JOSEPH ADDISON ALEXANDER, D.D.
1864 Edinburgh; Andrew Elliot and James Thin.
Digitized by Ted Hildebrandt and Erin Bensing.
The present publication owes its origin to Hengstenberg's Commentary on
the Psalms. The original design was to make that work, by abridgment
and other unessential changes, more acceptable and useful to the English
reader than it could be in the form of an exact translation. It was soon
found, however, that by far the most important part of such a book would
be a literal version of the Hebrew text, and that this was precisely what
could not be obtained at second hand, by the awkward and unsatisfying
process of translating a translation, but must be derived directly from an
independent scrutiny of the original. In attempting this, the deviations
from Hengstenberg, continually in form and not unfrequently in substance,
rendered it wholly inexpedient and improper to make him responsible for
what was really a new translation. The only course remaining therefore
was to make this general acknowledgment, that his work is the basis of the
one now offered to the public, and that more has been directly drawn from
that source than from all others put together. The present writer has so
freely availed himself of Hengstenberg's translations, exegetical suggestions,
and illustrative citations, in preparing his own version and explanatory
comments, that nothing could have led him to forego the advantage of in-
serting that distinguised name upon his title-page, except a natural unwill-
ingness to make it answerable for the good or evil which is really his own.
At the same time, he considers it by no means the least merit of the book,
that it presents, in a smaller compass and a more familiar dress, the most
valuable results of so masterly an exposition.
In justice to his work and to himself, the author wishes it to be distinctly
understood, that he has aimed exclusively at explanation, the discovery and
statement of the meaning. To this he has confined himself for several
reasons: first, because a wider plan would have required a larger book than
was consistent with his general purpose; then, because this is really the
point in which assistance is most needed by the readers of the Psalter; and
lastly, because he had especially in view the wants of ministers, who are
better able than himself to erect a doctrinal, devotional, or practical super-
structure on the exegetical basis which he has endeavoured here to furnish.
It follows of course, that the book is not designed to supersede the admirable
works in common use, except so far as it may be found to correct their
occasional errors of translation or verbal exposition.
It may be thought that, in order to accomplish this design, the author
might have satisfied himself with a bare translation. But experience has
more and more convinced him, that the meaning of an author cannot be
fully given in another language by the use of exact equivalents, which are
in fact so few, that the deficiency can only be supplied by the addition of
synonymous expressions or by explanatory paraphrase, or by exegetical
remark directly added to the text, or by the use of all these means together.
The idea which he has endeavoured here to realize is that of an amplified
translation. In the version properly so called, he has endeavoured to pre-
serve, not only the strength but the peculiar form of the original, which is
often lost in the English Bible, by substituting literal for figurative and
general for specific terms, as well as by a needless deviation from the order
of the words in Hebrew, upon which the emphasis, if not the sense, is fre-
quently dependent, and which has here been carefully restored wherever the
difference of idiom would suffer it, and sometimes, it may possibly be thought,
without regard to it. Another gratuitous departure from the form of the
original, which has been perhaps too scrupulously shunned, but not, it is
believed, without advantage to the general character of the translation,
arises from the habit of confounding the tenses, or merging the future and
the past in a jejune and inexpressive present. The instances where this
rule has been pushed to a rigorous extreme may be readily detected, but
will not perhaps be thought to outweigh the advantage of preserving one
of the most marked and striking features of the Hebrew language.
The plan of the book, as already defined, has excluded not only all devo-
tional and practical remark, but all attempt to give the history of the
interpretation, or to enumerate the advocates and authors of conflicting
expositions. This, although necessary to a complete exegetical work, would
rather have defeated the design of this one, both by adding to its bulk and
by repelling a large class of readers. It has therefore been thought better to exclude it, or rather to reserve it for a kindred work upon a large scale, if
such should hereafter be demanded by the public. The same course has been
taken with respect to a great mass of materials, relating to those topics
which would naturally find their place in a Critical Introduction. Many of
these, and such as are particularly necessary to the exposition, have been
noticed incidentally as they occur. But synoptical summaries of these, and
full discussions of the various questions, as to the age and authors of the
several psalms, the origin and principle of their arrangement, the best mode
of classification, and the principles on which they ought to be interpreted,
would fill a volume by themselves, without materially promoting the main
object of the present publication. As the topics thus necessarily excluded
will probably constitute a principal subject of the author’s private and pro-
fessional studies for some time to come, he is not without the hope of being
able to bring something of this kind before the public, either in a separate
upon the Psalms, or in a general Introduction to the Scriptures.
The difficulty of discussing these preliminary matters within reasonable
compass, although great in the case of any important part of Scripture, is
aggravated by the peculiar structure of the Psalter, the most miscellaneous
of the sacred books, containing a hundred and fifty compositions, each com-
plete in itself, and varying in length, from two sentences (Ps. cxvii.) to a
hundred and seventy-six (Ps. cxix.), as well as in subject, style, and tone,
the work of many authors, and of different ages; so that a superficial reader
might be tempted to regard it as a random or fortuitous collection of uncon-
nected and incongruous materials.
A closer inspection shews, however, that this heterogeneous mass is not
without a bond of union; that these hundred and fifty independent pieces,
different as they are, have this in common, that they are all poetical, not
merely imaginative and expressive of feeling, but stamped externally with
that peculiar character of parallelism, which distinguishes the higher style
of Hebrew composition from ordinary prose. A still more marked resem-
blance is that they are all not only poetical but lyrical, i. e. songs, poems
intended to be sung, and with a musical accompaniment. Thirdly, they are
all religious lyrics, even those which seem at first sight the most secular in
theme and spirit, but which are all found on inquiry to be strongly expres-
sive of religious feeling. In the fourth place, they are all ecclesiastical lyrics,
psalms or hymns, intended to be permanently used in public worship, not
excepting those which bear the clearest impress of original connection with
the social, domestic, or personal relations and experience of the writers.
The book being thus invested with a certain unity of spirit, form, and
purpose, we are naturally led to seek for something in the psalms them-
selves, which may determine more definitely their relation to each other.
The first thing of this kind that presents itself is the existence, in a very
large proportion, of an ancient title or inscription, varying in length and ful-
ness; sometimes simply describing the composition, as a psalm, a song, a
prayer, &c.; sometimes stating the subject or historical occasion, either in
plain or enigmatical expressions; sometimes directing the performance, by
indicating the accompanying instrument, by specifying the appropriate key
or mode, or by naming the particular performer: these various intimations
occurring sometimes singly, but frequently in combination.
The strenuous attempts which have been made by modern writers to
discredit these inscriptions, as spurious additions of a later date, containing
groundless and erroneous conjectures, often at variance with the terms and
substance of the psalm itself, are defeated by the fact that they are found
in the Hebrew text, as far as we can trace its history, not as addenda, but
as integral parts of the composition; that such indications of the author
and the subject, at the commencement of a composition, are familiar both
to classical and oriental usage; and that the truth of these inscriptions may
in every case be vindicated, and in none more successfully than those which
seem at first sight least defensible, and which have therefore been appealed
to, with most confidence, as proofs of spuriousness and recent date.
The details included in this general statement will be pointed out as they
occur, but are here referred to by anticipation, to explain and vindicate the
constant treatment of the titles in this volume as an integral part of the
sacred text, which in some editions of the Bible has been mutilated by
omitting them, and in others dislocated or confused, for the purposes of refer-
ence, by passing them over in the numeration of the verses. As this last arrangement is familiar to all readers of the English Bible, an attempt has been made in the following exposition to consult their convenience, by add-
ing the numbers of the English to those of the Hebrew text, wherever they
Another point of contact and resemblance between these apparently de-
tached and independent compositions is the frequent recurrence of set
phrases and of certain forms extending to the structure of whole psalms,
such as the alphabetical arrangement, in which the successive sentences or
paragraphs begin with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This is the more remarkable, because these alphabetic psalms have all a common
character, distinguishing them from the rest, to wit, that instead of a pro-
gression of ideas, they consist of variations on a theme propounded at the outset, whether this be regarded as the cause or the effect of the peculiar
The same inquiries which have led to these conclusions also shew that the arrangement of the psalms in the collection is by no means so unmean-
ing and fortuitous as may at first sight seem to be the case, but that in
many instances at least, a reason may be found for the juxtaposition, in
resemblance or identity of subject or historical occasion, or in some
remarkable coincidence of general form or of particular expressions. If
in some cases it is difficult to trace the reason of the collocation, there are
others in which two psalms bear so intimate and obvious a mutual relation,
that they seem to constitute a pair or double psalm, either because they
were originally meant to match each other, or because one has been sub-
sequently added for the purpose. Sometimes, particularly in the latter
part of the collection, we may trace not only pairs but trilogies, and even
more extensive systems of connected psalms, each independent of the rest,
and yet together forming beautiful and striking combinations, particularly
when the nucleus or the basis of the series is an ancient psalm; for instance
one of David’s, to which others have been added, in the way of variation or of imitation, at a later period, such as that of the Captivity.
Although the facts just mentioned are sufficient to evince that the Book
of Psalms was not thrown together at random, but adjusted by a careful
hand, the principle of the arrangement is not always so apparent, or of
such a nature as to repress the wish to classify the psalms and reduce them
to some systematic order. The most obvious arrangement would be that
by authors, if the data were sufficient. But although the title ascribe one
to Moses, seventy-two to David, two to Solomon, twelve to Asaph, one to
Ethan, and eleven to the Sons of Korah, it is doubtful in some of the
cases, more particularly those last mentioned, whether the title was designed
to indicate the author or the musical performer, and more than fifty are
anonymous. In some of these the hand of David may be still distinctly
traced, but as to most, we are abandoned to conjecture, which of course
affords no solid basis for a satisfactory or useful distribution.
Another principle of classification is the internal character, the subject,
style, and manner of the psalms. This was applied by the older writers,
in accordance with the forms of artificial rhetoric, and with endless variety
in the result. But the best application of the principle is that proposed by
Hengstenberg, and founded on the tone of pious feeling which the psalm
expresses: whether joyous, as in the general psalms of praise, and more
especially in those of thanksgiving; or sad, as in the querulous and peni-
tential psalms; or calm, as in most of the prophetic and didactic psalms.
All these, however, are arrangements which the reader can make best to
please himself, and which are rather the results of exposition than prelimi-
nary aids to it.
Apart from these attempts at systematic distribution and arrangement,
there is also a question with respect to the division of the Psalter as it
stands. There is an ancient division into five parts, corresponding, as the
Rabbins say, to the five books of Moses, and indicated by doxologies at the
close of Ps. xli., lxxii., lxxxix., cvi., while Ps. cl. is itself a doxology,
up the whole. The modern critics, more especially in
have tasked their ingenuity to prove that these are distinct collections,
contemporaneous or successive, of detached compositions, afterwards com-
bined to form the present Psalter. But they never have been able to
account, with any plausibility or show of truth, for the remarkable position
which the psalms of David occupy in all parts of the book. A much more
probable hypothesis, though coupled with a theory, to say the least,
extremely dubious, is that of Hengstenberg, who looks upon the actual
arrangement as the work of Ezra, or some other skilful and authoritative
hand, and accounts for the division into five books as follows. The first
book (Ps. i.–xli.) contains only psalms of David, in which the use of the
divine name Jehovah is predominant. The second (Ps. xlii.-lxxii.) contains
psalms of David and his contemporaries, i. e., Solomon, Asaph, and the
Sons of Korah, in which the predominant divine name is Elohim. The third
(Ps. lxxiii.–lxxxix.) contains psalms of Asaph and the Sons of Korah, in
which the name Jehovah is predominant. The fourth (Ps. xc.–cvi.) and
fifth (cvii.–cl.,) contain, for the most part, psalms of later date, the princi-
pal exceptions being one by Moses (Ps. xc.), and several of David's, to
which others in the same strain have been added, in the way already
However ingenious this hypothesis may be, it will be seen at once that
it contributes very little to the just appreciation or correct interpretation of
the several psalms, except by enabling us, in certain cases, to derive illus-
tration from a more extended context, as the reader will find stated in its
proper place. Even granting, therefore, the historical assumption upon
which it rests, and the favourite doctrine as to the divine names, with
which it is to some extent identified, it will be sufficient for our present
purpose to have stated it in outline, leaving the reader to compare it with
the facts as they successively present themselves, and reserving a more full
investigation of the general question to another time and place.
The best arrangement for the ordinary student of the Psalter is the
actual arrangement of the book itself: first, because we have no better,
and the efforts to invent a better have proved fruitless; then, because, as
we have seen, there are sufficient indications, of a principle or purpose in
this actual arrangement, whether we can always trace it there or not;
lastly, because uniform tradition and analogy agree in representing it as
highly probable that this arrangement was the work of Ezra, the inspired
collector and rédacteur of the canon, so that even if nothing more should
ever be discovered, with respect to his particular design or plan, we have
still the satisfaction of relying, not on chance, but on a competent or rather
an infallible authority, as well as the advantage of studying the psalms in
a connection and an order which may possibly throw light upon them, even
when it seems to us most fortuitous or arbitrary.
If any subdivision of the book is needed, as a basis or a means of more
convenient exposition, it may be obtained by taking, as the central column
of this splendid fabric, its most ancient portion, the sublime and affecting
Prayer of Moses, known from time immemorial as the Ninetieth Psalm,
and suffering this, as a dividing line, to separate the whole into two great
parts, the first composed entirely of psalms belonging to the times of
David, the other of a few such, with a much greater number of later com-
positions, founded on them and connected with them.
This simple distribution seems to secure all the substantial advantages
of Hengstenberg's hypothesis, without its complexity or doubtful points.
Among the latter may be reckoned the extraordinary stress laid by this
eminent interpreter on what may be called Symbolical Arithmetic, or the
significance ascribed to the number of verses, of Selahs, of Jehovahs, of
Elohims, used in any given psalm. Setting out from the unquestionable
fact, that certain numbers are symbolically used in the Old Testament;
that seven is the symbol of the covenant, twelve of the theocracy, ten of
completeness or perfection, five of the reverse, &c., he attempts to trace
the application of this principle throughout the psalms, and not, as might
have been expected, without many palpable failures to establish his favour-
ite and foregone conclusion. The effect which this singular prepossession
might have had upon his exposition is prevented by his happily restricting
it entirely to form and structure, and putting it precisely on a level with
the alphabetical arrangement of the Hebrews, and with rhyme as used by
other nations. There is still, however, reason to regret the space allotted
to this subject in his volumes, and good ground for excluding it from works
of an humbler and more popular description. As all the views of such a
mind, however, are at least entitled to consideration, this subject may
appropriately take its place among the topics of a Critical Introduction.
With respect to the historical relations of the Psalter and its bearings
on the other parts of Scripture, it will be sufficient to remind the reader,
that the Mosaic system reached its culminating point and full development
in the reign of David, when the land of promise was in full possession, the
provisions of the law for the first time fully carried out, and a permanent
sanctuary secured, and, we may even say, prospectively erected. The chain
of Messianic promises, which for ages had been broken, or concealed
beneath the prophetic ritual, was now renewed by the addition of a new
link, in the great Messianic promise made to David (2 Sam. vii.) of per-
petual succession in his family. As the head of this royal race from which
the Messiah was to spring, and as the great theocratical model of succeed-
ing ages, who is mentioned more frequently in prophecy and gospel than
all his natural descendants put together, he was inspired to originate a new
kind of sacred composition, that of Psalmody, or rather to educe from the
germ which Moses had planted an abundant harvest of religious poetry,
not for his own private use, but for that of the Church, in the new form of
public service which he added by divine command to the Mosaic ritual.
As an inspired psalmist, as the founder and director of the temple-music.
and as a model and exemplar to those after him, David's position is unique
in sacred history. As his military prowess had been necessary to complete
the conquest of the land, so his poetical and musical genius was necessary
to secure his influence upon the church for ever. The result is, that no
part of the Bible has been so long, so constantly, and so extensively fami-
liar, both to Jews and Christians, as the Psalms of David. This deno-
minatio a potiori is entirely correct, as all the other writers of the psalms,
excepting Moses, merely carry out and vary what had been already done
by David; and as if to guard the system from deterioration, the further we
proceed the more direct and obvious is this dependence upon David, as
"the man raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the
other psalmists, from the days of Solomon to those of Ezra.
The interesting questions which have so often been discussed, as to the
theology and ethics of the Psalter, and especially in reference to the doc-
trine of a Messiah and a future state, and to the so-called imprecations of
the psalms, can be satisfactorily settled only by detailed interpretation of
the passages concerned, and any summary anticipation of the general
result may here be spared, although it would be highly appropriate in a
After this brief statement of preliminary points which might be fully
treated in an Introduction, it only remains to add, in explanation of the
plan adopted in the work itself, that the reader is constantly supposed to
be familiar with the Hebrew text and with the authorised version, but that,
in order to make the exposition accessible to a larger class of educated
readers, the original words have been introduced but sparingly, and only
for the purpose of saving space and avoiding an awkward circumlocution.
The translation of the text is printed in italic type as prose, partly for a
reason just assigned, to save room; partly because it is really prose, and
not verse, according to the common acceptation of those terms; partly be-
cause the effect of the poetical element, so far as it exists, is weakened
rather than enhanced when printed as irregular blank verse: but especially
because the version is not meant to stand by itself, or to be continuously
read, but to be part and parcel of the exposition, and to be qualified by the
accompanying paraphrase and comments.
The religious uses of the Psalms, both doctrinal and practical, though
not directly aimed at in these volumes, are so far from being undervalued
by the author, and indeed so essential to his ultimate design, that any effect
which the book may have, however humble or remote, in the promotion of
this end, will be esteemed by him as its most flattering success, and the
most acceptable reward of his exertions.
The book opens with an exquisite picture of the truly Happy Man, as seen
from the highest ground of the old dispensation. He is described both
literally and figuratively, positively and negatively, directly and by contrast,
with respect both to his character and his condition, here and hereafter.
The compression of all this into so short a composition, without confusion
or obscurity, and with a high degree of graphic vividness, shews what the
psalm is in a rhetorical or literary point of view, apart from its religious
import and divine authority. Its moral design is both didactic and con-
solatory. There is no trace of any particular historical occasion or allusion.
The teams employed are general, and admit of an easy application to all
times and places where the word of God is known. The psalm indeed con-
tains a summary of the doctrine taught in this book and in the Scriptures
generally, as to the connection between happiness and goodness. It is well
placed, therefore, as an introduction to the whole collection, and although
anonymous, was probably composed by David. It is altogether worthy of
this origin, and corresponds, in form and substance, to the next psalm,
which is certainly by David. The two seem indeed to form a pair or double
psalm, of which arrangement there are several other instances. The struc-
ture of the first psalm is symmetrical but simple, and the style removed
from that of elevated prose by nothing but the use of strong and lively
1. The Happy Man is first described in literal but negative expressions,
i. e. by stating what he does not habitually do. The description opens with
a kind of admiring exclamation. (Oh) the blessedness of the man! The
plural form of the original (felicities or happinesses), if anything more than
a grammatical idiom like ashes, means, &c., in our language, may denote
fulness and variety of happiness, as if he had said, How completely happy is
the man! The negative description follows. Happy the man who has not
walked, a common figure for the course of life or the habitual conduct, which
is furthermore suggested by the use of the past tense, but without excluding
the present, who has not walked and does not walk, in the counsel, i. e. live
after the manner, on the principles, or according to the plans, of wicked
(men), and in, the way of sinners has not stood. The word translated sinners
properly denotes those who fall short of the standard of duty, as the word
translated wicked denotes those who positively violate a rule by disorderly
10 PSALM I. [VER. 2, 3.
conduct. Together they express the whole idea of ungodly or unrighteous
men. And in the seat, not the chair, but the company, or the place where
men convene and sit together, of scorners, scoffers, those who treat religion
with contempt, has not sat. The three verbs denote the three acts or pos-
tures of a waking man, namely, walking, standing, sitting, and are there-
fore well adapted to express the whole course of life or conduct. It is also
possible that a climax was intended, so that walking, standing, and sitting
in the company of sinners will denote successive stages of deterioration, first
occasional conformity, then fixed association, then established residence
among the wicked, not as a mere spectator or companion, but as one of
themselves. The same kind of negative description reappears in Psalm
xxvi. 4, 5, and in Jer. xv. 17. It is of course implied that no one, of whom
any of these things can be affirmed, is entitled to the character of a Happy Man.
2. A positive trait is now added to the picture. Having shewn what the
truly happy man does not, the Psalmist shews us what he does. But, on
the contrary, in contrast with the previous description, in the law of Jehovah,
i. e. the written revelation of his will, and more especially the Pentateuch
or Law of Moses, which lay at the foundation of the Hebrew Scriptures, (is)
his delight, not merely his employment, or his trust, but his pleasure, his
happiness. And in his law he will meditate, i. e. he does so and will do so
still, not merely as a theme of speculation or study, but as a cherished
object of affection, a favourite subject of the thoughts, day and night, i. e.
at all times, in every interval of other duties, nay in the midst of other
duties, this is the theme to which his mind spontaneously reverts. The
cordial attachment to an unfinished revelation, here implicitly enjoined,
chews clearly what is due to the completed word of God which we possess.
3. The literal description of the Happy Man, both in its negative and
positive form, is followed by a beautiful comparison, expressive of his cha-
racter and his condition. And he is, or he shall be; the present and the future
insensibly run into each other, so as to suggest the idea of continuous or
permanent condition, like the past and present in the first verse. And
he is, or shall be, like a tree, a lively emblem of vitality and fruitfulness.
He is not, however, like a tree growing wild, but like a tree planted, in the
most favourable situation, on or over, i. e. overhanging, streams of water.
The original words properly denote canals or channels, as customary means
of artificial irrigation. Hence the single tree is said to overhang more than
one, because surrounded by them. The image presented is that of a highly
cultivated spot, and implies security and care, such as could not be enjoyed
in the most luxuriant wilderness or forest. The divine culture thus experi-
enced is the cause of the effect represented by the rest of the comparison.
Which (tree) will give, or yield, its fruit in its season, and its leaf shall not
wither; it shall lose neither its utility nor beauty. This is then expressed
in a more positive and prosaic form. And all, or every thing, which he,
the man represented by the verdant fruitful tree, shall do, he shall make to
prosper, or do prosperously, with good success. This pleasing image is in
perfect keeping with the scope of the psalm, which is not to describe the
righteous man, as such, but the truly happy man, with whom the righteous
man is afterwards identified. The neglect of this peculiar feature of the
composition impairs its moral as well as its rhetorical effect, by making it
an austere declaration of what will be expected from a good man, rather
than a joyous exhibition of his happy lot. That the common experience,
even of the best men, falls short of this description, is because their cha-
VER. 4-6.] PSALM I. 11
racter and life fall short of that presented in the two preceding verses. The
whole description is not so much a picture drawn from real life, as an ideal
standard or model, by striving to attain which our aims and our attainments
will be elevated, though imperfect after all.
4. Not so the wicked. The direct description of the Happy Man is
heightened and completed by comparison with others. Not so the wicked,
i. e. neither in condition nor in character. The dependence of the one upon
the other is suggested by describing them as wicked, rather than unhappy.
Not so, i. e. not thus happy, (are) the wicked, because they are wicked, and
are therefore destitute of all that constitutes the happiness before described.
The immediate reference, in the phrase not so, is to the beautiful, well-
watered, green, and thriving tree of the preceding verse. To this delightful
emblem of a healthful happy state the Psalmist now opposes one drawn
likewise from the vegetable world, but as totally unlike the first as possible.
The wicked are not represented by a tree, not even by a barren tree, a dead
tree, a prostrate tree, a shrub, a weed, all which are figures not unfre-
quent in the Scriptures. But all these are more or less associated with the
natural condition of a living plant, and therefore insufficient to present the
necessary contrast. This is finely done by a comparison with chaff, which,
though a vegetable substance, and connected in its origin with one of the
most valuable products of the earth, is itself neither living, fruitful, nor
nutritious, but only fit to be removed and scattered by the wind, in the
ancient and oriental mode of winnowing. There is a double fitness in the
emblem here presented, as suggesting the idea of intrinsic worthlessness,
and at the same time that of contrast with the useful grain, with which it
came into existence, and from which it shall be separated only to be blown
away or burned. Not so the wicked, but like the chaff; which the wind drives
away. The same comparison is used in Psalm xxxv. 5, Isa. xvii. 13, xxix.
5, Hos. xiii. 3, Zeph. ii. 2, Job xxi. 18, and by John the Baptist in Mat.
iii. 12, with obvious allusion to this psalm, but with a new figure, that of
burning, which seems to be intended to denote final and complete destruc-
tion, while in all the other cases, the idea suggested by the chaff being
blown away is that of violent and rapid disappearance.
5. Therefore, because they are unlike a living tree, and like the worth-
less chaff, fit only to be scattered by the wind, wicked (men) shall not stand,
i. e. stand their ground or be able to sustain themselves, in the judgment,
i. e. at the bar of God. This includes two ideas, that of God's unerring
estimation of all creatures at their real value, and that of his corresponding
action towards them. The wicked shall neither be approved by God, nor,
as a necessary consequence, continue to enjoy his favour, even in appear-
ance. Whatever providential inequalities may now exist will all be rectified
hereafter. The wicked shall not always be confounded with their betters.
They shall not stand in the judgment, either present intermediate judgments,
or the final judgment of the great day. And sinners, the same persons
under another name, as in ver. 1 (shall not stand) in the congregation, or
assembly, of righteous (men). They shall not continue intermingled with
them in society as now, and, what is more important, they shall not for ever
seem to form part of the church or chosen people, to which the word trans-
lated congregation is constantly applied in the Old Testament. Whatever
doubt may now exist, the time is coming when the wicked are to take their
proper place and to be seen in their true character, as totally unlike the righteous.
