoices in is not vengeance wreaked upon his personal enemies, but punishment inflicted on the enemies of God through himself as a mere instrument. Not to rejoice in this would have proved him unworthy of his high vocation. With the last clause compare Ps. 47:4 (3), 144:2.

49 (48). Saving me from my enemies; yea, from my assailants (or insurgents) thou wilt raise me high; from the man of violence thou wilt deliver me. Here again the construction changes from the participle to the finite verb, but with a further change to the second person, which adds greatly to the life and energy of the expression. The yea may be taken as a simple copulative, and assailants as a mere equivalent to enemies. Some prefer, however, to assume a climax, and to understand the verse as meaning that he had not only been delivered from external foes, but from the more dangerous assaults of domestic treason or rebellion. There would then seem to be an allusion to Absalom’s conspiracy. Thou wilt raise me, set me up on high, beyond the reach of all my enemies. For a similar expression see below, Ps. 59:2 (1), as translated in the margin of the English Bible. The man of violence has, no doubt, reference to Saul, but only as the type of a whole class. Compare Ps. 140:2, 5 (1, 4).

50 (49). Therefore I will thank thee among the nations, O Jehovah, and to thy name will sing. The first word has reference not merely to the fact of his deliverance and promotion, but to the character in which he had experienced these blessings, and the extent of the divine purpose in bestowing them. “Therefore—because it is God who has done and is to do all this for me, and because it is in execution of a purpose comprehending the whole race—I will not confine my praises and thanksgiving to my own people, but extend them to all nations.” The performance of this vow has been going on for ages, and is still in progress wherever this and other psalms of David are now sung or read. The verse before us is legitimately used by Paul, together with Deut. 32:43, Isa. 11:1, 10, and Ps. 117:1, to prove that, even under the restrictive institutions of the old economy, God was not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also. (Rom. 3:29, 15:9–12).—The verb in the first clause strictly means I will confess or acknowledge, but is specially applied to the acknowledgment of gifts received or benefits experienced, and then corresponds almost exactly to our thank. The corresponding verb in the last clause means to praise by music. See above, on Ps. 7:18 (17), 9:3, 12 (2, 11).

51 (50). Making great the salvations of his King, and doing kindness to his Anointed, to David, and to his seed unto eternity. We have here another instance of the favorite construction which connects a sentence with the foregoing context by means of a participle agreeing with the subject of a previous sentence; see above, ver. 31 (30), 32 (31), 33 (32), 34 (33), 49 (48). Making great salvations, saving often and signally. The plural form conveys the idea of fullness and completeness. As the phrase His Anointed might have seemed to designate David exclusively, he shews its comprehensive import by expressly adding David and his seed, from which it clearly follows that the Messiah or Anointed One here mentioned is a complex or ideal person, and that Jesus Christ, far from being excluded, is, in fact, the principal person comprehended, as the last and greatest of the royal line of David, to whom the promises were especially given, in whom alone they are completely verified, and of whom alone the last words of this psalm could be uttered, in their true and strongest sense, without a falsehood or without absurdity. In this conclusion, as in other portions of the psalm, there is a clear though tacit reference to the promise in 2 Sam. 7:12–16, 25, 26, where several of the very same expressions are employed. Compare also Ps. 28:8, 84:10 (9), and Ps. 89, passim.

Another copy of this psalm is found recorded near the close of David’s history (2 Sam. ch. 22), which confirms the intimation in the title, that it was not composed in reference to any particular occasion, but in a general retrospection of the miseries of his whole life. The two texts often differ, both in form and substance, which has led some to suppose, that one is an erroneous transcript of the other. But this conclusion is forbidden by the uniform consistency of each considered in itself, as well as by the obvious indications of design in the particular variations, which may be best explained by supposing, that David himself, for reasons not recorded, prepared a twofold form of this sublime composition, which is the less improbable, as there are other unambiguous traces of the same process in the Old Testament, and in the writings of David himself. See below, the exposition of Ps. 53, and compare that of Isaiah, ch. 36–39. If this be a correct hypothesis, the two forms of the eighteenth psalm may be treated as distinct and independent compositions; and it has therefore been thought most advisable, both for the purpose of saving room and of avoiding the confusion which a parallel interpretation might have caused, to confine the exposition in this volume to that form of the psalm, which was preserved in the Psalter for permanent use in public worship, and which exhibits strong internal proofs of being the original or first conception, although both are equally authentic and inspired.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 74–87). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Sincere Conformity to God's Will

Sincere Conformity to God's Will

Psalm 17

“A Prayer of David. Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips. Let my sentence come forth from thy presence; let thine eyes behold the things that are equal. Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech. Shew thy marvelous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them. Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about. They are inclosed in their own fat: with their mouth they speak proudly. They have now compassed us in our steps: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth; Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey, and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places. Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes. As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” (Psalm 17, AV)

A sufferer, in imminent danger, professes his sincere conformity to God’s will, and invokes his favor and protection, ver. 1–5. This petition is enforced by an appeal to former mercies, ver. 6, 7, and a description of the wickedness of his enemies, ver. 8–12, whose character and spirit he contrasts with his own, ver. 13–15.

The position of this psalm in the collection seems to have been determined by the resemblance of its subject, tone, and diction, to those of the sixteenth, with which it may be said to form a pair or double psalm, like the first and second, third and fourth, ninth and tenth, &c.

1. A Prayer. By David. Hear, O Jehovah, the right, hearken to my cry, give ear to my prayer not with lips of deceit. This psalm is called a prayer because petition is its burden, its characteristic feature, its essential element. By David, literally, to David, i.e. belonging to him as its author.—The right, righteousness or justice in the abstract, here put for a just cause, or perhaps for one who is in the right, who has justice on his side. The prayer that God will hear the right implies that no appeal is made to partiality or privilege, but merely to the merits of the case. The righteousness claimed is not merely that of the cause but that of the person, not inherent but derived from the imputed righteousness of faith according to the doctrine of the Old as well as the New Testament. The quality alleged is not that of sinless perfection but that of sincere conformity to the divine will. The last clause, not with lips of deceit, applies to all that goes before, and represents sincerity as necessary to acceptance. The original expression is still stronger, and conveys much more than a negative. It does not merely say, not with deceitful lips, but more positively with lips not deceitful.

2. From before thee my judgment shall come forth; thine eyes shall behold equities. This sentence really involves a prayer, but in form it is the expression of a confident hope. From before thee, from thy presence, thy tribunal. My judgment, my acquittal, vindication; or my justice, i.e. my just cause, my cause considered as a just one. Shall come forth, to the view of others, shall be seen and recognized in its true character, as being what it is. The reason is, because God’s judgments are infallible. His eyes cannot fail to see innocence or righteousness where it exists. The plural, rectitudes or equities, is an emphatic abstract. See above, on the parallel passage, Ps. 11:7.

3. Thou hast tried my heart, hast visited (me) by night, hast assayed me; thou wilt not find; my mouth shall not exceed my thought. He still appeals to God as the judge and witness of his own sincerity. The preterites represent the process as no new one, although still continued in the present. Visited for the purpose of examination or inspection, in which specific sense the English verb is often used. By night, as the time when men’s thoughts are least under restraint, and when the evil, if there be any, is most certain of detection. Purged me, as the purity of metals is tested by fire, to which process the Hebrew word is specially applied. Thou shalt not find anything at variance with the sincerity of this profession.—The future form implies that the investigation is to be continued, but without any change in the result.—The last clause is doubtful and obscure. The common version, I am purposed (that) my mouth shall not transgress, agrees well enough with the form of the words, but is forbidden by the accents. The reversed construction, my thoughts shall not exceed my mouth (or speech), is ungrammatical; nor does either of these constructions suit the context so well as the first, which makes the clause a renewed profession of sincerity.

