VOLUME I.




















                     T.& T. CLARK, 38, GEORGE STREET.






          Digitized by Ted Hildebrandt at Gordon College, Wenham, MA

                                             Spring, 2007







               THE PSALMS,






                               E. W. HENGSTENBERG,























                      T. & T. CLARK, 38, GEORGE STREET.


                    DUBLIN : JOHN ROBERTSON AND CO.









                         THE BOOK OF PSALMS.




                                  PSALM FIRST.


THE Psalmist begins by extolling the blessedness of the right-

eous, who is first described negatively, as turning away from the

counsels of the wicked, ver. 1, and then positively, as having his

thoughts engrossed with the Divine law, ver. 2. He proceeds

next to delineate under a pleasant image the prosperity which

attends him in all his ways, and places in contrast to this, the

destruction which is the inseparable concomitant of the wicked,

vers. 3, 4. He grounds upon these eternal principles the confi-

dence, that God will take out of the way whatever, in the course

of events, appears to be at variance with them; that by His judg-

ment He will overthrow the wicked, through whose malice the

righteous suffer, and free His Church, which must consist only

of the righteous, from their corrupting leaven; and, as it was

declared, in vers. 3 and 4, that the Lord interests Himself in the

righteous, and hence could not leave them helpless, while de-

struction is the fate of the wicked, the former must in conse-

quence be exalted above the latter, vers. 5, 6.

            According to this order, which alone secures to the "there-

fore" at the beginning of ver. 5, and the "for" in ver. 6, their

proper meaning, the Psalm falls into three strophes, each con-

sisting of two verses.

            The Psalm is primarily of an admonitory character. What

it says of the prosperity which attends the righteous, and the

perdition which befalls the wicked, cannot but incite to imitate

the one, and shun the other. In reference to this Luther re-

marks: "It is the practice of all men to inquire after blessed-

ness; and there is no man on earth who does not wish that it


2                         THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


might go well with him, and would not feel sorrow if it went ill

with him. But he, who speaks in this Psalm with a voice from

heaven, beats down and condemns everything which the thoughts

of men might excogitate and devise, and brings forth the only

true description of blessedness, of which the whole world knows

nothing, declaring that he only is blessed and prosperous whose

love and desire are directed to the law of the Lord. This is a

short description, one too that goes against all sense and reason,

especially against the reason of the worldly-wise and the high-

minded. As if he had said: Why are ye so busy seeking counsel?

why are ye ever in vain devising unprofitable things? There is

only one precious pearl; and he has found it, whose love and

desire is toward the law of the Lord, and who separates him-

self from the ungodly—all succeeds well with him. But who-

soever does not find this pearl, though he should seek with ever

so much pains and labour the way to blessedness, he shall never

find it."

            The Psalm has, besides, a consolatory character, which comes

clearly out in the last strophe; for it must tend to enliven the

hope of the righteous in the grace of God, and fill them with

confidence, that everything which now appears contrary to their

hope, shall come to an end; that the judgment of God shall

remove the stumbling-blocks cast in their way by the temporal

prosperity of the wicked, and the troubles thence accruing to


            The truth contained in this Psalm is as applicable to the

Church of the New Testament as to that of the Old. It remains

perpetually true, that sin is the destruction of any people, and

that salvation is the inseparable attendant of righteousness.

Whatever, in the course of things, seems to run counter to this,

will be obviated by the remark, that a righteous man, as the

author delineates him,—one whose desire is undividedly fixed

upon the law of God, and to whom it is "his thought by day

and his dream by night,"—is not to be found among the children

of men. Just because salvation is inseparably connected with

righteousness, an absolute fulfilment of the promise of the Psalm

cannot be expected. For even when the innermost bent of the

mind is stedfastly set upon righteousness, there still exist so

many weaknesses and sins, that sufferings of various kinds

are necessary, not less as deserved punishments, than as the

means of improvement, which, so far from subverting the


                                           PSALM I.                                  3


principles here laid down, serve to confirm them. The senti-

ment, that "everything he does, prospers," which is literally

true of the righteous, in so far as he is such, passes, in conse-

quence of the imperfect nature of our righteousness, which alone

can be charged with our loss of the reward that is promised to

the perfect, into the still richly consolatory truth, that "all

things work together for good to them who love God." Those

who are blinded by Pelagianism, who know not the limited na-

ture of human righteousness, and consequently want the only

key to the mystery of the cross, do apprehend the truth of the

main idea of the Psalm, but at the same time escape from it only

by surrendering themselves to a crude Dualism. It is unques-

tionable, say they, that the internal blessedness of life has no

other ground than genuine piety; but as for outward things,

"which depend upon natural influences, the relations and acci-

dents of life, and the violent movements of the populace," one

can make no lofty pretensions to them. Who can but feel that

natural influences and such like things are here placed in com-

plete independence of God, are virtually raised to the condition

of a second God, and that we are at once translated from a

Christian into a heathen sphere, in which latter, accident, fate,

Typhon, Achriman, play a distinguished part, and all on the

same ground, to wit, the want of that knowledge of sin, which

peculiarly belongs to revelation? Such masters must not take

it upon them to instruct the Psalmist, but must learn of him.

Whoever really believes in one true God, the Creator, Preserver,

and Governor of the world, cannot but accord with the doctrine

of the Psalmist. It is impossible to disparage in the least the

doctrine of recompense, without trenching closely upon the truth

of one God. Internal good, as the perfect, is contrasted with

external, as the imperfect. But where, in reality, is the man,

who enjoys complete inward blessedness—who, even though

labouring under the greatest delusion regarding his state, can

spend so much as one day in perfect satisfaction with himself?

Besides, is it not natural, that the external should go hand in

hand with the internal? And have we any reason, on account

of the troubles which befall us, to doubt the omnipotence and

righteousness of God, and the truth of that doctrine of Scrip-

ture, which pervades both economies, and appears in every book

from Genesis to Revelation, that God will recompense to every

one according to his works? Instead of running into such


4                     THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


mournful aberrations, it behoves every one, when he reads what

the Psalmist says of the righteous—"And he shall be like

a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his

fruit in his season, his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever

he doeth shall prosper"—and finds that his own condition pre-

sents a melancholy contrast to what is here described, to turn

back his eye upon the first and second verses, and inquire

whether that which is there affirmed of the righteous will apply

to him; and if he finds it to be otherwise, then should he smite

upon his breast, and cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner,"

and thereafter strive with all earnestness to realize the pattern

there delineated, by employing the means which God has ap-

pointed for the purpose.

            The subject of the Psalm is, as might be judged from the

previous remarks, quite general, and it is an error in several

expositors to refer it to particular times and persons. There is

great probability in the opinion of those, who suppose with

Calvin, that this Psalm, originally occupying another position,

was placed by the collector of the Psalms, as an introduction to

the whole. Basilius calls it a "short preface" to the Psalms; and

that this view is of great antiquity, may be gathered from Acts

xiii. 33, where Paul, according to the reading agreed upon by the

most approved critics (Erasmus, Mill, Bengel, Griesbach, etc.),

quotes as the first Psalm that which, in our collection, occupies

the second place. If the first was considered only as a sort of

introductory preface, the numbering would begin with the one

following, as, indeed, is the case in some manuscripts. The

matter of the Psalm is admirably suited to this application of

it. "The collector of these songs," says Amyrald, "seems to

have carefully placed before the eye of his readers, at the very

threshold, the aim at which the actions of men should, as so

many arrows, be directed." The position of the Psalm at the

beginning appears peculiarly suitable, if, along with its admoni-

tory tendency, the consolatory is also brought prominently out.

In the latter respect, it may be regarded as in fact a short corn-

pend of the main subject of the Psalms. That God has ap-

pointed salvation to the righteous, perdition to the wicked—this

is the great truth, with which the sacred bards grapple amid

whatever painful experiences of life apparently indicate the re-

verse. The supposition is also favoured, or rather seems to be

demanded, by the circumstance, that the Psalm has no super-


                                      PSALM I.                                           5


scription. As from Psalm third a long series of Psalms follows,

with titles ascribing them to David, it cannot be doubted that

the collectors intended to open the collection therewith. So that

there must have been a particular reason for making our Psalm

an exception from the general rule, and it is scarcely possible

to imagine any other than the one already mentioned.

            It is justly remarked, however, by Koester, that the suppo-

sition in question by no means requires us to hold that the

Psalm is a late production, and probably composed by the col-

lector himself. The simplicity and freshness which characterize

it are against this. That it must have been composed, at any

rate, before Jeremiah, is evident from his imitation of it. A

more determinate conclusion regarding the time of its composi-

tion, can only, since the Psalm itself furnishes no data, be de-

rived from ascertaining its relation to Psalm second.

            It has often been maintained, that the two Psalms form but

one whole,1 and this opinion has exercised considerable influence

upon various manuscripts (De Rossi mentions seven, and even

Origen in his Hexapla by Montfaucon, p. 475, speaks of having

seen one in his day). But this view is obviously untenable.

Each of the Psalms forms a separate and complete whole by

itself. Still, several appearances present themselves, which cer-

tainly point to a close relation between the two. First of all,

there is the remarkable circumstance, that Psalm second stands

in this place, at the head of a collection, to which, properly, only

such Psalms belonged as bore the name of David in their super-

scription. We can hardly explain this by any other reason than

its inseparable connection with the first Psalm, which being

placed, for the reason above given, at the commencement, re-

quired the second to follow immediately after. There is, further,

a certain outward resemblance between them: the number of

verses in Psalm second is precisely the double of those in the

first; and in both Psalms there is a marked and singularly

regular construction of strophes, the first Psalm falling into

three strophes of two verses, and the second into four strophes

of three. In regard to the subject, the first is admirably fitted

to be an introduction to the second, for which it lays a general

foundation.  What is said in the first Psalm generally, of the

different taste and destiny of the righteous and the wicked, the


            1 See the opinions of the Jews and the Fathers in Wetstein, on Acts

xiii. 33.


6                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


second repeats with a special application to the Messiah and His

adversaries. The first Psalm closed with the announcement of

judgment against the wicked, and at that point the second

begins. On the other hand, the latter Psalm concludes with a

benediction, as the former had commenced with it—compare

"blessed is the man," with "blessed are all they that put their

trust in Him." The expression in Psalm ii. 12, "Ye shall perish

in your way," remarkably coincides with that in Psalm i. 6,

"The way of the ungodly shall perish." Finally, the words,

"The nations meditate vain things" in Psalm second, acquire

additional force, if viewed as a contrast to the meditation of the

righteous on the law of the Lord, mentioned in the first Psalm.

            These circumstances are by no means satisfactorily ex-

plained and accounted for, on the supposition that the collector

had joined the second Psalm to the first, from certain points of

connection happening to exist between them; and nothing

remains for us but the conclusion, that both Psalms were com-

posed by the same author, and were meant by him as different

parts of one whole. This conclusion may be the more readily

embraced, as we have elsewhere undoubted specimens of such

pairs of Psalms (as Psalm ix. and x, xiv. and xv,     xlii. and xliii.),

and as similar things are not awanting in Christian poets, for

example, Richter's two poems, "It is not difficult to be a Chris-

tian," and "It is hard to be a Christian."

            Now, as there are important grounds for ascribing the

second Psalm to David, we should be entitled to regard him as

the author also of the first; nor can any solid objection be  

urged against this conclusion. In its noble simplicity, its quiet

but still extremely spirited character, it presents a close resem-

blance to other Psalms, of which David was unquestionably the

penman, and in particular to the xv. xxiii. viii. Psalms.

            Ver. I. Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the

ungodly, and stands not in the way of sinners, and sits not in the

seat of the scornful. That the righteous should first be de-

scribed negatively, has its ground in the proneness of human

nature to what is evil. From the same ground arises the pre-

dominantly negative form of the decalogue. As there the

thought of something, to which our corrupt heart is inclined,

is everywhere forced on our notice, so also is it here. hcf never

signifies what Stier and Hitzig here understand by it, disposi-

tion, spirit, but always counsel, as in Job xxi. 16, xxii. 18.


                                  PSALM I. VER. 1.                                    7


"The counsel of a man" signifies, in some passages, the counsel

given by him; for the most part, however, it is the counsel

which he adopts himself—his plans and resolutions. This lat-

ter is invariably the meaning of the expression, "to walk in

any one's counsel," which uniformly means, "to adopt his

plans, to share the same designs,"—comp. 2 Chron. xxii. 5,

where "walked after their counsel," corresponds to, "he walked

in the ways of the house of Ahab," ver. 3, and "he did evil in

the sight of the Lord like the house of Ahab," ver. 4; only with

this distinction, indicated by the "also" in ver. 5, and the clause

following, "and went with Jehoram the son of Ahab to war,"

that while there a general agreement in thought and action is

spoken of, here it is referred to particular plans and undertak-.

ings. In Micah vi. 16, to "walk in one's counsels," is taken

as parallel with "observing one's statutes and doing one's

works." In Psalm lxxxi. 12, "they walked in their own coun-

sels," means, they walked in the counsels they themselves took,

in the plans they themselves devised. Consequently, the expo-

sition of Gesenius and others, who render the first clause of our

Psalm: "who lives not according to the counsels of the un-

godly," must be abandoned, and this the rather, that in what

follows, the discourse is not of a dependence upon the influence

of the wicked, but of one's personally belonging to them. To

walk in the counsel of the wicked, is to occupy oneself with

their purposes, their worthless projects.

            Olshausen, in his emendations on the Old Testament, would

read tdf for tcf, "in the company or band of the ungodly."

He appeals to the strong parallelism, which the author of this

Psalm employs, and, indeed, pre-eminently in this first verse.

The parallels here fall into three members: who walks not,

stands not, sits not. In each member there is a preterite, as

predicate, with the preposition b following it, a noun as its com-

plement, and a completely appropriate dependent genitive.

Two of the nouns which serve to limit the preposition, to wit,

way and seat, may be local designations, as then they would

most fitly accord with the sense of the particular verbs. In the

first noun alone, no such local designation is to be found.