6. The certainty of this event is secured by God's omniscience, from
12 PSALM I. [VER. 6.
which his power and his justice are inseparable. However men may be
deceived in their prognostications, he is not. The Lord, Jehovah, the God
of Revelation, the covenant God of Israel, knows, literally (is) knowing, i. e.
habitually knows, or knows from the beginning to the end, the way of right-
eous (men), i. e. the tendency and issue of their character and conduct.
As if he had said, the Lord knows whither they are going and where they
will arrive at last. This is a clear though indirect assertion of their safety, here
and hereafter. The figure of a way is often used to express the character
and conduct itself; but this idea is here implied or comprehended in that of
destiny, as determined by the character and conduct. There is no need, there-
fore, of taking the verb know in any other than its usual and proper sense.
The verse is an appeal to divine omniscience for the truth of the implied
assertion, that the righteous are safe and will be happy, as well as for that
of the express assertion, with which the whole psalm closes. The way of
wicked (men), in the same sense as before, shall perish, i. e. end in ruin.
The apparent solecism of making a way perish only brings out in more
prominent relief the truth really asserted, namely, the perdition of those
who travel it. This completes the contrast, and sums up the description
of the truly Happy Man, as one whose delight is in the law and his happi-
ness in the favour of Jehovah, and whose strongest negative characteristic
is his total want of moral likeness here to those from whom he is to dwell
A sublime vision of the nations in revolt against Jehovah and his
Anointed, with a declaration of the divine purpose to maintain his King's
authority, and a warning to the world that it must bow to him or perish.
The structure of this psalm is extremely regular. It naturally falls into
four stanzas of three verses each. In the first, the conduct of the rebel-
lious nations is described. In the second, God replies to them by word
and deed. In the third, the Messiah or Anointed One declares the divine
decree in relation to himself. In the fourth, the Psalmist exhorts the rulers
of the nations to submission, with a threatening of divine wrath to the dis-
obedient, and a closing benediction on believers. The several sentences
it are also very regular in form, exhibiting parallelisms of great uniformity.
Little as this psalm may, at first sight, seem to resemble that before it,
there is really a very strong affinity between them. Even in form they are
related to each other. The number of verses and of stanzas is just double
in the second, which moreover begins, as the first ends, with a threatening,
and ends, as the first begins, with a beatitude. There is also a resemblance
in their subject and contents. The contrast indicated in the first is carried
out and rendered more distinct in the second. The first is in fact an intro-
duction to the second, and the second to what follows. And as the psalms
which follow bear the name of David, there is the strongest reason to believe
that these two are his likewise, a conclusion confirmed by the authority of
Acts iv. 25, as well as by the internal character of the psalm itself. The
imagery of the scene presented is evidently borrowed from the warlike and
eventful times of David. He cannot, however, be himself the subject of
the composition, the terms of which are wholly inappropriate to any king
but the Messiah, to whom they are applied by the oldest Jewish writers,
and again and again in the New Testament. This is the first of those pro-
VER. 1, 2.] PSALM II. 13
phetic psalms, in which the promise made to David, with respect to the
Messiah (2 Sam. vii. 16, 1 Chron. xvii. 11-14), is wrought into the lyrical
devotions of the ancient church. The supposition of a double reference to
David, or some one of his successors, and to Christ, is not only needless
and gratuitous, but hurtful to the sense by the confusion which it introduces,
and forbidden by the utter inappropriateness of some of the expressions
used to any lower subject. The style of this psalm, although not less pure
and simple, is livelier than that of the first, a difference arising partly from
the nature of the subject, but still more from the dramatic structure of the composition.
1. This psalm opens, like the first, with an exclamation, here expressive
of astonishment and indignation at the wickedness and folly of the scene
presented to the psalmist's view. Why do nations make a noise, tumultuate,
or rage? The Hebrew verb is not expressive of an internal feeling, but of
the outward agitation which denotes it. There may be an allusion to the
rolling and roaring of the sea, often used as an emblem of popular commo-
tion, both in the Scriptures and the classics. The past tense of this verb
(why have they raged?) refers to the commotion as already begun, while the
future in the next clause expresses its continuance. And peoples, not people,
in the collective sense of persons, but in the proper plural sense of nations,
races, will imagine, i. e. are imagining and will continue to imagine, vanity,
a vain thing, something hopeless and impossible. The interrogation in
this verse implies that no rational solution of the strange sight could be
given, for reasons assigned in the remainder of the psalm. This implied
charge of irrationality is equally well founded in all cases where the same
kind of opposition exists, though secretly, and on the smallest scale.
2. The confused scene presented in the first verse now becomes more
distinct, by a nearer view of the contending parties. (Why will) the
kings of earth set themselves, or, without repeating the interrogation, the
kings of earth will set themselves, or take their stand, and rulers consult to-
gether, literally sit together, but with special reference to taking counsel,
as in Ps. xxxi. 14 (13), against Jehovah and against his Anointed, or Messiah,
which is only a modified form of the Hebrew word here used, as Christ is
a like modification of the corresponding term in Greek. External unction
or anointing is a sign, in the Old Testament, of the gifts of the Holy Spirit,
and especially of those conferred on prophets, priests, and kings, as minis-
ters of the theocracy, and representatives of Christ himself. To kings
particularly, as the highest and most comprehensive order, and peculiar
types of Christ in his supremacy as Head of the church, the sacred history
applies the title of the Lord's Anointed. The rite of unction is explicitly
recorded in the case of Saul, David, and Solomon, and was probably re-
peated at the coronation of their successors. From the verse before us,
and from Dan. ix. 26, the name Messiah has, before the Advent, come into
use among the Jews as a common designation of the great Deliverer and
King whom they expected. (Compare John i. 41 with ver. 49 of the same
chapter, and with Mark xv. 32.) The intimate relation of the Anointed
One to God himself is indicated even here by making them the common
object of attack, or rather of revolt. In Acts iv. 25-27, this description
is applied to the combination of Herod and Pilate, Jews and Gentiles,
against Jesus Christ, not as the sole event predicted, but as that in which
the gradual fulfilment reached its culmination. From that quotation,
and indeed from the terms of the prophecy itself, we learn that nations
here does not mean Gentiles or heathen, as opposed to Jews, but whole com-
14 PSALM II. [VER. 3, 4.
munities or masses of mankind, as distinguished from mere personal or
insulated cases of resistance and rebellion.
3. Having described the conduct of the disaffected nations and their
chiefs, he now introduces them as speaking. In the preceding verse they
were seen, as it were, at a distance, taking counsel. Here they are brought
so near to us, or we to them, that we can overhear their consultations.
Let us break their bands, i. e. the bands of the Lord and his Anointed, the
restraints imposed by their authority. The form of the Hebrew verb may
be expressive either of a proposition or of a fixed determination. We will
break their bands, we are resolved to do it. This is, in fact, involved in the
other version, where let us break must not be understood as a faint or
dubious suggestion, but as a summons to the execution of a formed and
settled purpose. The same idea is expressed, with a slight modification,
in the other clause. And we will cast, or let us cast away from us their cords,
twisted ropes, a stronger term than bands. The verb, too, while it really
implies the act of breaking, suggests the additional idea of contemptuous
facility, as if they had said, Let us fling away from us with scorn these
feeble bands by which we have been hitherto confined. The application
of this passage to the revolt of the Ammonites and other conquered nations
against David, or to any similar rebellion against any of the later Jewish
kings, as the principal subject of this grand description, makes it quite
ridiculous, if not profane, and cannot therefore be consistent with the
principles of sound interpretation. The utmost that can be conceded is
that David borrowed the scenery of this dramatic exhibition from the wars
and insurrections of his own eventful reign. The language of the rebels
in the verse before us is a genuine expression of the feelings entertained,
not only in the hearts of individual sinners, but by the masses of mankind,
so far as they have been brought into collision with the sovereignty of God
and Christ, not only at the time of his appearance upon earth, but in the ages
both before and after that event, in which the prophecy, as we have seen, attained its
height, but was not finally exhausted or fulfilled, since the same rash and hopeless
opposition to the Lord and his anointed still continues, and is likely to continue until
the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ
(Rev. xi. 15), an expression borrowed from this very passage.
4. As the first strophe or stanza of three verses is descriptive of the
conduct of the rebels, so the next describes the corresponding action of
their sovereign, in precisely the same order, telling first what he does (in
ver. 4, 5), and then what he says (in ver. 6), so that these two stanzas
are not only regular in their internal structure, but exactly fitted to each
other. This symmetrical adjustment is entitled to attention, as that feature
of the Hebrew poetry which fills the place of rhythm and metre in the
poetry of other nations. At the same time, it facilitates interpretation,
when allowed to speak for itself without artificial or unnatural straining,
by exhibiting the salient points of the passage in their true relation. The
transition here is a sublime one, from the noise and agitation of earth
to the safety and tranquillity of heaven. No shifting of the scene could be
more dramatic in effect or form. While the nations and their kings exhort
each other to cast off their allegiance to Jehovah, and thereby virtually
to dethrone him, he reposes far above them, and beyond their reach. Sit-
ting in the heavens, i. e. resident and reigning there, he laughs, or will
laugh. This figure, strong and almost startling as it is, cannot possibly
be misunderstood by any reader, as a vivid expression of contemptuous
VER. 5-7.] PSALM II. 15
security on God's part, and of impotent folly on the part of men. At them
may be supplied from Ps. xxxvii. 13, and lix. 9 (8); but it is not neces-
sary, and the picture is perhaps more perfect, if we understand the laughter
here to be simply expressive of contempt, and the idea of directly laughing
at them to be first suggested in the other clause. The Lord, not Jehovah,
as in ver. 2, but Adhonai, the Hebrew word properly denoting Lord or
Sovereign as a divine title, the Lord shall mock them, or mock at them, as
the strongest possible expression of contempt. This verse conveys in the
most vivid manner, one indeed that would be inadmissible in any unin-
spired writer, the fatuity of all rebellious opposition to God's will. That
such is often suffered to proceed long with impunity is only, in the figura-
tive language of this passage, because God first laughs at human folly,
and then smites it. "Who thought," says Luther, "when Christ suffered,
and the Jews triumphed, that God was laughing all the time?" Beneath
this bold anthropomorphism there is hidden a profound truth, namely,
that to all superior beings, and above all, to God himself, there is some-
thing in sin not only odious but absurd, something which cannot possibly
escape the contempt of higher, much less of the highest, intelligence.
5. This contemptuous repose and seeming indifference shall not last for
ever. Then, after having thus derided them, then, as the next stage in this
fearful process, he will speak to them, as they, after rising up against him,
spoke to one another in ver. 3. And in his heat, i. e. his hot displeasure,
the wrath to which the laughter of ver. 4 was but a prelude, he will agitate
them, terrify them, make them quake with fear, not as a separate act
from that described in the first clause, but by the very act of speaking to
them in his anger, the words spoken being given in the following verse.
6. The divine address begins, as it were, in the middle of a sentence;
but the clause suppressed is easily supplied, being tacitly involved in what
precedes. As if he had said, you renounce your allegiance and assert your
independence, and I, on my part, the pronoun when expressed in Hebrew
being commonly emphatic, and here in strong antithesis to those who are
addressed. You pursue your course and I mine. The translation yet,
though inexact and arbitrary, brings out the antithesis correctly in a different
form from that of the original. And I have constituted, or created, with
allusion in the Hebrew to the casting of an image, or as some less probably
suppose to unction, I have constituted my King, not simply a king, nor even
the king, neither of which expressions would be adequate, but my king, one
who is to reign for me and in indissoluble union with me, so that his reign-
ing is identical with mine. This brings out still more clearly the intimate
relation of the Anointed to Jehovah, which had been indicated less dis-
tinctly in ver. 2, and thus prepares us for the full disclosure of their mutual
in ver. 7. And I have constituted my King
holiness, or holy hill, i. e. consecrated, set apart, distinguished from all
other hills and other places, as the seat of the theocracy, the royal residence, the capital
city, of the Lord and of his Christ, from the time that David took up his abode, and
the ark there. The translation over
only the visible and temporary centre of a kingdom coextensive with the earth, as we
expressly read it, ver. 8, below. This shews that the application of the verse before
us to David himself, although intrinsically possible, is utterly at variance
with the context and the whole scope of the composition.
7. We have here another of those changes which impart to this whole
16 PSALM II. VER. 7.
psalm a highly dramatic character. A third personage is introduced as
speaking without any formal intimation in the text. As the first stanza
(ver. 1-3) closes with the words of the insurgents, and the second (ver. 4-6)
with the words of the Lord, so the third (ver. 7-9) contains the language
of the king described in the preceding verse, announcing with his own lips
the law or constitution of his kingdom. I will declare, or let me declare,
the same form of the verb as in ver. 3, the decree, the statute, the organic
law or constitution of my kingdom. The Hebrew verb is followed by a
preposition, which may be expressed in English, without any change of
sense, by rendering the clause, I will declare, or make a declaration, i. e.
a public, formal announcement (as) to the law or constitution of my kingdom.
This announcement is then made in a historical form, by reciting what had
been said to the king at his inauguration or induction into office. Jehovah
said to me, My son (art) thou, this day have I begotten thee. Whether this
be regarded as a part of the decree or law itself, or as a mere preamble to
it, the relation here described is evidently one which carried with it uni-
versal dominion as a necessary consequence, as well as one which justifies
the use of the expression my King in ver. 6. It must be something more,
then, than a figure for intense love or peculiar favour, something more than
filial relation which the theocratic kings, and
God. (Exod. iv. 22; Deut. xiv. 1,2, xxxii. 6; Isa. lxiii. 16; Hos. xi. 1;
Mal. i. 6; Rom ix. 4.) Nor will any explanation of the terms fully meet
the requisitions of the context except one which supposes the relation here,
described as manifest in time to rest on one essential and eternal. This
alone accounts for the identification of the persons as possessing a common
interest, and reigning with and in each other. This profound sense of the
passage is no more excluded by the phrase this day, implying something
recent, than the universality of Christ's dominion is excluded by the local
centre of an infinite circle. Besides, the mere form of the declaration is a
part of the dramatic scenery or costume with which the truth is here
invested. The ideas of a king, a coronation, a hereditary succession, are
all drawn from human and temporal associations. This day have I begotten
thee may be considered, therefore, as referring only to the coronation of
Messiah, which is an ideal one. The essential meaning of the phrase I
have begotten thee is simply this, I am thy father. The antithesis is per-
fectly identical with that in 2 Sam. vii. 14, "I will be his father, and he
shall be my son." Had the same form of expression been used here, this
day am I thy father, no reader would have understood this day as limiting
the mutual relation of the parties, however it might limit to a certain point
of time the formal recognition of it. It must also be observed, that even
if this day be referred to the inception of the filial relation, it is thrown
indefinitely back by the form of reminiscence or narration in the first clause
of the verse. Jehovah said to me, but when? If understood to mean from everlasting or
eternity, the form of expression would he perfectly in keeping with the other figurative
forms by which the Scriptures represent things really ineffable in human language. The
opinion that this passage is applied by Paul, in Acts xiii. 33, to Christ's resurrection, rests
upon a misapprehension of the verb raised up, which has this specific meaning only
when determined by the context or the addition of the words from the dead, as in
the next verse of the same chapter, which is so far from requiring the more
general expressions of the preceding verse to be taken in the same sense,
that it rather forbids such a construction, and shows that the two verses
VER. 8, 9.] PSALM II. 17
speak of different stages in the same great process: first, the raising up of
Jesus in the same sense in which God is said to have raised him up in Acts
ii. 30, iii. 22, 26, vii. 36, i. e. bringing him into being as a man; and then
the raising up from the dead, which the apostle himself introduces as
another topic in Acts xiii. 34. There is nothing, therefore, inconsistent
with the statement that the psalmist here speaks of eternal sonship, either
in the passage just referred to, or in Heb. v. 5, where the words are only
cited to prove the solemn recognition of Christ's sonship, and his conse-
quent authority, by God himself. This recognition was repeated, and, as
it were, realised at our Saviour's baptism and transfiguration (Mat. iii. 17,
xvii. 5), when a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom
I am well pleased, hear ye him!"
8. The recital of Jehovah's declaration to his Son is still continued.
Ask of me, and I will give nations (as) thy heritage, i. e. thy portion as my
Son, and (as) thy (permanent) possession, from a verb denoting to hold fast,
the ends of the earth, a common Old Testament expression for the whole
earth, the remotest bounds and all that lies between them. The phrase is
never applied to a particular country, and cannot therefore be explained of
the ridiculous. The only subject, who can be assumed and carried through
without absurdity, is the Messiah, who, as the Son and heir of God, had a
right to ask this vast inheritance. That he had asked it and received it,
is implied in the dominion claimed for him in ver. 2 and 3, where the
nations are represented in revolt against him as their rightful sovereign.
It was to justify this claim that the divine decree is here recited, the constitution of
Messiah's kingdom, in which its limits are defined as co-extensive with the earth.
9. This extensive grant had been accompanied by that of power ade-
quate to hold it. That power was to be exercised in wrath as well as
mercy. The former is here rendered prominent, because the previous con-
text has respect to audacious rebels, over whom Messiah is invested with
the necessary power of punishment, and even of destruction. Thou shalt
break them with a rod (or sceptre) of iron, as the hardest metal, and there-
fore the best suited to the use in question. By a slight change of pointing
in the Hebrew, it may be made to mean, thou shalt feed them (as a shep-
herd) with a rod of iron, which is the sense expressed in several of the
ancient versions, and to which there may be an ironical allusion, as the
figure is a common one to represent the exercise of regal power. (See for
example 2 Sam. vii. 7, and Micah vii. 14.) Like a potter's vessel thou, shalt
shiver them, or dash them in pieces, which last, however, weakens the
expression by multiplying the words. The idea suggested by the last
comparison is that of easy and immediate destruction, perhaps with an
implication of worthlessness in the object. This view of the Messiah as a
destroyer is in perfect keeping with the New Testament doctrine, that those
who reject Christ will incur an aggravated doom, and that Christ himself
is in some sense the destroyer of those who will not let him be their
Saviour, or, to borrow terms from one of his own parables, in strict agree-
ment with the scene presented by the psalm before us, "those mine ene-
mies which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay
them before me" (Luke xix. 27). That false view of the divine nature
which regards God as delighting in the death of the sinner, is more revolt-
ing, but not more dangerous than that which looks upon his justice as ex-
tinguished by his mercy, and supposes that the death of Christ has rendered
18 PSALM II. [VER. 10-12.
perdition impossible, even to those who will not believe in him. The terms of this verse
are repeatedly applied to Christ in the Book of Revelation (ii. 27, xii. 5, xix. 15).
10. The description having reached its height in the preceding verse,
there is here a sudden change of manner, a transition to the tone of earnest
admonition, still addressed, however, to the characters originally brought
upon the scene. And now (O) kings, after all that you have seen and
heard, after this demonstration that you cannot escape from the dominion
of Messiah, and that if you persist in your rebellion he will certainly destroy
you, be wise, act wisely; be warned, be admonished of your danger and your
duty, (O) judges of the earth! A specific function of the regal office is here
used as an equivalent or parallel to kings in the first clause, just as rulers
is employed for the same purpose in ver. 2. The change of tone in this
last strophe shews that the previous exhibition of Messiah as invested with
destroying power was, as it usually is in Scripture, only introductory to
another aspect of the same great object, which becomes more clear and
bright to the conclusion of the psalm. At the same time the original
dramatic structure is maintained; for the speaker, in this closing stanza,
is the Psalmist himself.
11. Serve the Lord, Jehovah, in the way that he requires, by acknow-
ledging his Anointed as your rightful sovereign. Serve the Lord with fear,
religious awe, not only on account of his tremendous majesty, but also in
view of his vindicatory justice and destroying power. And shout, as a cus-
tomary recognition of a present sovereign, with trembling, an external sign
of fear, employed as an equivalent or parallel to fear itself. The word
translated shout may also mean rejoice, as joy is often publicly expressed
by acclamation. The sense will then be, and rejoice with trembling, i. e.
exercise those mingled feelings which are suited to your present situation,
in full view of God's wrath on one side, and his mercy on the other. This
explanation agrees well with the transition, in these verses, from the tone
of terrible denunciation to that of friendly admonition and encouragement.
12. Lest the exhortation in the preceding verse should seem to have
respect to Jehovah as an absolute sovereign, without reference to any other
person, the attention is again called to his King, his Anointed, and his
Son, as the sovereign to whom homage must be paid, in order to escape
destruction. Kiss the Son, an ancient mode of doing homage or allegiance
to a king (1 Sam. x. 1), sometimes applied to the dress, and sometimes to
the person, either of the sovereign or the subject himself. Even in modern
European courts the kissing of the hand has this significance. In the case
before us there may possibly be an allusion to the kiss as a religious act
among the heathen (1 Kings xix. 18; Hos. xiii. 2; Job xxxi. 27). Kiss
the Son, the Son of God, the Messiah, so called by the Jews in Christ's
time (John i. 50; Matt. xxvi. 63; Mark xi-v. 61; Luke xxii. 70): do
him homage, own him as your sovereign, lest he be angry, and ye lose the
way, i. e. the way to happiness and heaven, as in Ps. i. 6, or perish from
the way, which is the same thing in another form, or perish by the way, i. e.
before you reach your destination. All these ideas are suggested by the
Hebrew phrase, which is unusual. The necessity of prompt as well as
humble submission is then urged. For his wrath will soon burn, or be
kindled. The translation, "when his wrath is kindled but a little," does
not yield so good a meaning, and requires two of the original expressions
to be taken in a doubtful and unusual sense. The same view of the
Messiah as a judge and an avenger, which appeared in ver. 9, is again
VER. 1.] PSALM III. 19
presented here, but only for a moment, and as a prelude to the closing beati-
tude or benediction. Blessed (are) all, oh the felicities of all, those trusting
him, believing on him, and confiding in him. This delightful contrast of
salvation and perdition, at one and the same view, is characteristic of the
Scriptures, and should teach us not to look ourselves, and not to turn the
eyes of others, towards either of these objects without due regard to the
other also. The resemblance in the language of this verse to that of Ps.
i. 1 and 6, brings the two into connection, as parts of one harmonious com-
position, or at least as kindred and contemporaneous products of a single
mind, under the influence of one and the same Spirit.
This Psalm contains a strong description of the enemies and dangers by
which the writer was surrounded, and an equally strong expression of con-
fidence that God would extricate him from them, with particular reference
to former deliverances of the same kind. Its place in the collection does
not seem to be fortuitous or arbitrary. It was probably among the first of
David's lyrical compositions, the two which now precede it having been
afterwards prefixed to the collection. In these three psalms there is a
sensible gradation or progressive development of one great idea. The
general contrast, which the first exhibits, of the righteous and the wicked,
is reproduced, in the second, as a war against the Lord and his Anointed.
In the third it is still further individualised as a conflict between David,
the great historical type of the Messiah, and his enemies. At the same
time, the expressions are so chosen as to make the psalm appropriate to
its main design, that of furnishing a vehicle of pious feeling to the church
at large, and to its individual members in their own emergencies. The
structure of the psalm is regular, consisting of four double verses, besides
1. A Psalm of David, literally (belonging) to David, i. e. as the author.
This is not a mere inscription, but a part of the text and inseparable from
it, so far as we can trace its history. It was an ancient usage, both among
classical and oriental writers, for the author to introduce his own name into
the first sentence of his composition. The titles of the psalms ought, there-
fore, not to have been printed in a different type, or as something added to
the text, which has led some editors to omit them altogether. In all
Hebrew manuscripts they bear the same relation to the body of the psalm,
that the inscriptions in the prophet's or in Paul's epistles bear to the sub-
stance of the composition. In the case before us, as in every other, the
inscription is in perfect keeping with the psalm itself, as well as with the
parallel history. Besides the author's name, it here states the historical
occasion of the composition. A Psalm of David, in his fleeing, when he
fled, from the face, from the presence, or before, Absalom, his son (see
2 Sam. xv. 14, 17, 30). Such a psalm might well be conceived, and even
composed, if not actually written, in the midst of the dangers and distresses
which occasioned it. There is no need therefore of supposing the reference
to be merely retrospective. That the terms used are so general, is because
the psalm, though first suggested by the writer's personal experience, was
intended for more general use.
2 (1). O Lord, Jehovah, the name of God as self-existent and eternal,
and also as the covenant God of Israel, how many, or how multiplied, are
20 PSALM III. [VER. 2-4.
my foes, my oppressors or tormentors! This is not a question, but an
exclamation of surprise and grief. Many rising up against me. The sen-
tence may either be completed thus: many (are they) that rise up against
me; or the construction of the other clause may be continued. (How)
many (are there) rising up against me! The same periphrasis for enemies is
used by Moses, Deut. xxviii. 7. What is here said of the multitude of
enemies agrees well with the historical statement in 2 Sam. xv. 13, xvi. 18.
3 (2). (There are) many saying, or, (how) many (are there) saying to my
soul, i. e. so as to affect my heart, though really said of him, not directly
addressed to him. (Compare Ps. xxxv. 3; Isa. li. 23.) There is no salva-
tion, deliverance from evil, whether temporal, spiritual, or eternal. There
is no salvation for him, the sufferer, and primarily the psalmist himself, in
God, i. e. in his power, or his purpose, implying either that God does not
concern himself about such things, Ps. x. 11, or that he has cast the suf-
ferer off, Ps. xlii. 4, 11 (3, 10), lxxi. 11, xxii. 8, 9 (7, 8); Matt. xxvii. 43.
This is the language, not of despondent friends, but of malignant ene-
mies, and is really the worst that even such could say of him. For, as
Luther well says, all the temptations in the world, and in hell too, melted
together into one, are nothing when compared with the temptation to
despair of God's mercy. The first stanza, or double verse, closes, like the
second and fourth, with the word Selah. This term occurs seventy-three
times in the psalms, and three times in the prophecy of Habakkuk. It
corresponds to rest, either as a noun or verb, and like it is properly a
musical term, but generally indicates a pause in the sense as well as the
performance. See below, on Ps. ix. 17 (16). Like the titles, it invariably
forms part of the text, and its omission by some editors and translators is
a mutilation of the word of God. In the case before us, it serves as a kind
of pious ejaculation to express the writer's feelings, and, at the same time,
warns the reader to reflect on what he reads, just as our Saviour was accus-
tomed to say: He that hath ears to hear let him hear.
