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Psalm 27

A SUFFERER, surrounded by enemies intent on his destruction, and deprived of human help, implores divine assistance and expresses his assured hope of obtaining it. The expression of confidence occurs at the beginning and the end, the description of the danger and the prayer for deliverance in the body of the psalm. If God be for him, and admit him to his household, he is satisfied and safe, ver. 1–6. With this persuasion he implores that God will interpose for his deliverance from present danger, ver. 7–12. If he did not believe that God would grant his request he must despair; but as he does believe it, he encourages himself to wait for it, ver. 13, 14. There is no apparent reference to any particular historical occasion, but an obvious intention to provide a vehicle of pious sentiment for all God’s people under the form of trial here described.

1. By David. Jehovah (is) my light and my salvation; of whom shall I be afraid? Jehovah (is) the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be in dread? As darkness is a common figure for distress, and light for relief from it, the same idea is here twice expressed, first in a figurative form as light, and then more literally as salvation. These terms are applied to God, by a natural and common figure of speech, as the source or dispenser of light and salvation. Compare Micah 7:8. The interrogations imply negation of the strongest kind. The form of expression is imitated in Rom. 8:31–35.—The noun מָעזוֹ is sometimes used as an abstract, strength; but its proper meaning, as its very form denotes, is local. The stronghold or fortress of my life, that which makes my life as safe as walls and fortifications. The variation of the verbs in the two clauses is merely rhetorical, without any change in the idea.

2. In the drawing near against me of evil-doers, to devour my flesh, (in the drawing near of) my adversaries and my enemies to me, (it is) they (that) have stumbled and fallen. Even in the most imminent dangers which have hitherto befallen me, the divine protection has enabled me to see those who sought to overwhelm me overwhelmed themselves. Evil-doers, not only against me, but in general. It was not because they were his enemies merely, but because they were the enemies of God, that he so easily subdued them.—To eat my flesh, a figure borrowed from the habits of wild beasts. Compare Job 19:22, Ps. 14:4, 35:1.—To me is to be construed not with enemies, but with the verb, as in Job 33:22. See below, on Ps. 55:19. The pronoun expressed in the last clause is emphatic, “They themselves, not I, as they expected, fell.”

3. If there encamp against me an encampment, my heart shall not fear; if there arise against me war, (even) in this (case) I (am) confident. With the sentiment of this verse compare Ps. 3:7 (6). The primary meaning of the noun in the first clause is retained in the translation for the sake of its assonance with the verb, which is lost in the common version, although marked in the original. By encampment, however, must be understood the men encamped, the host, the army.—In this, even in this extremity. Compare Lev. 26:27, Job 1:22. The common version, in this will I be confident, although ambiguous, appears to mean, “I will confide in this, i.e. in the fact that Jehovah is my light and my salvation.” This construction is grammatical, and yields a good sense, but the other is more pointed and emphatic, and the absolute use of בּוֹטֵחַ in the sense of safe, secure, is justified by Judges 18:27, Jer. 12:5, Prov. 11:15.

4. One (thing) have I asked from Jehovah, (and) that will I (still) seek, that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah, to gaze at the beauty of Jehovah, and to inquire in his temple. To dwell in the house of the Lord is not merely to frequent his sanctuary as a place of worship, but to be a member of his household, and as such in intimate communion with him. See above, on Ps. 15:1, 23:6.—Beauty, loveliness, desirableness, all that makes God an object of affection and desire to the believer. See below, on Ps. 90:17. Some take the last verb in the secondary sense of meditating; but the proper one of inquiring is entirely appropriate.—Temple, properly palace, the earthly residence of the great King, and therefore equally appropriate to the temple and the tabernacle. See above, on Ps. 5:8 (7).

5. For he will hide me in his covert in the day of evil; he will secrete me in the secrecy of his tent; on a rock he will set me high. This verse assigns his reason for wishing to be still a member of Jehovah’s household, namely, because there he is sure of effectual protection.—The word translated covert means a booth or shelter made of leaves and branches, such as the Jews used at the feast of tabernacles (Lev. 23:42). It is here used as a figure for secure protection in the day of evil, i.e. of suffering or danger.—Secrete and secrecy are used in the translation to represent the cognate verb and noun in Hebrew.—By his tent, as appears from the preceding verse, we are to understand the tabernacle, not considered merely as a place of public worship, but as Jehovah’s earthly residence, his mansion. In the last clause the idea of protection is conveyed by an entirely different figure, that of a person placed upon a high rock beyond the reach of danger. See above, on Ps. 9:14 (13), 18:49 (48).

6. And now shall my head be high above my enemies around me, and I will sacrifice in his tabernacle sacrifices of joyful noise; I will sing and make music to Jehovah. And now may either be a formula of logical resumption, as in Ps. 2:10, 39:8 (7), or be taken in its strict sense, as denoting that he not only hopes for future safety, but is ready in the mean time, even now, to thank him publicly for his protection as already realised. The first clause merely amplifies the last of the preceding verse. The next adds the promise of a thank-offering at the tabernacle, which implies an assured hope of deliverance and prosperity. By a joyful noise some understand the blowing of trumpets which accompanied certain offerings (Num. 10:10, 29:1); but as this is never mentioned in connection with private sacrifices, it seems more advisable to rest in the general sense of the expression.