4. (As) to the works of man, by the word of thy lips I have kept the paths of the violent (transgressor.) The works of man are the sinful courses to which man is naturally prone. The generic term man (אָדָם) is often used in reference to the sinful infirmities of human nature. See 1 Sam. 24:10 (9), Hos. 6:7, Job 31:33. The word of God’s lips is the word uttered by him, with particular reference to his precepts or commands, but including his entire revelation. By this word, by means of it as an instrument, and in reliance on it as an authority.—The verb (שָׁמַר) translated kept properly means watched, and is elsewhere applied to the observance of a rule, but in this place seems to mean watched for the purpose of avoiding, as we say in English to keep away from or keep out of danger.—From the verb (פָּרַץ) to break forth, elsewhere applied to gross iniquities (Hos. 4:2.) comes the adjective (פָּרִיץ) violent, outrageous, here used as an epithet of the flagrant sinner.

5. My steps have laid hold of thy paths, my feet have not swerved. His profession of integrity is still continued. The first verb is in the infinitive form, but determined by the preterites before and after. The English language does not furnish equivalents to the parallel terms in Hebrew, both which denote footsteps. The common version violates the context by converting the first clause into a prayer, which would here be out of place.

6. I have invoked thee because thou wilt answer me, O God! Incline thine ear to me, hear my speech. The alternation of the tenses is significant. ‘I have invoked thee heretofore, and do so still, because I know that thou wilt hear me.” It is needless to observe how much the sentence is enfeebled by the change of either to the present.—Thou wilt hear me, in the pregnant sense of hearing graciously or answering a prayer. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4).—O (mighty) God! The divine name here used is the one denoting God’s omnipotence. See above, Ps. 5:5 (4), 7:12 (11), 10:11, 12. 16:1.—My speech, what I say, אִמְרָה from אָמַר to say.

7. Distinguish thy mercies, (O thou) saving those trusting, from those rising up, with thy right hand. The first verb is the same that occurs in Ps. 4:4 (3.) Here, as there, it means to set apart, or single out, but with particular reference to extraordinary favors, implying an unusual necessity. Such mercy is described as perfectly in keeping with the divine mode of action in such cases.—Trusting, seeking refuge, i.e. in God. See above, on Ps. 16:1. The same ellipsis may be assumed after rising up, or we may supply against them.—With thy right hand, as the instrument of deliverance. Compare Ps. 16:11. These words must be connected in construction with saving.

8. Keep me as the apple of the eye, in the shadow of thy wings thou wilt hide me. The first verb means to watch over, guard, preserve with care. See above, on ver. 4, where it occurs in a figurative application. The pupil or apple of the eye is a proverbial type of that which is most precious and most easily injured, and which therefore has a double claim to sedulous protection. The original phrase is strongly idiomatic, exhibiting what seems to be a singular confusion of the genders. Its literal meaning is, supplying the articles omitted by poetic license, the man (or the little man, or the man-like part) the daughter of the eye. The first word has reference to the image reflected in the pupil, which is then described as belonging to the eye, by an oriental idiom which uses personal relations, son, daughter, &c., to denote the mutual relations even of inanimate objects. The comparison is borrowed from Deut. 32:10, where it is followed by another with the eagle’s treatment of her young, to which there seems to be allusion in the last clause of the verse before us. The imperative form of the first verb is no reason for departing from the future form of the other, which is much more expressive. What he asks in one clause he expresses his assured hope of obtaining in the other.

9. From the face of the wicked who have wasted me; mine enemies to the soul will surround me. The preceding sentence is continued, with a more particular description of the objects of his dread. “Thou wilt hide me from the face, sight, or presence of the wicked.” Wasted, desolated, destroyed, with allusion perhaps to the siege of a town or the invasion of a country. The same term is applied to a dead man in Judges 5:27. The enemies of the last clause are identical with the wicked of the first. Enemies in soul may mean cordial haters, or enemies who seek the soul or life, called deadly enemies in the English version. Or בְּנֶפֶשׁ may be construed with the verb: surround me eagerly (with craving appetite); or surround me against my soul or life, i.e. with a view to take it.—The future form suggests that the danger which the first clause had described as past, was still present, and likely to continue. As if he had said, “from my wicked foes who have already wasted me, and will no doubt still continue to surround me.” In this description present danger is included, whereas if we substitute the present form, we lose the obvious allusion to the future and the past.

10. Their fat they have closed; (with) their mouth they have spoken in pride. The first clause, though not exactly rendered, is correctly paraphrased in the English Bible; they are enclosed in their own fat. This is no uncommon metaphor in Scripture for moral and spiritual insensibility; see Deut. 32:15, Job 15:27, Ps. 73:7, 119:70. The literal sense of the expressions derives some illustration from Judg. 3:22. Some give to fat the specific sense of heart, which is said to have in Arabic, “their heart they have closed.” But the other explanation yields the same sense in a more emphatic form, and with closer conformity to Hebrew usage.

11. In our footsteps now have they surrounded us; their eyes they will set, to go astray in the land. The meaning of the first words, in our footsteps, seems to be, wherever we go. Compare Ps. 139:3, 5. For the masoretic reading us, the text has me, which, although harsher, amounts to the same thing, as the sufferer is an ideal person respecting many real ones. The parallel clauses exhibit the usual combination of the preterite and future forms, implying that what had been done was likely to be still continued. They fix their eyes, upon this as the end at which they aim. To go astray or turn aside, i.e. from the way of God’s commandments, to which the Psalmist, in ver. 5, had declared his own adherence. The translations bowing down and casting down are less in accordance with the context and with the usage of the Hebrew verb, which is constantly employed to express departure from God and aberration from the path of duty; see 1 Kings 11:9, Job 31:7, Ps. 44:19 (18), 119:51, 157. To the earth, or in the earth, although grammatical, affords a less appropriate sense than in the land, i.e. the holy land or land of promise, the local habitation of God’s people under the old economy; see above on Ps. 16:3, and compare Isaiah 26:10.

12. His likeness (is) as a lion; he is craving to tear; and as a young lion sitting in secret places. The singular suffix refers to the enemy as an ideal person. The future (יִכְסוֹף) means that he is just about to feel or gratify the appetite for blood. To tear in pieces, as a wild beast does his prey before devouring it.—Sitting, lurking, lying in wait, with special reference to the patient promptness of the wild beast in such cases.—The comparison is the same as in Ps. 10:8–10.

13. Arise, Jehovah, go before his face, make him bow, save my soul from the wicked (with) thy sword. On the meaning of the prayer that God would arise, see above on Ps. 3:8 (7).—Go before his face: the same Hebrew phrase occurs below (Ps. 95:2), in the sense of coming into one’s presence. Here the context gives it the more emphatic sense of meeting, encountering, withstanding. Make him bend or bow, as the conquered bows beneath the conqueror.—The construction of thy sword seems to be the same with that of their mouth in ver. 10. The Septuagint puts thy sword in apposition with my soul, the Vulgate with the word immediately preceding, men (who are) thy sword, as the Assyrian is said to be the rod in God’s hand (Isa. 10:5). But such a representation of the enemy as God’s chosen instruments, instead of enforcing, would enfeeble the petition. The verb translated save is a causative strictly meaning make to escape.

14. From men (with) thy hand, from the world; their portion is in (this) life, and with thy hoard thou wilt fill their belly; they shall have enough of sons, and leave their residue to their babes. All the parts of this obscure verse have been variously explained. As in the preceding verse, some here read men (which are) thy hand, i.e. the instrument of thy wrath. The difficult expression מֵחֶלֶד is by some understood as a description of their character and spirit—men of the world—men who belong to it, and whose hearts are set upon it. Others give חֶלֶד its primary meaning of duration, and make the phrase descriptive of prosperity—men of duration or perpetuity—who not only prosper now, but have long done so, and seem likely to continue. The simplest construction is that given in the prayer-book version, which takes the proposition in the same sense before both nouns—“from the men, I say, and from the evil world.” “World is then simply a collective equivalent to the plural men. This translation of the former word is justified by the analogy of Ps. 49:2 (1).—Life is by some understood to mean a life of ease or pleasure; but this is far less natural than the obvious sense of this life, this present state as distinguished from futurity. The rest of the verse shews that their desires have not been disappointed. To the eye of sense God sometimes seems to have reserved his choicest gifts for the ungodly. Thy hidden (treasure), i.e. hoarded, carefully secreted. Fill their belly, satisfy their appetite. The future form implies that the state of things described is likely to continue.—The next clause may be also rendered: (their) sons shall be satisfied, and leave their residue to their babes. This would be a strong description of prosperity continued from generation to generation. According to the version before given, the men of the world are represented as having their largest wishes gratified, not only in the number but the prosperous condition of their children; see Ps. 127:3, 128:3, 4, Job 21:11. The whole is only a description of things as they seem to man, before God’s judgments interpose to change them.