4 (3). From his earthly enemies and dangers he looks up to God, the
source of his honours and his tried protector. The connection is similar
to that between the fifth and sixth verses of the second psalm. The and
(not but) has reference to a tacit comparison or contrast. This is my treat-
ment at the hands of men, and thou, on the other hand, O Lord, Jehovah,
(art) a shield about me, or around me, i. e. covering my whole body, not
merely a part of it, as ordinary shields do. This is a favourite metaphor
with David; see Ps. vii. 11 (10), xviii. 3 (2), xxviii. 7. It occurs, how-
ever, more than once in the Pentateuch; see Gen. xv. 1; Deut. xxxiii. 29.
My honour, i. e. the source of the honours I enjoy, with particular refer-
ence, no doubt, to his royal dignity, not as a secular distinction merely,
but in connection with the honour put upon him as a type and representa-
tive of Christ. The honour thus bestowed by God he might well be expected
to protect. My honour, and the (one) raising my head, i. e. making me look up from
my despondency. The whole verse is an appeal to the psalmist's previous experience
of God's goodness as a ground for the confidence afterwards expressed.
5 (4). (With) my voice to the Lord, Jehovah, I will call, or cry. The
future form of the verb is probably intended to express continued or habi-
tual action, as in Ps. i. 2. I cry and will cry still. And he hears me, or,
then he hears me, i. e. when I call. The original construction shews, in a
peculiar manner, the dependence of the last verb on the first, which can
hardly be conveyed by an exact translation. The second verb is not the
VER. 5-7.] PSALM III. 21
usual verb to hear, but one especially appropriated to the gracious hearing
or answering of prayer. And he hears (or answers) me from his hill of holi-
ness, or holy hill. This, as we learn from Ps.
ii. 6, is
centre of the old theocracy, the place where God visibly dwelt among his
people. This designation of a certain spot as the earthly residence of God,
was superseded by the incarnation of his Son, whose person thenceforth
took the place of the old sanctuary. It was, therefore, no play upon words
or fanciful allusion, when our Saviour "spake of the temple of his body"
(John ii. 21), but a disclosure of the true sense of the sanctuary under the
old system, as designed to teach the doctrine of God's dwelling with his
people. The same confidence with which the Christian now looks to God
in Christ the old believer felt towards the holy hill of Zion. Here again the strophe
ends with a devout and meditative pause, denoted as before by Selah.
6 (5.) I, even I, whose case you regarded as so desperate, have lain down,
and slept, (and) awaked, notwithstanding all these dangers, for the Lord,
Jehovah, will sustain me, and I therefore have no fears to rob me of my
sleep. This last clause is not a reason for the safety he enjoys, which
would require the past tense, but for his freedom from anxiety, in reference
to which the future is entirely appropriate. This construction, the only
one which gives the Hebrew words their strict and full sense, forbids the
supposition that the psalm before us was an evening song, composed on the
of David's flight from
sible or necessary, it may be regarded as a morning rather than an evening
7 (6). The fearlessness implied in the preceding verse is here expressed.
I will not be afraid of myriads, or multitudes, the Hebrew word being used
both in a definite and vague sense. It also contains an allusion to the first
verb in ver. 2 (1), of which it is a derivative. I will not be afraid of
myriads of people, either in the sense of persons, men, or by a poetic licence
the people, i. e.
Whom they, my enemies, have set, or posted, round about against me. This
is a simpler and more accurate construction than the reflexive one, who
have set (themselves) against me round about, although the essential meaning
still remains the same. The sum of the whole verse is, that the same
courage which enabled him to sleep without disturbance in the midst of
enemies and dangers, still sustained him when those enemies and dangers
were presented to his waking senses.
8 (7). That this courage was not founded upon self-reliance, he now
shews by asking God for that which he before expressed his sure hope of
obtaining. Arise, O Lord, Jehovah! This is a common scriptural mode
of calling upon God to manifest his presence and his power, either in wrath
or favour. By a natural anthropomorphism, it describes the intervals of
such manifestations as periods of inaction or of slumber, out of which he
is besought to rouse himself. Save me, even me, of whom they say there
is no help for him in God. See above, ver. 3 (2). Save me, O my God,
mine by covenant and mutual engagement, to whom I therefore have a
right to look for deliverance and protection. This confidence is warranted,
moreover, by experience. For thou hast, in former exigencies, smitten all
my enemies, without exception, (on the) cheek or jaw, an act at once violent
and insulting. See 1 Kings xxii. 24; Micah iv. 14; v. 1; Lam. iii. 30.
The teeth of the wicked, here identified with his enemies, because he was
the champion and representative of God's cause, thou hast broken, and thus
22 PSALM IV. [VER. 1.
rendered harmless. The image present to his mind seems to be that of
wild beasts eager to devour him, under which form his enemies are repre-
sented in Ps. xxvii. 2.
9 (8). To the Lord, Jehovah, the salvation, which I need and hope for,
is or belongs, as to its only author and dispenser. To him, therefore, he
appeals for the bestowment of it, not on himself alone, but on the church
of which he was the visible and temporary head. On thy people (be)
thy blessing! This earnest and disinterested intercession for God's people
forms a noble close or winding up of the whole psalm, and is therefore
preferable to the version, on thy people (is) thy blessing, which, though
equally grammatical, is less significant, and indeed little more than a repe-
tition of the fact asserted in the first clause, whereas this is really an im-
portunate petition founded on it. The whole closes, like the first and
second stanzas, with a solemn and devout pause. Selah.
The Psalmist prays God to deliver him from present as from past dis-
tresses, ver. 2 (1). He assures the haters of his regal dignity that God
bestowed it, and will certainly protect it, ver. 3, 4 (2, 3). He exhorts
them to quiet submission, righteousness, and trust in God, ver. 5, 6 (4, 5).
He contrasts his own satisfaction, springing from such trust, with the hope-
less disquietude of others, even in the midst of their enjoyments, ver. 7, 8
(6, 7). He closes with an exquisite proof of his tranquillity by falling
asleep, as it were, before us, under the divine protection, ver. 9 (8). The
resemblance of the last verse to ver. 6 (5) of the preceding psalm, together
with the general similarity of structure, shews that, like the first and second,
they were meant to form a pair, or double psalm. For the reasons given
in explaining Ps. iii. 6 (5), the third may be described as a morning, and
the fourth as an evening psalm. The historical occasion is of course
the same in both, though mentioned only in the title of the third, while
the musical directions are given in the title of the fourth. The absence of
personal and local allusions is explained by the object of the composition,
which was not to express private feelings merely, but to furnish a vehicle
of pious sentiment for other sufferers, and the church at large.
1. To the chief musician, literally the overseer or superintendent, of any
work or labour (2 Chron. ii. 1, 17, xxxiv. 12), and of the temple music in
particular (1 Chron. xv. 21). The psalm is described as belonging to him,
as the performer, or as intended for him, to be given to him. This shows
that it was written for the use of the ancient church, and not for any merely
private purpose. That this direction was not added by a later hand is
clear from the fact that it never appears in the latest psalms. The same
formula occurs at the beginning of fifty-three psalms, and at the close of
the one in the third chapter of Habakkuk. A more specific musical direc-
tion follows. In, on, or with stringed instruments. This may either qualify
chief musician, as denoting the leader in that particular style of perform-
ance, or direct him to perform this particular psalm with that kind of accom-
paniment. A psalm to David, i. e. belonging to him as the author, just as
it belonged to the chief musician, as the performer. The original expres-
sion is the same in both cases. Of David conveys the sense correctly, but
is rather a paraphrase than a translation.
2 (1). The psalm opens with a prayer for deliverance founded on pre-
VER. 2, 3.] PSALM IV. 23
vious experience of God's mercy. In my calling, when I call, hear me, in
the pregnant sense of hearing favourably, hear and answer me, grant me
what I ask. O my God of righteousness, my righteous God! Compare
my hill of holiness, Ps. ii. 6, and his hill of holiness, Ps. iii. 5 (4). The
appeal to God, as a God of righteousness, implies the justice of the Psalm-
ist's cause, and spews that he asks nothing inconsistent with God's holi-
ness. The same rule should govern all our prayers, which must be impious if
they ask God to deny himself. The mercy here asked is no new or untried
favour. It is because he has experienced it before that he dares to ask it
now. In the pressure, or confinement, a common figure for distress, which
I have heretofore experienced, thou hast widened, or made room for me, the
corresponding figure for relief. All he asks is that this may be repeated.
Have mercy upon me, or be gracious unto me, now as in former times, and
hear my prayer. This appeal to former mercies, as a ground for claiming new
ones, is characteristic of the Bible and of true religion. Among men past
favours may forbid all further expectations; but no such rule applies to
the divine compassions. The more we draw from this source, the more
copious and exhaustless it becomes.
3 (2). Sons of man! In Hebrew, as in Greek, Latin, and German,
there are two words answering to man, one generic and the other specific.
When placed in opposition to each other, they denote men of high and low
degree, as in Ps. xlix. 3 (2), lxii. 10 (9), Prov. viii. 4. It seems better,
therefore, to give the phrase here used its emphatic sense, as signifying men
of note or eminence, rather than the vague one of men in general or human
beings. This agrees, moreover, with the probable occasion of this psalm,
the rebellion of Absalom, in which the leading men of
involved. To what (time), i. e. how long, or to what (point), degree of
wickedness; most probably the former. How long (shall) my honour, not
merely personal, but official, (be) for shame, i. e. be so accounted, or (be
converted) into shame, by my humiliation? David never loses sight of his
religious dignity as a theocratical king and a type of the Messiah, or of the
insults offered to the latter in his person. The question, how long? im-
plies that it had lasted long enough, nay, too long, even when it first began;
in other words, that it was wrong from the beginning. (How long) will ye
love vanity, or a vain thing, in the sense both of a foolish, hopeless under-
taking, and of something morally defective or worthless. The same word
is used above in reference to the insurrection of the nations against God
and Christ (Ps. ii. 1). (How long) will ye seek a lie, i. e. seek to realise a
vain imagination, or to verify a false pretension, with particular reference
perhaps to the deceitful policy of Absalom (2 Sam. xv. 4, 7). As the love
of the first clause denotes the bent of their affections, so the seek of this
clause signifies the acting out of their internal dispositions. Compare Ps.
xxxiv. 15 (14), and Zeph. ii. 3. The feeling of indignant surprise implied
in the interrogation is expressed still further by a solemn pause. Selah.
See above, on Ps. iii. 3 (2). The position of this word, here and in ver. 5 (4) below,
seems to forbid the division of the psalm into strophes or stanzas of equal length.
4 (3). The pause at the close of the preceding verse expresses feeling.
The connection of the verses, as to sense, is as intimate as possible. The
and at the beginning of the verse before us has reference to the exhortation
implied in the foregoing question. (See above, on Ps. ii. 6.) Cease to
love vanity and seek a lie, and know, be assured, that the Lord, Jehovah,
hath set apart, the same verb used to
signify the segregation of
24 PSALM IV. [VER. 4.
the rest of men (Ex. viii. 18, ix. 4, xi. 7, xxxiii. 16), here applied to the
designation of an individual to the highest theocratical dignity. The Lord
hath set apart for himself, for his own service, the execution of his own plans,
and the promotion of his own honour. It was not, therefore, an attack on
David, but on God himself and the Messiah whom he represented. The
Hebrew word dysiHA derived from ds,H,, love to God or man, may either
signify an object of the divine mercy, or one actuated by religious love. If
both ideas are included, which is altogether probable, neither godly nor any
other single word in English is an adequate translation. The predominant
idea seems to be the passive one, so that the words are not so much de-
scriptive of religious character as of divine choice: and know that the Lord
hath set apart for the accomplishment of his own purpose one selected in
his sovereign mercy for that purpose. This is mentioned as a proof that
their hostility was vain, and that the prayer of verse 2 (1) would certainly
be heard and answered. This followed as a necessary consequence from
the relation which the Psalmist bore to God, not only as a godly man, but
as a theocratic sovereign. The Lord, Jehovah, will hear, in my calling,
when I call, unto him. The terms of the opening petition are here studi-
ously repeated, so as to connect the prayer itself with the expression of
assured hope that it will be answered.
5 (4). The address to his enemies is still continued, but merely as a
vehicle of truth and his own feelings. Rage and sin not, i. e. do not sin
by raging, as you have done, against me, the Lord's Anointed, and indirectly
therefore against himself. This construction of the Hebrew words, though
not the most obvious or agreeable to usage, agrees best with the context
and with the Septuagint version, adopted by Paul in Ephesians iv. 26, where
the precept, Be ye angry and sin not, seems to be a positive prohibition of
anger, i. e., of its wilful continuance, as appears from what the apostle adds,
perhaps in allusion to the last clause of the verse before us. Some, it is
true, have understood Paul as meaning, Be angry upon just occasions, but
be careful not to sin by groundless anger or excess. But even if this be
the sense of the words there, it is entirely inappropriate here, where the
anger of the enemies was altogether sinful, and they could not therefore be
exhorted to indulge it. There is still another meaning which the Hebrew
words will bear. The verb strictly means to be violently moved with any
passion or emotion, whether anger (Prov. xxix. 9), grief (2 Sam. xviii. 33),
or fear (Isa. xxxii. 11). It might therefore be translated here, tremble,
stand in awe, and sin not. But this, although it yields a good sense, cuts
off all connection between David's words and those of Paul, and makes the
explanation of the latter still more difficult. The English word rage not
only conveys the sense of the original correctly, but is probably connected
with it in its etymology. The command to cease from raging against God
and his Anointed, is still further carried out in the next clause. Say in
your heart, to yourselves, and not aloud, much less with clamour, what you
have to say. The Hebrew verb does not mean to speak but to say, and,
like this English word, is always followed by the words spoken, except in
a few cases where they can be instantly supplied from the context. E. g.
Exod. xix. 25, "So Moses went unto the people and said (not spake) to them"
what God had just commanded him. Gen. iv. 8, "And Cain said to Abel
his brother (not talked with him)," let us go into the field, as appears from
what immediately follows. Compare 2 Chron. ii. 10 (11). It might here
be rendered, say (so) in your heart, i. e. say we will no longer sin by raging
VER. 5-8.] PSALM IV. 25
against David; but the other is more natural, and agrees better with what
follows. Say (what you do say) in your heart, upon your bed, i. e. in the
silence of the night, often spoken of in Scripture as the season of reflec-
tion (Eph. iv. 26), and be still, be silent, implying repentance and submis-
sion to authority. The effect of this exhortation to be still is beautifully
strengthened by a pause in the performance. Selah.
6 (5). Before his enemies can be successful they must have a fear of
God and a faith, of which they are entirely destitute. This confirmation
of the Psalmist's hopes is clothed in the form of an exhortation to his
enemies. Offer offerings, or sacrifice sacrifices, of righteousness, i. e. righteous
sacrifices, prompted by a right motive, and implying a correct view of the
divine nature. There may be an allusion to the hypocritical services of
Absalom, and especially his pretended vow (2 Sam. xv. 7, 8). The form of
expression here is borrowed from Deut. xxxiii. 19. As an indispensable
prerequisite to such a service, he particularly mentions faith. And trust in
the Lord, Jehovah, not in any human help or temporal advantages.
7 (6). Many (there are) saying, Who will shew us good? This may be
in allusion to the anxious fears of his companions in misfortune, but is more
probably a picture of the disquiet and unsatisfied desire arising from the
want of faith and righteousness described in the foregoing verse. Of all
who do not trust in God it may be said, that they are continually asking
Who will shew us good, who will shew us wherein happiness consists, and
how we may obtain it? In contrast with this restlessness of hope or of
despair, he shews his own acquaintance with the true source of tranquillity
by a petition founded on the ancient and authoritative form in which the
High Priest was required to bless the people (Num. vi. 24-26). "The
Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make his face shine upon thee
and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and
give thee peace." Two of these solemn benedictions are here mingled in
a prayer. Lift upon us the light of thy countenance, O Lord, Jehovah!
The light of the countenance is a favourite figure in the Psalms, for a favour-
able aspect or expression. See Ps. xxxi. 17 (16), xliv. 4 (3), lxxx. 4 (3). The
lifting up may have reference to the rising of the sun, or be put in opposi-
tion to the act of looking down or away from any object, as a token of
aversion or displeasure. Upon us extends the prayer to his companions in
misfortune, or to all God's people, or to men in general, as if he had said, This is the
only hope of our lost race. The plural form may be compared with those in the
Lord's Prayer, as indicating the expansive comprehensive spirit of true piety.
8 (7). The faith, of which his enemies were destitute, he possessed in
such a measure, that the mere anticipation of God's favour made him
happier, in the midst of his distresses, than his foes in the actual posses-
sion of their temporal advantages. Thou hast given gladness in my heart,
not to my heart, but to me in my heart, i. e. a real, inward, heartfelt glad-
ness, more than the time, or more than when, i. e. more than they ever en-
joyed when their corn and their wine abounded, or increased. The original
nouns properly denote the new corn and wine of the passing year, the fresh
fruits of the field and vineyard. The reference may be either to the pro-
verbial joy of harvest and of vintage, or to the abundant stores of David's
enemies contrasted with his own condition when dependent on a faithful
servant for subsistence (2 Sam. xvi. 1, 2).
9 (8). With this faith in the divine protection, he has nothing even to
disturb his rest. In peace, tranquillity, composure, at once, or at the same
26 PSALM IV. [VER. 8.
time, by the same act, I will lie down and will sleep, or rather go to sleep,
fall asleep, which is the meaning of the Hebrew verb in Gen. ii. 21, xli. 5,
1 Kings xix. 5, and elsewhere. Nothing could be more natural and beauti-
ful, as a description of complete tranquillity, than this trait borrowed from
the physical habits of the young, the healthy, and those free from all
anxiety, to whom the act of lying down and that of sleeping are almost
coincident. The ground of this security is given in the last clause. For
thou, Lord, Jehovah, alone in safety, or security, wilt make me dwell. The
future form, though not exclusive of the present (see above, on Ps. i. 2),
should be retained because it indicates the Psalmist's assured hope of
something not yet realised, and is thus in perfect keeping with ver. 8 (7).
Alone may be connected with what goes before: for thou Lord, and no
other, thou, even though all other friends and advantages should fail me, art
sufficient to protect and provide for me. Or it may be connected with
what follows: alone, in safety, thou wilt make me dwell. There is then an
to the repeated application of the same Hebrew word to
dwelling apart from other nations under God's protection and in the enjoy-
ment of his favour. See Num. xxiii. 9, Duet. xxxiii. 28, 29, and com-
pare Micah vii. 14, Jer. xlix. 31, Deut. iv. 7, 8, 2 Sam. vii. 23. What
was originally said of the people is then transferred, as in ver. 4 (3)
above, to David, not as a private member of the ancient church, however
excellent, but as its theocratic head and representative, in whom, as after-
more perfectly in Christ, the promises to
realised. This last interpretation of alone is so striking, and agrees so
well with the other allusions in this context to the Pentateuch, e. g. to Lev.
xxv. 18, 19, and Deut. xxxiii. 12 in this verse, and to Num. vi. 24-26 in
ver. 7 (6), that some combine the two constructions, and suppose alone to
have a kind of double sense, as if he had said, Thou alone wilt make me
dwell alone. Although the form of this verse has respect to the particular
historical occasion of the psalm, the sentiment is so expressed as to admit
of an unforced application to the ease of every suffering believer, and to the
distresses of the church at large, for whose use it was not only left on
record but originally written.
The Psalmist prays for the divine help, ver. 2 (1), on the ground that
Jehovah is his King and his God, ver. 3 (2), that he early and constantly
invokes his aid, ver. 4 (3), that the enemies, from whom he seeks to be de-
livered, are the enemies of God, ver. 5, 6 (4, 5), and as such must inevit-
ably perish, ver. 7 (6), while he, as the representative of God's friends, must
be rescued, ver. 8 (7). He then goes over the same ground afresh, asking
again to be protected from his enemies, ver. 9 (8), again describing them as
desperately wicked, ver. 10 (9), again appealing to God's justice to destroy
them, ver. 11 (10), and again anticipating certain triumph, ver. 12 (11),
on the ground of God's habitual and uniform dealing with the righteous,
ver. 13 (12). As the two preceding psalms appear to constitute a pair, so
this one seems to contain such a pair or double psalm within itself. It is
also obvious that this is but a further variation of the theme which runs
through the preceding psalms, and therefore an additional proof that their
arrangement in the book is not fortuitous or arbitrary. If ver. 4 (3) of
this psalm be supposed to mark it as a morning hymn, its affinity to the
two before it becomes still more close and striking.
VER. 1-3.] PSALM V. 27
1. To (or for) the Chief Musician. See above on Ps. iv. 1. To (or for)
Nehiloth. This, though undoubtedly a part of the original inscription, is
obscure and enigmatical. Its very obscurity indeed may be regarded as a
proof of its antiquity and genuineness. Some understand it to mean flutes
or wind-instruments in general, as Neginoth, in the title of the fourth
psalm, means stringed instruments. The sense would then be: (to be
sung) to (an accompaniment of) flutes or wind-instruments. But as the
Hebrew word is nowhere else used in this sense, and the preposition here
employed is not the one prefixed to names of instruments, and flutes are
nowhere mentioned as a part of the temple music, others make Nehiloth
the name of a tune, or of another song to the melody of which this was
to be adapted: (to be sung) to (the air of) Nehiloth. Others follow the
ancient version in making it refer, not to the musical performance, but the
subject of the psalm: (as) to inheritances, lots, or destinies, viz. those of
the righteous and the wicked. This is favoured by the circumstance, that
most of the other enigmatical inscriptions of the psalms may be more pro-
bably explained as having reference to their theme or subject than in any
other manner. The title closes, as in the foregoing psalm, by ascribing it
to David as its author. Nor is there anything, as we shall see, to militate
against the truth of this inscription.
2 (1). To my words, O Lord, Jehovah, give ear, perceive my thought.
Attend not only to my vocal and audible petitions, but to my unexpressed
desires, to those "groanings which cannot be uttered," but are no less
significant to God than language (Rom. viii. 26, 27). The second verb
suggests the idea of attention, as well as that of simple apprehension.
3 (2). Hearken to the voice of my crying, or my cry for help, to which
the Hebrew word is always specially applied. My king and my God, not
as a mere creator and providential ruler, but as the covenant God and king
so God was his king, the lord paramount or sovereign, in whose right he
reigned. This address involves a reason why his prayer must be heard.
God, as the king of his people, could not deny them his protection, and
they asked no other. For to thee, and thee only, will I pray. As if he
had said, It is in this capacity that I invoke thee, and I therefore must
be heard. This is a specimen of that par>r[hsi<a, or freedom of speech to-
wards God, which is recognised as an effect and evidence of faith, in the New as well
as the Old Testament, Heb. iv. 16, x. 19, 35; 1 John ii. 28, iii. 21, iv. 17, v. 14.
4 (3). O Lord, Jehovah, (in) the morning thou shalt hear my voice.
This is not so much a request to be heard as a resolution to persist in
prayer. The reference may be either to stated hours of prayer or to early
devotion as a proof of earnestness and faith. See Ps. lv. 18 (17), lxxxviii.
14 (13.) (In) the morning I will set (my prayer) in order, to (or for) thee.
There is here a beautiful allusion to the Mosaic ritual, which is unavoidably
lost in a translation. The Hebrew verb is the technical term used in the
Old Testament to signify the act of arranging the wood upon the altar
(Gen. xxii. 9, Lev. i. 7, 1 Kings xviii. 33), and the shewbread on the table
(Exod. xl. 23, Lev. xxiv. 6, 8). It would therefore necessarily suggest the
idea of prayer as an oblation, here described as a kind of morning sacrifice
to God. And I will look out, or watch, for an answer to my prayers. The
image presented is that of one looking from a wall or tower in anxious
expectation of approaching succour. A similar use of the same verb
occurs in Hab. ii. 1, and Micah vii. 7. True faith is not contented
28 PSALM V. [VER. 4-7.
with the act of supplication, but displays itself in eager expectation of an answer.
5 (4). Here, as elsewhere, the Psalmist identifies his cause with God's,
and anticipates the downfall of his enemies because they are sinners and
therefore odious in God's sight. For not a God delighting in wickedness (art)
thou, as might appear to be the case if these should go unpunished. It is
necessary, therefore, for the divine honour, that they should not go un-
punished. Not with thee, as thy guest or friend, shall evil, or the bad (man),
dwell. For an opposite use of the same figure, see below, Ps. xv. 1, lxi.
5 (4). It is still implied, that the impunity of sinners would appear as if
God harboured and abetted them, and therefore must be inconsistent with
his honour as a holy God.
6 (5). What was said in the preceding verse of sin is here, to prevent
misapprehension, said of sinners. They shall not stand, the proud, or
insolent, here put for wicked men in general and for the Psalmist's enemies
in particular, before thine eyes. Thou canst not bear the presence of thy
moral opposites. Sin is not only opposed to God's will, but repugnant to
his nature. By ceasing to hate it, he would cease to be holy, cease to be
perfect, cease to be God. This idea is expressed more directly in the other
clause. Thou hast hated, and must still hate, all doers of iniquity. This
last word is originally a negative, meaning inanity or nonentity, but like
several other negatives in Hebrew, is employed as a strong term to denote
moral deficiency and worthlessness.
