THE PSALMS

               TRANSLATED

                        AND

                 EXPLAINED

 

 

 

 

                     JOSEPH ADDISON ALEXANDER, D.D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   1864 Edinburgh;  Andrew Elliot and James Thin.

 

 

                   Digitized by Ted Hildebrandt and Erin Bensing.

                                     Gordon College, 2007
                                               PREFACE

 

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

                                                                                                     1


2                                              PREFACE.

 

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

work upon the Psalms, or in a general Introduction to the Scriptures.
                                                         PREFACE.                                         3

 

    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


4                                                  PREFACE.

 

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

are different.

    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

form itself.

    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


                                                     PREFACE.                                         5

 

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,

winding up the whole. The modern critics, more especially in Germany,

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

mentioned.

    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


6                                                 PREFACE.

 

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,


                                                    PREFACE.                                             7

 

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

sweet psalmist of Israel" (2 Sam. xxiii. 1), the master and the model of all

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

Critical Introduction.

    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-


8                                                   PREFACE.

 

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.

 

    Princeton, May 1. 1850.


 

                                              THE PSALMS.

 

                                                  PSALM I.

 

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

figures.

    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

apart hereafter.

 

                                                     PSALM II.

 

    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

relation in ver. 7. And I have constituted my King upon Zion, my hill of

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

deposited the ark there. The translation over Zion, would convey the false idea, that

Zion was itself the kingdom over which this sovereign was to reign, whereas it was

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

the filial relation which the theocratic kings, and Israel as a nation, bore to

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

reference to Zion. The point of time, like the point of space, is the finite

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

Palestine or David's conquests, without violently changing the sublime to

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.

 

                                                   PSALM III.

    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

the title.

    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 Zion, the seat and

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

night of David's flight from Jerusalem. If any such distinctions be admis-

sible or necessary, it may be regarded as a morning rather than an evening

hymn.

    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

for the people, i. e. Israel, the great mass of whom had now revolted.

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.

 

                                              PSALM IV.

    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,

viz., the rebellion of Absalom, in which the leading men of Israel were

involved. To what (time), i. e. how long, or to what (point), degree of

wickedness; most probably the former. How long (shall) my 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 Israel from


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

allusion to the repeated application of the same Hebrew word to Israel as

dwelling apart from other nations under God's protection and in the 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-

wards more perfectly in Christ, the promises to Israel were verified and

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.

 

                                                 PSALM V.

    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

of Israel, whom David represented. As he was himself the king of Israel,

so God was his king, the lord paramount or sovereign, in whose right he

reigned. This address involves a reason why his prayer must be heard.

God, as the king of his people, could not deny them his protection, and

they asked no other. For to thee, and thee only, will I pray. As if he

had said, It is in this capacity that I invoke thee, and I therefore must

be heard. This is a specimen of that 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

on Mount Zion by David. I will worship, literally prostrate or bow myself,

towards thy temple of holiness, thy holy temple, or rather palace, so called

as the residence of Israel's divine King, and therefore no less applicable to

the tabernacle than the temple. See 1 Sam. 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.

16, vii. 5. The Septuagint version of this clause is quoted by Paul (Rom.

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.

 

                                                    PSALM VI.

    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

nature.

    1. For the Chief Musician, (to be sung) with stringed instruments upon

the eighth. This last word corresponds exactly to our octave; but its 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

accomplished.

    6 (5). As a further reason for his rescue, he now urges that without it

God will lose the honour, and himself the happiness, of his praises and


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.

 

                                                    PSALM VII.

    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

addressed. Concerning (or because of) the words of Cush the Benjamite. It

is clear from ver. 4-6 (3-5), that the words referred to were calumnious

reports or accusations. These may have been uttered by one Cush, a 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

of Saul, some suppose Cush, which is properly the Hebrew name of Ethi-

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

                                                                                            3


34                                              PSALM VII.                                 [VER. 1-5.

 

appropriate to Saul (1 Sam. ix. 1, 2; 5, 11) and Shimei, who, indeed,

were kinsmen. This explanation of the word Cush is less forced than it

might otherwise appear, because enigmatical descriptions of the theme are

not 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

which I am accused, referring to "the words of Cush," the calumnies,

which gave occasion to the psalm itself. If there is, with emphasis on the

verb, which might have been omitted in Hebrew, and is therefore 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

down.