15. I in righteousness shall see thy face; I shall be satisfied in awaking with thy appearance. The pronoun expressed at the beginning of the sentence is emphatic. I, in opposition to the men described in the preceding verse. “They may rejoice in richer providential gifts, and be satisfied with what they thus possess. But I enjoy what they do not, the sense of acceptance in thy sight, righteousness, justification, recognition as a righteous person.” The ambiguity of construction in the last clause is the same both in Hebrew and in English. The preposition with may connect what follows either with awaking or with satisfied. Thus the prayer-book version reads, “And when I awake up after thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it;” but the authorized version: “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” The latter construction is the one required by the accents, and preferred by most interpreters, the rather as the last word does not mean resemblance in the abstract, but form, shape, or visible appearance, Exod. 20:4, Num. 12:8, Deut. 4:16, 23, 25, Job 4:16. The idea here suggested is the sight of thee, exactly corresponding to behold thy face, in the parallel clause.—In awaking, or when I shall awake, is understood by some to mean, when I awake to-morrow, and from this expression they infer that the psalm was originally composed, and intended to be used, as an evening-song or prayer. See above on Ps. 3:6 (5), 4:9 (8), 5:4 (3). Others give the phrase the same sense but a wider application; in awaking, i.e. whenever I awake. As if he had said, while the men of the world think day and night of their possessions and their pleasures, I rejoice, whenever I awake, in the sight of God’s reconciled countenance and the consciousness of friendship with him. A third interpretation puts a still higher sense upon the phrase as referring to the act of awaking from the sleep of death. But this excludes too much from view the enjoyment of God’s favor and protection even here, which is the burden of the whole prayer. If the hope of future blessedness had been enough, the previous petitions would have been superfluous. The utmost that can be conceded to this view of the passage is that, by a natural association, what is here said of awaking out of sleep in this life may be extended to that great awaking which awaits us all hereafter. The same state of mind and heart which enables a man now to be contented with the partial views which he enjoys of God will prepare him to be satisfied hereafter with the beatific vision through eternity.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 70–74). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 16

Psalm 16

Psalm 16

“Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust. O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee; But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight. Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips. The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16, AV)

A sufferer in imminent danger of death, expresses his strong confidence in God, ver. 1, as the sole source and author of his happiness, ver. 2, and at the same time his attachment to God’s people, ver. 3, his abhorrence of all other gods, ver. 4, his acquiescence in God’s dealings with him, ver. 5, 6, and his assured hope of future safety and blessedness, ver. 7–11.

The psalm is appropriate to the whole class of pious sufferers, of which Christ is the most illustrious representative. It is only in him, therefore, that some parts of it can be said to have received their highest and complete fulfilment. This will be shewn more fully in the exposition of the ninth and tenth verses.

1. Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God: for I have trusted in thee. Some explain Michtam as a compound term; but it is most probably a simple derivative of a verb meaning to hide, and signifies a mystery or secret. The similar word Michtab in the title of Hezekiah’s psalm (Isa. 38:9) is probably an imitation of the form here used, or at least involves an allusion to it. It seems to be substituted for the usual terms song, psalm, &c., not only here but in the titles of Ps. 55–60. It probably indicates the depth of doctrinal and spiritual import in these sacred compositions. The derivation from a noun meaning gold is much less probable. This verse may be said to contain the sum and substance of the whole psalm, and is merely amplified in what follows. The prayer, Keep, save, or preserve me, implies actual suffering or imminent danger, while the last clause, I have trusted in thee, states the ground of his assured hope and confident petition. The verb used is one that seems especially appropriate to the act of seeking shelter under some overshadowing object. See Judges 9:15, Isa. 30:2, Ps. 57:2 (1), 61:5 (4). The preterite form implies that this is no new or sudden act, but one performed already. He not only trusts in God at present, but has trusted him before. Compare Ps. 7:2 (1), 11:1.

2. Thou hast said to Jehovah, The Lord (art) thou; my good (is) not besides thee (or beyond thee). The verb in the first clause has the form of a second person feminine, which some regard as an abbreviation of the first person, אָמַרְתִּ for אָמַרְתִּי and translate accordingly, I have said. But this neither agrees so well with usage, nor affords so good a sense as the old construction, which supplies as the object of address the same that is expressed in Ps. 42:6 (5), 12 (11), 43:5, Jer. 4:19, Lam. 3:24, 25. A similar ellipsis is assumed by some in 1 Sam. 24:11, and 2 Sam. 13:39. By this peculiar form of speech the Psalmist calls upon himself to remember his own solemn acknowledgment of Jehovah as the Lord or Supreme God.—The obscure clause which follows has been very variously explained. Some understand by good moral goodness, merit, and explain the whole to mean, “My goodness is not such as to entitle me to thy regard.” Most interpreters, however, give to good its usual sense of good fortune, happiness (see Ps. 106:5, Job 9:25), and make the whole clause mean, “My happiness is not obligatory or incumbent on thee, thou art not bound to provide for it;” or “My happiness is not above thee; I have no higher happiness than thee.” The true sense is probably afforded by a modification of this last: “My happiness is not beside thee, independent of, or separable from thee,” with allusion to the form of expression in the Hebrew of the first commandment (Exod. 20:3). The verse, then, contains a twofold acknowledgment of God, as the universal sovereign, and as the only source of individual enjoyment. Compare Ps. 73:25. That this recognition was not a mere momentary act, but a habitual affection of the mind, seems to be indicated by the Psalmist’s appeal to his own soul as having made the acknowledgment already, hitherto or heretofore.

3. To (or with) the saints who (are) in the land, and the nobles in whom (is) all my delight. The construction of the first clause, and its connection with the preceding verse, are very obscure. Some make to synonymous with as to. “As to the saints who are in the land, and the nobles, in them is all my delight.” Or, “as to the saints who are in the land, they are the nobles in whom is all my delight.” Others understand to the saints and to Jehovah as correlative expressions. “To Jehovah I have said thus; to the saints thus.” Or, as the English Bible has it, “My goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the saints,” &c. The least violent construction seems to be that which takes the preposition in its usual sense, that of belonging to, as in the phrases, to David, to the chief Musician, and in 1 Kings 15:27. The meaning then is that the Psalmist’s recognition of Jehovah as The Lord, and as the only source of happiness, is not peculiar to himself, but common to the whole body of the saints or holy ones. This epithet denotes personal character, not as its primary meaning, but as the effect of a peculiar relation to God, as the objects of his choice, set apart from the rest of men for this very purpose; see Exod. 19:6, Deut. 7:6, Ps. 34:10 (9), Dan. 7:21, 8:24, 1 Pet. 2:9. The pre-eminence of these over others, as the fruit of the divine election, is expressed by the word nobles, which, like saints, denotes moral character only in an indirect and secondary manner. The construction in this part of the verse is strongly idiomatic; the literal translation is, the nobles of all my delight in them. Under the old dispensation, the nobles or elect of God had their local habitation in the land of promise. Hence they are here described as the “saints or consecrated ones who are in the land,” not in the earth, which would be too indefinite and not so well suited to the context. As thus explained, the whole verse may be paraphrased as follows: “This profession of my trust in God I make, not merely as an individual believer, but as one belonging to the great body of the saints or consecrated ones, the nobles of the human race, not such by any original or natural pre-eminence, but by the sovereign and distinguishing favor of Jehovah, whom they trust as I do, and are therefore the rightful objects of my warmest love.”