7 (6). As the preceding verse extends what was said of sin in the abstract
to personal offenders, so here what was said of the divine dispositions is
applied to divine acts. That which God hates he must destroy. Particular
classes of transgressors are here put, as before, by way of specimen or
sample, for the whole; with special reference, however, to the sins of
David's enemies. Thou wilt destroy speakers of falsehood; see above, on
Ps. iv. 3 (2.) A man of blood, literally bloods, the plural form being com-
monly used where there is reference to blood-guiltiness or murder. See
Gen. iv. 10, 11 ; Ps. li. 16 (14). A man of blood and fraud, a bloody and
deceitful man, the Lord, Jehovah, will abhor; he must and will skew his
abhorrence by the punishment of such offenders. This confident anticipa-
tion of God's righteous retributions really involves a prayer for the deliver-
ance of the Psalmist from his enemies.
8 (7). For the same reason he is equally confident in the anticipation of
his own deliverance. Since his enemies must perish as the enemies of God,
he must escape, not on account of his own merit, nor simply as an object
of God's favour, but as the champion of his cause, his earthly vicegerent,
the type and representative of his Messiah. And I, as distinguished from
these sinners, in the abundance of thy mercy, which excludes all reliance on
his own strength or goodness, will come to thy house, the tabernacle set up
towards thy temple of holiness, thy holy temple, or rather palace, so called
the residence of
the tabernacle than the temple. See 1 Sam. i. 9, iii. 3, Ps. xxvii. 4,
xxviii. 2. Towards, not in, because the worshippers did not go into the
sanctuary itself, but worshipped in the court, with their faces turned towards
the place of God's manifested presence. Such usages are now superseded
by the advent of the true sanctuary. See above, on Ps. iii. 5 (4). In thy
fear, the reverence engendered even by the view and the experience of God's
mercy. There may be an allusion in this verse to David's painful sense of
VER. 8-11.] PSALM V. 29
his exclusion from the house of God (2 Sam. xv. 25); but it cannot be
merely an anticipation of renewed access to the sanctuary, which was
equally open to all others, and could not therefore be used to indicate the
contrast between his condition and that of others. The verse is rather an
engagement to acknowledge God's delivering mercy in the customary man-
ner. See below, Ps. lxvi. 13. As if he had said, While my enemies
perish by the hand of God, I shall be brought by his mercy to give thanks
for my deliverance at his sanctuary.
9 (8). The Psalmist here begins his prayer and argument anew, pursuing
the same order as before. O Lord, Jehovah, lead me, guide me safely,
in thy righteousness, i. e. in the exercise of that same justice which destroys
my enemies, on account of my enemies, that they may not triumph; make
straight before my face thy way, i. e. mark out a safe and easy path for me
to tread. The explanation of the way as that of duty and obedience,
although not at variance with scriptural usage, is less suited to the context
here, in which the prayer throughout is for protection and deliverance.
10 (9). The same reason as before is now assigned for his deliverance
from his enemies, viz. because they were the enemies of God, and they
were such because they were atrocious sinners. For there is nothing in his
mouth, i. e. the mouth of any one of them, or of all concentrated in one ideal
person, sure or certain, i. e. true. Their inside, their heart; their real dis-
position, as distinguished from the outward appearance, (is) mischiefs, in-
juries, or crimes, consists of nothing else. A grave opened, to receive the
victim, (is) their throat, like that of a devouring monster. Or the throat
may be mentioned as an organ of speech, as in Ps. cxlix. 6, cxv. 7, and
compared with the grave as a receptacle of corruption or a place of de-
struction. Their tongue they smooth, or make smooth, by hypocrisy or
flattery, as the wicked woman is said to make her words smooth, Prov. ii.
vii. 5. The Septuagint version of this clause is quoted by Paul (
iii. 13), with several other passages from the Old Testament, as a strong
description of human depravity. The last words are rendered in that
version, "with their tongues they have used craft or deceit," an idea really
included in the literal translation.
11 (10). Condemn them, literally make them guilty, i. e. recognise and
treat them as such, O God! They shall fall, i. e. they must, they cannot
but fall, a common figure for destruction (Ps. xxxvi. 13, cxli. 10), from their
plans, i. e., before they can accomplish them, or in consequence, by means
of them. (Compare Hos. xi. 6). In the fulness, or abundance, of their
sins, thrust them forth, cast them out from thy presence, and down from
their present exaltation. For they have rebelled against thee, not me, or
against me only as thy instrument and representative. Or the opposition
may be between rebelling against God and simply sinning against man.
The imperative and future forms, in this verse, both express the certainty
of the event, with an implication of approving acquiescence. Such expres-
sions, in the Psalms, have never really excited or encouraged a spirit of
revenge in any reader, and are no more fitted to have that effect than the
act of a judge who condemns a criminal to death, or of the officer who
executes the sentence. The objections often urged against such passages
are not natural, but spring from over-refinement and a false view of the
Psalms as expressions of mere personal feeling. See below, on Ps. vii.13 (12).
12 (11). The transition and contrast are the same as in ver. 8 (7) above.
While the wicked perish, the righteous shall have cause for everlasting joy.
30 PSALM V. [VER. 12.
And all (those) trusting in thee, making thee their refuge, shall be glad; for
ever shall they shout (or sing) for joy, and (not without cause, for) thou wilt
cover over (or protect) them; and in thee, in thy presence and thy favour,
shall exult, or triumph, (the) lovers of thy name, i. e. of thy manifested
excellence, which is the usual sense of this expression in the Old Testament.
The believers and lovers of God's name, here spoken of, are not merely
friends of the psalmist who rejoice in his deliverance, but the great congre-
gation of God's people, to which he belonged, and of which he was the
representative, so that his deliverance was theirs, and a rational occasion
of their joy, not only on his account but on their own.
13 (12). The confident hope expressed in the foregoing verse was not a
groundless or capricious one, but founded on the nature of God and the
uniform tenor of his dispensations. The psalmist knows what God will
do in this case, because he knows what he does and will do still in general.
For thou wilt bless, and art wont to bless, the righteous, the opposite of those
described in ver. 5-7 (4-6) and 10, 11 (9, 10), O Lord, Jehovah! Like
the shield, as the shield protects the soldier (so with) favour thou wilt sur-
round him, or enclose him, still referring to the righteous; see the same
comparison in Ps. iii. 4 (3.) The confident assertion that God will do so,
implies that he has done so, and is wont to do so, to the righteous as a
class. And this affords a reasonable ground for the belief, expressed in the
preceding verse, that he will do so also in the present case.
THE psalmist prays for the removal of God's chastisements, ver. 2 (1),
because they have already brought him very low, ver. 3, 4 (2, 3), because
the divine glory will be promoted by his rescue, ver. 5 (4), and obscured
by his destruction, ver. 6 (5), and because, unless speedily relieved, he can
no longer bear up under his sufferings, ver. 7, 8 (6, 7). He is neverthe-
less sure of the divine compassion, ver. 9 (8). His prayer is heard and
will be answered, ver. 10 (9), in the defeat and disappointment of his ene-
mies, by whose malignant opposition his distress was caused, ver. 11 (10).
This reference to his enemies constitutes the link of connection between
this psalm and the foregoing series, and maintains the contrast, running
through that series, between two great classes of mankind, the righteous
and the wicked, the subjects of Messiah and the rebels against him, the
friends and foes of the theocracy, the friends and foes of David, as an indi-
vidual, a sovereign, and a type of the Messiah. At the same time, this
psalm differs wholly from the others in its tone of querulous but humble
grief, which has caused it to be reckoned as the first of the Penitential
psalms. This tone is suddenly exchanged, in ver. 9 (8), for one of confi-
dent assurance, perfectly in keeping with what goes before, and true to
1. For the Chief Musician, (to be sung) with stringed instruments upon
the eighth. This last word corresponds exactly to our octave; but its pre-
cise application in the ancient music we have now no means of ascertaining.
An instrument of eight strings, which some suppose to be the sense, could
hardly be described by the ordinal number eighth. We probably lose little
by our incapacity to understand these technical expressions, while, at the
same time, their very obscurity may serve to confirm our faith in their
antiquity and genuineness, as parts of the original composition. This
VER. 1-5.] PSALM VI. 31
psalm, like the three which immediately precede it, describes itself as a
psalm of (or by) David, belonging to David, as its author. The correct-
ness of this statement there is as little reason to dispute in this as in either
of the other cases.
2 (1). O Lord, Jehovah, do not in thine anger rebuke me, and do not in
thy heat, or hot displeasure, chasten me. Both the original verbs properly
denote the conviction and reproof of an offender in words, but are here, as
often elsewhere, applied to providential chastisements, in which God speaks
with a reproving voice. This is not a prayer for the mitigation of the
punishment, like that in Jer. x. 24, but for its removal, as appears from
the account of the answer in ver. 9-11 (8-10). Such a petition, while it
indicates a strong faith, at the same time recognises the connection between
suffering and sin. In the very act of asking for relief, the psalmist owns
that he is justly punished. This may serve to teach us how far the confi-
dent tone of the preceding psalms is from betraying a self-righteous spirit,
or excluding the consciousness of personal unworthiness and ill-desert.
The boldness there displayed is not that of self-reliance, but of faith.
3 (2). Have mercy upon me, or be gracious unto me, O Lord, Jehovah,
for drooping, languishing, am I. The original construction is, for I am
(one who) droops or withers, like a blighted plant. Like a child complain-
ing to a parent, he describes the greatness of his suffering as a reason for
relieving him. Heal me, O Lord, Jehovah, for shaken, agitated with dis-
tress and terror, are my bones, here mentioned as the strength and frame-
work of the body. This might seem to indicate corporeal disease as the
whole from which he prays to be delivered. But the absence of any such
allusion in the latter part of the psalm, and the explicit mention there of
enemies as the occasion of his sufferings, shows that the pain of body here
described was that arising from distress of mind, and which could only be
relieved by the removal of the cause. To regard the bodily distress as a
mere figure for internal anguish, would be wholly arbitrary and destructive
of all sure interpretation. The physical effect here ascribed to moral causes
is entirely natural and confirmed by all experience.
4 (3). The Psalmist himself guards against the error of supposing that
his worst distresses were corporeal. And my soul, as well as my body, or
more than my body, which merely sympathizes with it, is greatly agitated,
terror-stricken, the same word that was applied to the bones in the preced-
ing verse. The description of his suffering is then interrupted by another
apostrophe to God. And thou, O Lord, Jehovah, until when, how long?
The sentence is left to be completed by the reader: how long wilt thou
leave me thus to suffer? how long before thou wilt appear for my deliver-
ance? This question, in its Latin form, Domine quousque, was Calvin's
favourite ejaculation in his times of suffering, and especially of painful sickness.
5 (4). The expostulatory question is now followed by direct petition.
Return, O Lord, Jehovah, deliver my soul, my life, my self, from this im-
pending death. As God seems to be absent when his people suffer, so
relief is constantly described as his return to them. (Oh) save me, a still
more comprehensive term than that used in the first clause, for the sake of
thy mercy, not merely according to it, as a rule or measure, but to vindicate
it from reproach, and do it honour, as a worthy end to be desired and
6 (5). As a further reason for his rescue, he now urges that without it
God will lose the honour, and himself the happiness, of his praises and
32 PSALM VI. [VER. 6-9.
thanksgivings. For there is not in death; or the state of the dead, thy
remembrance, any remembrance of thee. In Sheol, the grave, as a general
receptacle, here parallel to death, and, like it, meaning the unseen world or
state of the dead, who will acknowledge, or give thanks, to thee? The Hebrew
verb denotes that kind of praise called forth by the experience of goodness.
The question in the last clause is equivalent to the negative proposition in
the first. This verse does not prove that David had no belief or expecta-
tion of a future state, nor that the intermediate state is an unconscious one,
but only that in this emergency he looks no further than the close of life,
as the appointed term of thanksgiving and praise. Whatever might even-
tually follow, it was certain that his death would put an end to the praise
of God, in that form and those circumstances to which he had been accus-
tomed. See below, on Ps. xxx. 10 (9); lxxxviii. 11-13 (10-12), cxv. 17,
18, and compare Isa. xxxviii. 18. So far is the argument here urged from
being weakened by our clearer knowledge of the future state, that it is greatly
strengthened by the substitution of the second or eternal death.
7 (6). I am weary in (or of) my groaning, I have become wearied with
it, and unless I am relieved, I shall (still as hitherto) make my bed swim
every night, my couch with tears I shall dissolve, or make to flow. The
uniform translation of the verbs as presents does not bring out their full
meaning, or express the idea, suggested in the Hebrew by the change of
tense, that the grief which had already become wearisome must still con-
tinue without mitigation, unless God should interpose for his deliverance.
Thus understood, the verse is not a mere description, but a disguised prayer.
8 (7). Mine eye has failed, grown dim, a common symptom both of men-
tal and bodily distress, from vexation, not mere grief, but grief mixed with
indignation at my enemies. It has grown old, dim like the eye of an old
man, a still stronger expression of the same idea, in (the midst of) all my
enemies, or in (consequence of) all my enemies, i. e. of their vexatious con-
duct. Compare Ps. xxxi. 10 (9). In these two verses he resumes the
description of his own distress, in order to shew that the argument in ver.
6 (5) was appropriate to his case, as that of one drawing near to death,
and therefore likely soon to lose the capacity and opportunity of praising God.
9 (8). Here the key abruptly changes from the tone of sorrowful com-
plaint to that of joyful confidence. No gradual transition could have so
successfully conveyed the idea that the prayer of the psalmist has been
heard, and will be answered. The effect is like that of a whisper in the
sufferer's ear, while still engrossed with his distresses, to assure him that
they are about to terminate. This he announces by a direct and bold
address to his persecuting enemies. Depart from me, all ye doers of ini-
quity, the same phrase that occurs in Ps. v. 6 (5). The sense is not that
he will testify his gratitude by abjuring all communion with the wicked,
but that his assurance of divine protection relieves him from all fear of his
wicked foes. When God arises, then his enemies are scattered. This
sense is required by the last clause of ver. 8 (7), and confirmed by a com-
parison with ver. 11 (10), For the Lord, Jehovah, hath heard the voice of
my weeping, or my weeping voice. The infrequency of silent grief is said
to be characteristic of the orientals, and the same thing may be observed
in Homer's pictures of heroic manners.
10 (9). Jehovah hath heard my supplication. The assurance of this fact
relieves all fear as to the future. Jehovah my prayer will receive. The
change of tense is not unmeaning or fortuitous. The combination of the
VER. 10.] PSALM VI. 33
past and future represents the acceptance as complete and final, as already
begun, and certain to continue. The particular petition thus accepted is
the one expressed or implied in the next verse.
11 (10). Ashamed and confounded, i. e. disappointed and struck with
terror, shall be all my enemies. The desire that they may be is not expressed,
but involved in the confident anticipation that they will be. In the second
verb there is an obvious allusion to its use in ver. 3, 4 (2, 3). As he had
been terror-stricken, so shall they be. As they filled him with consterna-
tion, so shall God fill them. They shall return, turn back from their assault
repulsed; they shall be ashamed, filled with shame at their defeat; and that
not hereafter, (in) a moment, instantaneously.
The Psalmist still prays for deliverance from his enemies, ver. 2, 3 (1, 2),
on the ground that he is innocent of that wherewith they charge him, ver.
4-6 (3-5). He prays for justice to himself and on his enemies, as a part of
that great judicial process which belongs to God as the universal judge, ver.
7-10 (6-9). He trusts in the divine discrimination between innocence and
guilt, ver. 11, 12 (10, 11). He anticipates God's vengeance on impeni-
tent offenders, ver. 13, 14 (12, 13). He sees them forced to act as self-
destroyers, ver. 15-17 (14-16). At the same time he rejoices in God's
mercy to himself, and to the whole class whom he represents, ver. 18 (17).
The penitential tone, which predominated in the sixth psalm, here gives
way again to that of self-justification, perhaps because the Psalmist here
speaks no longer as an individual, but as the representative of the righteous
or God's people. The two views which he thus takes of himself are per-
fectly consistent, and should be suffered to interpret one another.
1. Shiggaion, i. e. wandering, error. The noun occurs only here, and
in the plural form, Hab. iii. 1, but the verb from which it is derived is not
uncommon, and is applied by Saul to his own errors with respect to
David (1 Sam. xxvi. 21). See also Ps. cxix. 10, 118. Hence some ex-
plain the word here as denoting moral error, sin, and make it descriptive
of the subject of the psalm. See above on Ps. v. 1. Still more in accord-
ance with the literal meaning of the root is the opinion that it here denotes
the wandering of David at the period when the psalm was probably con-
ceived. In either case, it means a song of wandering or error, which he
sang, in the literal sense, or in the secondary one of poetical composition,
as Virgil says, I sing the man and arms, i. e. they are the subject of my
poem. To the Lord, Jehovah, to whom a large part of the psalm is really
Concerning (or because of) the words of
is clear from ver. 4-6 (3-5), that the words referred to were calumnious
reports or accusations. These may have been uttered by one Cush, a Ben-
jamite, who nowhere else appears in history. But as this very circum-
stance makes it improbable that he would have been singled out, as the
occasion of this psalm, from among so many slanderers, some suppose
Cush to be Shimei, who cursed David when he fled from Absalom (2 Sam.
xvi. 5-13). As the psalm, however, seems much better suited to the times
Saul, some suppose
opia, to be here an enigmatical name applied to Saul himself, in reference
to the blackness of his heart, and perhaps to his incorrigible wickedness.
See Jer. xiii. 23, and Amos ix. 7. The description Benjamite, is equally
34 PSALM VII. [VER. 1-5.
appropriate to Saul (1 Sam. ix. 1, 2; 5, 11) and Shimei, who, indeed,
kinsmen. This explanation of the word
might otherwise appear, because enigmatical descriptions of the theme are
not unfrequent in the titles of the Psalms. See above, on Ps. v. 1, and
below, on Ps. ix. 1; xxii. 1; liii. 1; lvii. 1; lx. 1.
2 (1). The psalm opens with an expression of strong confidence in God,
and a prayer founded on it. O Lord, Jehovah, my God, not merely
by creation, but by special covenant, in thee, as such, and therefore in
no other, I have trusted, and do still trust. This relation and this trust
entitle him to audience and deliverance. Save me from all my persecu-
tors, or pursuers, a term frequently employed in David's history. See
1 Sam. xxiv. 15 (14); xxvi. 20. By these we are here to understand the
whole class of worldly and ungodly men, of which Saul was the type and
representative. The all suggests the urgency of the necessity, as a motive
to immediate interposition. And extricate me, or deliver me. The primary idea of the
verb translated save is that of making room, enlarging. See above, on Ps. iv. 2 (1).
3 (2). Lest he tear, like a lion, my soul. The singular form, following
the plural in the foregoing verse, may have particular reference to Saul, or
to the class of which he was a type, personified as an ideal individual. The
imagery of the verse is borrowed from the habits of wild beasts, with which
David was familiar from a child. See 1 Sam. xvii. 34-37. The soul or
life is mentioned as the real object of attack, and not as a mere periphrasis
for the personal pronoun, as if my soul were equivalent to me. Rending,
or breaking the bones, and there is none delivering, or with none to deliver.
4 (3.) He proceeds upon the principle that God will not hear the prayer
of the wicked, and that he must hear that of the righteous. He proceeds,
therefore, to assert his innocence, not his freedom from all sin, but from
that particular offence with which he had been charged. O Lord, Jeho-
vah, my God, as in ver. 2 (1), if I have done this, which follows, or this of
I am accused, referring to "the words of
which gave occasion to the psalm itself. If there is, with emphasis on the
verb, which might have been omitted in Hebrew, and is therefore em-
phatic, if there is indeed, as my accusers say, perverseness, iniquity, in my
palms, in the palms of my hands, here mentioned as instruments of evil.
The apodosis of the sentence is contained in ver. 6 (5) below.
5 (4). If I have repaid my friend, one at peace with me, evil, and spoiled,
plundered, (one) distressing me, acting as my enemy, without a cause. There
seems to be an allusion here to the two periods of David's connection with
Saul, that of their friendly intercourse, and that of their open enmity.
During neither of these had David been guilty of the sins charged upon
him. He had not conspired against Saul while in his service (1 Sam. xxii.
7, 8), and when persecuted by him he had spared his life (1 Sam. xxiv. 10,
11). Some suppose this last fact to be here referred to, and translate the
second clause, yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy.
The Hebrew verb is certainly used elsewhere in this sense (2 Sam. xxii. 20,
Ps. vi. 5), but its primary meaning seems to be that of stripping or spoil-
ing a conquered enemy. The first construction above given is moreover
much more natural, and agrees better with the grammatical dependence of
the second verb upon the first.
6 (5). His consciousness of innocence is expressed in the strongest man
ner by invoking the divine displeasure if the charge can be established. An
enemy, or by poetic licence, the enemy, whether Saul or the ideal enemy
VER. 6-8.] PSALM VII. 35
referred to in verse 3 (2), shall pursue, or may pursue, which is equivalent
to saying, Let the enemy pursue my soul, the figure being still the same as in
verse 3 (2) above, but carried out with more minuteness, and overtake (it),
and trample to the earth my life, and my honour in the dust make dwell, i. e.
completely prostrate and degrade. Some regard honour as equivalent to
soul and life, the intelligent and vital part, which is the glory of man's con-
stitution. But the analogy of Ps. iii. 4 (3) and iv. 3 (2) makes it more
probable that in this case also there is reference to the Psalmist's personal
and official honour. The allusion, however, is not so much to posthumous
disgrace as to present humiliation. All this he imprecates upon himself if
really guilty of the charges calumniously brought against him. The solemnity of this
appeal to God, as a witness and a judge, is enhanced by the usual pause. Selah.
7 (6). Upon this protestation of his innocence he founds a fresh prayer
for protection and deliverance. Arise, arouse thyself, O Lord, Jehovah.
See above, on Ps. iii. 8 (7). Arise in thine anger, raise thyself, or be exalted,
in, i. e. amidst, the ragings of my enemies. The idea because of my enemies is
rather implied than expressed. The sense directly intended seems to be
that, as his enemies are raging, it is time for God to arise in anger too. As
they rage against him, he calls upon God to rise in anger against them.
And awake, a still stronger figure than arise, because implying sleep as well
as inactivity. Awake unto me, at my call and for my benefit. Judgment
hast thou commanded, or ordained. Let that judgment now be executed.
He appeals to the general administration of God's justice, as a ground for
expecting it in this one case. As it was part of the divine plan or pur-
pose to do justice, both on friends and foes, here was an opportunity to
put it into execution.
8 (7). And the congregation of nations shall surround thee, which in this
connection is equivalent to saying, let it surround thee. The most probable
sense of these obscure words is, appear in the midst of the nations as their
judge. The same connection between God's judicial government in general
and his judicial acts in a particular case, that is implied in the preceding
verse, is here embodied in the figure of an oriental king dispensing justice
to his subjects in a popular assembly. And above it, the assembly, to the
high place, or the height, return thou. This may either mean, return to
heaven when the judgment is concluded, or, which seems more natural,
Resume thy seat as judge above this great ideal congregation. Above it,
thus assembled to receive thee, to the high place, or the judgment-seat, re-
turn thou, after so long an absence, previously intimated by the summons to
arise and awake. Inaction, sleep, and absence from the judgment-seat, are all
bold metaphors for God's delay to save his people and destroy their enemies.
9 (8). The same thing is now expressed in a direct and formal manner.
Jehovah will judge, is to judge, the nations. This is laid down as a certain
general proposition, from which the Psalmist draws a special inference in
the shape of a petition. Judge me, O Lord, Jehovah! If it be true that
God will judge the world, redress all wrong, and punish all iniquity, let him
begin with me. Let me share now in the justice which is to be universally
administered. Judge me, O Lord, according to my right, and my complete-
ness, or perfection, over me, i. e. according to my innocence which covers and
protects me. All such expressions must be qualified and explained by the
confession of unworthiness in Ps. vi. and elsewhere, which sufficiently demon-
strates that the Psalmist here makes no claim to absolute perfection and
innocence, nor to any whatever that is independent of God's sovereign mercy.
36 PSALM VII. [VER. 9-13.
10 (9). Let cease, I pray, the badness of wicked (men). The future has
an optative meaning given to it by the Hebrew particle (xnA), which is often
rendered now, not as an adverb of time, but of entreaty. Between man and.
man, it is frequently equivalent to if you please in modern parlance. When
addressed to God, it scarcely admits of any other version than I pray. The
assonance or paronomasia in the common version, wickedness of the wicked,
is not found in the original, where two words, not akin to one another,
are employed. The plural form of wicked is also lost or left ambiguous in
the common version. And thou wilt confirm, or establish, a righteous (man),
and a trier of hearts and reins, constantly used in Scripture for the internal
dispositions, (is the) righteous God, or (art thou) O righteous God, which
last agrees best with the direct address to God in the preceding clauses.
This does not merely mean that God is omniscient, and therefore able thus
to try the hearts and reins, but that he actually does it. Here he is spe-
cially appealed to, as a judge or umpire between Saul, or "the wicked" whom
he represented, and "the righteous," of whom David was the type and champion.
11 (10). My shield (is) upon God. My protection or defence depends
on him alone. The figure is the same as in Ps. iii. 4 (3) and v. 13 (12).
Here again the hope of personal deliverance is founded on a general truth,
as to the course of the divine administration. My shield (is) upon God, sav-
ing, or who saves, the Saviour of the upright, straightforward, or sincere in
heart. This is a new indirect assertion of his own integrity and innocence.
12 (11). The second word in the original of this verse may be either a
participle or a noun, so that the clause admits of two translations, God (is)
a righteous judge, and, God is judging, i. e. judges, the righteous. The first
would be a repetition of the general truth taught in ver. 9 (8) above, but
here applied to the punishment of the wicked, as it is there to the salvation
of the innocent. According to the other construction, the verse before us
presents both ideas: God judges the righteous, i. e. does him justice, and
God is angry every day. The object of this anger, although not expressed,
is obvious, and is even rendered more conspicuous by this omission. As if
he had said, "God, who does justice to the righteous, has likewise objects
for his indignation."