Rightly viewed, the word tcf has of course this meaning. The

proposed change is certainly needed to make out this significa-

tion. For the counsel undoubtedly refers to the spiritual by-

way, into which he wanders, who follows it. But the second


8                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


term, the way of sinners, must also be spiritually understood.

To speak of standing in their way can only refer to their man-

ner of acting,—to follow with them the same moral paths, or

to act like them.  bwvm, "the seat," is the only term that im-

plies an external locality. The difference is, however, of little

moment, since here also the outward companionship comes into

view, only as the result of an internal agreement. If we ex-

amine the matter more closely, it will be found that the altera-

tion proposed is not only quite unnecessary, but also unsuitable.

For tdf, is excluded on the very ground which Olshausen

presses against tcf. According to the analogy of jrdb and

bwvmb, the preposition b must admit of being rendered by on;

it must designate the sphere in which the conduct is exhibited.

Now, the expression: "on the counsel," is quite suitable; but

the expression: "on the company," is senseless.

            According to the common acceptation, bwvm must mean here,

not "seat," but "session." Of the few passages, however, which

are brought forward in support of this meaning, Psalm cvii. 32,

so far from requiring, does not even admit of it. If the transla-

tion be adopted: "in the session (assembly) of the elders they

shall praise Him," we must decide on adopting the perfectly

groundless supposition, that the elders had instituted separate

meetings for the praise of God, apart from the rest of the

people. None but general religious assemblies are known in

history. If it be rendered: "upon the seat, or the bench of

the elders," then everything will be in order; "they shall

extol Him in the congregation of the people, and praise Him

on the bench of the elders," namely, first the whole, and then

the most distinguished part thereof. The only meaning which

is certain, is here also quite suitable. To sit in the seat of

the scorners, is, in other words, to sit as scorners, just as, in the

preceding clauses, the discourse was of such as stood, not beside

sinners, but among them, who not merely follow, but also cherish

for themselves the counsels of ungodly men. Luther has given

the meaning correctly: "nor sits where the scorners sit." It

is, perhaps, not an accidental thing, that the attitude of sitting

is distinctively ascribed to the scorners. A mocking disposition

unfolds itself chiefly in the company of those who are like-

minded, who are inflamed with wine and intoxicating drink,

which we elsewhere find mentioned in connection with mockers,

—as in Isa. v. and Prov. xx. 1, where wine itself is called a


                                PSALM I. VER. 1.                                9


mocker. So, in reference to social meetings, the act of sitting

is frequently alluded to; for example, in Jer. xv. 17, "I sat

not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced;" in Psalm

1. 20, "Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother, thou slan-

derest thine own mother's son;" Psalm lxix. 12, "They that sit

in the gate speak against me, and I am the song of the drunk-

ards." It is proper to add, however, that in Psalm xxvi. 4, 5,

sitting is attributed to men of deceit, and evil-doers.

            Cle (scorner), marks one "who scoffs at God, His law and

ordinances, His judgment and His people. In Prov. ix. 7, 8,

the scorner is placed in opposition to the wise, whose heart is

filled with holy reverence toward God and Divine things. In

opposition to De Wette, who would here exclude the strictly

religious scoffers, we can point to such passages as Isa. v. 19,

"They say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we

may see it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw

nigh and come, that we may know it;" Jer. xvii. 15, "Behold,

they say unto me, Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come

now,"—where the words of such scoffers are expressly given.

Religious mockery is as old as the Fall. The admonition in

2 Peter iii. 3, regarding scoffers, as appears to me, has some re-

spect to the passage before us.

            Men have often sought to discover a climax in the verse.

But there is no foundation for this, either in the nouns or in

the verbs. In reference to the former, it was already remarked

by Venema, that "they distinguish men as exhibiting different

appearances, rather than different grades of sin." The fwr,

from fwr, denotes in Arabic, magna cupiditate et concupiscentia

fuit, and in Syriac, perturbatus es animo; hence it properly

signifies "the passionate, the restless man" (Isa. lvii. 20, "The

wicked are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest"); it is de-

scriptive of the wicked, in respect to their internal state, their

violent commotions within, the disquietude, springing from sin-

ful desires, which constantly impels them to fresh misdeeds.

The word MyxFH, "sinners," designates the same persons in re-

spect to the lengthened series of sinful acts which proceed from

them. Finally, the word Mycl, "scornful," brings into view a

peculiarly venomous operation and fruit of evil. But in the  

verbs we can the less conceive of a climactic gradation being

intended, as Stier's assumption, that the middle verb dmf signi-

fies not, to stand, but to continue, to persevere, destroys the


10                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


evidently intentioned combination of the three bodily states of

waking men. The verse simply declares in the most expressive

manner possible, the absence of all fellowship with sin.

            Ver. 2. The fellowship with unrighteousness, which the

godly man zealously shuns, is here placed in opposition to God

and His law, which he zealously seeks. But his delight is in the

law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.

hrvt never has the general signification often ascribed to it here

by expositors—doctrine; but always the more special sense of

law. That this is the import here, is perfectly obvious from

a comparison of the parallel passages, which show also, that the

law meant here, is that, written, according to Psalm xl. 8, in

the volume of the book or roll, called the law of Moses, which

is always to be understood wherever the law is spoken of in the

Psalms. The writer does not mean the natural law spoken of

in Isaiah xxiv. 5, and throughout the entire book of Job, and

which, being darkened and disfigured by sin, could be but little

regarded and seldom mentioned by those who walk in the clear

light of revelation. These parallel passages are, Deut. vi. 6, 7,

where Moses says to the people: "And these words, which I

command thee this day, shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt

teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them,"

etc. (xi. 18 ff.); and Joshua i. 8, where the angel says to him:

"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but

thou shalt meditate therein clay and night, that thou mayest

observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then

thou shalt make thy way prosperous." This last manifestly

stands in a very near relation to ours, not merely from the

meditation spoken of, but also from the prosperity connected

with it. Just as what the angel speaks to Joshua rests on the

ground of those passages of the Pentateuch, and points to it

(comp. also Deut. xvii. 19, which contains a like word of ex-

hortation to the future king of Israel); so the author of our

Psalm points to the exhortation addressed to Joshua, who stood

forth there as a worthy type of the fulfilment of what is here

required, and in whose experience, the reward here promised

found a sure guarantee for its realization. How De Wette

could think that the love and study of the law being enjoined,

is a proof of the later production of the Psalm, can scarcely be

imagined, since a profound investigation into the nature of the

law, the converting of it into juice and blood, might be proved


                                       PSALM I. VER. 2.                                  11


by many passages to have been even held by believers of the

Old Testament, to be the highest end of their life. How much

David fulfilled this condition, how intimate a knowledge he had

of the law, even in its smallest particulars, and how constantly

it formed the centre of his thoughts and feelings, the delight of

his heart, will be placed beyond all doubt, by this exposition.

Indeed, the fifteenth Psalm, which the dullest critic must ascribe

to David, may serve, notwithstanding its limited compass, for

ample proof; for it contains close and continued verbal re-

ferences to the Pentateuch. Comp. also Psalm xix. Besides,

what is here meant, is not that habit of speculating and laborious

trifling upon the law which was quite foreign to the practical

turn of the Old Testament saints, but a meditation referring

directly to the walk and conduct. This follows, as is well re-

marked by Claus, from the whole context, which is throughout

practical. The subject in ver. 1 is, " fellowship with sin:" in  

vers. 3-6, "the different portions of the righteous and the wicked."

How, in such a connection, could ver. 2 refer to the theoretical

study of the law, and not rather to the occupation of the heart

with the subject and matter of the Divine Word?  To this re-

sult we are led also by a comparison of the parallel passages,

in which the reading and meditating are expressly mentioned

as means to the keeping and doing. Luther remarks on the

words, "His delight is the law of the Lord:" "The prophet

does not speak here of such an inclination, or liking as philo-

sophers and modern theologians talk of, but of a simple and pure

pleasure of heart, and a particular desire toward the law of

God, which possesses him whom this Psalm pronounces blessed,

and who neither seeks what the law promises, nor fears what it

threatens, but feels that the law itself is a holy, righteous, and

good thing. Therefore, it is not merely a love for the law, but

such a sweet pleasure and delight in it, as the world and its

princes can neither prevent nor take away by prosperous or

adverse circumstances, nay, which shines triumphantly forth

through poverty, reproach, the cross, death, and hell; for such

desire shows itself the most in necessities and distresses, in ad-

versity and persecution. Now from all this it seems manifest,

that this Psalm (unless it should be understood of Christ alone)

is nothing else than a mirror and goal, toward which a truly

pious and blessed man must strive and labour; for in this life

there is no one, who is not conscious of lacking to some extent

12                         THE BOOK OP PSALMS.


this delight in the law of the Lord, by reason of the lust and the

law in his members, which decidedly and wholly oppose this

law of God; as St Paul complains, in Rom. vii. 22, 23, saying:

I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see

another law in my members, warring against the law of my

mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is

in my members."

            It is a great thing, therefore, to have one's delight in the

law of the Lord. The natural man, even when the conscious-

ness of the holiness of the law is awakened in him, and he

anxiously strives to satisfy it, never gets beyond the region of

fear. Even the regenerate, although delight in the law pre-

dominates in them, yet have constantly to struggle with their

sinful propensities. Perfect delight in the law presupposes a

perfect union of the human with the Divine will, perfect ex-

tirpation of sin—for the measure of sin is the measure of dis-  

like to the law—perfect holiness. And since this is not to be

found in the present life, what man can complain if he does not

experience a perfect fulfilment of the saying, "Everything he

doeth prospers?" Christ alone, who was the only righteous

one on earth, could have laid claim to such a fulfilment: He,

however, freely renounced it and bore the cross, when He might.

well have sought to rejoice. Those who are compelled to suffer,

receive a testimony that they are sinful; and the fact, that none

experience uniform prosperity, is a declaration on the part of

God, that there is sin still dwelling even in His saints.

            On the "day and night," J. H. Michaelis remarks: "Inde-

fesso studio, ut cessante etiam actu, nunquam tamen cesset pins

affectus." Instead of meditating, Luther has speaking; but he

remarks at the same time that "the speaking here meant, is

not the mere utterance of the lips, which even hypocrites are

capable of, but such speaking as labours to express in words the

feelings of the heart." The construction with b, however (yet,

compare rbd with b in Dent. vi. 7), and especially the mention

of night, recommends the first signification. Such meditation

day and night, he only practises who, as Luther puts it, "has,

through desire, become one cake with the word of God; as,

indeed, love is used to reduce him who loves, and that which

is loved, to one substance."—The construction of the hgh with

b, implies, that the person who meditates, loses himself in his



                                  PSALM I. VER. 3.                              13


            Ver. 3. And he is like a tree planted by the rivers of water,

that brings fort -his fruit in his season, and whose leaf does not

wither, and whatsoever he does he prosperously executes. The v,

and, is not to be translated for. For the verse does not contain

the reason, but the carrying out of the yrwx. The meaning

was perceived quite correctly by Luther: "After the prophet

has described, in vers. 1 and 2, the man who is blessed before

God, and painted him in proper colours, he goes on here to de-

scribe him still further, by means of a very beautiful image."

lf, by, properly upon. A thing is said to be upon one, if it

projects over, or generally rises higher. Hence this preposi-

tion, which in common use is rendered by, beside, when the

discourse is of a lower object, in juxtaposition with a higher,

is very frequently employed in reference to streams, springs,

and seas.—The comparison of a prosperous man to a tree

planted beside a river, which is peculiarly appropriate in the

arid regions of the East, occurs also in Jer. xvii. 8. There,

however, it is only the imitation and further extension of our

passage.1 Nothing but the greatest prejudice could have in-

verted the relation of these two passages to each other. The

sentence in Jeremiah has all the appearance of a commentary

or paraphrase. In Psalm xcii. 12, "The righteous shall flourish

like the palm tree," the particular is put instead of the general.

With the expression "in his season," compare that in Mark

xi. 13, "for it was not the time of figs." Most of the older ex-

positors refer the words, "bringeth forth his fruit," of good

works; but the connection shows, that fruitfulness here is con-

sidered merely as a sign of joyful prosperity. The figure was

embodied in an appropriate symbolical transaction by Christ,

when He cursed the fig tree. Because the Jewish people did

not answer the conditions laid down in vers. 1 and 2, they could

no longer be as a tree yielding its fruit in its season: to the

tree, therefore, by which the nation was represented, the evil

word was spoken, "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward

for ever," Matt. xxi. 19. In the words: "Whatsoever he doeth

he successfully accomplisheth," the author returns from the

image to the object, explaining the former. The word Hylch is

to be taken here, not as many expositors do, in an intransitive

sense, for then we should have expected vl, but transitively, to


            1 See Küper Jerem. libr. sacr. interp. p. 162.


14                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


accomplish successfully; so generally; see, for example, 2 Chron.

vii. 11. The intransitive signification, when more closely con-

sidered, does not occur even in the single passage which Winer

has referred to as an example of it, Judges xviii. 5. The hiphil

everywhere retains its own meaning. There appears to be an

allusion to Gen. xxxix. 3, 4, where the same expressions are

used of Joseph, whose prosperous condition was a pledge of like

prosperity to those who resemble him in disposition.

            Ver. 4. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff, which

the wind drives away. Luther: "When Scripture speaks of

the ungodly, take heed not to fancy, as the ungodly are prone to

do, that it refers to Jews and heathens, or to any other persons

whatever, but do thou thyself shudder before this word, as re-

specting and concerning also thee. For an upright and godly

man fears and trembles before every word of God." For the

understanding of the figure, to which John the Baptist makes

reference in Matt. iii. 12, as also to that of the tree in ver. 10

(which occurs moreover in Job xxi. 18), we may remark, that,

in the East, the threshing-floors are placed upon heights. They

throw aloft the corn that has been threshed, until the wind has

driven the chaff away.

            Ver. 5. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment.