4. Many (or multiplied) shall be their sorrowsanother they have purchasedI will not pour their drink-offering of blood, and will not take their names upon my lips. With the happiness of those who like himself trust the Lord, he contrasts the wretchedness of those who have chosen any other object of supreme affection. The relative construction in the English version, “their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten,” &c., gives the sense correctly, but with more variation from the Hebrew idiom, which conveys the same idea by means of short independent propositions. In the word translated their sorrows, (עַצּֽבוֹתָם), there seems to be an allusion to a very similar form, which would mean their idols (עְצַבֵּיהֶם), as if to suggest that false gods are mere troubles and vexations. Another means another god, in opposition to the one true God, Jehovah, as in Isa. 42:8, 48:11. The contrast which is there expressed is here to be supplied from ver. 2 and 5, and from the general antithesis, running through the context, between God and gods, not idols merely, but any created object of supreme affection. The verb מָהַר in its derived form means to hasten, and is so translated here by the English and some other versions. But in the only other place where the primitive verb occurs (Exod. 22:15), it means to endow a wife, or secure her by the payment of a dowry, according to the ancient oriental custom. The same usage of the verb exists in several of the cognate dialects. It seems here to have the general sense of purchasing, by costly sacrifice or self-denial, but with particular allusion to the conjugal relation which is constantly described in Scripture as existing between worshippers and their gods; see Hos. 3:2, and 8:9, Ezek. 16:33, 34. In the last clause he abjures all communion with such idolaters. He will not join in their impious services, nor even name the names of their divinities. Drink-offerings of blood, libations no less loathsome than if composed of human blood, perhaps with an allusion to the frequent poetical description of wine as the blood of the grape; see Gen. 49:11, Deut. 32:14, Isa. 63:3. To take the name upon the lips is to stain or pollute them by pronouncing it. Both here and in Hos. 2:19, there is an obvious allusion to the solemn prohibition of the law (Exod. 23:13): “Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.” The pronoun their, in this whole clause, refers not to the worshippers but to their divinities, as comprehended under the collective term another.

5. Jehovah (is) my allotted portion and my cup; thou wilt enlarge my lot. The other side of the contrast is again exhibited. The idea is, that in the Lord the Psalmist has all that he can wish or hope for. The figures are borrowed from the regular supply of food and drink. Compare Ps. 11:6, 23:5. There may also be allusions to the language of the Pentateuch in reference to the tribe of Levi, Deut. 10:9, 18:1, 2. The common version of the last clause, thou upholdest my lot, is neither so grammatical nor yields so good a sense as that above given, where enlarge implies both honor and abundance, and the future form expresses confident assurance that the favor now experienced will be continued.

6. The lines are fallen to me in pleasant things (or pleasant places); yea, my heritage is goodly. The lines here spoken of are those used in measuring and dividing land. Fallen, i.e. assigned, with or without allusion to the lot, as the means of distribution. Compare Num. 34:2, Judges 18:1. The idea of places is suggested by the context, or the plural adjective may have the abstract sense of pleasure, pleasures, like the cognate form in Job 36:11. The particle (אַף) which introduces the last clause is more emphatic than the simple copulative and. It properly means also, and implies that this clause contains something more than that before it. The original construction of the last clause is, a heritage is goodly to me or upon me, with allusion to the natural and common image of gifts or favors as descending from above. The heritage or portion thus described is God himself, but considered as including all desirable possessions.

7. I will bless Jehovah, who hath counselled me; also by night have my reins prompted me. He praises God for having counselled or persuaded him to choose this goodly heritage in preference to every other portion. The second clause begins with yea or also, as in the preceding verse. It here implies that, under the divine control just mentioned, his own habitual dispositions tended to the same point. By night, literally nights, an idiom not unknown in vulgar English. The plural may in this case be emphatic, meaning whole nights, all night long. The night is mentioned, both as a time naturally favorable to reflection, and as shewing that the same subject occupied his thoughts by night as well as by day; see above on Ps. 1:2. The reins are figuratively put like the heart, bowels, &c., for the affections; see above on Ps. 7:10 (9). My reins have taught me, warned me, prompted me, to utter the praise mentioned in the first clause, or to make the choice described in ver. 1, 2, 5.

8. I have set Jehovah before me always: because (he is) at my right hand, I shall not be moved. I have set him before me, i.e. I recognize his presence and confide in his protection. The actual expression of this confidence is given in the other clause. The right hand is here mentioned, not as a post of honor, but as that of a guard or defender. See below, on Ps. 109:31, 110:5, 121:5.—I shall not be moved from my secure position. See above, on Ps. 10:6, 15:5. The whole verse is a varied repetition and amplification of the last clause of ver. 1, I have trusted (or sheltered myself) in thee.—The Septuagint version of this sentence is quoted in Acts 2:25, with an express recognition of David as the author of the psalm.

9. Therefore has rejoiced my heart and exulted my glory; yea, my flesh shall dwell in security (or confidence).—Therefore, because God is my ever present helper. Glory seems here to mean his nobler part, his soul, but not as wholly separate from the body, as appears from what follows. See above, on Ps. 7:6 (5).—Flesh may either mean the body, as distinguished from the soul, or the whole person as including both. Compare Ps. 63:2 (1), 84:3 (2).—The idea of dwelling in security or confidence of safety is borrowed from the Pentateuch. See Deut. 33:12, 28, and compare Judges 18:7, Jer. 23:6, 33:16. A similar allusion has been found already in Ps. 4:9 (8). The Septuagint version of the sentence, although it substitutes tongue for glory, is substantially correct, and therefore retained in Acts 2:26.—The second clause is not simply parallel and equivalent to the first, but is rather an actual performance of the duty there described. Having there said that his heart did triumph in the certainty of God’s protection, he here proves the truth of his assertion, by professing his assured hope that his whole person, not excepting his material part, shall dwell in safety under that protection. This is applicable both to preservation from death and preservation in death, and may therefore without violence be understood, in a lower sense, of David, who did die and see corruption, but whose body is to rise again, as well as in a higher sense of Christ, whose body, though it died, was raised again before it saw corruption.

10. For thou wilt not leave my soul to Hell; thou wilt not give thy Holy One to see corruption. He now assigns the ground or reason of the confidence expressed in the preceding verse. “I am sure my soul and body will be safe, because thou canst not, without ceasing to be God and my God, give me up to the destroyer.” He does not say leave in but to, i.e. abandon to, give up to the dominion or possession of another. The same Hebrew phrase occurs, with the same sense, in Lev. 19:10, Job 39:14, and in Ps. 49:11 (10) below.—Hell is here to be taken in its wide old English sense, as corresponding to the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades, the invisible world or state of the dead. See above on Ps. 6:6 (5), and 9:18 (17).—Give, i.e. permit, or more emphatically, give up, abandon, which makes the parallelism of the clauses more exact. Thy Holy One, or more exactly, thy favorite, the object of thy special favor. See above, on Ps. 4:4 (3). The textual reading is a plural form (חסידיך), the singular (חסידך) being a marginal correction or keri. The Jews contend for the former, and most Christians for the latter, which is favored by the oldest versions and retained in the New Testament. The essential difference between the two is less than it may seem at first sight, since even the singular is really collective, and includes the whole class of God’s chosen and favored ones, of whom Christ is the head and representative.—To see, i.e. to experience or undergo corruption. Compare the phrase to see death, Luke 2:26.—It has been disputed whether שַׁחַת is derived from שׁוּחַ, and means a pit, or from שָׁחַת, and means corruption. Both allegations are probably true, the antecedent improbability of such a double sense and derivation being counterbalanced by the clear analogy of נחַת, which is of a different sense and gender, as derived from נָחַת and נוּחַ. The use of this equivocal expression may have been intentional, in order to make it applicable both to David and to Christ. (See above, on the preceding verse.) To both, the words contain a promise of deliverance from death, but in the case of Christ with a specific reference to his actual escape from the corruption which is otherwise inseparable from dissolution. Believers in general are saved from the perpetual dominion of death, but Christ was saved even from the first approach of putrefaction. In this peculiar and most pregnant sense the words are applied to Christ exclusively by two apostles, and in that sense declared to be inapplicable to David. (Acts 2:29–31, 13:35–37.) Their reasoning would utterly forbid the application to any lower subject, were it not for the ambiguity or twofold meaning of the Hebrew word, which cannot therefore be explained away without embarrassing the interpretation of this signal prophecy.