13 (12). If he, the sinner at whom God is angry, will not turn, i. e.
turn back from his impious and rebellious undertakings, his sword he will
whet, i. e. with a natural though sudden change of subject, God will whet
his sword, often referred to as an instrument of vengeance. His bow he has
trodden on, alluding to the ancient mode of bending the large and heavy
bows used in battle, and made it ready. The bow and the sword were the
most common weapons used in ancient warfare. The past tense of these
verbs implies that the instruments of vengeance are prepared already, and
not merely viewed as something future.
14 (13). And at him (the wicked enemy) he has aimed, or directed, the
instruments of death, his deadly weapons. This is still another step in
advance. The weapons are not only ready for him, but aimed at him.
His arrows to (be) burning he will make, i. e. he will make his arrows
burning arrows, in allusion to the ancient military custom of shooting
ignited darts or arrows into besieged towns, for the purpose of setting them
on fire, as well as that of personal injury. The figurative terms in these
two verses all express the certainty and promptness of the divine judgments
on incorrigible sinners. For even these denunciations are not absolute,
VER. 14-17.] PSALM VII. 37
but suspended on the enemy's repentance or persistency in evil. That
significant phrase, if he will not turn, may be tacitly supplied as qualifying
every threatening in the book, however strong and unconditional in its expressions.
15 (14). Behold, he, the wicked man, will writhe, or travail (with)
iniquity, (towards others), and conceive mischief (to himself), and bring
forth falsehood, self-deception, disappointment. The meaning seems to be,
that while bringing his malignant schemes to maturity, he will uncon-
sciously conceive and bring forth ruin to himself.
16 (15) The same idea is then expressed by other figures, borrowed
perhaps from certain ancient modes of hunting. A well he has digged,
i. e. a pitfall for his enemy, and hollowed it, or made it deep, and fallen
into the pit he is making, or about to make. The change from the past
tense to the future seems to place the catastrophe between the inception
and completion of the plan. The translation of the last verb as a simple
preterite is entirely ungrammatical.
17 (16). Still a third variation of the same theme. His mischief shall
return upon his own head, literally into it, like a falling body which not
only rests upon an object, but sinks and is imbedded in it. And on his own
crown his violence, including the ideas of injustice and cruelty, shall come
18 (17). While the wicked enemy of God and his people is thus made
to execute the sentence on himself, the Psalmist already exults in the ex-
perience of God's saving mercy. I will praise the Lord, Jehovah, i. e.
acknowledge his favours. See above, on Ps. vi. 6 (5). According to his
right, desert, or due, as in ver. 9 (8) above. Or according to his righteous-
ness, his justice, i. e. the praise shall correspond to the display just made
of this attribute, as well in the deliverance of the Psalmist as in the des-
truction of his enemies. And I will sing praise, praise by singing, praise
in song, the name, the manifested excellence (see above, on Ps. v. 12 (11),)
of the Lord, Jehovah, High or Most High. He will praise the Lord in this
exalted character as manifested by his dealings in the case which gave
occasion to the psalm. The resolution thus expressed may be considered
as fulfilled in the psalm itself, so confident is he that it cannot be performed
before his prayer is answered. Or the words may be understood as en-
gaging to continue these acknowledgments hereafter.
This psalm begins and ends with an admiring recognition of God's mani-
fested excellence, ver. 2 (1) and 10 (9). In the intermediate verses the
manifestation is traced, first in the inanimate creation, ver. 3, 4 (2, 3,
and then in animated nature, vers. 5-9 (4-8), with particular reference
to man's superiority. This is indeed the main subject of the psalm, the
glory of God in nature being only introduced to heighten his goodness to
mankind. We have here, therefore, a description of the dignity of human
nature, as it was at first, and as it is to be restored in Christ, to whom the
descriptive terms may therefore be applied, without forced or fanciful
accommodation on the one hand, and without denying the primary generic
import of the composition on the other.
1. To the Chief Musician, on (or according to) the Gittith. This word,
which reappears in the titles of two other psalms (the eighty-first and
38 PSALM VII]. [VER. 1, 2.
eighty-fourth), would seem, from its form, to be the feminine of Gitti,
always means a Gittite or inhabitant of
2 Sam. vi. 10, xv. 18. As David once resided there, and had afterwards
much intercourse with the inhabitants, the word may naturally here denote
an instrument there invented or in use, or an air, or a style of performance,
borrowed from that city. Some prefer, however, to derive it from the
to an instrument of that shape, or to a melody or style which usage had
connected with the joy of vintage or the pressing of the grapes. Either of
these explanations is more probable than that which derives Gittith from
the same root with Neginoth in the titles of Ps. iv. and vi., and gives it
the same sense, viz. stringed instruments, or the music of stringed instru-
ments. Besides the dubious etymology on which this explanation rests, it
is improbable that two such technical terms would have been used to
signify precisely the same thing. The only further observation to be made
upon this title is, that all the psalms to which it is prefixed are of a joyous
character, which agrees well with the supposition that it signifies an air or
style of musical performance. The ascription of this Psalm to David, as
its author, is fully confirmed by its internal character.
2 (1). Jehovah, our Lord, not of the Psalmist only, but of all men, and
(see above, Ps. v. 11, vii. 17), in all the earth, which gave thy glory, i. e.
which glory of thine give or place, above the heavens. The verbal form here
used is, in every other place where it occurs, an imperative, and should not
therefore, without necessity, be otherwise translated. Thus understood,
the clause contains a prayer or wish, that the divine glory may be made
still more conspicuous. To give or place glory on an object is an idiomatic
phrase repeatedly used elsewhere, to denote the conferring of honour on an in-
ferior. See Num. xxvii. 20; 1 Chron. xxix. 25; Dan. xi. 21. It here implies
that the glory belonging to the frame of nature is not inherent but derivative.
3 (2.) From the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast founded strength.
The instinctive admiration of thy works, even by the youngest children, is
a strong defence against those who would question thy being or obscure
thy glory. The Septuagint version of the last words in this clause, thou
hast prepared (or provided) praise, conveys the same idea with a change of
form, since it is really the praise or admiration of the child that is de-
scribed in the original as strength. This version is adopted by Matthew,
in his record of our Lord's reply to the Pharisees, when they complained of
the hosannas uttered by the children in the temple (Mat. xxi. 16). That
allusion does not prove that Christ was the primary subject of this psalm,
but only that the truth expressed in the words quoted was exemplified in
that case. If the Scriptures had already taught that even the unconscious
admiration of the infant is a tribute to God's glory, how much more might
children of maturer age be suffered to join in acclamations to his Son. The
sense thus put upon the words of David agrees better with the context than
the one preferred by some interpreters, viz., that the defence in question is
afforded by the structure and progress of the child itself. If this had been
intended, he would hardly have said from the mouth, or have confined his subsequent
allusions to the splendour of the firmament.—The effect, or rather the legitimate
tendency of this spontaneous testimony is to silence enemy and avenger, i. e. to stop the
mouths of all malignant railers against God, whose cavils and sophisms are put to shame
by the instinctive recognition of God's being and his glory by the youngest children.
VER. 3-6.] PSALM VIII. 39
4 (3). When I see thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, an expression
borrowed from the habits of men, to whom the fingers are natural organs of
contrivance and construction, the moon and the stars which thou hast fixed,
or settled in their several spheres. As we constantly associate the sky
and sun together, the latter, although not expressly mentioned, may be
considered as included in the subject of the first clause. Or the mention
of the moon and stars without the sun may be understood to mark this as
an evening hymn. There is no ground, however, for referring this psalm to the pastoral
period of David's life, or for doubting that it was composed when he was king.
5 (4). The sentence begun in the preceding verse is here completed.
When I see thy heavens, &c., what is man, frail man, as the original word
signifies, that thou shouldst remember him, think of him, attend to him, and
(any) son of man, or the son of man, as a generic designation of the race,
that thou shouldst visit him, i. e. according to the usage of this figure,
manifest thyself to him, either in wrath or mercy. See Gen. xviii. 14,
xxi. 1, Ruth i. 6, &c. Here of course the latter is intended. The
scriptural idea of a divine visitation is of something which reveals God's
special presence and activity, whether as a friend or foe. The interrogation
in this verse implies a strong negation of man's worthiness to be thus
honoured, not in comparison with the material universe, to which he is in
truth superior, but with the God whose glory the whole frame of nature was
intended to display and does display, even to the least matured and culti-
vated minds. It was with a view to this comparison, and not for its own
sake, or as the main subject of the psalm, that the glory of creation was
referred to the foregoing verse.
6 (5). And remove him little from divinity, i. e. from a divine and
heavenly, or at least a superhuman state. The Hebrew noun is the com-
mon one for God, but being plural in its form, is sometimes used in a more
vague and abstract sense, for all conditions of existence higher than our
own. 1 Sam. xxviii. 13, Zech. ix. 7. Hence it is sometimes rendered
angels in the Septuagint, which version, although inexact, is retained in
the New Testament (Heb. ii. 7), because it sufficiently expresses the idea
which was essential to the writer's argument. The verb in this clause
strictly means to make or let one want, to leave deficient. Eccles. iv. 8,
vi. 2. The form here used (that of the future with vav conversive), con-
nects it in the closest manner with the verb of the preceding verse, a con-
struction which may be imperfectly conveyed by the omission of the
auxiliary verbs in English. "What is man, that thou shouldst remember
him, and visit him, and make him want but little of divinity, and crown
him with honour and glory?" The Hebrew order of the last clause is,
and (with) honour and glory crown him. These nouns are elsewhere put
together to express royal dignity. Ps. xxi. 1, 6 (5), xlv. 4 (3), Jer.
xxii. 18, 1 Chron. xxix. 25. There is an obvious allusion to man's being
made in the image of God, with dominion over the inferior creation. Gen.
i. 26, 28; ix. 2. This is predicated not of the individual but of the race,
which lost its perfection in Adam and recovers it in Christ. Hence the
description is pre-eminently true of him, and the application of the words
in Heb. ii. 7, is entirely legitimate, although it does not make him the
exclusive subject of the psalm itself.
7 (6). The same construction is continued through the first clause of
this verse. Make him rule, i. e. what is man that thou shouldst make
him rule, in, among, and by implication over, the works, the other and
40 PSALM VIII. [VER. 7-9.
inferior creatures, of thy hands. The use of the future form in Hebrew up
to this point is dependent on the question and contingent particle (what is
man that) in ver. 5 (4). The question being now exhausted or exchanged
for a direct affirmation, the past tense is resumed. All, everything, hast
thou put under his feet, i. e. subjected to his power. The application of
these terms to Christ (1 Cor. xv. 27, Eph. i. 22), as the ideal representative
of human nature in its restored perfection, is precisely similar to that of
the expressions used in the preceding verse.
8 (7). This verse contains a mere specification of the general term all
in the verse before it. Sheep, or rather flocks, including sheep and goats, and
oxen, as a generic term for larger cattle, and also, not only these domesti-
cated animals, but also, beasts of the field, which always means in Scripture
wild beasts (Gen. ii. 20, iii. 14, 1 Sam. xvii. 44, Joel i. 20), field being
used in such connections to denote, not the cultivated land, but the open,
unenclosed, and wilder portions of the country. The whole verse is a
general description of all quadrupeds or beasts, whether tame or wild.
9 (8). To complete the cycle of animated nature, the inhabitants of the
air and water are now added to those of the earth. Bird of heaven, a
collective phrase, denoting the birds of the sky, i. e. those which fly across
the visible heavens. The common version, "fowl of the air," is descriptive
of the same objects, but is not a strict translation. And fishes of the sea,
and (every thing) passing in, or through, the paths of the sea. Some read
without supplying anything, fishes of the sea passing through the paths of the
sea. But this weakens the expression, and is also at variance with the
form of the original, where passing is a singular. Others construe it with
man, who is then described as passing over the sea and ruling its inhabi-
tants. But neither the syntax nor the sense is, on the whole, so natural
as that proposed above, which makes this a residuary comprehensive clause,
intended to embrace whatever might not be included in the more specific
terms by which it is preceded. The dominion thus ascribed to man, as a
part of his original prerogative, is not to be confounded with the coercive
rule which he still exercises over the inferior creation (Gen. ix. 2, James
iii. 7), although this is really a relic of his pristine state, and at the same
time an earnest of his future restoration.
10 (9). Jehovah, our Lord, how glorious is thy name in all the earth, not
only made so by the splendour of the skies, but by God's condescending
goodness to mankind. With this new evidence and clearer view of the
divine perfection, the Psalmist here comes back to the point from which he
started, and closes with a solemn repetition of the theme propounded in the
This psalm expresses, in a series of natural and striking alternations,
gratitude for past deliverances, trust in God's power and disposition to
repeat them, and direct and earnest prayer for such repetition. We have
first the acknowledgment of former mercies, ver. 2-7 (1-6); then the
expression of trust for the future, ver. 8-13 (7-12); then the petition
founded on it, ver. 14, 15 (13, 14). The same succession of ideas is
repeated: recollection of the past, ver. 16, 17 (15, 16); anticipation of
the future, ver. 18, 19 (17, 18); prayer for present and immediate help,
ver. 20, 21 (19, 20). This parallelism of the parts makes the structure of
VER. 1-3.] PSALM IX. 41
the psalm remarkably like that of the seventh. The composition was inten-
tionally so framed as to be a vehicle of pious feeling to the church at any
period of strife and persecution. The form is that of the Old Testament;
but the substance and the spirit are common to both dispensations.
1. To the Chief Musician, Al-muth-labben. This enigmatical title has
been variously explained. Some understand it as descriptive of the sub-
ject, and make labben an anagram of Nabol, the name of one of David's
enemies, and, at the same time, an appellative denoting fool, in which sense
it is frequently applied to the wicked; see, for example, Ps. xiv. 1. The
whole would then mean on the death of the fool, i. e. the sinner. Such
enigmatical changes are supposed to occur in Jer. xxv. 26, li. 1, 41; Zech.
ix. 1. Others, by a change of pointing in the Hebrew, for al-muth read
alamoth, a musical term occurring in the title of Ps. xlvi., or a cognate
form almuth, and explain labben to mean for Ben, or the (children of) Ben,
one of the Levitical singers mentioned in 1 Chron. xv. 18. Neither of
these explanations seem so natural as a third, which supposes muth-labben
to be the title, or the first words, or a prominent expression of some other
poem, in the style, or to the air of which, this psalm was composed. After
the manner, or to the air, of (the song or poem) Death to the son, or the
death of the son. Compare 2 Sam. i. 18, where David's elegy on Saul
appears to be called Kesheth or the Bow, because that word is a prominent
expression in the composition. As it cannot be supposed that the expres-
sion was originally without meaning, the obscurity, in this and many
similar cases, is rather a proof of antiquity than of the opposite.
2 (1). I will thank Jehovah, praise him for his benefits, with all my
heart, sincerely, cordially, and with a just appreciation of the greatness of
his favours. I will recount all thy wonders, the wonderful things done by
thee, with special reference to those attested by his own experience. The
change from the third to the second person is entirely natural, as if the
Psalmist's warmth of feeling would not suffer him to speak any longer
merely of God, as one absent, but compelled him to turn to him, as the
immediate object of address. There is no need, therefore, of supplying
thee in the first clause, and construing Jehovah as a vocative.
3 (2). I will joy and triumph in thee, not merely in thy presence, or
because of thee, i. e. because of what thou hast done, but in communion
with thee, and because of my personal interest in thee. The form of the
verbs, both here and in the last clause of the preceding verse, expresses
strong desire and fixed determination; see above, on Ps. ii. 3. I will
praise, or celebrate in song; see above, on Ps. vii. 18 (17). Thy name,
thy manifested excellence; see above, on Ps. v. 12 (11). (Thou) Highest, or Most High!
see above, on Ps. vii. 18 (17). Here again there is special reference to the proofs of God's
supremacy afforded by his recent dealings with the Psalmist and his enemies.
4 (3). In the turning of my enemies back, i. e. from their assault on me,
which is equivalent to saying, in their retreat, their defeat, their disappoint-
ment. This may either be connected with what goes before, and understood
as a statement of the reason or occasion of the praise there promised: "I
will celebrate thy name when (or because) my enemies turn back;" or
it may begin a new sentence, and ascribe their defeat to the agency of
God himself: "When my enemies turn back (it is because) they are to
stumble, and perish from thy presence, from before thee, or at thy presence,
i. e. as soon as thou appearest." The Hebrew preposition has both a causa-
tive and local meaning. The form of the verbs does not necessarily imply
42 PSALM IX. [VER. 4-6.
that the deliverance acknowledged was still future, but only that it might
occur again, and that in any such case, whether past or yet to come,
Jehovah was and would be the true author of the victory achieved. The
act of stumbling implies that of falling as its natural consequence, and is
often used in Scripture as a figure for complete and ruinous failure.
5 (4). This was not a matter of precarious expectation, but of certain
experience. For thou hast made, done, executed, wrought out, and thereby
maintained, my cause and my right. This phrase is always used elsewhere
in a favourable sense, and never in the vague one of simply doing justice,
whether to the innocent or guilty. See Deut. x. 18; 1 Kings viii. 45, 49;
Ps. cxl. 12; and compare Isa. x. 2. And this defence was not merely that
of an advocate, but that of a judge, or rather of a sovereign in the exercise
of those judicial functions which belong to royalty. See Prov. xx. 8. Thou
hast sat, and sittest, on a throne, the throne of universal sovereignty, judging right,
i. e. rightly, or a judge of righteousness, a righteous judge. See above, on Ps. vii.
12 (11). In this august character the Psalmist had already seen Jehovah, and he
therefore gives it as a reason for expecting him to act in accordance with it now.
6 (5). The forensic terms of the preceding verse are now explained as
denoting the destruction of God's enemies. Thou hast rebuked nations,
not merely individuals, but nations. God's chastisements are often called
rebukes, because in them he speaks by act as clearly as he could by word.
Thou hast destroyed a wicked (one), i. e. many a wicked enemy, in former
times, in other cases, and that not with a partial ruin, but with complete
extermination even of their memory. Their name, that by which men are
distinguished and remembered, thou hast blotted out, erased, effaced, obli-
terated, to perpetuity and eternity, an idiomatic combination, coincident in
sense, though not in form, with the English phrase, for ever and ever. This
verse does not refer exclusively to any one manifestation of God's power
and wrath, but to the general course of his dealings with his enemies, and
especially to their invariable issue, the destruction of the adverse party.
7 (6). The enemy, or as to the enemy, a nominative absolute placed at the
beginning of the sentence for the sake of emphasis—finished, completed,
are (his) ruins, desolations, for ever; i. e. he is ruined or made desolate
for ever. The construction of the first word as a vocative— O enemy, ended
are (thy) desolations for ever, i. e. the desolations caused by thee—affords a
good sense, but is neither so agreeable to usage nor to the context as the
one first given. Still less so are the other versions which have been given
of this difficult clause. E. g. The enemies are completely desolate for ever;
—the enemies are consumed, (there are) ruins (or desolations) for ever, &c.
The address is still to Jehovah, as in the preceding verse. And (their)
cities, viz. those of the enemy, hast thou destroyed. According to the second
construction above given, this would mean, thou (O enemy) hast destroyed
cities, but art now destroyed thyself. The same reasons as before require
us to prefer Jehovah as the object of address. Gone, perish, is their very
memory. The idiomatic form of the original in this clause cannot be
retained in a translation. The nearest approach to it would be, gone is
their memory, themselves. This may either mean their memory, viz. (that
of) themselves, i. e. their own; or, perished is their memory (and) themselves
(with it). There seems to be an obvious allusion to the threatenings
against Amalek in the books of Moses (Exod. xvii. 14; Num. xxiv. 20;
Deut. xxv. 19), which received their literal fulfilment in the conquests of
Saul and David (1 Sam. xv. 3, 7, xxvii. 8, 9, xxx. 1, 17; 2 Sam. viii. 12;
VER. 7-12.] PSALM IX. 43
1 Chron. iv. 43). But this is evidently here presented merely as a sample
of other conquests over the surrounding nations (2 Sam. viii. 11-14), and
even these as only samples of the wonders wrought by God for his own
people, and celebrated in ver. 2 (1) above.
8 (7). And Jehovah to eternity, for ever, will sit, as he sits now, upon
the throne and judgment-seat. He has set up for judgment, for the purpose
of acting as a judge, his throne. It is not as an absolute or arbitrary ruler,
but as a just judge, that Jehovah reigns. This recognition of God's judicial
character and office as perpetual is intended to prepare the way for an
appeal to his righteous intervention in the present case.
9 (8). And he, himself, with emphasis upon the pronoun, is to judge the
world, the fruitful and cultivated earth, as the Hebrew word properly
denotes, here put for its inhabitants, in justice, or righteousness, i. e. in
the exercise of this divine perfection. He will judge, a different Hebrew
verb, to which we have no equivalent, he will judge nations, peoples, races,
not mere individuals, in equities, in equity, the plural form denoting fulness
or completeness, as in Ps. i. 1. As the preceding verse describes Jehovah's
kingship as judicial, so the verse before us represents him in the actual
exercise of his judicial functions.
10 (9). And (so) will Jehovah be a high place, out of reach of danger,
hence a refuge, for the oppressed, literally the bruised or broken in pieces,
a high place, refuge, in times of distress, literally at times in distress, i. e.
at times (when men are) in distress. God's judicial sovereignty is exercised
so as to relieve the sufferer and deliver those in danger.
11 (10). And in thee will trust, as now so in all times to come, the
knowers of thy name, those who know the former exhibitions of thy great-
ness and thy goodness, all which are included in the name of God. See
ver. 3 (2), and Ps. viii. 2 (1), vii. 18 (17), ver. 12 (11). For thou hast not forsaken thy
seekers, or (those) seeking thee, O Lord, Jehovah, i. e. seeking thy favour in general,
and thy protection against their enemies in particular. The certain knowledge of this
fact is laid as the foundation of the confidence expressed in the first clause.
12 (11). Sing, make music, give praise by song or music, to Jehovah,
as the God of Israel, inhabiting Zion, i. e. the sanctuary there established.
Or the words may mean sitting, as a king, enthroned, (in) Zion, which
agrees well with the use of the same verbs in ver. 5, 8 (4, 7) above, al-
though the other version is favoured by the obvious allusion to the symboli-
cal import of the sanctuary under the Mosaic law, as teaching the great
doctrine of God's dwelling among men. See above, on Ps. iii. 5 (4),
v. 8 (7). Zion is here represented as the centre of a circle reaching far
beyond the house of Israel, and indeed co-extensive with the earth. Tell,
declare, make known, in, among, the nations, his exploits, his noble deeds,
the wonders mentioned in ver. 2 (1). We have here, in his inspired
formula of worship, a clear proof that the ancient church believed and
understood the great truth, that the law was to go forth from Zion, and the
word of the Lord from Jerusalem, Isa. ii. 3, Mic. iv. 2.
13 (12). For seeking blood, or as an inquisitor of blood, he has remem-
bered, he remembers, it, i. e. the blood; he has not forgotten the cry of the
distressed. God is here revealed in the character which he assumes in Gen.
ix. 5, where the same verb and noun are used in the first clause of the
verse before us. The word translated blood is in the plural form. See
above, on Ps. v. 7 (6). Hence the literal translation of the next word is,
he has remembered them, i. e. the bloods or murders. The cry meant is
44 PSALM IX. [VER. 13, 14.
the cry of suffering and complaint, with particular reference to Gen. iv. 10.
According, to another reading of the last clause, the cry is that of the meek
or humble, not of the distressed. But the common text affords a better
sense, and really includes the other, as the innocence of the sufferers is im-
plied, though not expressed. The general import of the verse is that God's
judgments, though deferred, are not abandoned, that he does not forget
even what he seems to disregard, and that sooner or later he will certainly
appear as an avenger. Murder is here put as the highest crime against
the person, for all others, and indeed for wickedness in general.
14 (13). Have mercy upon me, or be gracious to me, O Jehovah, see my
suffering from my haters, raising me from the gates of death. The view
previously taken of God's faithfulness and justice is now made the ground
of an importunate petition for deliverance from present dangers and dis-
tress. My haters, those who hate me. From my haters may be taken as
a pregnant construction, meaning, see my suffering (and free me) from my
enemies. Thus in 2 Sam. xviii. 19, "Jehovah hath judged him from the
hand of his enemies," means "hath done him justice (and so freed him)
from the power of his enemies." See a similar expression in Ps. xxii. 22
(21) below. It seems more natural and obvious, however, in the case
before us, to give from a causal meaning. "See my distress (arising)
from, or caused by, those who hate me." Raising me does not denote an
accompanying act, as if he had said, see my distress, and at the same time
lift me up, &c. It is rather descriptive of a certain divine character or
habit, and agrees with the pronoun of the second person understood.
"Thou that liftest me up," that art accustomed so to do, that has done so
in other cases, with an implied prayer, do so now. The gates of death may
have reference to the image of a subterranean dungeon, from which no prisoner can
free himself; or it may be simply a poetical expression for the entrance to the grave
of the state of the dead. Compare Isa. xxxviii. 10, and Mat. xvi. 18.
15 (14). That I may recount all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of
Zion, may joy in thy salvation. This is one important end for which he
asks to be delivered, namely, that God may have the praise of his deliver-
ance. There is a trace, in the Hebrew text, of an original plural form,
praises, which might then denote praiseworthy deeds, actions worthy to be
celebrated. But the singular form occurs with all in Ps. cvi. 2 below.
The gates here mentioned are contrasted with those of the preceding verse.