The Nk lf, therefore, occasions great difficulty to those who fail in

perceiving aright the relation between vers. 5, 6, and 3, 4. Some,

as Claus, have been led thereby to adopt instead, the meaning,

because, which the phrase in the original is alleged frequently

to have. That the ungodly stand not in the judgment, they

consider to be the reason why, according to ver. 4, they fly away

as the chaff. But it has already been proved by Winer, what

is indeed self-evident, that Nk lf never bears this meaning, which

is precisely the reverse of its usual one; that it always indicates

the consequence, never the cause. Those who adopt the common

signification, cannot properly explain how that should be here

described as a consequence flowing from the statement in the

preceding verse, which appears to be simply co-ordinate with it.

Amyrald alone, of all expositors, seems to have got upon the right

track, and thus paraphrases: "But although the providence of

God, whose ways are sometimes unsearchable, does not always

make so remarkable a distinction between those two kinds of

men, still the future life (he erroneously understands by the judg-

ment, only the final judgment) shall so distinguish them, that


                                    PSALM I. VER. 5.                              15


no one shall any longer be able to doubt who they are that fol-

lowed the path of true prosperity." In vers. 3 and 4, the idea

expressed was one which holds for all times in respect to the lots

of the righteous and the wicked. And from this truth, which can

never be a powerless and quiescent one, is here derived its im-

pending realization: so certain as salvation is to the righteous,

and perdition to the wicked, the judgment must overthrow and

set aside the latter, and exalt the former to the enjoyment of

the felicity destined for them. That the therefore refers, not

simply to ver. 4, but also to ver. 3, is clear from ver. 6, where

the subject of both verses is resumed, and is advanced as the

ground of what is said in ver. 5. When the narrow view of

the therefore is adopted, it is impossible to tell what to do with

the first clause of ver. 6, "for the Lord knoweth the way of the

righteous," and we are driven to the interpolation of some such

word as only or indeed. The universality of the conclusion, and

its reference to both the classes of men with which the Psalm

is occupied, are quite lost. Ver. 5 forms quite a suitable deduc-

tion from vers. 3 and 4, if we only consider that judgment against

the wicked involves also the deliverance of the righteous who

had suffered under their oppressions and annoyances. Indeed,

ver. 6 requires us to view it in that as it can only then

form a suitable continuation.

            The whole context shows, that by the judgment we are to

understand God's; in particular, it appears from the following

verse, where the fact that the ungodly shall not stand in the

judgment, is founded on the truth that the Lord knoweth the

way of the righteous. The reference to a human judgment,

which has again been lately maintained by Hitzig, is alto-

gether objectionable. De Wette narrows the expression too

much, when he would understand it only of general searching,

theocratic judgments. Ewald justly refers the words to the

process of the Divine righteousness, which is perpetually ad-

vancing, though not every moment visible. All manifestations

of punitive righteousness are comprehended in it. "For God

will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing,

whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Eccl. xii. 14.

            And sinners (shall not stand) in the congregation of the right-

eous; i. e. those who, by turning away their hearts from God,

have internally separated themselves from the kingdom of God,

shall also be outwardly expelled by a righteous act of judgment.


16                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


The external church or community can only for a time be dif-

ferent from the company or congregation of the righteous. For

God will take care that it shall be purified from the leaven of

the ungodly, which, however, will not be fully accomplished before

the close of this present world. That the congregation of God,

in its true idea, is the congregation of the righteous, embodies

a prophecy of the excision and overthrow of sinners: An allu-

sion is kept up through the whole verse to the expression used

in the Pentateuch, regarding the transgressors of the Divine law,

"That soul shall be cut off from his people," that is, it would

be ipso facto separated from the community of God; and the

declaration is commonly followed by an announcement of the

particular manner in which the judgment, already pronounced,

should be outwardly executed, or would be executed by God.

We understand, therefore, the community or congregation of

the righteous to be a designation of the whole covenant-people,

according to its idea, in reference to which the Israelites are

elsewhere (for example, Numb. xxiii. 10, Ps. cxi. 1) called

Myrwy, upright, or even holy (comp. "Ye shall be holy, for I

am holy," Lev. xix. 2; Numb. xvi. 3). That this idea shall

one day be fully realized, is intimated by Isaiah in ch. ix. 9,

liv. 13. hdf, congregation, is a standing designation of the whole

community of Israel (see Gesen. Thes. on the word). The whole

people are referred to in the parallel passage, Ezek. xiii. 9, "And

My hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that

divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of My people,

neither shall they be written in the writing (book) of the house

of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel."

Accordingly, "sinners in the congregation of the righteous"

may be regarded as equivalent to "sinners in the congregation

of Israel," it being the congregation of the righteous. An ex-

ample of this reaction of the idea against a state of things at

variance therewith, is to be found in the overthrow of the com-

pany of Korah, of whom it is said, Numb. xvi. 33, "They

perished from among the congregation." Then, also, in the fate

of Saul and his party. The more careless men are in wielding

the discipline of the Church, the more vigorously does God

work. De Wette and others understand by the righteous, the

elite, the fortunate citizens of the theocratic kingdom who stand

the test. But this is inadmissible, for the one reason, that the

words, "they shall not stand," that is, "they shall not remain,


                                PSALM I. VER. 6.                                17


among the righteous," presuppose that they had belonged to

the community of the righteous up to the judgment, which was

to throw them off, like morbid matter from the body in the crisis

of a disease.

            Ver. 6. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the

way of the ungodly shall perish. According to various exposi-

tors, the two members of the verse do not correspond exactly,

and something must be supplied in each. God knows the way

of the righteous, and therefore they cannot fail to be prosperous;

He knows the way of the wicked, and therefore they cannot fail

to perish. But this exposition is not to be approved. The figure

of "the way" is used in the Psalms in two senses, first of the

conduct, and then of the portion, the lot or destiny. The latter

signification is by far the most common; comp. Psalm xxxvii.

5, 18, 23; Isa. xl. 27. Now, according to the above exposition,

the first signification must be taken; but the second clause

shows that the other ought to be preferred. The perishing

applies only to the circumstances of the wicked. They who

would refer it to the moral walk, must torture the word with

arbitrary meanings (dbx always means "to perish"), or cloak the

difficulty by periphrases which introduce new thoughts. And

where the parallelism is so marked, the way must be taken in

the same sense in the first clause. For understanding it of

the affairs, the corresponding passage in Psalm ii. 12 may be

regarded as a confirmation. Indeed, it would never have been

viewed otherwise, if only the relation between this verse and

verses 3 and 4 had been rightly perceived, in which the things

befalling the righteous and the wicked are alone discoursed of:

the righteous are prosperous, the wicked are unprosperous;

therefore the wicked shall not stand, etc. As here it is said of

the way of the wicked, that it perishes, so of his hope, in Job

viii. 13; Prov. x. 28. The knowing here involves blessing, as

its necessary consequence. If the way of the righteous, their

lot, is known by God as the omniscient, it cannot but be blessed

by Him as the righteous. Hence there is no necessity, in order

to preserve the parallelism, which exists otherwise, to explain

fdy by "curae cordique habere," a meaning which it properly

never has. It is enough if only God is not shut up in the

heavens with His knowledge; the rest flows spontaneously from

His nature, and needs not to be specially mentioned. How little

the fdy in such connections loses, or even modifies its common


18                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


signification, appears from the parallel passage, Psalm xxxi.

"Thou considerest my trouble, Thou knowest my soul in adver-

sities," where the knowing is parallel with considering or seeing.

It is justly remarked by Ewald, that the issue in vers. 5 and 6 is

truly prophetical, perpetually in force, and consequently descrip-

tive of what is to be for ever expected and hoped for in the

course of the world. To limit it to peculiarly theocratic affairs,

is as certainly false as God's righteousness which is inherent in

His nature, and consequently the moral order of the world, is

unalterable. Luther: "At the close of this Psalm, I would

admonish, as did also many holy fathers like Athanasius and

Augustine, that we do not simply read or sing the Psalms, as if

they did not concern us; but let us read and sing them for

the purpose of being improved by them, of having our faith

strengthened, and our hearts comforted amid all sort of neces-

sities. For the Psalter is nothing else than a school and exercise

for our heart and mind, to the end, that we may have our

thoughts and inclinations turned into the same channel. So

that he reads the Psalter without spirit, who reads it without

understanding and faith."


                                              PSALM II.


            The Psalmist sees with wonder, vers. 1-3, many nations and

their kings rise against Jehovah and His Anointed, their right-

ful King. He then describes the manner in which Jehovah

carries Himself toward this undertaking,—how He first laughs

at, then terrifies them with an indignant speech, and declares their

attempt to be in vain, because they revolt against Him, whom

He Himself has set up as His King. In vers. 7-9, the Anointed

proclaims,—detailing at length, what the Lord had briefly

thrown out against the insurgents,—that the Lord had given

Him, as His Son, all the nations and kingdoms of the earth for a

possession, and along with these, power and authority to punish

those who rebelled against Him. The Psalmist finally turns, vers.

10-12, to the kings, and admonishes them to yield a lowly sub-

mission to the anointed King and Son of God, who is as rich

in mercy towards those that trust in Him, as in destruction to-

ward those that rise up against Him. In few Psalms is the

strophe-arrangement so marked as in this. One perceives at a


                                     PSALM II.                                           19


glance, that the whole falls into four strophes of three members

each. The verses, again, generally consist of two members;

the last verse only has four, for the purpose of securing a full-

toned conclusion.

            There are the clearest grounds for asserting, that by the

King, the Anointed, or Son of God, no other can be understood

than the Messias. It is generally admitted, that this exposition

was the prevailing one among the older Jews, and that in later

times they were led to abandon it only for polemical reasons

against the Christians. In support of this position may be urged,

not only the express declaration of Jarchi and a considerable

number of passages in the writings of the older Jews, in which

the Messianic sense still exists, and which may be found in those

adduced by Venema in his Introduction to this Psalm, but also

the fact, that two names of the Messias which were current in

the time of Christ,—the name of Messias itself, the Anointed,

and the name, Son of God, used by Nathanael in his conversa-

tion with Christ, John i. 49, and also by the high-priest in

Matt. xxvi. 63,—owed their origin to this Psalm in its Messianic

meaning. The former is applied to the coming Saviour only in

another passage, Dan. ix. 25, the latter in this Psalm alone.

But though this is certainly a remarkable fact, we could not re-

gard it as, by itself, constituting a ground for the interpretation

in question. Neither would we rest upon the circumstance, that

the New Testament, in a series of passages, refers this Psalm to

Christ (it is so by the assembled Apostles in Acts iv. 25, 26; by

Paul. in Acts xiii. 33, as also in Hebrews i. 5, v. 5; while the 

same Messianic sense lies at the basis of the plain allusions to

the Psalm which occur in Rev. ii. 27, xii.. 5, xix. 15). Inas-

much as typical Messianic Psalms are not unfrequently in the

New Testament referred to Christ, and the Psalm really con-

tains an indirect prophecy respecting Him, even though it be

primarily referred to some individual living under the Old Cove-

nant, the two contending interpretations are not so far asunder

from each other as at first view they might seem; and, conse-

quently, we cannot build with perfect confidence upon those

declarations, though undoubtedly the fact, that the authors of

the New Testament followed the direct Messianic view, renders

it very probable that it was the prevailing one among their con-

temporaries. But the proper proof we base on internal grounds

alone, in regard to which we remark at the outset, that we can


20                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


have no interest in deceiving ourselves about their meaning,

since, in our opinion, the Messianic kernel of the Psalm, and

its application to the present, would remain quite unaffected,

even though the internal grounds should speak for its referring

primarily, for example, to David. What assured him of the fruit-

lessness of the revolt of the peoples whom the Lord had subjected

to him, to wit, his Divine installation, and the nearness of his

relation to God, must be applicable with far higher force to

Christ's relation to His rebellious subjects. But the internal

grounds speak so loudly and so decidedly for the Messianic

sense, that we can only ascribe the disinclination manifested

towards it to causes, the investigation of which is foreign to our

present purpose.

            Many traits present themselves in our Psalm which are ap-

plicable to no other person than Messiah. Superhuman dignity

is attributed to the subject of the Psalm in ver. 12, where the

revolters are admonished to submit themselves, in fear and hu-

mility, to their King, since His opponents shall be destroyed by

His severe indignation, while those who put their trust in Him

shall be made blessed. The remark of Venema: "Ira regis eo

modo metuenda proponitur, v. 12, qui creaturm minus convenit

et fiducia in eo ponenda commendatur ibidem, quae a creatura

abhorret," is too well grounded to be capable of being rebutted,

as the fruitlessness of all attempts to refer to the Lord, what is

there said of His Anointed, abundantly shows. Against every

other person but Messiah speaks also ver. 12, where the King is

distinctly called the Son of God, and vers. 6, 7, where the names

"His King," and "His Anointed," are given Him in a sense which

implies His dominion over the whole earth. Vers. 1-3, and vers.

8-10, are decisive against all earthly monarchs; for they declare

that the people and kings of the whole earth are given to be the

possession of this King, and that they strive in vain to shake off

His yoke. The extent of His kingdom is here described to be

what the Messiah's kingdom is always described in those passages

which are generally admitted to refer to Him;—comp., for ex-

ample, Zech. ix. 10; Isa. ii. 2; Mic. iv. 1. De Wette en-

deavours to support himself here, appealing to the pretended

liking of the Hebrew poets for hyperbole, and the disposition

of the enthusiastic members of the theocracy to conceive magni-

ficent hopes." But in all circumstances, hyperbole has its limits,

and exaggeration could scarcely, in this case, have referred to


                                       PSALM II.                                     21


pictures of the present, but only to the promises of the future.