11. Thou wilt teach me the way of life, fullness of joy with thy face (or presence), pleasures in thy right hand for ever. He trusts God not only for deliverance from death, but for guidance in the way to life, or blessed immortality. (Compare Prov. 2:19.) The Hebrew verb is causative, and means thou wilt make me know, point out, or shew to me. Fullness, satiety, or rather satisfaction, in its strongest sense, including the ideas of contentment and abundance. The plural, joys, denotes not only richness but variety. The next phrase may simply mean before thy face or in thy presence. But it will also bear a stronger sense, and represent God’s presence or the right of him, not merely as the place, but the source of enjoyment. See above, on Ps. 4:7 (6), and compare Ps. 17:15, 80:4 (3). So in the last clause, the idea is not merely at thy right hand as a place of honor and of safety, but in thy right hand as the depository of eternal joys, or with thy right hand, as the instrument by which they are dispensed. See below, on Ps. 17:7.—This last clause is omitted in Peter’s citation of the passage, Acts 2:27, no doubt because it is a mere poetical reiteration of the one before it, which is itself only added to complete the period, and not because it was essential to the apostle’s purpose. That purpose was accomplished by applying the two preceding verses to our Savior, not exclusively indeed, but by way of eminence and in a peculiar sense, which we learn, however, from Acts 2:30, 31, was actually present to the mind of the inspired Psalmist. The same argumentative interpretation of the prophecy is given by Paul in Acts 13:35–37.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 65–69). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust. O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee; But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight. Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips. The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16, AV)

A sufferer in imminent danger of death, expresses his strong confidence in God, ver. 1, as the sole source and author of his happiness, ver. 2, and at the same time his attachment to God’s people, ver. 3, his abhorrence of all other gods, ver. 4, his acquiescence in God’s dealings with him, ver. 5, 6, and his assured hope of future safety and blessedness, ver. 7–11.

The psalm is appropriate to the whole class of pious sufferers, of which Christ is the most illustrious representative. It is only in him, therefore, that some parts of it can be said to have received their highest and complete fulfilment. This will be shewn more fully in the exposition of the ninth and tenth verses.

1. Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God: for I have trusted in thee. Some explain Michtam as a compound term; but it is most probably a simple derivative of a verb meaning to hide, and signifies a mystery or secret. The similar word Michtab in the title of Hezekiah’s psalm (Isa. 38:9) is probably an imitation of the form here used, or at least involves an allusion to it. It seems to be substituted for the usual terms song, psalm, &c., not only here but in the titles of Ps. 55–60. It probably indicates the depth of doctrinal and spiritual import in these sacred compositions. The derivation from a noun meaning gold is much less probable. This verse may be said to contain the sum and substance of the whole psalm, and is merely amplified in what follows. The prayer, Keep, save, or preserve me, implies actual suffering or imminent danger, while the last clause, I have trusted in thee, states the ground of his assured hope and confident petition. The verb used is one that seems especially appropriate to the act of seeking shelter under some overshadowing object. See Judges 9:15, Isa. 30:2, Ps. 57:2 (1), 61:5 (4). The preterite form implies that this is no new or sudden act, but one performed already. He not only trusts in God at present, but has trusted him before. Compare Ps. 7:2 (1), 11:1.

2. Thou hast said to Jehovah, The Lord (art) thou; my good (is) not besides thee (or beyond thee). The verb in the first clause has the form of a second person feminine, which some regard as an abbreviation of the first person, אָמַרְתִּ for אָמַרְתִּי and translate accordingly, I have said. But this neither agrees so well with usage, nor affords so good a sense as the old construction, which supplies as the object of address the same that is expressed in Ps. 42:6 (5), 12 (11), 43:5, Jer. 4:19, Lam. 3:24, 25. A similar ellipsis is assumed by some in 1 Sam. 24:11, and 2 Sam. 13:39. By this peculiar form of speech the Psalmist calls upon himself to remember his own solemn acknowledgment of Jehovah as the Lord or Supreme God.—The obscure clause which follows has been very variously explained. Some understand by good moral goodness, merit, and explain the whole to mean, “My goodness is not such as to entitle me to thy regard.” Most interpreters, however, give to good its usual sense of good fortune, happiness (see Ps. 106:5, Job 9:25), and make the whole clause mean, “My happiness is not obligatory or incumbent on thee, thou art not bound to provide for it;” or “My happiness is not above thee; I have no higher happiness than thee.” The true sense is probably afforded by a modification of this last: “My happiness is not beside thee, independent of, or separable from thee,” with allusion to the form of expression in the Hebrew of the first commandment (Exod. 20:3). The verse, then, contains a twofold acknowledgment of God, as the universal sovereign, and as the only source of individual enjoyment. Compare Ps. 73:25. That this recognition was not a mere momentary act, but a habitual affection of the mind, seems to be indicated by the Psalmist’s appeal to his own soul as having made the acknowledgment already, hitherto or heretofore.

3. To (or with) the saints who (are) in the land, and the nobles in whom (is) all my delight. The construction of the first clause, and its connection with the preceding verse, are very obscure. Some make to synonymous with as to. “As to the saints who are in the land, and the nobles, in them is all my delight.” Or, “as to the saints who are in the land, they are the nobles in whom is all my delight.” Others understand to the saints and to Jehovah as correlative expressions. “To Jehovah I have said thus; to the saints thus.” Or, as the English Bible has it, “My goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the saints,” &c. The least violent construction seems to be that which takes the preposition in its usual sense, that of belonging to, as in the phrases, to David, to the chief Musician, and in 1 Kings 15:27. The meaning then is that the Psalmist’s recognition of Jehovah as The Lord, and as the only source of happiness, is not peculiar to himself, but common to the whole body of the saints or holy ones. This epithet denotes personal character, not as its primary meaning, but as the effect of a peculiar relation to God, as the objects of his choice, set apart from the rest of men for this very purpose; see Exod. 19:6, Deut. 7:6, Ps. 34:10 (9), Dan. 7:21, 8:24, 1 Pet. 2:9. The pre-eminence of these over others, as the fruit of the divine election, is expressed by the word nobles, which, like saints, denotes moral character only in an indirect and secondary manner. The construction in this part of the verse is strongly idiomatic; the literal translation is, the nobles of all my delight in them. Under the old dispensation, the nobles or elect of God had their local habitation in the land of promise. Hence they are here described as the “saints or consecrated ones who are in the land,” not in the earth, which would be too indefinite and not so well suited to the context. As thus explained, the whole verse may be paraphrased as follows: “This profession of my trust in God I make, not merely as an individual believer, but as one belonging to the great body of the saints or consecrated ones, the nobles of the human race, not such by any original or natural pre-eminence, but by the sovereign and distinguishing favor of Jehovah, whom they trust as I do, and are therefore the rightful objects of my warmest love.”

4. Many (or multiplied) shall be their sorrowsanother they have purchasedI will not pour their drink-offering of blood, and will not take their names upon my lips. With the happiness of those who like himself trust the Lord, he contrasts the wretchedness of those who have chosen any other object of supreme affection. The relative construction in the English version, “their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten,” &c., gives the sense correctly, but with more variation from the Hebrew idiom, which conveys the same idea by means of short independent propositions. In the word translated their sorrows, (עַצּֽבוֹתָם), there seems to be an allusion to a very similar form, which would mean their idols (עְצַבֵּיהֶם), as if to suggest that false gods are mere troubles and vexations. Another means another god, in opposition to the one true God, Jehovah, as in Isa. 42:8, 48:11. The contrast which is there expressed is here to be supplied from ver. 2 and 5, and from the general antithesis, running through the context, between God and gods, not idols merely, but any created object of supreme affection. The verb מָהַר in its derived form means to hasten, and is so translated here by the English and some other versions. But in the only other place where the primitive verb occurs (Exod. 22:15), it means to endow a wife, or secure her by the payment of a dowry, according to the ancient oriental custom. The same usage of the verb exists in several of the cognate dialects. It seems here to have the general sense of purchasing, by costly sacrifice or self-denial, but with particular allusion to the conjugal relation which is constantly described in Scripture as existing between worshippers and their gods; see Hos. 3:2, and 8:9, Ezek. 16:33, 34. In the last clause he abjures all communion with such idolaters. He will not join in their impious services, nor even name the names of their divinities. Drink-offerings of blood, libations no less loathsome than if composed of human blood, perhaps with an allusion to the frequent poetical description of wine as the blood of the grape; see Gen. 49:11, Deut. 32:14, Isa. 63:3. To take the name upon the lips is to stain or pollute them by pronouncing it. Both here and in Hos. 2:19, there is an obvious allusion to the solemn prohibition of the law (Exod. 23:13): “Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.” The pronoun their, in this whole clause, refers not to the worshippers but to their divinities, as comprehended under the collective term another.