The God who saves him from the gates of death shall be praised for this
deliverance in the gates of the daughter of Zion. This last expression is
supposed by some to be a personification of the people inhabiting Zion or
Jerusalem, who are then put for Israel at large, as the church or chosen
people. Others regard the genitive construction as equivalent to a simple
apposition, as in river of Euphrates, or in our familiar phrase, the city of
Jerusalem. The personification is then that of the city itself, considered
as an ideal virgin, and on that account called daughter, by a usage similar
to that of the corresponding word in French. In either case, there is an
obvious reference to the ancient church, as the scene or the witness of the
Psalmist's praises. The verb in the last clause may be made to depend upon
the particle at the beginning of the verse, (that) I may exult; or it may be
still more emphatically construed as an independent proposition, I will exult
in thy salvation. The form of the verb is the same as in Ps. ii. 3 above.
The second verb itself occurs in ver. 11 of that psalm, and as in that case,
may either denote an inward emotion or the outward expression of it, I will
VER. 15-18.] PSALM IX. 45
shout. In thy salvation, i. e. in the possession or experience of it, and in
acknowledgment of having thus experienced or possessed it.
16 (15). Sunk are nations in a pit they made; in a net which they hid,
taken is their foot. This may be either a confident anticipation of the future
as if already past, or a further reference to previous deliverance, as a ground
of hope for others yet to come. Nations, whole nations, when opposed to
God. Compare Ps. ii. 1. The accessory idea of Gentiles, heathen, would
be necessarily suggested at the same time to a Hebrew reader. Most ver-
sions have the definite forms, the pit, the net; but the indefinite form of the
original is equally intelligible in English, and therefore preferable as a more
exact translation. The ellipsis of the relative, a pit (which) they made, is
common to the Hebrew idiom and our own. The figures are borrowed
from ancient modes of hunting. See above, on Ps. vii. 16 (15). Their
foot, their own foot, not that of the victim whose destruction they intended.
17 (16). Known is Jehovah, or has made himself known. Justice has he
done, or judgment has he executed. In the work of his (own) hands en-
snared is a wicked (man). Higgaion, meditation. Selah, pause. God has
revealed himself as present and attentive, notwithstanding his apparent obli-
vion and inaction, by doing justice on his enemies, or rather by making
them do justice on themselves, converting their devices against others into
means of self-destruction. In view of this most striking attestation of
God's providential government, the reader is summoned to reflect, and
enabled so to do by a significant and solemn pause. The sense of medita-
tion or reflection is clear from Ps. xix. 15 (14), and Lam. iii. 62. See
below, on Ps. xcii. 4 (3). The addition of Higgaion to Selah here con-
firms the explanation already given of the latter word. See above, on Ps.
iii. 3 (2). With this understanding of the terms, we may well say, to our-
selves or others, in view of every signal providential retribution, especially
where sin is conspicuously made its own avenger, Higgaion Selah!
18 (17). The wicked shall turn back even to hell, to death, or to the grave,
all nations forgetful, of God. The enemies of God and of his people shall
be not only thwarted and repulsed, but driven to destruction; and that not
merely individuals, but nations. For the meaning of Sheol see above, on
Ps. vi. 6 (5). The figure of turning back, retreating, failing, is the same
as in ver. 4 (3) above. The idea expressed is not that of being turned
directly into hell, but that of turning back, first to one's original position,
and then beyond it, to the grave or hell. In the last clause there is an
allusion to the implied charge of forgetfulness on God's part in ver. 13 (12)
above. He had not forgotten the "poor innocents," as they feared, and
as their enemies believed; but these very enemies had forgotten him, and
must now abide the consequences of their own forgetfulness. The future
forms of this verse may have reference to the same things mentioned in the
verse preceding as already past. It seems more natural, however, to explain
them as a confident anticipation of results precisely similar to those which
had already been produced by the same causes. As Jehovah had already
caused the heathen to become their own destroyers, so he might be expected
to renew the same judicial process in another case.
19 (18). For not for ever shall the poor be forgotten, (and) the hope of the
humble perish to eternity. However long God may appear to be forgetful
of his suffering people, even this seeming oblivion is to have an end. Still
another allusion to the charge or imputation of forgetfulness implied in ver.
13 (12) above. The difference between the readings humble and afflicted
46 PSALM X. [VER. 1.
(Myvnf and Myynf) is not essential, as the context shews that the humble
meant are humble sufferers.
20 (19). Arise, Jehovah! Let not man, frail man, be strong. Let na-
tions, or the heathen, be judged, and as a necessary consequence condemned,
before thy face, in thy presence, at thy bar. Here again, as in ver. 13, 14
(12, 13), the expression of strong confidence is made the occasion of an
earnest prayer. So far is an implicit trust from leading men to cast off
fear and restrain prayer before God. On the exhortation to arise, as from a
state of previous inaction, see above, Ps. iii. 7 (6). For the full sense of the
word translated man, see above, on Ps. viii. 5 (4). Let him not be strong,
i. e. let him not, so appear, or so esteem himself. Let him have no occasion,
by indulgence or prolonged impunity, to cherish this delusion, or to prac-
tise this imposture. The absurdity of making man the stronger party in
this strife with God is so preposterous, that God is summoned to arise for
the purpose of exploding it. To be judged, in the case of the wicked, is of
course to be condemned. To be judged in God's presence, or at his tri-
bunal, is of course to be condemned without appeal.
21 (20). Set, place, or join, O Jehovah, fear to them. Let nations know,
or then shall nations know, (that) man, not God, (are) they. Selah. God
is entreated so to frighten them, that they may become conscious of their
own insignificance and weakness. The word translated fear is elsewhere
used to signify a razor. Hence some would render the first clause, apply
the razor to them, i. e. shave them, in allusion to the oriental feeling with
respect to the beard. But this seems far-fetched, and the masoretic read-
ing yields a better sense. The precise import of the first phrase seems to
be, set fear as a guard over them (Ps. cxli. 3), or join it to them as a con-
stant companion. The word translated man is still the same as in the
foregoing verse, and was therefore intended to suggest the idea of human
frailty, as contrasted with divine omnipotence.
The Psalmist complains of God's neglect, and of the malice of his ene-
mies, ver. 1-11. He prays that both these subjects of complaint may be
removed, ver. 12-15. He expresses the most confident assurance that
his prayer will be heard and answered, ver. 16-18.
The Septuagint and Vulgate unite this with the ninth psalm as a single
composition. But each is complete in itself, and the remarkable coinci-
dences even of expression only shew that both were meant to form a pair
or double psalm like the first and second, third and fourth, &c. From the
same facts it is clear, that this psalm, though anonymous, is, like the ninth,
the work of David, and that both were probably composed about the same time.
1. For what (cause), why, O Jehovah, wilt thou stand afar, wilt thou hide
at times (when we are) in trouble? The question really propounded is,
how this inaction can be reconciled with what was said of God in Ps. ix.
10 (9).—To stand afar off, is to act as an indifferent, or, at the most, a
curious spectator. Wilt thou hide, i. e. thyself or thine eyes, by refusing to
see, as in Lev. xx. 4, 1 Sam. xii. 3. The futures imply present action
and the prospect of continuance hereafter. The question is not merely why
he does so, but why he still persists in doing so. The singular phrase, at
times in trouble, occurs only here and in Ps. ix. 10 (9), a strong proof of the
VER. 2-4.] PSALM X. 47
intimate connection of the two psalms, and perhaps of their contemporary
composition. This expostulation betrays no defect either of reverence or
faith, but, on the contrary, indicates a firm belief that God is able, and
must be willing, to deliver his own people. Such demands are never uttered
either by scepticism or despair.
2. In the pride of the wicked burns the sufferer; they are caught in de-
vices which they have contrived. This very obscure verse admits of several
different constructions. The first verb sometimes means to persecute, lite-
rally to burn after, or pursue hotly. Gen. xxxi. 36; 1 Sam. xvii. 53. In
one case it seems to have this meaning even without the preposition after.
Lam. iv. 19. The sense would then be, in the pride of the wicked he will
persecute, &c. But the collocation of the words seems to point out ynifA
as the subject, not the object, of the verb. The sufferer's burning may
denote either anger or anguish, or a mixed feeling of indignant sorrow.
The adjective ynifA means afflicted, suffering, whether from poverty or pain.
Poor is therefore too specific a translation. In the Psalms this word is
commonly applied to innocent sufferers, and especially to the people of God,
as objects of malignant persecution. It thus suggests the accessory idea,
which it does not formally express, of righteousness or piety.—In the last
clause there is some doubt as to the subject of the first verb. If referred
to the wicked, the sense will be, that they are taken in their own devices.
If to the poor, that they are caught in the devices of the wicked. The first
is favoured by the analogy of Ps. vii. 15-17 (14-16), and Ps. ix. 16, 17
(15, 16). But the other agrees better with the context, as a description of
3. For a wicked (man) boasts of (or simply praises) the desire of his soul,
and winning (i. e. when he wins), blesses, despises Jehovah. This seems to
be a description of the last stage of corruption, in which men openly defend
or applaud their own vices, and impiously thank God for their dishonest
gains and other iniquitous successes.—The preterite forms, has praised, &c.,
denote that it always has been so, as a matter of familiar experience. The
desire of his soul means his natural selfish inclination, his heart's lust.
And winning, i. e. when he wins or gains his end, with special reference
to increase of wealth. Hence the word is sometimes used to signify the
covetous or avaricious grasper after wealth by fraud or force. The same
participle, joined with a cognate noun, is rendered "greedy of gain" in
Prov. i. 19, xv. 27, and "given to covetousness" in Jer. vi. 3, viii. 10.
See also Hab. ii. 9, where the true sense is given in the margin of the
English Bible.—He who gains an evil gain blesses (and) despises Jehovah,
i. e. expresses his contempt of him by thanking him, whether in jest or
earnest, for his own success. He blesses God, and thereby shews that he
despises him. An illustrative parallel is Zech. xi. 4, 5. "Thus saith the
Lord my God, Feed the flock of the slaughter, whose possessors slay them
and hold themselves not guilty, and they that sell them say, Blessed is the
Lord, for I am rich." This parallel, moreover, shews that blesses, in the
verse before us, does not mean blesses himself, as some suppose, but blesses God.
4. A wicked (man), according to his pride, will not seek. There is no
God (are) all his thoughts. Pride is here expressed by one of its outward
indications, loftiness of look, or as some suppose the Hebrew phrase to
signify originally, elevation of the nose.—Will not seek, i. e. seek God in
prayer (Ps. xxxiv. 4), or in the wider sense of worship (Ps. xiv. 2), or in
48 PSALM X. [VER. 5, 6.
that of inquiring the divine will (Gen. xxv. 22), all which religious acts are
at variance with the pride of the human heart.—All his thoughts, not merely
his opinions, but his plans, his purposes, which is the proper meaning of
the Hebrew word. The language of his life is, that there is no God.—Another
construction of the first clause is as follows. The wicked, according to his
pride (says), He, i. e. God will not require, judicially investigate and punish,
as in Ps. ix. 13 (12), and in ver. 13 below, where there seems to be a re-
ference to the words before us, as uttered by the wicked man himself. —A
third construction thus avoids the necessity of supplying says. —'As to the
wicked in his pride—He will not require, there is no God—are all his
thoughts." This may be transferred into our idiom as follows: All the
thoughts of the wicked in his pride are, that God will not require, or rather
that there is no God. In favour of the first construction given is the fact
that it requires nothing to be supplied like the second, and does not disturb
the parallelism of the clauses like the third. Common to all is the impu-
tation of proud self-confidence and practical atheism to the sinner.
5. His ways are firm, or will be firm, in all time, always. A height, or
high thing, (are) thy judgments from before him, away from him, out of his
sight. (As for) his enemies he will puff at them, as a natural expression of
contempt, or he will blow upon them, i. e. blow them away, scatter them,
with ease. This describes the prosperity and success of sinners, not only
as a fact already familiar, but as something which is likely to continue.
Hence the future forms, which indicate continuance hereafter, just as the
preterites in ver. 3 indicate actual experience.—The only other sense which
can be put upon the first clause is, his ways are twisted, i. e. his actions are
perverse. But the Chaldee paraphrase, the cognate dialects, and the ana-
logy of Job xx. 21, are in favour of the rendering, his ways are strong, i. e.
his fortunes are secure, his life is prosperous, which moreover agrees best
with the remainder of the verse, as a description of the sinner's outward
state. Thus understood, the second clause describes him as untouched or
unaffected by God's providential judgments, and the third as easily ridding
himself of all his human adversaries. Both together represent him as im-
pregnable on all sides, in appearance equally beyond the reach of God and
man. (Compare Luke xviii. 2, 4.) As this immunity from danger, strictly
understood, could exist only in appearance, the whole verse may be regarded
as an expression of the sinner's own opinion rather than his true condition.
6. He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved; to generation and
generation, (I am one) who (shall) not (be) in evil, or as the same Hebrew
phrase is rendered in the English version of Exod. v. 19, in evil case, i. e.
in trouble, in distress. This is a natural expression of the proud security
engendered in the natural man by great prosperity. He hath said, implying
that the cause has already been in operation long enough to shew its natural
effect. In his heart, to himself, in a spirit of self-gratulation and self-
confidence. To age and age, throughout all ages or all generations. The
strength of this expression shews that the speaker is not a real person, but
the ideal type of a whole class. The sinner, who thus says in his heart, is
not the sinner of one period or country, but the sinner of all times and
places, one who never disappears, or ceases thus to feel and act. —The form
of the last clause in Hebrew is peculiar and emphatic. He does not simply
say, I shall never be in evil or adversity, but I am he, I am the man, who
shall never be in evil, as if the very supposition of such a contingency,
however justified by general experience, would be not only groundless but
absurd in this one case. (Compare Isaiah xlvii. 8-10.) There could
VER. 7-9.] PSALM X. 49
scarcely be a stronger expression of the self-relying spirit of the sinner, as
contrasted with the saints' implicit confidence in God's will and power, not
only to preserve him from falling, but to raise him when he does fall.
7. (Of) cursing his mouth is full, and deceits, and oppression. Under his
tongue (are) trouble and iniquity. He now gives a more particular descrip-
tion of the wicked man, beginning with his sins against his neighbour, and
among these, with his sins of word or speech. If this be a correct view of
the whole verse, the cursing, mentioned in the first clause, is most probably
false swearing, or the invocation of God's name, and imprecation of his
wrath upon one's self, in attestation of a falsehood. This kind of cursing
is closely connected with the fraud and violence which follow. The Hebrew
word j`To to which the older writers gave the sense of fraud, is now com-
monly explained to mean oppression; so that with the noun preceding, it
denotes injustice, injury to others, both by fraud and violence.—Under the
tongue may have reference to the poison of serpents, or to the use of the
tongue for speaking, as in Ps. lxvi. 17, where the same phrase occurs in
the original, though not in the common version.—Toil, labour, trouble,
endured by others as the consequence of his deceits and violence.—For the
meaning of the last word in the verse, see above, on Ps. v. 6 (5).—Oppres-
sion is here reckoned among sins of speech, because the latter may be made
the means of violent injustice, by tyrannical command, by unjust judgment,
or by instigating others to deprive the victim of his rights. If only fraud
had been referred to, this description of the sins committed with the tongue
would have been palpably defective.
8. He will sit in the lurking-place of villages; in the secret places he will
slay the innocent; his eyes for the sufferer will hide, watch secretly, or lie in
wait. From sins of word he now proceeds to those of deed or outward
action. The wicked enemy is here represented as a robber. The futures,
as in ver. 5, imply that what is now is likely to continue. Sitting implies
patient waiting for his prey or victim. The lurking-place, the place where
murderers and robbers usually lurk or lie in wait. Where such crimes are
habitually practised, there is commonly some spot especially associated with
them; either as the scene of the iniquity itself, or as a place of refuge and
resort to those who perpetrate it.—The mention of villages is no proof that
the psalm relates to any specific case of lawless violence, but only that the
Psalmist gives individuality to his description by traits directly drawn from
real life. 'A slight change in the form of expression would convert it into a
poetic simile. As the robber sits in the lurking-place of villages,' &c.
The verb hide has the same sense as in Prov. i. 11, 18.—The word trans-
lated sufferer (hkAl;He for j~l;yHe is peculiar to this psalm, and was not
improbably coined for the occasion, as a kind of enigmatical description, in
which David seems to have delighted. A Jewish tradition makes it mean
thy host, i. e. the church of God; but this, besides being forced in itself, is
forbidden by the use of the plural in ver. 10 below. Others derive it from
an Arabic root, meaning to be black, dark, gloomy, sad, unhappy. A third
hypothesis explains it as a compound of two Hebrew words, one meaning weak or
sick, the other sad or sorrowful, and both together representing the object of the
enemy's malice, in the strongest light, as a sufferer both in mind and body.
9. He will lurk in, the hiding-place as a lion in his den; he will lurk (or
lie in wait) to catch the sufferer; he will catch the sufferer by drawing him
into his net, or in drawing him (towards him) with his net. That the pre-
50 PSALM X. [VER. 10-12.
ceding verse contains a simile, and not a description of the enemy as an
actual robber, is here rendered evident by the. addition of two new compari-
sons, applied to the same object. In the first clause he is compared to a
lion, in the second to a hunter. See above, on Ps. vii. 16 (15), ix. 16 (15),
and below, on Ps. xxxv. 7, lvii. 7 (6). The force of the futures is the same
as in the foregoing verse.—His den, his shelter, covert, hiding-place. The
Hebrew word is commonly applied to any temporary shed or booth, com-
posed of leaves and branches. He lies in wait to seize the prey, and he
succeeds, he accomplishes his purpose. A third possible construction of
the last clause is, in his drawing (i. e. when he draws) his net. The whole
verse, with the one before it, represents the wicked as employing craft no
less than force for the destruction of the righteous.
10. And bruised he will sink; and by (or in, i. e. into the power of) his
strong ones fall the sufferers, the victims. These are represented, in the
first clause, by a collective singular, and in the second by a plural proper,
that of the unusual word used in ver. 8 above. Its peculiar etymology and
form might be imitated in an English compound, such as sick-sad, weak-sad,
or the like. By his strong ones some would understand the strong parts of
the lion, teeth, claws, &c.; others the same parts personified as warriors.
But even in the foregoing verse, the figure of a lion is exchanged for that of
a hunter; and this again gives place here to that of a military leader or a
chief of robbers, thus insensibly returning to the imagery of ver. 8. These
numerous and rapid changes, although not in accordance with the rules of
artificial rhetoric, add greatly to the life of the description, and are not
without their exegetical importance, as evincing that the whole is metaphori-
cal, a varied tropical exhibition of one and the same object, the combined
craft and cruelty of wicked men, considered as the enemies of God and of
his people. According to this view of the passage, by his strong ones we
may understand the followers of the hostile chief, those who help him and
execute his orders, or the ideal enemy himself, before considered as an indi-
vidual, but now resolved into the many individuals, of whom the class which
he represents is really composed.
11. He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten, he hath hidden his
face, he hath not seen, cloth not see, and will not see, for ever. The opening
words are the same, and have the same sense, as in ver. 6 above. The three
parallel clauses which follow all express the same idea, namely, that God
takes no note of human offences. This is first expressed by the figure of
forgetfulness; then by that of deliberately refusing to see, as in ver. 1 above;
then by a literal and direct affirmation that he does not see, either the suf-
ferings of his people or the malice of their enemies; and that this is not a
transient or occasional neglect, but one likely to continue for ever.
12. Arise, Jehovah! Almighty (God), raise thy hand! Forget not
sufferers (or the wretched)! The impious incredulity, expressed in the pre-
ceding verse, is now made the ground of an importunate petition. God is
besought to do away with the appearance of inaction and indifference. See
above, on Ps. vii. 7 (6). Raise thy hand, exert thy power. The second
name by which God is addressed (lxe) is one expressive of omnipotence,
and may be correctly rendered by our phrase, Almighty God. As the name
Jehovah appeals to his covenant relation to his people, as a reason for
granting their requests, so this invokes his power as necessary to their
deliverance and the vindication of his own honour from the imputation of
forgetfulness cast upon him by his enemies. This imputation he is entreated,
VER. 13-16.] PSALM X. 51
in the last clause, to wipe off by shewing that he does remember. Forget not
is, in this connection, tantamount to saying, shew that thou dost not forget.
Here, as in Ps. ix. 13 (12), the margin of the Hebrew Bible reads (Myvinf)
meek or humble, while the text has (Myynf) suffering or afflicted. The
Kethib, or textual reading, is regarded by the highest critical authorities as
the more ancient, and therefore, except in some rare cases, entitled to the preference.
13. On what (ground) has the wicked contemned God, has he said in his
heart, Thou wilt not require? The question implies the sin and folly of the
conduct described. The past tense suggests the inquiry why it has been
suffered to go on so long. Contemned, i. e. treated with contempt. The
reference is not to inward feeling merely, but to its external manifestation.
The second clause shews how the feeling has been manifested. Said in his
heart; is here repeated for the third time in this psalm. See ver. 6, 11,
above., The direct address to God in the last clause is peculiarly emphatic.
The wicked man not only speaks irreverently of him, but insults him to his
face. Thou wilt not require. The Hebrew verb includes the ideas of in-
vestigation and exaction. Thou wilt not inquire into my conduct, or require
an account of it. See ver. 4 above, and compare Ps. ix. 13 (12). The
whole verse contains an indirect expostulation or complaint of the divine
forbearance towards such high-handed and incorrigible sinners.
14. Thou hast seen (this particular instance of iniquity); for trouble, the
suffering occasioned by such sins, and provocation, that afforded by such
sins, thou wilt behold, it is thy purpose and thy habit to behold it, to give
with thy hand a becoming recompence, or to give into thy hand, i. e. to lay
it up there in reserve, as something to be recompensed hereafter. Upon
thee the sufferer will leave (his burden), will rely. An orphan, here put for
the whole class of innocent and helpless sufferers, thou hast been helping;
God has ever been a helper of the friendless, and may therefore be expected
to do likewise now. The whole verse is an argument drawn from the
general course of the divine administration. Hence the preterite and future
forms. Thou hast seen in this case, for thou always wilt see in such cases.
For the meaning of trouble and provocation, see above, on Ps. vi. 8 (7), vii. 15 (14).
15. Break thou the arm, destroy the power, of the wicked, and the bad
(man), or as to the bad man, thou wilt seek for his wickedness (and) not
find it. This may either mean, thou wilt utterly destroy him and his
wickedness, so that when sought for it cannot be found (Ps. xxxvii. 36), or
thou wilt judicially investigate his guilt, and punish it till nothing more is
left to punish. The Hebrew verb (wrd) has then the same sense as in ver.
4, 13, above, and there is a direct allusion to the sinner's boast that God
will not inquire into men's acts or require an account of them. There may
be a latent irony or sarcasm, as if he had said, Thou wilt find nothing, as he
boasts, but in a very different sense; not because there is nothing worthy
of punishment, but because there will be nothing left unpunished.
16. Jehovah (is) king! He is not dethroned, as his enemies imagine; he
is still king, and will so remain, perpetuity and eternity, for ever and ever.
Lost, perished, are nations, the heathen, i. e. hostile nations, from, out of,
his land, the Holy Land, the Land of Israel, the land of which he is the king
in a peculiar sense, distinct from that of providential ruler. The Psalmist
sees Jehovah still enthroned, not only as the sovereign of the world, but as
the sovereign of his people. (See Num. xxiii. 21, Deut. xxxiii. 5). The
nations or heathen of this verse may be either literal or spiritual gentiles
52 PSALM X. [VER. 17, 18.
(Jer. ix. 25, Ezek. xvi. 3). The psalm is so framed as to express the feel-
ings of God's people in various emergencies. The preterite tense in the
last clause represents the destruction of God's enemies as already past,
not only on account of its absolute certainty, but because the process of
destruction, although not completed, is begun and will infallibly continue.
Here, as often elsewhere, earnest prayer is followed by the strongest ex-
pression of confidence and hope.
17. The desire of the meek (or humble) thou hast heard, Jehovah! Their
desire is already accomplished. And this not merely once for all. Thou
wilt settle (or confirm) their heart, i. e. dispel their fears and give them
courage, by new assurances of favour and repeated answers to their prayers.
Thou wilt incline thine ear, or make it attentive, cause it to listen, to their
future no less than their past petitions. The figure of a fixed or settled
heart recurs more than once below. See Ps. li. 12 (10), lvii, 8 (7), cxii. 7.
The essential idea is that of a firm resolution, as opposed to timid doubt
18. To judge, or do justice to, the orphan and the bruised, or oppressed.
See above, on Ps. ix. 10 (9). This clause seems properly to form a part of
the preceding verse; thou wilt incline thine ear to judge, &c. The remain-
der of the verse is a distinct proposition. He shall not add (or continue)
any longer to resist, or defy, i. e. to set God at defiance. The subject of
these verbs is placed last for the sake of greater emphasis. Man, frail man,
from the earth, springing from it, and belonging to it; see Gen. iii. 19. For
the full sense of the word translated man, see above, on Ps. viii. 5 (4), ix.
20 (19), and compare the whole prayer in the latter passage with the one
before us. The sense here is, that weak and short-lived man shall not con-
tinue to insult and defy Almighty God. It implies a wish or prayer, but is
in form a strong expression of the Psalmist's confident assurance that it will
be so, and in connection with the similar expressions of the two preceding
verses, forms a worthy and appropriate close of the entire composition. The
original of this verse is commonly supposed to exhibit an example of the
figure called paronomasia, an intentional resemblance, both in form and
sound, between two words of very different meaning. The words sup-
posed to be so related here are those translated to defy (Crf) and earth
(Crx). This peculiarity of form, if really designed and significant, is one
which cannot be completely reproduced in any version. There is reason
to suspect, however, that in this, as in many other cases, the resemblance is
fortuitous, like that which frequently occurs in a translation, without any-
thing to match it in the original; e. g. in the Vulgate version of Gen. viii.
22, æstus and æstas, and in that of Gen. xii. 16, oves et boves.