Hofman, in his work on Prophecy and its Fulfilment, p. 160,  

thinks that the words, "Ask of Me, and I will give thee the 

heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the

earth for a possession," mean no more than that "whatever

people, whatever distant lands he desires to have for a posses-

sion, these Jehovah would subject to him." But David was

modest; he only besought for himself some small territories in

the neighbourhood of Canaan. Besides, it is overlooked, that

this Divine appointment and plenipotence are held out against

the kings of the earth, who have revolted against the King, their

rightful Lord; and that, on the same ground, the judges of the

earth, in ver. 10, are admonished to return to their allegiance to

their proper King. And then, where shall we find in the history,

even the smallest intimation that the Lord made such an offer to

David, as if it had been in his option to decide whether he would

be ruler over the whole world? Not even the sovereignty of a

single people was offered in that manner to David. He never

waged a war of conquest; he merely defended himself against

hostile attacks. It is further to be regarded as conclusive against

an earthly king, that the revolt here mentioned against the Son,

and the Anointed of Jehovah, is so completely represented as a 

revolt against Jehovah Himself, that the nations are exhorted

to yield themselves to Him with humility and reverence. It

would be quite a different thing if enemies who aimed at the

overthrow of the kingdom of God were spoken of; the enemies,

who stand forth here, have no other end in view than to free

themselves from the yoke of the king. Although we would not

absolutely maintain the impossibility of such a view, there are

still no parallel passages to show that any such design would

have been regarded as a revolt against Jehovah. The validity of

this ground, which was already advanced in the first part of my

Christology, is admitted by Hitzig. He denies still more de-

cidedly than we would be disposed to do, that heathen nations,

which had been subdued by the people of God, might simply on

that account be regarded as Jehovah's subjects, and that every

attempt to regain their freedom would be a revolt against

Jehovah. To serve a deity, says he, is either to profess a re-

ligion, or at least includes this, and presupposes it,—the Moab-

ites served David, 2 Sam. viii. 2, not God. On this account,

though he will still not declare himself for the Messianic inter-


22                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


pretation, which reconciles all difficulties, he has felt himself

obliged to ascribe the composition of the Psalm to the time of

the Maccabees, when the attempt was first made to incorporate

vanquished heathens with the people of God, by subjecting them

to the rite of circumcision,—a supposition in which he will

certainly have no followers. Finally, the Messianic sense is

supported by the same grounds which prove that of Ps. xlv.

lxxii. cx., which so remarkably harmonize with the Psalm now

under consideration, that, as far as the Messiah is concerned,

they must stand or fall together. These grounds are so con-

vincing, that we find here among the defenders of the Messianic

interpretation many even of those whose theological sentiments

must have disposed them rather to adopt a different view,—in

particular, Eichhorn, Bertholdt, Rosenmüller, Koester. Sack,

also, in his Apolog., and Umbreit in his Erbauung a. d. Psalter,

p. 141, have advocated the same opinion.

            Though the Psalm has no superscription, yet that David

was its author, as indeed he is expressly named in Acts iv. 25,

may be gathered from the undoubted fact, that the relations of

David's time evidently form the groundwork of the representa-

tion which is given,—comp. the closing remarks, as also the

resemblance to Psalm cx. The general character of Psalm

first, suitable for an introduction, would scarcely have warranted

the compilers in placing it, and this second one so closely related

to it, at the head of a long series of Davidic Psalms, unless they

had felt convinced of David's being their author. Besides other

characteristics of the first, this Psalm shares its ease and sim-

plicity of style; and that the discourse is of a more spirited

character, arises from the different nature of the subject.

            Ver. 1. Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a

vain thing? The why is an expression of astonishment and

horror at the equally foolish and impious attempt of the revolt-  

ers. The hgh is here taken by some in the sense of being in

commotion, blustering; but in that sense the word does not else-

where occur in the Hebrew; and as little does it occur in that

of Koester, to murmur. The common meaning is here quite

suitable. qyr, not an adverb, in vain, to no purpose, but a noun,

vanity, nothing. The vanity or nothing is that which, being

opposed to the Divine will, and, therefore, nothing, also leads

to nothing, reaches not its aim, to wit, the revolt against the

King, which, at the same time, is revolt against the Almighty


                            PSALM II. VER. 2.                              23


God. The why at the beginning, and the vain thing at the end

of this verse, are what alone indicate, in the otherwise purely

historical representation of vers. 1-3, the point of view from

which the transaction is to be considered. But these two little

words contain in germ the whole substance from ver. 4 to

ver. 12, in which is unfolded the reason why the project of the

insurgents is a groundless and vain one.

            Ver. 2. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers

sit with one another against the Lord and His Anointed. It is

unnecessary, and destructive to the sense, to repeat, with De

Wette, Koester, and others, the wherefore at the beginning of

this verse. The word bcyth means simply, "to set oneself, to

come forward, to appear;" and the hostility is not expressed in

the word, but is indicated by the context, and by the addition

of the words, "against the Lord." The word lf expresses "the

oppressive, the inimical." The kings of the earth,—the huge

mass of tumultuous revolters draws upon itself so much the eye

of the prophet, that he overlooks the small company of subjects

who still remained faithful. The dsy means to found, in Niph.

to be founded, Isa. 28, Ex. ix. 18; then poetically to sit

down. This is the only legitimate exposition of the vdsvn. The

idea of combination and common counsel is not contained in the

verb itself, but only in the adverb dHy, together, with which the

verb is connected also in Psalm xxxi. 13. Against the Lord

and His Anointed. Calvin remarks, that this does not neces-

sarily imply that the revolt was publicly avowed to be against

God; indeed, they could not revolt against Him otherwise than

indirectly, that is, by seeking to withdraw themselves from the

supremacy of His Son; and in that respect, to use Luther's

expression, the ungodly often do terrible deeds for God's honour

against God's honour. The anointing in the Old Testament,

whether it occur as an actually performed symbolical action, or

as a mere figure, constantly signifies the communication of the

gifts of the Holy Spirit,—see Christol. P. II. p. 445. This is

evidently the meaning in the account given of Saul's anointing,

1 Sam. x. 1, and David's, xvi. 13, 14. The kings of Israel

were said pre-eminently to be anointed, because they received

a peculiarly rich measure of Divine grace for their important

office. From them was the expression transferred to Him who

is absolutely THE KING, the one in whom the idea of royalty

was to be perfectly realized. That he should be endowed, with-


24                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


out measure, with that Spirit which was given only in limited

measure to His types, is mentioned by Isaiah, chap. xi., as an

essential feature. Luther remarks, making a suitable applica-

tion to the members, of that which is here said concerning the

Head: "Therefore God decrees that the ungodly shall boil and

rage against the righteous, and employ against them all their

devices. But all such attempts are like the swelling waves of

the sea, blown up by the wind, which make as if they would

tear down the shore, but before they even reach it, again sub-

side, and melt away in themselves, or spend themselves with

harmless noise upon the beach. For the righteous is so firmly

grounded in his faith upon Christ, that he confidently scorns,

like a beach, such vain impotent threatenings of the wicked,

and such proud swellings, which are destined so soon again to


            Ver. 3. The enemies are introduced speaking: We will break

their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. The

plural suffix has reference to Jehovah and His Anointed.

Their bands,—that is, the bands which they have laid upon us.

The prophet speaks as from the soul of the insurgents, to whom

the mild yoke of the Lord and His Anointed appears as a

galling chain. Calvin: "So even now we see that all the

enemies of Christ find it as irksome a thing to be compelled to

submit themselves to His supremacy, as if the greatest disgrace

had befallen them."

            Ver. 4. The prophet looks away from the wild turmoil of

enemies, from the dangers which here below seem to threaten

the kingdom of the Anointed, to the world above, and sets

over against them the almightiness of God. Calvin: "How-

ever high they may lift themselves, they can never reach to the

heavens; nay, while they seek to confound heaven and earth,

they do but dance like grasshoppers. The Lord meanwhile

looks calmly forth from His high abode, upon their senseless

movements." He who is throned in the heavens laughs; the

Lord mocks them. God is here emphatically described as being

enthroned in heaven, to mark His exalted sovereignty over the

whole machinery of earth, and, in particular, over the kings of

the earth. "Laughter" and "derision" are expressive of secu-

rity and contempt. Calvin: "We must therefore hold, that

when God does not immediately punish the wicked, it is His

time to laugh; and though we must sometimes even weep, yet


                              PSALM II. VER. 4.                               25


this thought should allay the sharpness of our grief, nay, wipe

away our tears, that God does not dissemble, as if He were

tardy or weak, but seeks through silent contempt, for a time,

to break the petulance of His enemies." Expositors generally

suppose that the vml is to be supplied to qHwy. This is not

necessary, though it is certainly supported by Psalm xxxvii. 13,

lix. 8. Luther gives a course of admirable remarks upon this

passage; some of these, we feel it our duty to quote, not for

the sake of answering practical purposes independent of exe-

gesis, but in the interest of exegesis itself. "All this is written

for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the

Scriptures, may have hope. For what is here written of Christ,

is an example for all Christians. For every one who is a sound

Christian, especially if he teaches the word of Christ, must

suffer his Herod, his Pilate, his Jews and heathens, who rage

against him, to speak much in vain, to lift themselves up and

take counsel against him. If this is not done now by men, by

the devil, or, finally, by his own conscience, it will at least be

done on his death-bed. There, at last, it will be in the highest

degree necessary to have such words of consolation in remem-

brance as—"He who sits in heaven laughs: the Lord holds

them in derision." To such a hope we must cling fast, and on

no account suffer ourselves to be driven from it. As if He

would say—So certain is it, that they speak in vain, and pro-

ject foolish things, let it appear before men as strong and

mighty as it may, that God does not count them worthy of

being opposed, as He would needs do in a matter of great and

serious moment; that He only laughs and mocks at them, as

if it were a small and despicable thing which was not worth

minding. 0 how great a strength of faith is claimed in these

words! For who believed, when Christ suffered, and the Jews

triumphed over and oppressed Him, that God all the time was

laughing? So, when we suffer and are oppressed by men,

when we believe that God is laughing at and mocking at

our adversaries; especially, if to all appearance we are mocked

and oppressed both by God and men." Upon the expression,

"He that is enthroned in the heavens," Luther specially re-

marks—"As if it were said, He who cares for us dwells quite

secure, apart from all fear; and although we are involved in

trouble and contention, He remains unassailed, whose regard is

fixed on us; we move and fluctuate here and there, but He


26                     THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


stands fast, and will order it so, that the righteous shall not

continue for ever in trouble, Psalm lv. 22. But all this pro-

ceeds so secretly that thou canst not well perceive it, unless thou

wert in heaven thyself. Thou must suffer by land and sea,

and among all creatures; thou mayest hope for no consolation

in thy sufferings and troubles, till thou canst rise through faith

and hope above all, and lay hold on Him who dwells in the

heavens—then thou also dwellest in the heavens, but only in

faith and hope. Therefore must we fix and stay our hearts, in

all our straits, assaults, tribulations, and difficulties, upon Him

who sitteth in the heavens; for then it will come to pass that

the adversity, vexation, and trials of this world, can not only be

taken lightly, but can even be smiled at."

            Ver. 5. The words of contempt are followed by others of

indignation and threatening. Then He speaks to them in His

wrath, and afrights them in His sore displeasure. zx, then,

namely, when He has first laughed at and mocked them ;

others improperly, at the time of this revolt, or when they be-

lieve that they have broken the chains. The laughter directing

itself upon the impotence of the revolters, is the first subject;

the wrath excited by their criminal disposition to revolt, is the

second. Many expositors, as Calvin, think that here is a re-

ference to God's speaking by deeds, to the judgments which He

decrees against the insolent revolters, after having previously

manifested His contempt of them; but without foundation.

Ver. 6, where the speech of God follows, shows that the second.

member here is to be expounded by the first; and in His rage

He affrights them with the succeeding words, not the reverse.

The actual punishment of the revolters, who even to this day

have got no further than the speech, "Let us break their bands

asunder, and cast away their cords from us," lies beyond the

compass of this Psalm. In it, the Lord, the Anointed, and

the Psalmist, come forth one after another against the rebels,

and endeavour to turn them from their foolish purpose. It is

not till they have shut their ear against all these admonitions

and threatenings that the work of punishment properly begins.

With a thundering voice of indignation, before which impotent

sinners quail to their inmost heart, the Psalmist represents the

Lord as speaking to them what follows in ver. 6.

            Ver. 6. And I have formed My King upon Zion, My holy hill.

Few of the expositors take notice of the v at the beginning,


                              PSALM II. VER. 6.                              27


which yet well deserves to be noticed. It is never used without

meaning, nor ever elsewhere than where we can also put our

word and (Ewald, p. 540). The discourse, as is appropriate to

a very excited state of mind, here begins in the middle. The

commencement, "Ye rise in rebellion," is naturally suggested

by the existing circumstances. The I here, the Lord of heaven

and of earth, stands with peculiar emphasis in opposition to you.

Luther: "They have withdrawn themselves from Him; but I

have subjected to Him the holy hill of Zion, and all the ends of

the earth. So that it will become manifest how they have been

objects of laughter and scorn, and have troubled themselves,

and taken counsel in vain." The ytbsn is commonly rendered,

I have anointed; and of the more recent expositors, Stier

alone has raised doubts against this rendering, without, how-

ever, decidedly substantiating them. But it has been strik-

ingly rebutted by Gousset. The supposition that j`sn, besides its

ordinary meaning to pour, had also the sense to anoint, is sup-

ported only by Prov. viii. 23, and by the derivation j`ysn, a prince,

though to signify "an anointed one." But in the passage from

Proverbs, all the old translations express the idea of creation or

preparation (to pour out to form); and this idea is decidedly

favoured by the context: "From everlasting was I formed,"

is followed by, "from the beginning, or ever the earth was,

was I born." But j`ysn cannot possibly have the meaning an

anointed one, since it is pre-eminently and specially used of

princes, who hold their dignity in fief of a superior, and in

whose case anointing was out of the question. See the decisive

passage, Josh. xiii. 21; and Micah v. 4. The word Mykysn rather

means strictly, those who are poured out, then those who are

formed, invested, appointed, and refers, as Gousset justly remarks,

to " productio principis per communicationem influxumque po-

tentiae," with an allusion either to generation, or to the relation

between an artist and his statue or picture. In the case before

us, the signification to form is confirmed by the corresponding

words, "I have begotten Thee," in ver. 7. The expression,

"My King," is also deserving of special remark. If its peculiar

emphasis is not considered, if it is merely expounded as if it were

"I have appointed Him to be King," the speech of God will then

be unsuited to the end which it is meant to serve, that, namely,

of representing the vanity of the revolt of the kings of the

earth. For one might possibly have been set by God as king


28                          THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


on Zion, without having any proper claim to the lordship of the

heathen world. Then, in opposition to every exposition which

weakens the force of the words, we have the corresponding words

in ver. 7, "Thou art My Son;" through which, as the conclusion

drawn from them in ver. 8 shows, a much more intimate rela-

tion to God is indicated than if He had been an ordinary king.