5. Jehovah (is) my allotted portion and my cup; thou wilt enlarge my lot. The other side of the contrast is again exhibited. The idea is, that in the Lord the Psalmist has all that he can wish or hope for. The figures are borrowed from the regular supply of food and drink. Compare Ps. 11:6, 23:5. There may also be allusions to the language of the Pentateuch in reference to the tribe of Levi, Deut. 10:9, 18:1, 2. The common version of the last clause, thou upholdest my lot, is neither so grammatical nor yields so good a sense as that above given, where enlarge implies both honor and abundance, and the future form expresses confident assurance that the favor now experienced will be continued.

6. The lines are fallen to me in pleasant things (or pleasant places); yea, my heritage is goodly. The lines here spoken of are those used in measuring and dividing land. Fallen, i.e. assigned, with or without allusion to the lot, as the means of distribution. Compare Num. 34:2, Judges 18:1. The idea of places is suggested by the context, or the plural adjective may have the abstract sense of pleasure, pleasures, like the cognate form in Job 36:11. The particle (אַף) which introduces the last clause is more emphatic than the simple copulative and. It properly means also, and implies that this clause contains something more than that before it. The original construction of the last clause is, a heritage is goodly to me or upon me, with allusion to the natural and common image of gifts or favors as descending from above. The heritage or portion thus described is God himself, but considered as including all desirable possessions.

7. I will bless Jehovah, who hath counselled me; also by night have my reins prompted me. He praises God for having counselled or persuaded him to choose this goodly heritage in preference to every other portion. The second clause begins with yea or also, as in the preceding verse. It here implies that, under the divine control just mentioned, his own habitual dispositions tended to the same point. By night, literally nights, an idiom not unknown in vulgar English. The plural may in this case be emphatic, meaning whole nights, all night long. The night is mentioned, both as a time naturally favorable to reflection, and as shewing that the same subject occupied his thoughts by night as well as by day; see above on Ps. 1:2. The reins are figuratively put like the heart, bowels, &c., for the affections; see above on Ps. 7:10 (9). My reins have taught me, warned me, prompted me, to utter the praise mentioned in the first clause, or to make the choice described in ver. 1, 2, 5.

8. I have set Jehovah before me always: because (he is) at my right hand, I shall not be moved. I have set him before me, i.e. I recognize his presence and confide in his protection. The actual expression of this confidence is given in the other clause. The right hand is here mentioned, not as a post of honor, but as that of a guard or defender. See below, on Ps. 109:31, 110:5, 121:5.—I shall not be moved from my secure position. See above, on Ps. 10:6, 15:5. The whole verse is a varied repetition and amplification of the last clause of ver. 1, I have trusted (or sheltered myself) in thee.—The Septuagint version of this sentence is quoted in Acts 2:25, with an express recognition of David as the author of the psalm.

9. Therefore has rejoiced my heart and exulted my glory; yea, my flesh shall dwell in security (or confidence).—Therefore, because God is my ever present helper. Glory seems here to mean his nobler part, his soul, but not as wholly separate from the body, as appears from what follows. See above, on Ps. 7:6 (5).—Flesh may either mean the body, as distinguished from the soul, or the whole person as including both. Compare Ps. 63:2 (1), 84:3 (2).—The idea of dwelling in security or confidence of safety is borrowed from the Pentateuch. See Deut. 33:12, 28, and compare Judges 18:7, Jer. 23:6, 33:16. A similar allusion has been found already in Ps. 4:9 (8). The Septuagint version of the sentence, although it substitutes tongue for glory, is substantially correct, and therefore retained in Acts 2:26.—The second clause is not simply parallel and equivalent to the first, but is rather an actual performance of the duty there described. Having there said that his heart did triumph in the certainty of God’s protection, he here proves the truth of his assertion, by professing his assured hope that his whole person, not excepting his material part, shall dwell in safety under that protection. This is applicable both to preservation from death and preservation in death, and may therefore without violence be understood, in a lower sense, of David, who did die and see corruption, but whose body is to rise again, as well as in a higher sense of Christ, whose body, though it died, was raised again before it saw corruption.

10. For thou wilt not leave my soul to Hell; thou wilt not give thy Holy One to see corruption. He now assigns the ground or reason of the confidence expressed in the preceding verse. “I am sure my soul and body will be safe, because thou canst not, without ceasing to be God and my God, give me up to the destroyer.” He does not say leave in but to, i.e. abandon to, give up to the dominion or possession of another. The same Hebrew phrase occurs, with the same sense, in Lev. 19:10, Job 39:14, and in Ps. 49:11 (10) below.—Hell is here to be taken in its wide old English sense, as corresponding to the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades, the invisible world or state of the dead. See above on Ps. 6:6 (5), and 9:18 (17).—Give, i.e. permit, or more emphatically, give up, abandon, which makes the parallelism of the clauses more exact. Thy Holy One, or more exactly, thy favorite, the object of thy special favor. See above, on Ps. 4:4 (3). The textual reading is a plural form (חסידיך), the singular (חסידך) being a marginal correction or keri. The Jews contend for the former, and most Christians for the latter, which is favored by the oldest versions and retained in the New Testament. The essential difference between the two is less than it may seem at first sight, since even the singular is really collective, and includes the whole class of God’s chosen and favored ones, of whom Christ is the head and representative.—To see, i.e. to experience or undergo corruption. Compare the phrase to see death, Luke 2:26.—It has been disputed whether שַׁחַת is derived from שׁוּחַ, and means a pit, or from שָׁחַת, and means corruption. Both allegations are probably true, the antecedent improbability of such a double sense and derivation being counterbalanced by the clear analogy of נחַת, which is of a different sense and gender, as derived from נָחַת and נוּחַ. The use of this equivocal expression may have been intentional, in order to make it applicable both to David and to Christ. (See above, on the preceding verse.) To both, the words contain a promise of deliverance from death, but in the case of Christ with a specific reference to his actual escape from the corruption which is otherwise inseparable from dissolution. Believers in general are saved from the perpetual dominion of death, but Christ was saved even from the first approach of putrefaction. In this peculiar and most pregnant sense the words are applied to Christ exclusively by two apostles, and in that sense declared to be inapplicable to David. (Acts 2:29–31, 13:35–37.) Their reasoning would utterly forbid the application to any lower subject, were it not for the ambiguity or twofold meaning of the Hebrew word, which cannot therefore be explained away without embarrassing the interpretation of this signal prophecy.