The Psalmist is advised, by friends or foes, to escape by flight from the
inextricable difficulties in which he finds himself involved, ver. 1-3. This
he refuses to do, as inconsistent with his faith in the righteousness and
grace of God, ver. 4-7. The logical relation of these parts makes the
form of the whole somewhat dramatic, although this peculiarity is much
less marked than in the second psalm. The language is not so much that
of an historical person as of an ideal sufferer, representing the whole class
of persecuted innocents. There is no specific reference to any incidents in
David's life, although some of the images were probably suggested by his
VER. 1-4.] PSALM Xl. 53
recollections, both of Saul's persecution and of Absalom's rebellion. The
general resemblance of this psalm to that before it, and the special resem-
blance of ver. 2 to Ps. x. 8, 9, may account for its position in the Psalter.
The very difficulties of this psalm are proofs of its antiquity and strong
corroborations of the title, which ascribes it to David.
1. To the chief musician, belonging to him as the performer, and to David,
as the author. In Jehovah I have trusted, and do still trust. How will
(or can) ye say to my soul, Flee (to) your mountain (as) a bird? The pro-
fession of confidence in God at the beginning is the ground of the following
interrogation, which implies wonder and disapprobation. How can ye say
so? really means, ye should not say so. The question seems to be addressed
to timid or desponding friends, rather than to taunting and exulting enemies,
as some suppose.—To my soul does not simply mean to me, but so as to
affect my feelings. See above, on Ps. iii. 3 (2). In the genuine text the
verb flee is plural, because addressed to the whole class represented by the
ideal sufferer in this case. Hence the frequent change of number throughout
the psalm. See above, on Ps. x. 10. The exhortation to flee must be
understood as implying that there is no longer any hope of safety.—To
your mountain, as a customary place of refuge, not for birds, but for
persecuted men. The comparison with a bird has no particular connection.
with this clause, but is a kind of after-thought, suggesting the idea of a
solitary helpless fugitive. (Compare 1 Sam. xxvi. 20, and Lam. iii. 52). There may be
an allusion to the words of the angel in Gen. xix. 17, as there certainly is to one or
both these places in our Lord's exhortation to his followers, Matt. xxiv. 16.
2. For lo, the wicked will tread (i. e. bend) the bow; they have fixed their
arrow on the string, to shoot in darkness at the straightforward (upright) of
heart. These are still the words of the advisers introduced in the preceding
verse, assigning a reason for the advice there given.—Tread the bow; see
above, on Ps. vii. 13 (12). Will tread, are about to tread, are treading.
The preterite which follows refers to a later point of time. The speakers
are supposed to describe what they see actually passing. "They are bend-
ing the bow, (and now) they have fixed the arrow on the string." The
graphic vividness of the description is impaired, if not destroyed, by giving
both the verbs a present form.—Fixed, i. e. in its proper place. The same
verb occurs above, in Ps. vii. 13 (12). Make ready is too vague in the
case before us.—In darkness, in the dark, in secret, treacherously. See
above, Ps. x. 8. 9.—The straight of heart, the upright and sincere. We
do not use the adjective in this sense; but we have the cognate substantive,
rectitude, which properly means straightness.
3. For the pillars (or foundations) will be (are about to be) destroyed:
what has the righteous done, i. e. accomplished? The pillars or founda-
tions are those of social order or society itself. These are said to be
destroyed, when truth and righteousness prevail no longer, but the inter-
course of men is governed by mere selfishness. The question in the last
clause implies that the righteous has effected nothing, in opposition to
the prevalent iniquity. The past tense represents this as a matter of actual
experience, but as one which still continues. The substitution of any other
form in the translation is gratuitous and ungrammatical. The true relation
of the tenses is correctly given in the Prayer Book Version. For the foun-
dations will be cast down, and what hath the righteous done?
4. Jehovah (is) in his palace (or temple) of holiness; Jehovah (or as to
Jehovah), in the heavens (is) his throne. His eyes behold, his eyelids prove
54 PSALM XI. [VER. 5-7.
the sons of men. He is so exalted that he can see, and so holy that he
must see and judge the conduct of his creatures. By an equally gramma-
tical but less natural construction, the whole verse may be thrown into a
single proposition. "Jehovah in his holy temple, Jehovah whose throne
is in heaven, his eyes," &c.—For the meaning of the word translated temple,
see above on PS. v. 8 (7).—Eyelids are mentioned as a poetical parallel
to eyes, being the nearest equivalent afforded by the language.—Try or
prove, as if by seeing through them. With the whole verse compare Ps. cii. 20 (19).
5. Jehovah the righteous will prove, will prove the righteous, and the
wicked and the lover of violence his soul hates. The sentence might also be
divided thus: Jehovah will prove the righteous and the wicked, and the lover
of violence his soul hates. Different from both is the masoretic interpunction,
which seems, however to be rather musical than grammatical or logical.—
The divine proof or trial of the righteous implies favour and approval like
the knowledge spoken of in Ps. i. 6; but in neither case is it expressed.
Violence, including the ideas of injustice and cruelty. See above, on Ps.
vii. 17 (16). His soul has hated and still hates. This is not simply equiva-
lent to he hates, but denotes a cordial hatred. Odit ex animo. He hates
with all his heart.
6. He will rain on wicked (men) snares, fire and brimstone, and a raging
wind, the portion of their cup. The mixed metaphors shew that the whole
description is a tropical one, in which the strongest figures elsewhere used,
to signify destruction as an effect of the divine wrath, are combined. Rain
is a natural and common figure for any copious communication from above,
whether of good or evil. Snares are a favourite metaphor of David for
inextricable difficulties. See above, vii. 16 (15), ix. 16 (15), x. 9.—Fire
and brimstone are familiar types of sudden and complete destruction, with
constant reference to the great historical example of Sodom and Gomorrah.
See Gen. xix. 24, and compare Ezek. xxxviii. 22, Job xxiii. 15.—Raging
wind, literally wind (or blast) of furies, is another natural but independent
emblem of sudden irresistible inflictions. The second Hebrew word is
elsewhere used for strong indignation (Ps. cxix. 53), and is once applied to.
the ragings (or ravages) of famine. (Lam. v. 10.)—The portion of their
cup, or their cup-portion, something measured out for them to drink,
according to the frequent Scriptural representation, both of God's wrath
and favour, as a draught, or as the cup containing it. Compare Ps. xvi. 5,
xxiii. 5, with Mat. xx. 22, 23, xxvi. 39. The meaning of the whole verse is
that, notwithstanding the present security of the ungodly, they shall, sooner
or later, be abundantly visited with every variety of destructive judgment.
7. For righteous (is) Jehovah; righteousness he loves; the upright (man)
shall his face behold. The for suggests the intimate connection between
God's judgment on the wicked and his favour to the righteous. The second
clause is a necessary inference from the first. The nature of God determines
his judgments and his acts. He who is righteous in himself cannot but
approve of righteousness in others. The righteousness of others is in fact
nothing more than conformity to his will and nature. Nor does he merely
approve of righteousness in the abstract; he rewards it in the person of the
righteous man. This idea is expressed in the last clause, which admits of
several constructions. It may mean that the upright shall behold his face,
i. e. enjoy his favourable presence, as in Ps. xvii. 15. But the collocation
of the singular noun and the plural verb, with the analogy of ver. 4 above,
is in favour of a different construction: his face shall behold (or does behold)
VER. 1.] PSALM XII. 55
the righteous, i. e. view them with favour and affection. Because the origi-
nal expression is not properly his face, but their face or faces, Luther
explains this as a reason why God loves the righteous, to wit, because their
faces look upon (the) right, or that which is right. Another construction,
founded on the same fact, is, the righteous shall behold (it with) their faces.
It is better, however, to regard this as an instance of that remarkable idiom
in Hebrew, which applies to the One True God, verbs, nouns, and pro-
nouns in the plural, and which some explain as a pluralis majestaticus, like
that employed by kings at present, and others as a form of speech trans-
ferred from polytheism to the true religion. Most probably, however, it
was intended to express the fulness of perfection in the divine nature, not
without a mystical allusion to the personal distinction in the Godhead. The
most remarkable examples of this usage may be found in Gen. i. 26, iii. 22,
xi. 7, Job. xxxv. 10, Ps. lviii. 12, Eccles. xii. 1, Isa. vi. 8, liv. 5.—The
face is here, like the eyelids in ver. 4, a poetical equivalent to eyes, and the
same parallelism reappears in Ps. xxxiv. 16, 17 (15, 16): "the eyes of
Jehovah (are) towards the righteous;" "the face of Jehovah (is) against
This psalm consists of two parts easily distinguished: a complaint with
an expression of desire, and a promise with an expression of confidence and
hope. The Psalmist laments the waning number of good men, ver. 2 (1),
And the abounding of iniquity, ver. 3 (2), to which he desires and expects
that God will put an end, ver. 4, 5 (3, 4). In answer to this prayer, he
receives an assurance of protection and deliverance for the righteous, ver.
6 (5), on which he rests as infallibly certain, ver. 7 (6), and consoles him-
self under present trials, ver. 8 (7).
There seems to be no specific reference to the persecution of the Jews
by the Gentiles, or of David by Absalom or Saul. The contrast exhibited
is rather that between the righteous and the wicked as a class, and the
psalm seems designed to be a permanent vehicle of pious sentiment for the
church or chosen people under persecution by malignant enemies. It con-
tains an unusual number of difficult expressions in proportion to its length;
but these are not of such a nature as to make its general import doubtful
1. To the Chief Musician, on the eighth (or octave), a Psalm of David.
This title is identical with that of the sixth psalm, except that Neginoth is
2 (1). Save, Jehovah, for the merciful (or the object of divine mercy)
ceaseth, for the faithful fail from (among) the sons of men. The adjective
dysiHA, whether taken in an active or a passive sense, is descriptive of the
pious or godly man; see above, on Ps. iv. 4 (3). The preterite form of
the verbs (has ceased, have failed) represents the fearful process as already
begun. The word rendered faithful in the last clause may also have the
abstract sense of truth, fidelity; see below, Ps. xxxi. 24 (23), and compare
Isa. xxvi. 2. In either case, the whole verse is a strong hyperbolical
description of the small number of good men left in the community, and
their consequent exposure to the malice of the wicked. Such expressions,
as Luther well suggests, are too familiar in the dialect of common life to be
mistaken or produce perplexity.
56 PSALM XII. [VER. 2-6.
3 (2). Vanity, i. e. falsehood, they will speak; as they now do, so will
they persist in doing; (each) man with his neighbour, not merely with
another man, but with his friend, his brother, towards whom he was parti-
cularly bound to act sincerely; compare Eph. iv. 25. A lip of smoothness,
or of smooth things, i. e. flattering; see above, on Ps. v. 10 (9). This may
be connected either with what goes before or with what follows: "They
speak falsehood, each to his neighbour, with a flattering lip;" or, "(with)
a flattering lip (and) with a double heart will they speak." A heart and a
heart, i. e. a double heart, as a stone and a stone means "divers weights."
Deut. xxv. 13. By a double heart we are probably to understand, not
mere dissimulation or hypocrisy, but inconsistency and instability of temper,
which leads men to entertain opposite feelings towards the same object.
Compare the description of the "double-minded man" in James i. 8.
4 (3.) May Jehovah destroy all lips of smoothness, flattering lips, (and
every) tongue speaking great things, i. e. speaking proudly, boasting. The
form of the Hebrew verb is one commonly employed to express an optative
meaning; but as this form is often poetically used for the future proper, it
might be rendered here, Jehovah will destroy. There is no inconsistency
between the flattering lips and the boastful tongue, because the subject of
the boasting, as appears from what follows, is the flattery or deceit itself.
As if he had said, Jehovah will destroy all flattering lips, and every tongue that boasts
of their possession or use. For an example of such boasting, see Isa. xxviii. 15.
5 (4). Who have said, By our tongues will we do mightily; our lips (are)
with us: who is lord to us, or over us? This is an amplified specification
of the phrase speaking great things in the preceding verse. By our tongues,
literally, as to, with respect to our tongues. The idea of agency or instru-
mentality is suggested by the context. Do mightily, exercise power, shew
ourselves to be strong. Our lips are with us may either mean they are our
own, at our disposal, or, they are on our side. The idea of the whole verse
is, by our own lips and our tongues we can accomplish what we will.
6 (5). From the desolation of the wretched, from the sighing of the poor,
now will I arise, shall Jehovah say, I will place in safety him that shall
pant for it. The preposition from has a causal meaning, because of, on
account of. The wretched, afflicted, sufferers; see above, on Ps. ix. 13 (12).
I will arise; see above, on Ps. iii. 8 (7). The future, shall Jehovah say,
implies that the promise is not yet uttered, much less fulfilled. An analo-
gous use of the same form of the same verb runs through some of the pro-
phecies, and especially the later chapters of Isaiah.—The last clause is
obscure, and may also be translated, "from him that puffeth at him,"—
"him at whom they puff,"—"him whom they would blow away," &c. The
most probable meaning is the one first given, according to which the verse
contains a promise of deliverance to those who especially desire and need it.
7 (6). The sayings of Jehovah are pure sayings, silver purged in a fur-
nace of earth, refined seven times. The Psalmist does not use the term
commonly translated words, but one derived from the verb to say, with
obvious allusion to the use of the verb itself in the preceding verse. What
Jehovah there says, the promises there given, are here declared to be true,
without any mixture of mistake or falsehood. This is expressed by the
favourite figure of pure metallic ore. The idea of extreme or perfect purity
is conveyed by the idiomatic phrase, purified seven times, i. e. repeatedly,
or sevenfold, i. e. completely. Compare Dan. iii. 19. The general mean-
ing of the verse is clear, but it contains one phrase which is among the
VER. 7, 8.] PSALM XII. 57
most doubtful and disputed in the whole book. This is the phrase lylfb,
Crxl. To the common version above given, in a furnace of earth, and to
another somewhat like it, purged in a furnace as to (i. e. from) the earth, or
earthy particles, it has been objected, that Crx never means earth as a
material. Some avoid this difficulty by translating, in a furnace on the
earth (or ground), or, in the workshop (laboratory) of the earth, i. e. the
mine; but this is not the place where ores are purified. It is further
objected to all these translations, that they attach a supposititious meaning
to the noun lylf. It is therefore explained by some as a variation of lfb,
lord or master, and the whole clause made to mean, purified silver of a lord
of the earth, i. e. refined not for ordinary use, but for that of some great
prince or noble. The obscurity which overhangs the meaning of this clause
is less to be regretted, as the main idea must, on any supposition, still be
that of unusual and perfect purity.
8 (7). Thou, Jehovah, wilt keep them; thou wilt guard him from this
generation to eternity, i. e. for ever. In the first clause, though not in the
second, the pronoun thou is expressed in Hebrew, and may therefore be
regarded as emphatic; see above, on Ps. ii. 6, iii. 4 (3). Thou, and no
other, or, thou without the aid of others, wilt preserve them. The plural
pronoun in the first clause, and the singular in the second, refer to the
same persons, viz., the' sufferers mentioned in ver. 7 (6). By a licence
common in the Psalms, they are first spoken of as a plurality, and then as
an ideal person; see above, on Ps. x. 10. This generation, this contem-
porary race of wicked men, with reference perhaps to the description, in
ver 2 (1), of the disproportion between these and the righteous. For ever,
as long as the necessity or danger lasts, so long shall the injured innocent
experience the divine protection.
9 (8). Round about will the wicked walk. This may either mean that
they shall walk at liberty and have full licence, or that they shall encompass
and surround the righteous. Compare Ps. iii. 7 (6). The other clause is
one of the most doubtful and disputed in the whole book. The particle k
may denote either time or resemblance, and the noun tUl.z, which occurs no-
where else, has been variously explained to mean a storm, an earthquake,
vileness or contempt, &c. Among the different senses put upon the whole
phrase are the following: "When the vileness (or vilest) of men is exalted."
"Like the rising of a storm upon the sons of men." "When they rise (or
are exalted) there is shame (or disgrace) to the sons of men." "When
disgrace arises to the sons of men." "Like exaltation is disgrace to the
sons of man." In favour of this last it has been urged, that it gives to each
word its most natural and obvious sense, and that it closes with a prospect
of relief, and not with an unmitigated threatening, which would be at vari-
ance with the usage of the Psalms. The meaning of the verse is then, that
although the wicked are now in the ascendant, and the righteous treated
with contempt, this disgrace is really an exaltation, because only external
and in man's judgment, not in God's, who will abundantly indemnify his
people for the dishonour which is put upon them. The unusual and almost
unintelligible form in which this idea is expressed, is supposed to agree
well with David's fondness for obscure and enigmatical expressions; see
above, on Ps. v. 1 and vii. 1.
58 PSALM XIII. [VER. 1-3.
This psalm consists of a complaint, ver. 2, 3 (1, 2), a prayer for deli-
verance, vers. 4, 5 (3, 4), and an expression of strong confidence that God
will grant it, ver. 6 (5, 6).
There is no trace of a specific reference to any particular period in the
life of David, or to any persecution of the ancient Israel by heathen enemies.
The psalm appears to be intended as a vehicle of pious sentiment, for the
church at large and individual believers, under any affliction of the sort here
described, namely, that arising from the spiteful hostility of wicked men.
The tone, as in several of the foregoing psalms, varies from that of deep
depression to that of an assured hope, connected, as in actual experience,
by one of strong desire and fervent supplication.
1. To the Chief Musician, a Psalm of David. This title differs from
that of the fourth psalm, as the title of the twelfth does from that of the
sixth, to wit, by the omission of tvnygnb.
2 (1). Until when, how long, Jehovah, wilt thou forget me for ever? Until
when wilt thou hide thy face from me? The refusal or delay of the divine
help is here, as often elsewhere, represented by the figures of forgetfulness
and an averted countenance. See above, on Ps. ix. 13, 19 (12, 18), x. 11,
12. The apparent solecism of combining how long with for ever may be
avoided by supposing two interrogations, how long? for ever? It may also
be avoided by giving to Hcan, the sense of continuously, uninterruptedly.
But even the obvious construction, which is more agreeable to usage and
the masoretic interpunction of the sentence, may be justified as a strong
but natural expression of the conflict between sense and faith. To the eye
of sense and reason, the abandonment seemed final; but faith still prompted
the inquiry, how long, which implies that it was not to last for ever. As if
he had said, How long wilt thou persist in the purpose of forgetting me for
3 (2). Till when, how long, shall I place (or lay up) counsels, plans, in
my soul, grief in my heart by day? Till when shall my enemy be high above
me? The idea in the first clause seems to be that of accumulating methods
or expedients of escape, as in a storehouse, without finding any that will
answer the purpose. The same figure maybe continued in the second
clause: (how long shall I lay up) sorrow in my heart? The sense is then
that the multiplication of devices only multiplies his sorrows. Or the figure
of laying up may be confined to the first clause, and the noun grief governed
by a verb understood: (how long shall I feel) sorrow in my heart? The
common version, having sorrow, conveys the same idea, but supplies a verb
unknown to the Hebrew and its cognate languages.—By day is elsewhere
put in opposition to by night, as for instance in Ps. i. 2 above. Here it
may possibly mean all day, but more probably means every day, daily, as
in Ezek. xxx. 16.—Be high: the original expression is a verb alone. How
long shall my enemy soar or tower above me, i. e. be superior, prevail?
This clause determines the precise form of suffering complained of, namely,
that occasioned by the malice of a powerful persecutor or oppressor. In
all such cases, Saul was no doubt present to the mind of David, but only
as a specimen or type of the whole class to which the psalm relates.
4 (3). Look, hear me, Jehovah, my God, lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the
death. The complaint is now followed by a corresponding prayer. In
VER. 4, 5.] PSALM XIII. 59
allusion to the hiding of the face in ver. 2 (1), he now beseeches God to
look towards him, or upon him, to shew by his acts that he has not lost
sight of him. As he before complained Of God's forgetting him, so here he
prays that he will hear and answer him. See above, on Ps. iii. 5 (4). The
idea of Jehovah as a God in covenant with his people, is brought out still
more fully by the phrase my God, i. e. one on whom I have a right to call,
with a well-founded hope of being heard. See above on Ps. iii. 8 (7).—
Enlighten my eyes, or make them shine, is by some understood to mean,
Dispel my doubts, and extricate me out of my perplexities, with reference
to the plans or counsels mentioned in the preceding verse. Others, with
more probability, suppose an allusion to the dimness of the eyes produced
by extreme weakness or approaching death, and understand the prayer as
one for restoration and deliverance from imminent destruction. Compare
1 Sam. xiv. 27, 29, where the relief of Jonathan's debility, occasioned by
long fasting, is described by saying that his eyes were enlightened.—Lest
the sleep (in) death, or lest I sleep the (sleep of) death, as in the common version.
Compare the beautiful description of death as a sleep of perpetuity, a per-
petual or everlasting sleep, in Jer. li. 39, 57.
5 (4). Lest my enemy say, I have overpowered him (and) my adversaries
shout when I am shaken, or because I shall be shaken.—The verb ytlky
strictly means, I have been able. The unusual construction with a pronoun
(vytlky) cannot be literally rendered into English, but the meaning evidently
is, I have been able (to subdue) him, or, I have been strong (in comparison
with) him. As to the combination of the singular and plural (enemy and
adversaries), see above, on Ps. x. 11 (10).—Shout, i. e. for joy, or in a
and single word, triumph. See above, on Ps. ii. 11.—The last verb (FOm.x,) has
the same sense as in Ps. x. 6, viz., that of being moved or cast down from
one's firm position.
6 (5, 6). And I in thy mercy have trusted; let my heart exult in thy salva-
tion; I will sing to Jehovah, for he hath done me good, or acted kindly
towards me. The transition indicated by the phrase and I, is the same as
in Ps. ii. 6 above. Such are the enemies and dangers which environ me,
and (yet) I have trusted in thy mercy. The past tense of the verb describes
the trust, not as something to be felt hereafter, or as just beginning to be
felt at present, but as already entertained and cherished, and therefore likely
to be still continued. I have trusted, and do still trust, and will trust here-
after.—There is a beautiful gradation in the clauses of this verse. First,
a fact is stated: 'I have trusted in thy mercy;' then a desire is expressed:
'let my heart rejoice in thy salvation;' then a fixed purpose is announced:
'I will sing unto Jehovah.' The reason annexed to this determination or
engagement, implies an assured expectation of a favourable issue. As if he
had said, I know the Lord will treat me kindly, and I am resolved to praise
him for so doing.—In thy salvation, not merely on account of it, but in the
contemplation, the possession, the enjoyment of it. See above, Ps. v. 12
(11), ix. 3 (2). The verb lmaGA which occurs above in Ps. vii. 5 (4),
corresponds most nearly to the English treat, in the sense of dealing with
or acting towards; but when absolutely used, as here, almost invariably has
a good sense, and specifically means to treat well or deal kindly with a person.
The idea of requital or reward, which is frequently attached to it in the
English version, is suggested, if at all, not by the word itself, but by the
60 PSALM XIV. [VER. 1, 2.
The Septuagint has an additional clause, which is retained in the Prayer
Book version, and thus rendered: Yea, I will praise the name of the Lord
most Highest. The words are not found in any Hebrew manuscript.
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. xxxiv, 7, Josh. vii. 15, Ps. xxxix. 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. x. 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. Nyxe 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 Nyxe 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. vi. 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. iii. 10, 12, is perfectly legiti-
mate, and not a mere accommodation of the Psalmist's language to another
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 om-
niscient 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
VER. 3, 4.] PSALM XIV. 61
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 ques-
tion, but one definitively settled.—Acting wisely, in contrast to the athe-
istical folly mentioned in ver. 1. The test of wisdom is in seeking God,
whether in the general religious sense of seeking his favour 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. vi. 12,
xi. 5, xviii.21. See also Ps. xxiii. 13, 14.
3. The whole has apostatised; 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 is
to turn sour, to spoil. It is applied to moral depravation not only here,
but in Job xv. 16. The Septuagint version of these words is quoted by
Paul in Rom. iii. 12, as a part of his scriptural description of human
depravity, the rest of which is taken from Ps. v. 10 (9), x. 7, xxxvi. 2 (1),
cxl. 4, Isa. lix. 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 devour-
ing occurs often elsewhere, e.g. Prov. xxx. 14, Mic. iii. 3, Hab. iii. 14.
See below, on Ps. xxvii. 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 un-
62 PSALM XIV. [VER. 5-7
converted 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. v. 10, Isa. iii. 12, liii. 8, Micah
iii. 3.—For the meaning of the phrase, workers of iniquity, see above, on Ps. v. 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 begun 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 begun to fear. See below, on Ps. xxx-vi. 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. xii. 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 transla-
tion. See above, on Ps. ix. 13, 19 (12, 18). The plan or counsel is de-
scribed 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 vwybt
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 return-
ing 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.
iii. 5 (4), xx. 3 (2), cxxviii. 5, cxxxiv. 3. (Compare Ps. xxviii. 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 descrip-
tion of distress, as in the case of Job (xlii. 10). The same idea is else-
where expressed by the figure of confinement and incarceration (Ps. cxlii.
8, Isa. xlii. 7, xlix. 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 bUw in every other com-
bination means to come back, and, like other verbs of motion, often governs
a noun of place directly (Exod. iv. 19, 20, Num. x. 36), it is better to under-
stand the words as meaning that the salvation wished for would consist in
God's revisiting his captive or afflicted people. The sense is also admis-
sible, if not necessary, in such places as Deut. xxx. 3, Ps. lxxxv. 5 (4),
Isa. lii. 8, Hos. vi. 11, Nah. ii. 3 (2). Let Jacob shout (for joy)! This
is both an exhortation and a wish, but the latter is the prominent idea, as
VER. 1, 2.] PSALM XV. 63
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 (lgeyA) 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 be-
fore 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!"