The words, therefore, "I have formed My King," can only

mean, "I have appointed a King (as Luther renders ytbsn much

more correctly than our recent expositors) who is most closely

related to Me." In the setting up or appointing of such a King,

for whom nothing less than the whole earth could be a suffi-

cient empire, there was given a proof of the nothingness of

all attempts at insurrection which were now made against the

King, and in the King against the Lord. lf is most naturally

regarded as indicating the place where the Lord's King was

constituted and set up by Him, implying of course that this

place is at the same time the seat of His supremacy. The ex-

pression Nvyc lf. "upon Zion," occurs in Isa. xxxi. 4. Hoffmann's

explanation —"I have appointed My King (that He be King)

upon Zion," is too remote; and entirely to be rejected is the

other, "I have appointed My King (that He be King) over Zion,

My holy mountain," as in 1 Sam. xv. 17, Saul was anointed

king over Israel. Zion can here be only the seat, the residence

of the King, not the sphere of His rule—which is rather the

whole earth. Zion, the holy mount of the Lord, is an appro-

priate seat for His King; for as it had been the centre of Israel

from the time of David, who fixed his own abode and trans-

ferred there the ark of the covenant, so was it destined one day

to be the centre of the world; for "out of Zion shall go forth

the law, and the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem," Isa. ii. 3.

The Lord is to govern the whole earth from there. The thought

is there expressed in Old Testament language, that the king-

dom of God should one day break through its narrow bounds,

and bring the whole world under its sway. Upon ywdq rh, not

the mountain of My holiness, but My holiness-mountain, My

holy mountain, see Ewald, p. 580. Zion was raised to this

honour by its having, had the ark of the covenant transferred

to it by David. From that period it became the centre of the

kingdom of God.

            Ver. 7. The speech of the Lord, in proper adaptation to His

majesty and indignation, is but short. Next appears the King


                               PSALM. II. VER. 7.                                    29


appointed by God, reiterating, to the astonished rebels, what has

been said by God, and further developing it:  I will declare the

statute: the Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son, this day

have I begotten Thee. Rosenmüller explains, "narrabo secun-

dum, juxta decretum;" but there is no ground for this, as the

word rPesi is elsewhere coupled with the preposition indi-

cating the object of the narrative, Psalm lxix. 26; as also the

similar verbs fydvyi, "to make known," rmx, rbd, and fmw; see,

for example, Isa. xxxviii. 19; Jer. xxvii. 19; Job xlii. 7. We

may not, however, on the ground of such constructions, ex-

plain lx by of. They are explained by the circumstance of

the relater's or speaker's mind being directed to the matter—

the narrative or speech goes out upon it. Ewald, p. 602. As

it is clear that lx may mark the thing to be announced, the

exposition of Claus: "I will declare for a statute," i.e. some-

thing which shall become an irrevocable law, is to be rejected

as less simple, and hence less suited to the character of the

Psalmist, who dislikes whatever is hard or artificial. But Claus

is right in giving to the word qH its common signification of

statute, law, for which most of the modern expositors substitute

the arbitrary sense of decree, sentence, and then, in opposition to

the accents, conceive that they must bring over to this mem-

ber the word hvhy. "I will declare a law," contains more than

"I will declare a decree or sentence." It intimates, that the

sentence of the Lord just to be announced, has the force of law,

and that it was perfectly in vain to undertake anything which

wars against it. Since the Lord has spoken this, "Thou art

My Son," He has at the same time laid upon the heathen the

law of serving His Son. Obedience is due to the laws of the

Almighty, and punishment inevitably overtakes him who trans-

gresses them.

            The question now arises, what determination or sentence of

Jehovah, having the force of an unchangeable law, is here

meant? Rosenmüller, Ewald, and others, conceive, that the

reference is to the Divine promise in 2 Sam. vii. But this sup-

position must be rejected. For then the words, "Thou art My

Son," would be spoken, not in the sense in which they occur

here, as implying an investiture with dominion over the heathen.

And, besides, this exposition would destroy the obvious connec-

tion between ver. 6 and ver. 7. What the Son here throws out

against the revolters, call only be the further development of


30                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


that which the Lord had advanced against them; the to-day

becomes quite indeterminate, if it do not refer to the precise day

on which the Lord had set His King on Zion; and the ex-

pression, "Thou art My Son," can only point to the subject

contained in the words, "My King." So that the discourse here

can only be of a determination of the Lord, which was issued to

the Anointed at the time of His appointment:  "I will declare

the law," which the Lord then gave; when He made Me His

King on Zion, He said to Me, Thou art My Son, etc. The

Psalmist has only in a general way before him, the terminus of

the setting up as King. When Paul represents, in Acts xiii.

33, the words of our text as spoken to Christ, in consequence of

His resurrection from the dead, he does but define them more

closely from the fulfilment. The resurrection of Christ was the

key-stone of His redemption-work, the starting point of His

setting forth as the Son of God, and of His establishment in

the kingdom.

            The Lord addresses the King on the day of His installation

as His Son. Where God, in the Old Testament, is represented

as Father, where the subject of discourse is sonship to God,

there is always (apart from a few passages not in point here,

which speak of Him as the author of external existence, the

giver of all good, Deut. xxxii. 18, Jer. ii. 27, and perhaps Isa.

lxiv. 7) an allusion, involving a comparison, to His tender love,

as being similar to that of a father toward his son,—see, for ex-

ample, Psalm ciii. 13, where the comparison is fully stated. In

this sense, Israel is in a whole series of passages named God's son.

As in Ex. iv. 22:  "Israel is My son, My first-born" —where

the expression, "My first-born," points to the abridged com-

parison, as if it had been said, "Israel is as dear to Me as a

first-born son;" Deut. xiv. 1, 2, where the words, "Ye are tho

children of the Lord your God," are more fully explained by

the following, "For thou art an Holy people unto the Lord

thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people

unto Himself above all nations;" Deut. xxxii. 6, where the

question, "Is He not thy Father?" is followed by declarations

testifying, in various particulars, to His fatherly love and care-

fulness; Isa. 16, "Doubtless Thou art our Father, though

Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not:

Thou, 0 Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; Thy name is

from everlasting;" where the name of Father is used to de-


                            PSALM II. VER. 7.                                31


note what is related at large in vers. 7-15, the things He did

in His great goodness towards the house of Israel; Hos. xi.

1, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called My

son out of Egypt;” Mal. i. 16, "If I be a Father, where is My

honour?" the theme from vers. 2-5 being this, "I have loved

you"—in considering which, some have started with the false

idea that the words, "Have we not all one Father," were in

synonymous parallelism with, “One God hath created us," Jer.

xxxi. 9, 20. With a just perception of what is implied in the

abbreviated comparison, the Apostle, in Rom. x. 4, gathers up

what is said of Israel's sonship in the Words, "whose is the

adoption into the position of children," ui[oqesi<a. In the same

sense the relation of David's family to God is, in two passages,

described as one of sonship. In 2 Sam. vii. 14, 15, the de-

claration, "I will be his Father, and he shall be My son," is

followed by the promise of His ever-abiding love as a sort of

interpretation; and in Ps. lxxxix. 26, etc., which is based on the

passage in Samuel, the words, "My Father," stand in parallelism

with "My God, and the rock of my salvation," and is explained

by, "My mercy I will keep for him for evermore," in ver. 29.

Nowhere in the Old Testament is the idea of God's sonship

handled with reference to a generation through the Spirit, which

Hoffmann would have to be the case in all the passages. No-

where, also, does this expression proceed upon an identifying of

creation with generation; and it is an entire mistake for Hitzig

to maintain concerning Ex. iv. 22, that all men or peoples are

there considered as God's sons, because made by Him. No-

where does the expression, "Jehovah's son," as used of kings,

point to the Divine origin of the kingly authority, or to the ad-

ministration of the office according to the mind of Jehovah.

Finally, nowhere in the Old Testament is the sonship spoken of

as a production out of the nature of the Father, as the greater

of the older expositors think they discover here. Now, as

we cannot isolate the passage before us from all others, we

may here also understand the words, " Thou art My Son," as

the inwardness of relation which subsists between the

Lord and His Anointed. How inward this relation is, how

emphatically sonship is here predicated of the Lord,—which is

never on any other occasion, done of any individual king in

it (for, in the two passages before noticed, it is spoken of

the whole line of David), and far less still of heathen kings,—is

32                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


shown by ver. 7, where the sovereignty of the whole earth is

announced as a simple consequence of the sonship. In that

sense no earlier king of Israel, not even David, the man after

God's own heart, was the son and darling of Jehovah. Such

an inward relationship cannot properly exist between God and

a mere man.

            When the sense of the words, "Thou art My Son," is fairly

settled, no great difficulty can be found with the parallel clause,

"This day I have begotten Thee." If the King is named the

Son of God, not in a proper but in a figurative sense, then the

reference here cannot be to a proper begetting, against which the

word to-day also testifies (which word at the same time confirms

the non-literal interpretation of the expression, "Thou art My

Son"), but only to a begetting in a figurative sense—not a be-

getting which calls the person into existence, but one merely in

which originates the intimate relationship between the Anointed

and God. "I have begotten Thee to-day," spiritually under-

stood, exactly corresponds to "Thou art from henceforth, spi-

ritually understood, My Son;" both alike imply that He was

brought into the relation of sonship, or received into the inner-

most fellowship of life. This non-literal, temporal begetting,

has certainly the essential and eternal one for its foundation,

which is found here by the older expositors and theologians.

Figuratively, of the appointment to the dignity of Son of God,

the expression is taken by Paul in Acts xiii. 3; so also in

Heb. v. 5.

            Ver. 8. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine

inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy posses-

sion. For the King, and the Son of the Lord, nothing less

than the whole earth is a proper dominion. Vers. 1-3 show,

that He had accepted all, which the love of His Father here freely


            Ver. 9. If the nations will not obey Thee, My Son, as their

rightful Lord and King, I give Thee the right and the power to

chastise them for their disobedience. Thou shalt break them

with a rod of iron, Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's

vessel. The LXX. render the first clause, "Thou wilt feed them

with an iron sceptre,"—deriving the form Mfrt from hfArA, to feed.

So also the Syriac, Vulgate, and many later expositors. Then,

either the present punctuation is held to be incorrect, and they

read Mfer;ti, or the form is considered as Poel. But the paral-

                             PSALM II. VER. 9.                              33


lelism requires that the form should be derived from ffr, "to

break or shiver to pieces," as is done by the Chaldaic. At the

same time, we may perhaps suppose with Stier, that the word

carries a sort of ironical allusion to hfr, which is so frequently

used; comp. 2 Sam. vii. 7, Ps. lxxxi. 16, Mic. vii. 14. Fbw,

“sceptre,” was anciently the sign of the dignity of ruler. The

objections which Rosenmüller and others have brought against

the application of this meaning here, are of little weight. It is

true, indeed, we do not hear of iron sceptres having been ac-

tually used, but such only as were of wood, silver, gold, or ivory.

But iron is here selected, as being the hardest metal, to indicate

the strength and crushing force with which the Anointed would

chastise the revolters; and it is perfectly allowable to use it in

this figurative sense, although there actually existed no such thing

as an iron sceptre. The comparison with the vessels of the

potter, which occurs also in Jer. xix. 11, expresses at once the

ideas of without trouble, and of entireness. It is, besides, to be

remarked, what is omitted by De Wette, who argues from this

expression, against the application of the Psalm to Christ, and

by Umbreit, who labours to make that denote grace, which is

manifestly said of punitive righteousness, that as the Messiah

has here to do with impudent revolters, only one aspect of the

power committed to Him by God is displayed. That He is as

rich in grace to His people, as He is in overwhelming power

against His enemies, is evident from vers. 11 and 12. That, in

like circumstances, the same aspect of power which is spoken

of here, is also brought to notice by Christ in the New Testa-

ment, needs no proof. Those on His left hand, the compas-

sionate, but still righteous Saviour, banishes into everlasting

fire; he who treads under foot the Son of God, must endure

infinitely sorer punishment than he who broke the law of Moses;

and the destruction of Jerusalem is constantly represented by

the Lord as His work. What alone suffices, is the circumstance,

that, in the place referred to in Revelation, the punishment

which Christ is going to execute upon His enemies is described

in the very words of this Psalm. The question, whether what

is here said of Christ be worthy of Him, resolves itself into this,

whether God's righteousness be an actual reality, and, conse-

quently, to be continued under the New Testament. For what

is true of God, is true also of His Anointed, to whom He has

given up the whole administration of His kingdom. But, that

34                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


this question is to be answered in the affirmative, will be shown

in our excursus upon the doctrine of the Psalms.

            Ver. 10. An admonition to the revolters to consider what

had been said, and submit themselves to the King set up by the

Lord. Here it comes clearly out, that the object aimed at in

the reference to the punitive omnipotence of the Anointed, was

to induce the revolters to flee from coming wrath by embracing

His offers of grace and compassion. And now act wisely, 0 ye

kings; be warned, ye judges of the earth. And now, since the

case is as I have said, since the supremacy of the Anointed over

you rests upon so immoveable a foundation, a severe punish-

ment is ready to alight on the revolters. lykWh properly sig-

nifies, to make wise, namely, the actions, the behaviour, then to

act wisely, finally, to be wise, to understand, discern. rsy, "to

instruct, direct aright, warn," in Niph. "to be warned," and

then "to let one's self be warned, to lay the warning to heart,"

and act according to it. The judges of the earth, corresponding

to kings in the first clause, the men of authority and rule, be-

cause the office of judgment is considered as one of their chief

functions. Judging is used in a wider sense. All governing is,

in a certain sense, a judging. Various interests, claims, and

rights, come before the ruler for decision.