7. Hear, O Jehovah! (with) my voice I will call, and do thou have mercy on me and answer me. The Psalmist here descends from the tone of confident assurance to that of strong desire, prompted by a sense of urgent need.—With my voice, not merely with my mind, but audibly, aloud. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4).

8. To thee hath said my heart—Seek ye my face—thy face, Jehovah, will I seek. The general meaning of this verse is obvious enough, although its syntax is exceedingly obscure. The best solution is to take “seek ye my face” as a citation of God’s own words. “My heart has said to thee—(whenever thou hast said) Seek ye my face,—thy face,” &c. Or, “my heart has said to thee—(in answer to thy words) Seek ye my face—thy face,” &c.—My heart hath said, i.e. I have said with or from the heart. See above, on Ps. 11:1. There may be an allusion to Deut. 4:29, from which the expression seek God (2 Sam. 12:16, 2 Chron. 20:4), and seek his face (Ps. 24:6, 105:4) seems to be derived. The idea is that of seeking admission to his presence for the purpose of asking a favour. See above, on Ps. 24:6.

9. Hide not thy face from me, put not away in wrath thy servant; my help thou hast been; forsake me not, and leave me not, (O) God of my salvation! The first petition is that God will not withhold from him the manifestation of his love or favour. See above, on Ps. 4:7 (6).—Put not away, or thrust aside, as one unworthy to be noticed.—Thy servant, and as such entitled to thy kind regard.—My help, i.e. the source and author of my help, my helper. Thou hast been; the past tense is here essential: what thou hast been, continue to be still.—God of my salvation, my Saviour God, or God my Saviour; see above, on Ps 18:47 (46).

10. For my father and my mother have left me, and Jehovah will take me in. Parents are here put for the nearest friends, whose loss or desertion is frequently complained of in the Psalms as one of the most painful signs of desolation. See Ps. 31:12 (11), 38:12 (11), 69:9 (8), 88:9 (8), and compare Job 19:13. The first clause may also be translated, when my father and my mother have left me, then the Lord will take me in.—The last expression is applied to the compassionate reception of strangers or wanderers into one’s house. See Josh. 20:4, Judges 19:15, and compare Mat. 25:35, 43. The case described is an ideal one, and may be thus expressed in paraphrase: “The kindness of the nearest earthly friends may cease by death or desertion (for the verb to leave may comprehend both); but the Lord’s compassions cannot fail.”

11. Guide me, Jehovah, (in) thy way, and lead me in a straight (or level) path, because of my adversaries. The way in which he here desires to be led, is not the way of duty but of providence, which he calls a straight or smooth path, as distinguished from the rough or crooked ways of adversity. See above, on Ps. 25:4, 26:12.—Because of my enemies, that they may have no occasion to exult or triumph. Of the many Hebrew words applied to enemies, the one here used is supposed by some to signify malignant watchers for the errors or calamities of others. The one used in the next verse means oppressors or causers of distress.—With this clause compare Ps. 26:12.

12. Give me not up to the will of my enemies; for risen up against me are witnesses of falsehood, and a breather forth of cruelty. The word translated will properly means soul, and is here used for the ruling wish or heart’s desire, as in Ps. 35:25. The second clause assigns the ground or reason of this prayer. As if he had said, I have reason to ask this, for there have risen up, &c.—One breathing violence or cruelty, a strong but natural expression for a person, all whose thoughts and feelings are engrossed by a favourite purpose or employment, so that he cannot live or breathe without it. Compare the description of Saul’s persecuting zeal in Acts 9:1, and the Latin phrases, spirare minas, anhelare scelus.

13. Unless I believed (or fully expected) to look upon the goodness of Jehovah in the land of life. This is an instance of the figure called aposiopesis, in which the conclusion of the sentence is suppressed, either from excitement and hurried feeling, or because of some unwillingness to utter what is necessary to complete it. Thus in this case the apodosis would probably have been, I would despair, or I must have perished. (Compare Ps. 119:92.) Of the other cases usually cited, that in Gen. 31:42 especially resembles this, because the sentence opens with a similar conditional expression.—To look upon, not merely to behold, but to gaze at with delight. See above on Ps. 22:18 (17).—The land of life, as opposed to that of darkness and the shadow of death (Job 10:21), seems to be a more correct translation than the common one, land of the living.

14. Wait thou for Jehovah; be firm, and may he strengthen thy heart; and wait thou for Jehovah! Instead of finishing the inauspicious sentence which he had begun, he interrupts himself with an earnest exhortation to await the fulfilment of God’s promises, to hope in him. See above, on Ps. 25:3.—The optative and causative senses of the third verb (יַֽאֲמֵץ) are both determined by its form, which equally forbids the versions, let thy heart be strong, and he will strengthen it.—The repetition, wait for the Lord, and wait for the Lord, implies that this is all he has to enjoin upon himself or others, and is more impressive, in its native simplicity, than the correct but paraphrastic version of the last clause in the English Bible, wait, I say, upon the Lord.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 120–123). Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

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