11. Thou wilt teach me the way of life, fullness of joy with thy face (or presence), pleasures in thy right hand for ever. He trusts God not only for deliverance from death, but for guidance in the way to life, or blessed immortality. (Compare Prov. 2:19.) The Hebrew verb is causative, and means thou wilt make me know, point out, or shew to me. Fullness, satiety, or rather satisfaction, in its strongest sense, including the ideas of contentment and abundance. The plural, joys, denotes not only richness but variety. The next phrase may simply mean before thy face or in thy presence. But it will also bear a stronger sense, and represent God’s presence or the right of him, not merely as the place, but the source of enjoyment. See above, on Ps. 4:7 (6), and compare Ps. 17:15, 80:4 (3). So in the last clause, the idea is not merely at thy right hand as a place of honor and of safety, but in thy right hand as the depository of eternal joys, or with thy right hand, as the instrument by which they are dispensed. See below, on Ps. 17:7.—This last clause is omitted in Peter’s citation of the passage, Acts 2:27, no doubt because it is a mere poetical reiteration of the one before it, which is itself only added to complete the period, and not because it was essential to the apostle’s purpose. That purpose was accomplished by applying the two preceding verses to our Savior, not exclusively indeed, but by way of eminence and in a peculiar sense, which we learn, however, from Acts 2:30, 31, was actually present to the mind of the inspired Psalmist. The same argumentative interpretation of the prophecy is given by Paul in Acts 13:35–37.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 65–69). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 15

Psalm 15

Psalm 15

Moral Purity

“A Psalm of David. LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.” (Psalm 15, AV)

This psalm teaches the necessity of moral purity as a condition of the divine protection. It first propounds the question who shall be admitted to God’s household, and the privileges of its inmates, ver. 1. This is answered positively, ver. 2, and negatively, ver. 3; then positively again, ver. 4, and negatively, ver. 5. The last clause of the last verse winds up by declaring, that the character just described shall experience the protection tacitly referred to in the first verse. As the contrast exhibited in this psalm and the fourteenth may account for its position in the Psalter, so its obvious resemblance to the twenty-fourth makes it not improbable that their historical occasion was identical.

1. A Psalm by David. Jehovah, who shall sojourn in thy tent? who shall dwell in thy hill of holiness? The holy hill is Zion, as in Ps. 2:6; the tent is the tabernacle which David pitched there for the ark, when he removed it from Gibeon (2 Sam. 6:17, 1 Chron. 15:1, 16:1, 39, 2 Chron. 1:3–5). Both together signify the earthly residence of God; see above on Ps. 3:5 (4). The idea is not that of frequenting Zion as a place of worship, but of dwelling there, as a guest or as an inmate of God’s family. The same figure for intimate communion with Jehovah, and participation of his favor, reappears in Ps. 23:6, 27:4, 5, 24:3, 61:5, 65:5 (4), 84:5 (4). So too, in Eph. 2:19, believers are described as members of God’s family (οἰχεῖοι τοῦ Θεοῦ).

2. Walking perfect, and doing right, and speaking truth, in his heart. The Psalmist, speaking in behalf of God, here answers his own question. The only person who can be admitted to domestic intercourse with God is one walking perfect, &c. Walking is put for the habitual course of life (see above, on Ps. 1:1). Perfect, complete, as to all essential features of the character, without necessarily implying perfection in degree. The form of expression seems to be borrowed from Gen. 17:1. A remarkably analogous expression is that used by Horace: integer vitae scelerisque purus. The next phrase, doing right, practicing rectitude, may be either a synonymous parallel to the first, or a specification under it, parallel to speaking truth. The general idea of walking perfect is then resolved into the two particular ideas of doing right and speaking truth. In his heart, i.e. sincerely, as opposed to outward show or hypocritical profession. This phrase seems to qualify not merely what precedes, speaking truth, but the whole description, as of one who sincerely and internally, as well as outwardly, leads a blameless life by doing right and speaking truth.

3. (Who) hath not slandered with his tongue, (who) hath not done his neighbor harm, and a scandal hath not taken up against his neighbor. The positive description of the foregoing verse is now followed by a negative one. (Compare Ps. 1:1, 2). The social virtues are insisted on, and their opposites excluded, because they are apt to be neglected by hypocrites, against whom this psalm is directed. The past tense of the verbs denotes a character already marked and determined by the previous course of life. The verb רגל seems strictly to denote the act of busy or officious tale-bearing. There seems to be an allusion to Lev. 19:16. With his tongue, literally on his tongue, as we say to live on, i.e. by means of anything, an idiom which occurs in Gen. 27:40. (Compare Isa. 38:16.) The next clause adds deed to word, as in the foregoing verse. Scandal, reproach, defamatory accusation. The verb נשא is by some explained as meaning to take up upon the lips (Ps. 16:4), and then to utter or pronounce. Others give it the same sense as in Gen. 31:17, where נשא על means to lift up upon, i.e. to burden. The idea then is, that he has not helped to load his neighbor with reproach. Friend and neighbor does not mean any other man, but one sustaining a peculiarly intimate relation, such as that of the members of the chosen people to each other. See above, on Ps. 12:3 (2).

4. Despised in his eyes (is) a reprobate, and the fearers of Jehovah he will honor; he hath sworn to his own hurt, and will not change. The Chaldee Paraphrase, followed by the Prayer Book version, makes the first clause descriptive of humility. He is despised in his own eyes (and) rejected. But the parallelism with the next clause shews that a contrast was designed between his estimation of two opposite classes, and as one of these is those who fear Jehovah, the other must be represented by נמאס, rejected, i.e. by Jehovah, reprobate. The future form, as usual, suggests the idea of a present act repeated or continued in the future. He honors, and will still persist in honoring, the fearers of Jehovah. The Septuagint and Vulgate explain להרע to the neighbor, and some modern versions to the bad (man). But the sense is determined by the obvious allusion to Lev. 5:4: “if a soul swear to do evil (להרע) or to do good,” i.e. whether to his own advantage or the contrary. So here the phrase must mean “he hath sworn to injure (himself)” not designedly, but so as to produce that effect. He will not change, literally, exchange, i.e. substitute something else for what he has promised.

5. His silver he hath not given for usury, and a bribe against a guiltless (person) hath not taken. Doing these (things), he shall not be moved for ever. In Hebrew as in French, silver is put for money in general. There is obvious allusion to the frequent prohibition in the Mosaic law, not of lending money upon interest for commercial purposes, a practice then unknown, but of usurious lending to the poor, and especially to poor Israelites. See Exod. 22:24, Lev. 25:37, Deut. 23:20, and compare Prov. 28:8, Ezek. 18:8. The taking of judicial bribes is also expressly forbidden in Exod. 23:8, Deut. 16:19, 27:25. The masoretic interpunction of this sentence seems to be merely rhythmical or musical, as in Ps. 11:5. The words doing these cannot be separated from what follows without destroying the sense. This last clause is an answer to the question in ver. 1, but with a change of form, implying that admission to God’s household was itself security against all danger. Compare Ps. 55:23 (22). For the sense of אֶמּוֹט, see above, on Ps. 10:6, 13:5.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 63–64). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 14

Psalm 14

Psalm 14

Human Depravity and Destructive Judgements

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD. There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous. Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge. Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.” (Psalm 14, AV)

We have first a description of human depravity as universal, ver. 1–3; then a confident anticipation of destructive judgments on the incorrigibly wicked, ver. 4–6; and an earnest wish for the speedy deliverance of God’s elect from the evils of their natural condition and from the malice of their unconverted enemies, ver. 7.

There seems to be no reference to any particular historical occasion. The psalm was, no doubt, originally written to express the feelings of God’s people, in all times and places, with respect to the original depravity of all men, and the obstinate persistency in evil of the greater number. The points of resemblance and of difference between this psalm and the fifty-third will be considered in the exposition of the latter.

1. To the Chief Musician, by David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They have done corruptly, they have done abominably (in) deed (or act); there is none doing good. Sin is constantly held up to view in Scripture as the height of folly, and the sinner as the fool by way of eminence. See Gen. 34:7, Josh. 7:15, Ps. 39:9 (8). The term is here collective and applied to the whole race, as appears from the plurals which follow, and the negative statement in the last clause. The preterites include the present, but suggest the additional idea, that the truth here asserted is the result of all previous experience and observations.—In his heart, to himself, if not to others, as above, in Ps. 10:11. That the error is one of the affections, and not merely of the understanding, is supposed by some to be implied in the use of the word heart, which is often used, however, to denote the mind or soul in general.—אֵין is properly a noun, and means nonentity or non-existence: “nothing of God,” or “no such thing as God.” It cannot be explained as a wish—“No God!” i.e. Oh that there were no God!—because אֵין in usage always includes the substantive verb, and denies the existence, or at least the presence, of the person or thing to which it is prefixed. This is also clear from the use of the same word in the last clause, where its sense is unambiguous.—The addition of the word act or deed shews that the atheism described is not merely theoretical but practical.—There is obvious allusion in this verse to the description of the general antediluvian corruption in Gen. 6:12. This makes it the more certain that the description here was not intended either for Jews or Gentiles, as such, but for wicked men of either class, and that Paul’s application of the words, in Rom. 3:10, 12, is perfectly legitimate, and not a mere accommodation of the Psalmist’s language to another purpose.