            Ver. 11. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

The serving stands opposed to the resolution in ver. 3 to revolt.

The admonition to serve the Lord involves a call on them to

subject themselves to His Son and Anointed. Following the

LXX. and Vulgate (gaudeatis cum tremore), some explain vlyg  

hdfrb to mean: "Rejoice that you have found so glorious and

good a King; but along with this joy, think always of the terrible

punishment which must overtake you, if ye withdraw yourselves

from His benignant sway." It is well remarked, however, by

Stier, that this construction neither agrees with the parallelism

nor with the prevailing tone of the whole context.  The kings

had scarcely got so far yet, that they could be called on to

rejoice, even with the addition of trembling. But still more

objectionable is the exposition approved of by De Wette, Stier,

Gesenius, and others, "shake with trembling." lyg never sig-

nifies anything but to rejoice, occurring very often in this sense

in the Psalms  never, however, to tremble or shake, not even in

Hos. x. 5, where, before the expression vlygy vylf, the relative is

to be supplied, and the rendering should be: "who rejoice

                             PSALM II. VER. 12.                                 35


thereat." Besides, the shaking does not correspond to the serving

and doing homage, which require that vlyg also, should express

some mark of subordination. Now, this is the case if we refer

the "rejoice" to the acclamations by which subjects testify their

fealty to their sovereigns, to the "shout of a king," spoken of in

Numb. xxiii. 21. In that case it is only the outward subjection

which is primarily demanded for averting the threatened punish-

ment. What rich blessings internal subjection and allegiance

brings along with it, is first gently indicated at the close.

            Ver. 12. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry. The kiss was,

from the earliest times, the mark of subjection and respect in

the East. Such a kiss was given for the most part not upon

the mouth, but upon the kisser's own garment, or upon the

hand of the person kissed.1 That this custom prevailed also

among the Hebrews, appears from 1 Sam. x. 1, where Samuel,

after he had anointed the king, as a mark of respect, gave him

a kiss. The throwing of the kiss was also a religious usage, as

appears from 1 Kings xix. 18, Hos. xiii. 2, Job xxxi. 27. Hence

Symmachus translates here, explaining the figure: "adorate."

rb is found also in Prov. xxxi. 2, for Nb. It prevails in the

Aramaic, and seems to have belonged to the loftier poetic dia-

lect in Hebrew, which has much in common with the Chaldaic;

and this explains why the higher style delights in old words

which no longer occur in common life. These words were

handed down from the primeval times, when the Hebrews

stood in closer connection with the people who spoke the Ara-

maic tongue. The reason why it is used here instead of Nb,

many suppose to be a wish to avoid the cacophony which

would arise from the juxtaposition of Nb and NP. Others con-

ceive that rb is chosen as being the more dignified and signifi-

cant expression. Various other explanations which have been

tried have partly usage against them, and partly the circum-

stance that the mention of the Son of God here is quite natural

after ver. 7. This rendering is, in consequence, approved by

most modern interpreters, not excepting those who find the

sense thus given not quite convenient, as Rosenmüller, De

Wette, Gesenius, Winer, and Hitzig. Ewald's explanation,

"Take counsel," is quite arbitrary, since qwn has in Pi. invari-

ably the sense of kissing, and, though rb may signify "pure,"


                1 Rosenmüller, A. u. N. Morgenland, Th. 3, Nr. 496, Th. 4, Nr. 786.

36                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


it could not possibly mean "good counsel," without some fur-

ther reason. The second arbitrariness is shunned by Koester,

who renders, "embrace purity," but the first still remains.

Besides, in all these expositions the close connection is over-

looked between our verses and vers. 1-3. To "the raging and  

imagining a vain thing," corresponds the exhortation, "Be

wise and warned." It is in reference to the revolt against the

Lord, that the injunction, to "serve the Lord," is uttered.

But there is still wanting a special hortative reference to the

Anointed, which is the main point of the whole; and this must

be lost unless rb is rendered son. That this cannot possibly be

awanting, becomes more evident still when we compare the

entire exposition in vers. 6-9, which prepared the way for it.

Koester's objection, that rb must then have the article, is of no

force, as rb, here signifying absolutely "the Son," is in a state

of transition to becoming a nomen proprium. Comp. Ewald,

659. The King, who is the subject of this Psalm, appears here

as Son of God in a sense as exclusive as that in which God

Himself is God. One God and one Son of God. Even

though the title, "Son of God," according to what was re-

marked above, be much the same as the beloved of God, and

we are not to regard it as conveying directly the idea of unity

of nature with God, yet the distinct and peculiar dignity here

ascribed to the Anointed, points indirectly to distinctness and

peculiarity of nature.

            The words j`rd vdbxtv, though perfectly plain in themselves,

have occasioned much trouble to expositors, and have had many

false renderings. Every intransitive or passive idea may, in

Hebrew, find an immediate limitation, if it is relative; that is,

if it admits of being extended to many particular cases. For

example, he was sick, his feet; he was great to the throne.

This concise mariner of speech is easily explained, if we only

expand it a little more: he was sick, and this sickness affected

his feet, etc. So also here, "perish the way," must mean,

"perish as to the way." The way is used here, precisely as in

Ps. i. 6, as an image of "state, condition." For soon willhis

wrath be kindled. Blessed are all they who put their trust

Him.  Ffmk shortly, soon. The k, when denoting limits 

of time, retains in some measure its common signification of a

particle of comparison. The time up to the beginning of this

punishment, when repentance is too late, is like a short path

                                  PSALM II. VER. 12.                               37


ysvH stat. constr. for absol. This can only take place when the

preposition serves merely as a description of the stat. constr.

relation; so that, instead of the verb being followed by the

preposition and pronoun, it might simply have been vysvH. hsH

with b signifies, from the first, "to confide in some one;" never

"to fly to any one"—which has been taken as its import, only

in consequence of a false interpretation of the phrase, "trusting

in the shadow, i.e., in the support of any one." Scripture con-

stantly admonishes us to place our confidence in the Lord alone;

on which account the verb before us is in a manner consecrated

and set apart; and also warns men against confiding in earthly

kings; comp. Psalm cxviii. 9 "It is better to trust in the

Lord, than to put confidence in princes;" Psalm cxlvi. 3:

"Trust not in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is

no help." In the words, therefore, "Blessed are all they who

put their trust in Him," an allusion is made to the superhuman

nature and dignity of the Anointed. Many expositors, opposed

to the Messianic interpretation, are driven to such straits by

this, that they would refer the suffix in vb, with great violence,

not to the Son, of whom mention had been made immediately

before, and of whom it is said in this verse itself, "Kiss the

Son, lest He be angry," but to the Lord—which is an unwill-

ing testimony to the Messianic character of this Psalm, as well

as to the superhuman nature of the Messiah in the Old Testa-

ment. Others, as Abenezra, De Wette, Maurer, would refer

even the words, "lest He be angry," to Jehovah; overlooking,

however, while they do so, the relation in which these words

stand to ver. 9, according to which, not Jehovah, but the Son,

is to break the revolters with an iron sceptre, and dash them

in pieces like a potter's vessel—a manifestation of wrath which

they are here exhorted to flee from.


            In conclusion, we have a few general remarks to make upon

this Psalm. The Messianic predictions in the Psalms cannot

so far coincide in character with those in the Prophets, that the

distinction between Psalmist and Prophet here at once ceases

to exist. We rather expect this distinction to manifest itself

here. The essential nature of the distinction is, that the Pro-

phets for the most part communicate the objective word of

God, as that had been imparted to their internal contemplation,

while the predominating character of the Psalms is subjective,

38                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


the subject-matter taken from some earlier revelation being set

forth in a vivid and perceptible form by means of the events

and circumstances of the Psalmist's own life, or of those of his

time, yet all in such a way that the earlier revelation is often,

through the special working of the Spirit of God, carried for-

ward and advanced to a higher degree of clearness. The

Messianic interpretation of a Psalm, then, can only be fully

justified when we are both able to point to a revelation, through

which the writer was incited to give a subjective representation

of its contents, and can find a substratum for the writer's mode

of representation, either in his own circumstances, or in those

of his time. But both conditions meet in the case before us.

In regard to the first, David was incited to this and other

Messianic Psalms, by the promise given to him by God of a

perpetual kingdom in his family, 2 Sam. vii. 7, which he could

not but feel, after careful reflection, referred, in its highest

sense, to Christ. In regard to the second, David found in the

circumstances of his own life ample occasion to express, in the

way and manner he has here done, the hope of the triumph of

the promised King his successor, which the Spirit of God had

stirred up within him. He had too frequently experienced, on

the one hand, the contumacy and rebellious disposition of his

domestic and foreign subjects; and on the other hand, the help

of God in subduing them, to find it at all strange for him to

transfer these relations in a more enlarged form to his antitype,

which he probably did at a time when his experience in this re-

spect was fresh and lively, about the period of his second great

victory over the Syrians, 2 Sam. viii. 6: "And the Syrians

became servants to David, and brought gifts; and the Lord

preserved David whithersoever he went;" chapter x. 6, where

the Syrians are said to have joined with the Ammonites against

David, and verse 19, where we are told, that after David's

victory over them, "all the kings that were servants to Hadar-

ezer, when they saw that they were smitten before Israel, made

peace with Israel, and served them." In regard, finally, to the

progress made in this Psalm as regards the proclamations con-

cerning the Messiah, it consists mainly in this, that there here

dawns upon the Psalmist the superhuman nature and dignity

of the Messiah, which is brought out still more distinctly in

Psalms cx. and xlv. It deserves to be noted, that the expositors

who oppose the Messianic sense, are driven hither and thither,

                                    PSALM III.                                                 39


and can nowhere find solid ground for their feet to stand upon.

Ewald has disputed the reference to David advocated by most

writers, and yet has decided upon applying it to Solomon. But

against his view we have to set, besides the positive grounds

already adduced for the Messianic interpretation, the force of

which he unwittingly acknowledges by violent explanations,

such as that of verse 12, not merely the silence of the historical

books, of which he would make very light, but their most ex-

press and unequivocal declarations. The posture of affairs

alluded to here, is one of general revolt. Now, if we place that

at the commencement of Solomon's reign, we shall be driven to

pronounce the descriptions contained in the historical books

entirely mythical. Hitzig has endeavoured to bring down the

application to Alexander Jannaeus, a supposition which Koester,

in his mild way, pronounces a make-shift. Maurer, again, would

carry it up to the time of Hezekiah. He conceives, that by the

people and kings of the earth, might very well be understood

the Philistines. In Hoffmann, the non-Messianic interpretation

has again arrived at David, only, however, after a very short

time, once more to begin its wanderings.


                                   PSALM III.


            The Psalmist complains of the multitude of his enemies,

who mocked at his confidence in the Lord, vers. 2, 3. He

comforts himself by calling to remembrance the support which

the Lord had hitherto afforded him, the dignity to which He

had raised him, and the manifold deliverances and answers to

prayer which he had experienced, vers. 4, 5. He closes with

an expression of his elevated joy of faith, vers. 6, 7; and with a

supplication to the Lord to help him, as He had been wont to do

in times past, and to bless His people, vers. 8, 9. The Psalm

consequently falls quite naturally into four strophes, each con-

sisting of two verses, the first of which describes the distress,

the second the ground of hope, the third expresses the hope

itself, and the fourth contains the prayer prompted by the hope.

With this division of strophes corresponds also the position of

the Selah, which in each case is placed at the end of a strophe.

            The superscription of the Psalm—"An excellent song of

David, when he fled before Absalom his son"—declares it to

40                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


have been composed when David fled from his son Absalom,

2 Sam. xv. 16. It is alleged by De Wette against the correct-

ness of this supposition, that the Psalm itself contains nothing

in support of it. Would not the tender heart of David, says

he, have manifested in the presence of Jehovah, to whom he

made his complaint, the deep wound it received from the con-

duct of his son? In a similar way, De Wette very commonly

argues against the Davidic authorship of the Psalms, and the

correctness of the superscriptions, from the absence of any

definite historical allusions. Now, it is here first of all to be

remarked, that a prolix and detailed description of personal cir-

cumstances is a thing impossible for a living faith, which, con-

vinced that our heavenly Father knows what we need before

we ask Him, is satisfied with mere allusions and general out-

lines. It is otherwise where the prayer is only in form a

meditation of the heart before God, but is in reality a conver-

sation of the supplicant with himself. Then we are very prone

to dive into the particulars of suffering, and run on in senti-

mental descriptions of our circumstances. But still more is it

to be considered that the sacred authors of the Psalms, and most

of all David, had not themselves primarily in view in their

Psalms, and only afterwards devoted that to general use, which

in its origin was throughout individual as is commonly thought;

but rather from the first their design in exhibiting their own

feelings, was to build up the Church at large. The Psalms

which arose out of personal transactions, are distinguished from

the didactic Psalms, properly so called, by a fluctuating boundary.

The former also possess, in a general way, the character of di-

dactic Psalms. If we could imagine the sacred authors of them

cast upon a desert island, with no prospect of again coming into

contact with men, they would certainly, in that case, have lost

both the desire and the impulse to utter their complaints and

their hopes in the form of Psalms. For lyric poetry is not in

such a sense subjective, that all reference to those placed in

like situations, and agitated by like feelings, can be considered

as shut out. David, in particular, was so closely connected with

the Church, and recognised so thoroughly his Divine mission, to

give it a treasure of sacred poetry for instruction, edification,

and comfort, that he distinctly regarded all the events of his

own course, from the first, as a type of similar ones in that of

his brethren the righteous;—he considered himself to be their

                                  PSALM III.                                       41


mouth and representative, and the consolation primarily ad-

ministered to him, to be equally destined for them. Herewith

was necessarily connected a tendency to subordinate the parti-

cular to the general, and to give only slight hints of the one

upon the ground of the other. But such hints as confirm the

truth of the superscription, are found in this Psalm. That

there is a general resemblance between the position of the

Psalmist and David's, there can be no doubt. As, according to

2 Sam. xv. 13, the report was brought to David that the hearts

of all Israel were after Absalom, and as, according to chap. xvi.