    18 (17). While the wicked enemy of God and his people is thus made

to execute the sentence on himself, the Psalmist already exults in the 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.

 

                                                PSALM VIII.

 

    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,

which always means a Gittite or inhabitant of Gath. See Josh. xiii. 3;

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

primary sense of Gath in Hebrew, which is wine-press, and apply it either

to an instrument of that shape, or to a melody or style which usage had

connected with the joy of vintage or the pressing of the grapes. Either of

these explanations is more probable than that which derives Gittith from

the same root with Neginoth in the titles of Ps. 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

especially all Israel, how glorious (is) thy name, thy manifested excellence

(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

opening sentence.

 

                                                    PSALM IX.

    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.

 

                                                    PSALM X.

 

    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

successful wickedness.

    3. For a wicked (man) boasts of (or simply praises) the desire of his soul,

and winning (i. e. when he wins), blesses, despises Jehovah. This seems to

be a description of the last stage of corruption, in which men openly defend

or applaud their own vices, and impiously thank God for their dishonest

gains and other iniquitous successes.—The preterite forms, has praised, &c.,

denote that it always has been so, as a matter of familiar experience. The

desire of his soul means his natural selfish inclination, his heart's lust.

And winning, i. e. when he wins or gains his end, with special reference

to increase of wealth. Hence the word is sometimes used to signify the

covetous or avaricious grasper after wealth by fraud or force. The same

participle, joined with a cognate noun, is rendered "greedy of gain" in

Prov. 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

and vacillation.

    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.

 

                                                    PSALM XI.

    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

evil-doers."

 

                                                    PSALM XII.

    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

or obscure.

    1. To the Chief Musician, on the eighth (or octave), a Psalm of David.

This title is identical with that of the sixth psalm, except that Neginoth is

here omitted.

    2 (1). Save, Jehovah, for the merciful (or the object of divine mercy)

ceaseth, for the faithful fail from (among) the sons of men. The adjective

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.

 

                                                   PSALM XIII.

 

    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

ever?

    3 (2). Till when, how long, shall I place (or lay up) counsels, plans, in

my soul, grief in my heart by day? Till when shall my enemy be high above

me? The idea in the first clause seems to be that of accumulating methods

or expedients of escape, as in a storehouse, without finding any that will

answer the purpose. The same figure 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

context.


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.

 

                                                  PSALM XIV.

 

    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

purpose.

    2. Jehovah from heaven has looked down on the sons of man, to see if

there were (one) acting wisely, seeking God. While the fool denies the being

of a God, Jehovah's eye is on him and his fellow-men. Yet even that 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!"

 

                                                 PSALM XV.

    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

 

                                                   PSALM XVI.

 

    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-

                                                                                            5


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.

 

                                                   PSALM XVII.

 

    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.

 

                                               PSALM XVIII.

 

    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

figurative application.

    4 (3). To be praised I will call Jehovah, and from my enemies I shall be

saved. "I will invoke God as a being worthy of all praise." The first

Hebrew word, which has the force of a future passive participle, is a 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-

                                                                                               6


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

sovereign purpose.

    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.

 

                                                   PSALM XIX.

 

    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

its author.

    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

purpose, the fear of the Lord being put for that which leads or teaches

men to fear him, a sense which the expression is supposed to have in several

other places. See Ps. xxxiv. 12 (11), Prov. 29, ii. 5, xv. 33.—Standing

for ever, of perpetual obligation. Even Christ came not to destroy, but to

fulfil. See Mat. v. 17, 18. With the form of expression here compare

Ps. xxxiii. 11, cxii. 3.—Judgments are properly judicial decisions, but

are here put, as in Ps. xviii. 23 (22), for all God's requisitions. They are

truth (itself) may be a strong expression, meaning they are perfectly and

absolutely true; but as this would make the last clause little m