2. Jehovah from heaven has looked down on the sons of man, to see if there were (one) acting wisely, seeking God. While the fool denies the being of a God, Jehovah’s eye is on him and his fellow-men. Yet even that omniscient eye can discern no exception to the general depravity and folly. The earnestness of the inspection is suggested by the verb in the first clause, which originally means to lean or bend over, and is peculiarly appropriate to the act of one gazing intently down upon a lower object. The force of the preterite tense is the same as in the preceding verse. The inquiry has been made already, and proved fruitless. It is no longer a doubtful question, but one definitively settled.—Acting wisely, in contrast to the atheistical folly mentioned in ver. 1. The test of wisdom is in seeking God, whether in the general religious sense of seeking his favor and communion with him, or in the special sense of seeking proofs of his existence. As if he had said, Even those who think there is no God, if they were wise, would seek one; but these fools take pleasure in the hideous negation. The image presented in this verse may be compared with that in Gen. 6:12, 11:5, 18:21. See also Ps. 33:13, 14.

3. The whole has apostatized; together they have putrefied; there is none doing good; there is not even one. Total and universal corruption could not be more clearly expressed than by this accumulation of the strongest terms, in which, as Luther well observes, the Psalmist, not content with saying all, adds together, and then negatively, no not one. It is plain that he had no limitation or exception in his mind, but intended to describe the natural condition of all men, in the widest and most unrestricted sense. The whole, not merely all the individuals as such, but the entire race as a totality or ideal person.—The whole (race) has departed, not merely from the right way, but from God, instead of seeking him, as intimated in ver. 4. Together, not merely altogether or without exception, but in union and by one decisive act or event. The etymological import of the verb נאלחו is to turn sour, to spoil. It is applied to moral depravation not only here, but in Job 15:16. The Septuagint version of these words is quoted by Paul in Rom. 3:12, as a part of his scriptural description of human depravity, the rest of which is taken from Ps. 5:10 (9), 10:7, 36:2 (1), 140:4, Isa. 59:7, 8. Under the false impression that he meant to quote a single passage, some early Christian copyist appears to have introduced the whole into the Septuagint version of this psalm, where it is still found in the Codex Vaticanus, as well as in the Vulgate, and even in one or two Hebrew manuscripts of later date. The interpolation is also retained in the Anglican Psalter. It is evident, however, that the apostle’s argument is strengthened by the fact of his proofs being drawn, not from one, but several parts of the Old Testament.

4. Do they not know, all (these) workers of iniquity, eating my people (as) they eat bread, (and) on Jehovah call not? The question is elliptical: the object of the verb must be supplied from the context. Do they not know that they are thus corrupt and estranged from God, and therefore objects of his wrath? Is it because they do not know this or believe it, that they thus presume to oppress and persecute his people? The figure of devouring occurs often elsewhere, e.g. Prov. 30:14, Mic. 3:3, Hab. 3:14. See below, on Ps. 27:2 (1). As they eat bread may either mean for their support—living on the plunder and oppression of my people; or for pleasure—feeding on them with delight; or with indifference and as little sense of guilt as when they take their ordinary fond.—Call not on Jehovah, do not worship him, as they were before said not to seek him, nor even to acknowledge his existence, all which are periphrastical descriptions of the wicked as a class. The general description of their wickedness is here exchanged for a specific charge, that of persecuting the righteous. The mention of two classes here is not at variance with the universal terms of the preceding context, nor does it render any limitation of those terms necessary. All men are alike “children of wrath,” but some are elected to be “vessels of mercy,” and thereby become objects of hatred to the unconverted mass who still represent the race in its apostasy from God.—My people does not make it necessary to regard these as the words of God himself, who is nowhere introduced as speaking in this psalm, and is spoken of in the third person in the very next clause. The Psalmist, as a member of the body, calls it his, and the same form of expression occurs elsewhere. See 1 Sam. 5:10, Isa. 3:12, 53:8, Micah 3:3.—For the meaning of the phrase, workers of iniquity, see above, on Ps. 5:6 (5).

5. There have they feared a fear, for God (is) in the righteous generation. A later period is now present to his view. They who seemed incapable of fear have now began to be afraid at last. There, without any change of place or outward situation. Where they before denied the being of a God, even there they have began to fear. See below, on Ps. 36:13 (12). The reason is given in the next clause. God, though denied by them, exists and is present, and will manifest his presence by the protection and deliverance of his people. Feared a fear, is a common Hebrew idiom for greatly feared, were sore afraid. Generation, contemporary race, as in Ps. 12:8 (7).

6. The plan (or counsel) of the sufferer (the afflicted) ye will shame, because Jehovah is his refuge. The workers of iniquity are here addressed directly. The sufferer is the persecuted innocent. Poor is too restricted a translation. See above, on Ps. 9:13, 19 (12, 18). The plan or counsel is described in the last clause, to wit, that of trusting in Jehovah. This very trust is an object of contempt to the wicked. Until they are made to fear by the manifestation of God’s presence with his people, they will continue to despise it. The Psalmist here seems to revert to the interval which should precede the divine interposition. As if he had said, You will one day be made to fear, but in the mean time you will shame the counsel of the poor. Some, however, give תבישו its usual sense of putting to shame, disappointing, and understand the clause as an ironical concession: you may shame his counsel if you can.

7. Who will give out of Zion salvation to Israel, in Jehovah’s returning the captivity of his people? Let Jacob exult, let Israel joy! The phrase who will give is an idiomatic optative in Hebrew, equivalent to Oh that with a verb, and Oh for with a noun in English. Oh for the salvation of Israel! Or, Oh that the salvation of Israel (might come) out of Zion, as the earthly residence of God and seat of the theocracy. The same local designation is connected with the prayer or promise of divine help, in Ps. 3:5 (4), 20:3 (2), 128:5, 134:3. (Compare Ps. 28:2). This shews that the psalm does not belong to the period of the Babylonish exile, and that the captivity referred to is not literal, but a metaphorical description of distress, as in the case of Job (42:10). The same idea is elsewhere expressed by the figure of confinement and incarceration (Ps. 142:8, Isa. 42:7, 49:9). The sense remains essentially the same in this case, whether the verb return be transitive or intransitive. Most interpreters prefer the former sense, and understand the clause to mean, “in Jehovah’s bringing back the captivity of his people.” But as שׁוּב in every other combination means to come back, and, like other verbs of motion, often governs a noun of place directly (Exod. 4:19, 20, Num. 10:36), it is better to understand the words as meaning that the salvation wished for would consist in God’s revisiting his captive or afflicted people. The sense is also admissible, if not necessary, in such places as Deut. 30:3, Ps. 85:5 (4), Isa. 52:8, Hos. 6:11, Nah. 2:3 (2). Let Jacob shout (for joy)! This is both an exhortation and a wish, but the latter is the prominent idea, as the parallelism of the clauses shews. Oh that the salvation of Israel were come! corresponds exactly to, May Jacob exult, may Israel be glad! The common version is forbidden by the optative form (יָגֵל) of the Hebrew verb, and by the masoretic interpunction, which connects in the Lord’s returning, &c., not with what follows as a specification of time, but with what goes before as an explanatory clause. The whole may be paraphrased as follows: “Oh that Jehovah, from his throne in Zion, would grant salvation to his, people, by revisiting them in their captive and forsaken state, and that occasion of rejoicing might be thus afforded to the church!” Or more closely thus: “Oh may Israel’s salvation (soon) come forth from Zion, in Jehovah’s return to the captivity of his people! (In such a restoration) may Jacob (soon have reason to) exult and Israel (to) triumph!”[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 60–63). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)


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