18, Hushai said to Absalom, "Whom the Lord, and this people,

and all the men of Israel choose, his will I be, and with him will

abide;" so the Psalmist complains, "Lord, how are they in-

creased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against

me; many that say of my soul, There is no help for him in God."

In both cases alike the distress is connected with a state of war.

And as in 2 Sam. xvii. 1, 2, Ahithophel said to Absalom, "I

will arise and pursue after David this night, and I will come

upon him while he is weary and weak-handed, and will make

him afraid; and all the people that are with him shall flee, and

I will smite the king only;" so David says here, "I will not be

afraid of ten thousands of people that have set themselves against

me round about."

            That a high dignity belonged to the Psalmist, appears from

ver. 3, where he calls the Lord "his glory," and speaks of Him

as having a lifted up his head." He is not afraid of myriads of

people; the Lord has often already vanquished all his enemies,

—both which indicate greatness of character in the oppressed.

The mention of the people also, in his prayer, ver. 9, agrees well

with his being a king, as their destiny might be represented as

intimately connected with his own. But if the writer is a king,

of whom can we think, but David, since, excepting him and

Solomon, who is here out of the question, his government having

been quite peaceful, history makes mention of no other crowned

bard; while the dignified simplicity and freshness of the compo-

sition bespeak his hand, and its place, also, among the Psalms of

David, confirms the supposition? Then, if David is the author

of it, we have only to choose between the troubles occasioned

by Saul, and those occasioned by Absalom. Hitzig decides in

favour of the former. For the refutation of this view, we have

no need even to call to our aid the superscription. During the

42                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


persecutions he sustained from the hand of Saul, David was not

yet king. And a still stronger proof is afforded by ver. 4, where

David says that the Lord had often before heard him from His

holy mountain. This implies, that the seat of the sanctuary had

some time previously been fixed in Jerusalem. But it was not

removed there till David had ascended the throne, after Saul's

death.  Hitzig's attempt to escape from this ground by under-

standing the mountain to be Horeb, scarcely deserves a serious

consideration. The whole phraseology of the Psalms repels this

supposition, for these know no other holy mountain but Mount

Zion. There is not a single passage in all the Old Testament

where an Israelite is found looking for help from Mount Horeb,

which was only hallowed by ancient reminiscences, and not en-

nobled by the presence of the Lord in later times. In fine, the

past deliverances, on which the Psalmist, in vers. 3, 4, 7, and 8,

based his hopes of escape from present trouble, are, manifestly,

chiefly those which occurred in the reign of Saul. Indeed,

David had experienced no such continued series of deliverances

in this latter. So that we are led by internal grounds to the

very same result, which the superscription had from the first an-

nounced. And from this we deduce, at the same time, a favour-

able conclusion for the superscriptions generally. The internal

grounds lie here, as the aberrations of recent expositors show,

so concealed, that the superscription could not possibly have been

derived from a subtle combination of them,—a thing foreign to

antiquity. Ewald maintains very decidedly, both that David

was the author of the Psalm, and specially that it was composed

at the time of Absalom. In regard to the former, he says,

David's elevation, colouring, and style, are unmistakeable; in

regard to the latter, he says, the author had already stood long

upon the pinnacle of human power, had long experienced the

highest favour from God, and often already poured forth the

feelings of his heart in song. In ver. 8, we plainly recognise

the noble spirit of David in that flight, by which he sought to

allay the threatening storm, and avert from the people the burden

of a new civil war. But we can still more nearly determine

the situation of the bard, though only, it may be, with the highest

degree of probability. The Psalm was, according to vers. 5 and

6, an evening hymn. He there expresses his confidence, that,

though surrounded by the greatest dangers, he could quietly

sleep, and be certain of beholding the light of the following day.

                                     PSALM III.                                  43


Now, this circumstance accords only with the first night of

David's flight, which he spent in the desert, after he had gone

weeping, barefooted, and with his head covered, over the Mount

of Olives, 2 Sam. xvi. 14. Comp. ver. 20. This first night was

the most dangerous one for David; nay, it was the only night

during the whole period of the insurrection, in which the danger

was so very urgent, as ver. 6 states it to have been. David's

life hung then by a single hair: had God not heard his prayer,

"Lord, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness," he had

actually perished. Consequently, when the counsel of Ahitho-

phel, to fall upon the king that very night, was rejected by

Absalom, the strength of the rebellion was completely broken,

and the danger in a manner past, as is manifest from this one.

circumstance, that Ahithophel, in consequence of that rejection,

went and hanged himself.

            Two objections have been raised against this conclusion.

First, David was then still quite uncertain whether the Lord

would again grant him the victory, and restore to him the king-

dom; whereas he speaks here at the close with the greatest con-

fidence. The passages referred to in support of this are 2 Sam.

xv. 25, 26: "The king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of

God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord,

He will bring me again, and show me both it and His habitation.

But if He thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am

I, let Him do what seemeth good to Him." And chap. xvi. 12:

"It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and

that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day."

But these passages by no means indicate a complete uncertainty,

and are mainly to be regarded as a simple expression of the hu-

mility which scarcely ventures to declare, with perfect confidence,

the still never extinguished hope of deliverance, because feeling

itself to be utterly unworthy of it; indeed, to give utterance to

this latter feeling is their more special object. That David,

in the midst of his deepest grief, did not abandon his trust in

the Lord, appears from his confiding prayer, "Lord, turn the

counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness," and from his conferring

on Ziba the goods of Mephibosheth, 2 Sam. xvi. 4. And then

it is not to be forgotten, that those expressions and our Psalm,

according to the situation we are defending, were still separated

from each other by a certain interval, great enough to admit of

the relatively not great change of mood, which often takes place

44                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


in a moment. It is expressly said, that David refreshed himself

that first night in the wilderness; which is certainly to be under-

stood, not in a mere bodily sense, but also spiritually, since, in

troubles of that nature, a mere bodily refreshment is inconceiv-

able. But it is again objected, that, in such a state and con-

dition, men do not write poetry. We might, however, appeal to

the poems of the Arabians, which have been composed amid the

very turmoil of action; to the fact, that the poet Lebid was

writing verses in the very article of death, etc.; but we would

rather admit, that there is a certain degree of truth in the ob-

jection. The artificial construction of this Psalm, and others

composed in similar situations (it is far from correct to regard the

Psalms in general as the simple poetry of nature); the circum-

stance that a number of Psalms not unfrequently refer to one and

the same situation, as this, for example, and the fourth,—these

and other things render it very probable, that in such cases, the

conception and the birth of the Psalm were separated from

each other; that David did not immediately express in manifold

forms what he had felt in moments of pressing danger; that he

only afterwards, and by degrees, coined for the Church the gold

of consolation bestowed upon himself in such moments. This

opinion was long ago held by Luther in regard to the present

Psalm; but he, on insufficient grounds—"for it is against all

experience, that, in the midst of the cross, no decided joy should

be able to be felt" —adjudges the matter of the Psalm also to a

later period:  "It is not probable that he should have composed

it at the time of his flight and distress. For the Holy Spirit will

have a calm, happy, cheerful, select instrument, to preach and

sing of Him. In the conflict, moreover, man has no understand-

ing, but becomes capable of this only after the conflict is over

—reflects then aright upon what has occurred to him under it.

Therefore, it is more credible that David composed this Psalm long

after, when he came to quiet reflection, and understood the secrets

of his life and history, which had variously happened to him."

            As in the first and second Psalms, so here again, in this and

the fourth, we have a pair of Psalms inseparably united by the

inspired writer himself. The situation in each is exactly the

same; comp. iii. 5 with iv. 8. The thoughts which agitated his

heart in that remarkable night, the Psalmist has represented to

us in a whole with two parts. In Psalm iii. his earlier experi-

ences of Divine aid form the chief point, while in Psalm iv. he

                            PSALM III. VERS. 1, 2.                           45


looks to his Divine appointment as to the rock upon which the

waves of revolt must dash themselves to pieces.

            It is certainly not to be regarded as an accident, that Psalms

third and fourth immediately follow the first and second. They

are occupied, as well as Psalm second, with a revolt against the

Lord's Anointed; and Psalm fourth especially shows a remark-

able agreement with it, first in thought, and then also in expres-

sion—comp. "imagine a vain thing" in ii. 1 with "love vanity"

in iv. 2. In this third Psalm the personal experiences and feel-

ing of David are most prominent, and they formed the basis on

which he reared the expectation of the events which were to

befall his successor, the Anointed One absolutely.

            Ver. 1. 0 Lord, how are mine enemies so many! Many are

they that rise up against me. The Mvq with lf used of enemies

generally in Dent. xxviii. 7, and does not specially indicate

revolt as such.

            Ver. 2. Many say to my soul, There is no help for hint in God.

The greater part of expositors consider ywpnl as a mere peri-

phrasis for the pronoun. The words "my soul," indeed, occur

in that sense among the Arabians, with whom many words have

been clipt and pared so as to lose their original impress; but

not so among the Hebrews, with whom the words still always

express the thoughts and feelings. There is always a reason

why the ywpn rather than the pronoun is used. Here the dis-

course of the enemies is described as one which wounds the

heart and soul—comp. Ps. lxix. 20, "Reproach hath broken my

heart;" also Isa. li. 23. If we explain, "of my soul," or "to my

soul," the word "soul" is used because David's very life was

in question, because his enemies thought they had it already in

their power. No support for that rendering is to be drawn from

the following words: "no help to him in God." What the ene-

mies say of David is so painful to him, that he considers it as

spoken personally to himself. It is his soul that is affected by

the discourse. It is further to be objected to that rendering,

that rmx with l for the most part signifies, "to speak to some

one,"—comp. also the opposite declaration in Ps. xxxv. 3, "Say

to my soul, I am thy salvation." In the form htfvwy the h is

added, as the poets not unfrequently did with nouns, which

already had the feminine termination, to give the word a fuller

and better sound; Ewald, p. 323. Before this h the preceding

h fem. becomes hardened into t; Ewald, p. 37.

46                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


            Nyx is always negation of being, always signifies, "it is not."

By the expression, "in God," God is described as the ground

and source of salvation. The enemies denied that God would

help him, either because, in utter ungodliness, they excluded

God altogether from earthly affairs, or at all events thought

that matters had gone too far with David, even for God's power

to help him, Ps. x. 11; or because they considered David as one

cast off by Him, unworthy of His protection, Ps. xlii. 3, 10,

lxxi. 11, 7, 8; Matt. xxvii. 43; and this pained him most

deeply. The last mentioned view of David's case was that taken

by Shimei, 2 Sam. xvi. 8. He sought to rob David of his last,

his dearest treasure:  "The Lord hath returned upon thee all

the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned;

and the Lord hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of

Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief,

because thou art a bloody man." This kind of attack was the

most painfully affecting. The denial, that God is our God, finds

an ally in the believer's own consciousness of guilt, however

strongly he may be convinced of his innocence in regard to

particular charges, and it requires no small measure of faith to

gain here the victory. Luther:  "As if he would say, They

not only say that I am abandoned and trodden upon by all crea-

tures, but also that God will not help me, who assists all things,

sustains all, cares for all; that for me alone of all things He has

no care, and will minister to me no support. Though every

possible assault, the assaults of a whole world, and of all hell to

boot, were combined, it were still nothing to the assault of God,

when He thrusts at a man. It made Jeremiah tremblingly beg

and pray, xvii. 17, ‘Be not a terror unto me, 0 Thou my Hope

in the day of evil.’"

            But while the words, as is evident from the analogous ones

used by Shimei, and also from 2 Sam. xvi. 18, principally refer

to the will of God to help the Psalmist, a reference to His power

also is not entirely to be excluded. This is clear from the closing

words, "Salvation belongeth to the Lord," which plainly refer

to the taunt, "no help for him in God," and which vindicate

to the Lord, not the will, but the power to help. The general

name of God, Elohim, is used on account of the contrast that is

silently implied to human means of help: everything is against

him on earth, and in heaven too there is no longer any resource

for him. The speakers are not, as De Wette supposes, the

                             PSALM III. VER. 2.                                   47


Psalmist's despairing friends, but his enemies. Only then could

it justly be said, that there were so many of them. De Wette's

allegation, that the speech is not godless and spiteful enough

for enemies, rests on a misapprehension of its real meaning.

For to the man, who with his whole being throws himself upon

God, it is even as "death in his bones" to hear his enemies say-

ing, "Where is thy God?" This is the most envenomed arrow

which they could shoot into his heart.