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 an-
swered 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 his-
torical 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. ii. 6;
the tent is the tabernacle which David pitched there for the ark, when he
removed it from Gibeon (2 Sam. vi. 17, 1 Chron. xv. 1, xvi. 1, 39,
2 Chron. i. 3-5). Both together signify the earthly residence of God; see
above on Ps. iii. 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 par-
ticipation of his favour, reappears in Ps. xxiii. 6, xxvii. 4, 5, xxiv. 3, lxi. 5,
lxv. 5 (4), lxxxiv. 5 (4). So too, in Eph. ii. 19, believers are described as
members of God's family (oi]kei?oi tou? qeou?).
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. i. 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. xvii. 1. A remarkably ana-
logous expression is that used by Horace: integer vitae scelerisque purus.
The next phrase, doing right, practising rectitude, may be either a synony-
mous 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. sin-
cerely, 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.
64 PSALM XV. [VER. 3-5.
3. (Who) hath not slandered with his tongue, (who) hath not done his
neighbour harm, and a scandal hath not taken up against his neighbour.
The positive description of the foregoing verse is now followed by a negative
one. (Compare Ps. i. 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 lgr seems strictly to denote the act of busy or officious tale-bearing.
There seems to be an allusion to Lev. xix. 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. xxvii. 40. (Compare Isa. xxxviii. 16.) The next
clause adds deed to word, as in the foregoing verse. Scandal, reproach,
defamatory accusation. The verb xWn is by some explained as meaning
to take up upon the lips (Ps. xvi. 4), and then to utter or pronounce.
Others give it the same sense as in Gen. xxxi. 17, where lf xWn means to
lift up upon, i. e. to burden. The idea then is, that he has not helped to
load his neighbour with reproach. Friend and neighbour 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. xii. 3 (2).
4. Despised in his eyes (is) a reprobate, and the fearers of Jehovah he
will honour; 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 sxmn, 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 honours, and will still
persist in honouring, the fearers of Jehovah. The Septuagint and Vulgate
explain frhl to the neighbour, and some modern versions to the bad (man).
But the sense is determined by the obvious allusion to Lev. v. 4: "if a
soul swear to do evil (frhl) 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. xxii. 24, Lev. xxv. 37, Deut. xxiii. 20, and compare
Prov. xxviii. 8, Ezek. xviii. 8. The taking of judicial bribes is also expressly
forbidden in Exod. xxiii. 8, Deut. xvi. 19, xxvii. 25. The masoretic inter-
punction of this sentence seems to be merely rhythmical or musical, as in
Ps. xi. 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. lv. 23 (22).
For the sense of FOm.x,, see above, on Ps. x. 6, xiii. 5.
VER. 1, 2.] PSALM XVI. 65
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 com-
plete 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.
xxxviii. 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. It probably
indicates the depth of doctrinal and spiritual import in these sacred com-
positions. 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
ix. 15, Isa. xxx. 2, Ps. lvii. 2 (1), lxi. 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. vii. 2 (1), xi. 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, Tir;maxA for yTIr;maxA 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 ex-
pressed in Ps. xlii. 6 (5), 12 (11), xliii. 5, Jer. iv. 19, Lam. iii. 24, 25. A
similar ellipsis is assumed by some in 1 Sam. xxiv. 11, and 2 Sam. xiii. 39.
By this peculiar form of speech the Psalmist calls upon himself to remem-
ber 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. cvi. 5, Job ix. 25), and make the whole clause mean, "My happi-
ness 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. xx. 3). The verse, then, contains a twofold acknow-
66 PSALM XVI. [VER. 3, 4.
ledgment of God, as the universal sovereign, and as the only source of
individual enjoyment. Compare Ps. lxxiii. 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 connec-
tion with the preceding verse, are very obscure. Some make to synony-
mous with as to. "As to the saints who are in the land, and the nobles,
ia 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 xv. 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. xix. 6, Deut. vii. 6,
Ps. xxxiv. 10 (9), Dan. vii. 21, viii. 24, 1 Pet. ii. 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 pro-
fession 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-emi-
nence, but by the sovereign and distinguishing favour 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 sorrows—another they have pur-
chased—I 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 ver-
sion, "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, (MTAObc;.fa), there seems to be an allusion to a very similar form,
which would mean their idols (Mh,yBecaf;), 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. xlii. 8, xlviii. 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,
VER. 5-7.] PSALM XVI. 67
not idols merely, but any created object of supreme affection. The verb
rhamA 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. xxii. 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. iii. 2, and viii. 9, Ezek. xvi. 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-offer-
ings 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. xlix. 11, Deut. xxxii. 14, Isa. lxiii. 3. To
take the name upon the lips is to stain or pollute them by pronouncing it.
Both here and in Hos. ii. 19, there is an obvious allusion to the solemn
prohibition of the law (Exod. xxiii. 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. xi. 6,
xxiii. 5. There may also be allusions to the language of the Pentateuch
in reference to the tribe of Levi, Deut. x. 9, xviii. 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
honour and abundance, and the future form expresses confident assurance
that the favour 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 measur-
ing and dividing land. Fallen, i. e. assigned, with or without allusion to
the lot, as the means of distribution. Compare Num. xxxiv. 2, Judges
xviii. 1. The idea of places is suggested by the context, or the plural ad-
jective may have the abstract sense of pleasure, pleasures, like the cognate
form in Job xxxvi. 11. The particle (Jxa) 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 favours
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,
68 PSALM XVI. [VER. 8-10.
meaning whole nights, all night long. The night is mentioned, both as a
time naturally favourable to reflection, and as skewing that the same sub-
ject occupied his thoughts by night as well as by day; see above on Ps. i. 2.
The reins are figuratively put like the heart, bowels, &c., for the affec-
tions; see above on Ps. vii. 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 recognise his pre-
sence 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 honour, but as that of a guard or defender. See below, on Ps. cix.
31, cx. 5, cxxi. 5.—I shall not be moved from my secure position. See
above, on Ps. x. 6, xv. 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 h. 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. vii. 6 (5).—Flesh may either mean the body, as distinguished
from the soul, or the whole person as including both. Compare Ps. lxiii.
2 (1), lxxxiv. 3 (2).—The idea of dwelling in security or confidence of safety
is borrowed from the Pentateuch. See Deut. xxxiii. 12, 28, and compare
Judges xviii. 7, Jer. xxiii. 6, xxxiii. 16. A similar allusion has been found
already in Ps. iv. 9 (8). The Septuagint version of the sentence, although
it substitutes tongue for glory, is substantially correct, and therefore retained
in Acts ii. 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 pre-
servation 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 con-
fidence 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. xix. 10, Job xxxix. 14,
and in Ps. xlix. 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. vi. 6 (5), and
ix. 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 favourite, the object of thy special favour. See above, on
Ps. iv. 4 (3). The textual reading is a plural form (jydysH), the singular
VER. 11.] PSALM XVI. 69
(jdysH) being a marginal correction or keri. The Jews contend for
the former, and most Christians for the latter, which is favoured 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 favoured 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 ii. 26.—It has been disputed whether tHawa is derived
from HaUw, and means a pit, or from tHawA, 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 tHan
which is of a different sense and gender, as derived from tHanA and HaUn. 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 pre-
ceding 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. Be-
lievers 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
ii. 29-31, xiii. 35-37.) Their reasoning would utterly forbid the applica-
tion 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, fulness 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. ii. 19.) The Hebrew verb is causative, and
means thou wilt make me know, point out, or shew to me. Fulness, satiety,
or rather satisfaction, in its strongest sense, including the ideas of content-
ment 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
sight of him, not merely as the place, but the source of enjoyment. See
above, on Ps. iv. 7 (6), and compare Ps. xvii. 15, lxxx. 4 (3). So in the
last clause, the idea is not merely at thy right hand as a place of honour
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. xvii. 7.—This last clause is omitted in Peter's citation of the
passage, Acts 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 accom-
plished by applying the two preceding verses to our Saviour, not exclusively
indeed, but by way of eminence and in a peculiar sense, which we learn,
however, from Acts ii. 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 xiii. 35-37.
70 PSALM XVII. [VER. 1-3.
A sufferer, in imminent danger, professes his sincere conformity to God's
will, and invokes his favour and protection, ver. 1-5. This petition is en-
forced 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 con-
trasts 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 six-
teenth, 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 righteous-
ness 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 expres-
sion 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 be-
hold 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 recognised 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. xi. 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 any thing 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 trangress, 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),
VER. 4-8.] PSALM XVII. 71
is ungrammatical; nor does either of theseconstructions 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 (trangressor.) The works of man are the sinful courses to
which man is naturally prone. The generic term man (MdAxA) is often used
in reference to the sinful infirmities of human nature. See 1 Sam. xxiv.
10 (9), Hos. vi. 7, Job xxxi. 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 instru-
ment, and in reliance on it as an authority.—The verb (rmawA) 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 avoid-
ing, as we say in English to keep away from or keep out of danger.—From
the verb (CraPA) to break forth, elsewhere applied to gross iniquities (Hos.
iv. 2.) comes the adjective (CyriPA) 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 infini-
tive form, but determined by the preterites before and after. The Eng-
lish 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. iii.
5 (4). —O (mighty) God! The divine name here used is the one denoting
God's omnipotence. See above, Ps. v. 5 (4), vii. 12 (11), x. 11, 12. xvi. 1.
—My speech, what I say, hrAm;xi from rmaxA 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. iv, 4 (3.) Here, as there, it means to set apart, or single out, but
with particular reference to extraordinary favours, implying an unusual neces-
sity. 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. xvi. 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. xvi. 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 licence, the man (or the little man, or the man-
like part) the daughter of the eye. The first word has reference to the image
72 PSALM XVII. [VER. 9-12.
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. xxxii. 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, de-
stroyed, 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 v. 27. The
enemies of the last clause are identical with the wicked of the first. Ene-
mies in soul may mean cordial haters, or enemies who seek the soul or life,
called deadly enemies in the English version. Or wp,n,B;, 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 sug-
gests 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 para-
phrased 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. xxxii. 15, Job xv. 27, Ps. lxxiii. 7, cxix. 70. The literal sense
of the expressions derives some illustration from Judg. iii. 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. cxxxix. 3, 5. For the masore-
tic 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 con-
tinued. 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 xi.
9, Job xxxi. 7, Ps. xliv. 19 (18), cxix. 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. xvi. 3, and compare Isaiah xxvi. 10.
12. His likeness (is) as a lion; he is craving to tear; and as a young
VER. 13-15.] PSALM XVII. 73
lion sitting in secret places. The singular suffix refers to the enemy as an
ideal person. The future (JOsk;yi) 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 refer-
ence to the patient promptness of the wild beast in such cases.—The com-
parison is the same as in Ps. x. 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. iii. 8 (7).—Go before his face: the same Hebrew
phrase occurs below (Ps. xcv. 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 preced-
ing, men (who are) thy sword, as the Assyrian is said to be the rod in God's
hand (Isa. x. 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 diffi-
cult expression dl,H,me is by some understood as a description of their cha-
racter and spirit—men of the world—men who belong to it, and whose hearts
are set upon it. Others give dl,H, 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 con-
tinue. 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 col-
lective equivalent to the plural men. This translation of the former word
is justified by the analogy of Ps. xlix. 2 (1).—Life is by some understood
to mean a life of ease or pleasure; but this is far less natural than the obvi-
ous 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 choichest 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 num-
ber but the prosperous condition of their children; see Ps. cxxvii. 3, cxxviii.
3,4, Job xxi. 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 sen-
tence is emphatic. I, in opposition to the men described in the preceding
74 PSALM XVII. [VER. 15.
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 accept-
ance 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 authorised version: "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy like-
ness." The latter construction is the one required by the accents, and pre-
ferred by most interpreters, the rather as the last word does not mean re-
semblance in the abstract, but form, shape, or visible appearance, Exod. xx. 4,
Num. xii. 8, Deut. iv. 16, 23, 25, Job iv. 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. iii. 6 (5), iv. 9 (8), v. 4 (3). Others give
the phrase the same sense but a wider application; in awaking, i. e. when-
ever 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 friend-
ship 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 favour and pro-
tection 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 here-
after. 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.
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 for ever, 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 (45-50).
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
VER. 1, 2.] PSALM XVIII. 75
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 expres-
sions, spake unto Jehovah, &c., are borrowed from Exod. xv. 1, and Deut.
xxxi. 30. This is the more observable, because the psalm contains obvious
allusions to the song of Moses in Deut. ch. xxxii. An analogous case is
found in 2 Sam. xxiii. 1, where the form of expression is evidently borrowed
from Num. xxiv. 3.—The repetition of hand is not found in the original,
where the first word (JKa) properly denotes the palm or inside of the hand,
but is poetically used as an equivalent to dyA. The hand is a common figure
for power and possession. This whole clause bears a strong analogy to
Exod. xviii. 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. i. 1; "the land and Jericho," Josh. ii. 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 deliver-
ances 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 storgh>> 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
vi. 2, 1 Sam. xxiv. 3, 2 Sam. v. 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
76 PSALM XVIII. [VER. 3-5.
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 (flas,) of the first clause suggests the idea of concealment and
security, so the rock (rUc) of the second clause suggests that of strength
and immobility. The figure is borrowed from Deut. xxxii. 4, and reappears
in Ps. xcii. 16 (15). Compare Isaiah's phrase, a rock of ages (Isa. xxvi. 4),
and Jacob's phrase, the stone of Israel (Gen. xlix. 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 con-
nections, see above on Ps. iii. 4 (3). The next phrase has allusion to the
defensive habits of horned animals. The figure seems to be borrowed from
Deut xxxiii. 17. (Compare 1 Sam. 10, Job. xvi. 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 i. 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.
ix. 10 (9), where the same word is twice used in the same sense and
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 stand-
ing epithet of Jehovah in the lyrical style of the Old Testament. See Ps.
xlviii. 2 (1), xcvi. 4, cxiii. 3, cxlv. 3, 1 Chron. xvi. 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 favour. 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 iv. 3).
5 (4). The bands of death have enclosed me, and the streams of worthless-
ness (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 favourite metaphor with David
to denote dangers, and particularly those of an insidious and complicated
kind. See below, Ps. cxvi. 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,
VER. 6-9.] PSALM XVIII. 77
Hell, in the wide old English sense, is a poetical equivalent to death. See
above, on Ps. vi. 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 con-
text, and that of surprised is not sufficiently justified by usage. See above,
on Ps. xvii. 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.
ix. 10 (9), x. 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. xi. 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 (wfar;Tiva wfaG;Tiva). 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 en-
kindled) to him with an ellipsis of the noun (Jxa) anger. The full construc-
tion may be found in Deut. vi. 15, and Ps. cxxiv. 3. The phrase founda-
tions of the mountains is copied from Deut. xxxii. 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 con-
comitants and parallel figures, both denoting anger, and suggested by the
phrase it was inflamed to him in the preceding verse. Compare Deut.
xxxii. 22, xxix. 19 (20), Ps. xxiv. 1. The translation nostrils rests on a
confusion of two collateral derivatives from the verb to breathe. (See my
note on Isa. xlviii. 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. xix. 18. From it may have reference
to fire; but the nearest antecedent is his mouth. Compare Job xli. 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 combus-
tible 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 pre-
sence 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 expres-
sion specially applied to dense clouds and vapours. The expression seems
to be derived from Deut. v. 22. Compare with this clause, Exod. xix. 16,
and with the first, Isa. lxiii. 19 (lxiv. 1).
78 PSALM XVIII. [VER. 10-15.
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 interven-
tion, 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. xxviii. 49. With the whole verse com-
pare Ps. lxviii. 18 (17), and civ. 3.
12 (11). (And) set darkness (as) his covert about him, his shelter, dark-
ness of waters, clouds of the skies, This concealment suggests the idea of a
brightness insupportable by mortal sight. Compare Deut. iv. 11, Job
xxxvi. 29, Ps. xcvii. 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 vapours
constituting the visible heavens or sky. A somewhat similar combination
occurs in Exod. xix. 9.
13 (12). From the blaze before him his clouds passed—hail and coals of
fire. The dark clouds which enveloped him are now described as pene-
trated 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. ix. 24.
(Compare Ps. lxxviii. 47, 48.) Hail, as an instrument of the divine ven-
geance, is also mentioned in Josh. x. 11.
14 (13). Then thundered in the heavens Jehovah, and the Highest gave
his voice—hail and coals of fire. The second clause is a poetical repeti-
tion of the first. "The Most High gave his voice," means in this connec-
tion neither more nor less than that he "thundered in the heavens."
Though visibly present upon earth he is described as still in heaven. Com-
pare Gen. xi. 5, 7; xviii. 21; John iii. 13. The last clause may be con-
strued as in ver. 13, or made dependent on the verb gave, as in Exod. ix.
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 light-
nings some translate and lightnings much, i. e. many, in which sense the
Hebrew word (brA) occurs sometimes elsewhere (Exod. xix. 21, 1 Sam. xiv. 6,
Num. xxvi. 54). In several other places it seems to mean enough or too
much (Gen. xlv. 28, Exod. ix. 28, Num. xvi. 3, 7, Deut. i. 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.
xlix. 23. The last verb in the sentence is a military term denoting the con-
fusion of an army produced by a surprise or sudden panic; see Exod. xiv. 24,
xxiii. 27, Josh. x. 10, and with the whole verse compare Ps. cxliv. 6.
16 (15). Then were seen the channels of water and uncovered the founda-
tions 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
VER. 16-19.] PSALM XVIII. 79
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 con-
sequence 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 worth-
lessness 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 al 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. cxliv. 7.
(See also Gen. viii. 9, xlviii. 14). The noun, however, is sometimes omitted,
and the verb used absolutely to express the sense of the whole phrase, as in
2 Sam. vi. 6, Ps. lvii. 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. ii. 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 mean-
ing 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 sen-
tence. 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. iv. 2 (1). Here, as in the preceding verse, most
interpreters make no distinction between preterite and future. The mean-
80 PSALM XVIII. [VER. 20-24.
ing 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. i. 15, Job
ix. 30, xxii. 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. x. 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 apostatised
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. Itsis of this mortal sin, and not of all particular trans-
gressions, 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 puffing 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. v. 29, xvii. 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 lifer 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. xviii. 13. (Compare Gen. xvii. 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 xi. 4,
and the description of David in 1 Kings xiv. 8, xv. 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. xxiv. 6, and compare
1 Sam. xxvi. 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
VER. 25-28.] PSALM XVIII. 81
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 him-
self, 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 dysiHA, for the comprehensive
use of which we see above, on Ps. iv. 4 (3), xii. 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 else-
where (Dan. xii. 10), the rest only here. The forms may have been coined
for the occasion, to express the bold conception of the writer. The resem-
blance of the last clause of ver. 27 (26) to Lev. xxvi. 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. xxiii. 12, Luke
xiv. 11, xviii. 14. High looks or lofty eyes is a common Old Testament
expression for pride and haughtiness. See below, on Ps. ci. 5, cxxxi. 1,
and compare Prov. xxi. 4, xxx. 13, Isa. x. 12, xxxvii. 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 con-
82 PSALM XVIII. [VER. 29-32.
venient, 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 xviii. 5, 6, xxi. 17, Prov. xxiv. 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 preposition 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. xliv. 6 (5). —The ellipsis of the
preposition, with which the verbs are usually construed, belongs to the
licence 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 defences. 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 compre-
hend 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. ii. 14, and Philip. iv. 13.
31 (30). The Almighty — perfect is his way—the word of Jehovah is tried
—a 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 descrip-
tion 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. xii. 7 (6). A shield; see above, on Ps. 4 (3). Trusting
in him; see above, on Ps. ii. 12.
32 (31). For who is God save Jehovah? And who is a rock besides our
God? The for shews that this verse gives the ground of the strong assur-
ances contained in that before it. "I affirm all this because I recognise
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. vii. 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
VER. 33-37.] PSALM XVIII. 83
sense of the divine name here and in ver. 32 (31), see above, on Ps. v.
5 (4). vii. 12, (11), x. 11, 12, xvi. 1, xvii. 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 mean-
ing. The figure of girding is peculiarly significant, because in the oriental
dress the girdle is essential to all free and active motion. Compare Ps.
lxv. 13 (12), as translated in the margin of the English Bible, and Isa. xi. 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 equalling, assimilating, the idea of resem-
blance 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 swift-
ness of foot was prized in the heroic age, as appears from Homer's standing
description of Achilles. See 2 Sam. ii. 18, 1 Chron. xii. 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 salva-
tion, 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. xv. 33), but when applied to God, benignant
self-abasement, condescending kindness to inferiors. Compare Ps. viii. 5
(4), Isai. lxvi. 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. iv. 12,
Job xviii. 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 confi-
dent 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
84 PSALM XVIII. [VER. 38-45.
from the Song of Moses, Exod. xv. 9. See above on Ps. vii. 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. xliv. 6 (5), lix. 2 (1), Job xxvii. 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
41 (40). And my enemies—thou hast given to me the back—and my
haters—I will destroy them. Each clause begins with an absolute nomina-
tive 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. xxiii. 27, and compare Josh. vii. 8,
2 Chron. xxix. 6. Ps. xxi. 13 (12).
42 (41), They shall call for help, and there is no deliverer—upon 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 i. 14. —Hear, in the pregnant sense
of hearing favourably, granting, answering a prayer. See above, on Ps.
iii. 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 con-
tempt for them, and the facility with which he will destroy them. Similar
images are not unfrequent in the Old Testament. See for example Isa. x. 6,
Zeph. i. 17. Zech. x. 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. vii., 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 xlii. 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
VER. 46.] PSALM XVIII. 85
where 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 (UwHEKAyi) is used by Moses actively in Deut. xxxiii. 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.
lxvi. 3, lxxxi. 16 (15).—The old word outland, which may still be traced in
its derivative adjective outlandish, has been here employed to represent a
Here Hebrew word for which we have no equivalent in modern English, and
of his 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. i. 3), is applied to the wasting of the
human subject, and indeed of whole communities, in Exod. xviii. 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 expres-
sion may be found in Micah vii. 17, and analogous ones in 1 Sam. xvi. 4,
Hosea xi. 11.—Their enclosures, their retreats or refuges, perhaps with
made 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, (hOAhy; yHa)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 (yHiy;
j`l,m,.ha) vive le roi, (long) live the king, and regarded as a kind of acclama-
tion, similar to those which were uttered at the coronation of the Jewish kings
(1 Sam. x. 24, 1 Kings i. 25, 39, 2 Kings xi. 12). But besides the differ-
ence 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. viii. 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 ll.Ahum; 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 him-
that self, 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 i. 47. This epithet is
common in the Psalms, and occurs once or twice in the Prophets. Isa.
xvii. 10, Mic. vii. 7, Hab. iii. 18.
86 PSALM XVIII. [VER. 47-50.
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 salva-
Lion, and at the same time justifies the affirmations of the preceding verse,
What the Psalmist here rejoices in is not vengeance wreaked upon his per-
sonal 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. xlvii.4 (3), cxliv. 2.
49 (48). Saving me from my enemies; yea, from my assailants (or insur-
gents) 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 copu-
lative, and assailants as a mere equivalent to enemies. Some prefer, how-
ever, 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 danger-
ous 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. lix. 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. cxl. 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 ex-
perienced 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. xxxii. 43, Isa. xi. 1, 10, and Ps. cxvii. 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. iii. 29,
xv. 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. vii. 18 (17), ix. 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 favourite 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 fulness and completeness. As the phrase His Anointed
might have seemed to designate David exclusively, he shews its comprehen-
sive 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
VER. 1.] PSALM XIX. 87
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 with-
out absurdity. In this conclusion, as in other portions of the psalm, there
is a clear though tacit reference to the promise in 2 Sam. vii. 12-16, 25,
26, where several of the very same expressions are employed. Compare
also Ps. xxviii. 8, lxxxiv. 10 (9), and Ps. lxxxix, passim.
Another copy of this psalm is found recorded near the close of David's
history (2 Sam. ch. xxii.), 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 for
bidden 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 im-
probable, as there are other unambiguous traces of the same process in the
Old Testament, and in the writings of David himself. See below, the expo-
sition of Ps. liii., and compare that of Isaiah, ch. xxxvi.—xxxix. 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 con-
fusion 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.
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 revela-
tions, 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
1. To the Chief Musician, a Psalm by David. The form of this inscrip-
tion is the same as that of Ps. xiii. Its historical correctness is attested by
its position in the Psalter, its resemblance to Ps. viii., 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. xxiv. 7-10, xxix. 3, Rom. i. 20. The expanse or firmament is used as
an equivalent to heaven, even in the history of the creation, Gen. i. 8. To
88 PSALM XIX. [VER. 2-5.
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 hand-
work; 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 par-
ticiples 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 ren-
dered line always means a measuring line, and in Jer. xxxi. 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 autho-
rity 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 exten-
sion of the heavens and their testimony is used by Paul (Rom. x. 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
VER. 6-8.] PSALM XIX. 89
dwelling is here exchanged for the specific one of a nuptial couch or cham-
ber. Rejoices, literally will rejoice, for ever 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. xxiii. 3, and compare Ruth. iv. 15, Lam. i.
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 mak-
ing wise the simple, not the foolish, in the strong sense in which that term
is applied to the ungodly—see above, on Ps. xiv. 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. cxvi. 6, cxix. 130, Prov.
i. 22, vii. 7, ix. 4, xiv. 15, &c.)—In like manner Paul describes the
"sacred scriptures" as able to make wise unto salvation, 2 Tim. iii. 15.
9 (8). The statutes of Jehovah (are) right, rejoicing the heart; the com-
mandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes. The words translated
statute and commandment differ very slightly from each other, the one ex-
pressing 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
90 PSALM XIX. [VER. 9-11.
from which is figuratively represented as an enlightening of the eyes. See
above, on Ps. xiii. 4 (3), and compare Ps. xxxiv. 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. xvii. 19), the phrase may here
be understood as a description of the law viewed in reference to this peculiar