            The selah occurs here for the first time. It is found seventy-

one times in the Psalms, and thrice in Habakkuk. It is best

derived from hlw, to rest, of frequent use in Hebrew, as well

as Syriac. The change of the harder w to the softer s is very

common; see Ewald, p. 29. It can either be taken as a noun,

rest, pause, or, with Gesenius in his Thes., as the imperative

with He parag. and in the pause. Primarily, indeed, it is a

music-mark. But as the pause in music always occurs where

the feelings require a resting-place, it is of no little importance

as regards the sense, and the translators who leave it out, cer-

tainly do wrong. This view acquires great probability, by a

particular consideration of the places where the selah occurs. It

generally stands where a pause is quite suitable. Others suppose

that the word is an abbreviation of several words. But there is

no proof that the practice of such abbreviations prevailed among

the Israelites. Koester is inclined to regard the selah as mark-

ing the division of strophes. But that it should in many places

coincide with such a division, is easily explained by the circum-

stance that the resting-place for the music must generally coin-

cide with a break in the sense. And that selah is not strictly

the mark of the strophe-divisions, is evident from its frequently

not coinciding with the end of a strophe; for example, Ps. lv. 19,

lvii. 3; Hab. iii. 3, 9, in which places it is found in the middle

of a verse. Besides, if the selah had indicated a poetical, rather

than a musical division, the prophets, in whose writings there

are traces of the beginnings of a division into strophes, would   

have employed it. Habakkuk forms only an apparent excep-

tion. For the third chapter of this prophet, in which alone the

selah occurs, embodies the feelings which were stirred in the

Church by the announcements of God, those, namely, of judg-

ment in ch. i., and of deliverance in ch., so that it is really

of the nature of Psalmodic poetry, and is adapted for singing

and playing as a Psalm; as, indeed, both its superscription and

48                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


conclusion are borrowed from the Psalms. Our view of the

matter is confirmed also by Ps. ix. 16, where the hls stands

along with Nvygh, "reflection" (see our remarks there). This

juxtaposition decides against Ewald's notion, that selah was a

summons to particularly loud playing, deriving the word from

a substantive ls and that from lls, professedly signifying to

mount; properly, "to the heights," "up," which in matters of

sound, must be synonymous with loud, clear. In a philological

point of view, also, this opinion is open to many objections. For

remarks against this and other divergent explanations, see Ge-

nesius' Thes. The right view was substantially given by Luther.

The selah, says he, tells us "to pause and carefully reflect on

the words of the Psalm, for they require a peaceful and medi-

tative soul, which can apprehend and receive what the Holy

Spirit there cogitates and propounds. Which we see, indeed,

in this verse, where the Psalmist is deeply and earnestly moved

to feel and understand this heavy trial of the spirit, wherein

also God seems to take part, as well as the creature."

            Ver. 3. While, according to vers. 1 and 2, the earth pre-

sented to the Psalmist nothing but trouble and danger, an helper

in the heavens appears to his eye of faith. He comforts him-

self in God, to whom he looks as his Saviour in all troubles and

dangers, to whom he owed his high elevation, and who always

hears his prayers. Man may deny him His help, but yet he

sees in what God had already done for him a sure pledge of

what he might still expect. Luther: "Here he sets, in oppo-

sition to the foregoing points, three others. Against the many

enemies of whom he had spoken, he places this, that God is his

shield. Then, as they had set themselves against him, thinking

to put him to shame before the world, he opposes the fact, that

God had given him honour. Finally, he complains of the slan-

derers and scoffers, and against these he boasts, that it is the

Lord who lifts up his head.--To the people, and to his own mind,

he may seem forsaken and alone; but before God, and in his

spirit, he is encompassed with a great host, neither forsaken,

nor alone, as Christ said to His disciples, John xvi. 32, ‘Lo

the hour cometh, yea is now come, that ye shall be scattered

every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone; and yet I am

not alone, because the Father is with Me.’—However impotent

and oppressed he might seem in the eyes of men, before God,

and in the spirit, he is the strongest and the mightiest; inso-

                             PSALM III. VER. 3.                                49


much that he boasts of God's power with the utmost confidence

and security, like St Paul, who could say, ‘When I am weak,

then I am strong.’—Whoever understands, or has experienced

such assaults, will, at the same time, understand how foolishly and

wickedly they speak, who say that man by nature can love God

above all things. Thou shalt find no one who will bear such dis-

pleasure from God; and yet, if the love of God does not over-

come that, He is not loved above all things. Therefore the words

of this verse are not words of nature, but words of grace,—not

of man's free will, but of the Spirit of God,—of a very strong

faith, which can see God through the darkness of death and

hell, and can still recognise Him as a shield, though He seems to

have forsaken,—can see God as a persecutor, and yet recognise

Him as an helper,—can see God apparently condemning, and

at the same time recognise Him as blessing. For he who

has such faith judges not by what he sees and feels, like

the horse and mule, which have no understanding, Ps. xxxii.

9, but clings fast to the word, which speaks of things that man

sees not."

            And Thou, 0 Lord, art a shield about me; my glory, and

He who lifts up my head. God is Abraham's shield, according

to Gen. xv. 1, and Israel's shield, according to the closing words

of the law, Deut. xxxiii. 29. David has an especial predilec-

tion for this designation: Psalm vii. 10; xviii. 2; xxviii. 7.

The dfb, corresponds entirely to the German um (Anglice,

about), and to the Gr. a]mfi< Ew. p. 613, around me, giving me

protection.—My glory. Because David's glory, viz. the high

dignity which he possessed, was derived from the Lord; he

names Him his glory—comp. Psalm lxii. 7, "In God is my

salvation and my glory." Many expositors falsely render: the

vindicator of my glory, by metonomy of the effect for the cause.

The parallel passages to which reference is made, such as Psalm

xxvii. 1, "The Lord is my light and my salvation," are brought

in support only by a wrong exposition. The vindication of glory

is a consequence of the Psalmist's having his glory from God

and in God. What has its ground in God, that he will not

suffer to be taken away. The lifting up of the head marks the

deliverance of a man from a position of humiliation, from great

dangers, from the state in which he goes mournful and dis-

pirited with drooping head. The discourse here, however, is

not of the deliverance to be hoped for in this danger nor of

50                THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


any particular transaction whatever, but of all the events in

the life of David, in which he had found that the Lord was his

deliverer. Upon the circumstance that the Lord had generally

been the lifter up of his head, he grounds the hope that in this

distress also He would be the same; and from God's having

been the source of his glory, he derived the hope that God

would not suffer the impious attempts of those now to go un-

punished, who sought to rob him of it.

            Ver. 4. I cry unto the Lord with my voice, and He hears me

out of His holy hill. The verbs in this verse mark a habit, not

a single action, just as in Psalm xviii. 3, "When I call upon

the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and am saved from mine

enemies." Because the Lord is, in respect to David, the one

who hears prayer, the surest mark of a gracious condition, He

cannot leave him now, without also hearing him. Luther

"He speaks here chiefly of the voice of the heart; still I con-

ceive that the corporeal voice is not excluded, and hence, that

the voice of the heart and feeling, when it is vehement, cannot

be restrained, but must break forth into the literal voice. For

Christ Himself upon the cross cried with an audible voice,

teaching us to cry in straits and necessities, and that with all

our power, inward and outward, we should call upon the Lord.'

The answer follows in a sermo realis. The Fut. with vau conv.

simply denotes the consequence from the preceding; hence, if

we render xrqx I call, it is to be translated, not He answered,

but He answers. The holy hill is Mount Zion; from thence

the servant of the Lord derives his help. This faith is very

often expressed in the Psalms. It had its ground in the pro-

mise, that the Lord would dwell among His people, and would

sit on a throne in the sanctuary above the ark of the covenant.

This promise was given to help the weakness of the Israelites,

which made them desire a praesens numen, an incorporation of

the idea that God is, in a peculiar sense, their God. When

the faithful seek help from the sanctuary, they declare that

they expect it, not from Elohim, but from Jehovah—that they

hope for that power of the covenant with Israel, upon which

alone they could rest with proper confidence. For the Chris-

tian, Christ has come into the place of Jehovah, and the holy

bill. In regard to the Selah here, Luther remarks:  "The

word means, that we should here pause, and not lightly pass

over these words, but reflect further upon them. For it is an


                              PSALM III. VER. 5.                                51


exceedingly great thing to be heard, and to expect help from

the holy hill of God."

            Ver. 5. I lay me down and sleep; I awake, for the Lord sus-

taineth me; i.e. the assistance of the Lord, which is assured to

me, by what He has formerly done, makes me soon fall to sleep,

and brings me a pleasant awakening. In this part also, many

expositors think the Psalmist speaks of what is still going for-

ward: Often already have I laid myself quietly down in the

midst of danger, and found sleep. I have not, like those who

live in the world without God, tossed about with uneasy cares

upon my bed, and the issue has always corresponded with my

hopes. I have constantly awoke without any evil having be-

fallen me, for the Lord is my stay and help. By this construc-

tion, however, according to which this verse would be closely

united to vers. 3, 4, the strophe-division is entirely destroyed,

and the Selah at the end of the preceding verse appears then

unsuitable. The expression of confidence in regard to present

distress, limited in such a case to ver. 6, is too short, and the

setting forth of the Psalmist's hope ceases to bear a due propor-

tion to the setting forth of the ground of his hope. But if,

with Venema and others, we refer ver. 6 also to the past, we

put out the eye of the Psalm. It is therefore better to refer

the words to his present danger, and regard them as the expres-

sion of a joyful confidence, which enabled him, even in such

circumstances, to lay himself down and sleep, and to expect also

to awake in security and peace. The ytvcyqh is consequently to

be taken as the praet. proph. Faith sees what is not as if it

were, the awaking just as surely as the lying down. The verse

shows that the Psalm was an evening hymn, as was also the

following one, the eighth verse of which remarkably agrees

with that now under consideration; and the praet. ytbkw im-

plies that the Psalmist had already betaken himself to rest. It

happened to David according to his faith. Ahithophel made

no way with his counsel to attack by night, and David with-

drew before break of day beyond Jordan. "Quod non Omni-

bus aeque feliciter accidit," remarks J. H. Michaelis, adducing

1 Sam xxvi. 7-15, where David surprised and could have slain

Saul while sleeping in his tent. It is only to the righteous

that the promise is given in Prov. iii. "When thou liest

down, thou shalt not be afraid; yea, thou shalt lie down, and

thy sleep shall be Sweet." The ynx is emphatical, in opposition

52                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


to the vain expectation of the enemy: I, the very person, whom

ye imagine to be beyond the reach of deliverance.

            Ver. 6. I am not afraid of ten thousands of people, which they

set against me round about. The tvbbr has reference to vbr and

Mybr in vers. 2 and 3. There is as little reason here, as in Isa.

xxii. 7 (where it may with propriety be rendered, "The Horse-

men, place they, towards the gate"), for taking tvw intransi-

tively, set themselves, in which sense it never occurs.

            Ver. 7. The Psalmist prays the Lord to justify the confi-

dence which he had expressed in the preceding strophe, and to

fulfil the promise substantially given in the earlier deliverances -

he had experienced, and on which he grounded his expectation

of present aid. Arise, 0 Lord, save me, 0 my God. For Thou

didst smite all mine enemies upon the cheek-bone; thou didst

break the teeth of the ungodly. That is, I cannot but expect

this from Thee, as Thou hast hitherto so uniformly stood by

me. The words "save (or deliver) me," have reference to those

in ver. 2, " There is no help for him in God." yHl is in the

accusative. By the smiting on the cheek, as a piece of insult-

ing treatment, the power and energy is broken; comp. 1 Kings

xxii. 24; Micah iv. 14; Lam. iii. 30. We must not, because

of the following clause, limit the design of the smiting on the

cheek-merely to the knocking out of the teeth, with which the

wicked, like so many wild beasts, were ready to eat the flesh of

David, Psalm xxvii. 2. That clause only specifies a particular

result of the smiting in question. The ungodly are parallel to

the enemies in the preceding clause. This is explained by the

fact, that David's adversaries were, at the same time, the un-

godly, and that their hatred was directed against him as the

representative of the principle of good. This is confirmed also

by history. In particular, and there is no question, that, in the

wearisome persecutions he endured at the hands of Saul, to

which he specially refers, individual was not opposed to indi-

vidual, but principle to principle. The ungodly principle,

thrown down in Saul, sought afterwards to regain the ascend-

ant in Absalom, who is only to be considered as an instrument

and centre of the unrighteous party. The more, therefore, did

the earlier deliverance experienced by the Psalmist, form a

ground for his present supplication.

            That tykh and trbw are not to be regarded as praeterita pro-

phetica, as some think—that David rather grounds, according

                             PSALM III. VER. 8.                            53


to custom, his prayer to the Lord for deliverance upon his

earlier deliverances, which arose from his general relation to

the Lord, as his present deliverance was to be a result thereof,

is manifest from the causative particle yk, which the expositors

referred to seek in vain to render by yea; also from the parallel

passage, Psalm iv. 1; and most of all, from a comparison of

vers. 2-4, the substance of which is only concisely repeated

here. As in vers. 5, 6, he rested his hope upon the general re-

lation, so here also his prayer. That relation also of David to

the Lord which warranted him to seek help from Him, is alluded

to in the expression, "my God." But it is not absolutely neces-

sary to translate, "Thou smotest," "Thou didst break:" we

may also correctly translate with Luther, "Thou smitest,"

"Thou breakest in pieces;" and this rendering is confirmed

by vers. 3, 4, where, not so much what the Lord had already

done is represented as a ground of hope, as what He is con-

stantly doing. The preterite not unfrequently denotes a past,

reaching forward into the present: see Ewald's Small Gr.

§ 262. In perfect accordance with the spirit of the Psalms,

which always treat a particular danger, threatening the right-

eous, as representative of the entire class, Luther remarks:

"This Psalm is profitable also to us for comforting weak and

straitened consciences, if we understand in a spiritual sense by

the enemies, and by the teeth of the ungodly, the temptations

of sin, and the conscience of an ill-spent life. For there indeed

is the heart of the sinner vexed, there alone is it weak and for-

saken; and when men are not accustomed to lift their eyes

above themselves, and to cry to God against the raging of sin,

and against an evil conscience, there is great danger; and it is

to be feared lest the evil spirits, who, in such a case, are ready

to seize upon poor souls, may at last swallow them up, and lead

them through distress into despair."

            Ver. 8. Salvation is the Lord's. He is the possessor and

sole dispenser thereof—He can give it to whom He pleases, even

to the most helpless, whom the whole world considers to be in a

desperate case. "Though all misfortune, all tribulation and evil,

should come at once, still there is a God who can deliver, in His

hand is help and blessing." This thought must have been pe-

culiarly comforting to David when deserted by human helpers

and means of deliverance. Since salvation belonged wholly to

the Lord, he might rest secure, for the Lord was his God. Thy

54                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


blessing upon Thy people!  The royal Psalmist shows by these

words that his own person lay less upon his heart, than the

people committed to him by the Lord—that he claims deliver-

ance for himself only in so far as it could do good. to his people.

The declaration in the first clause forms the necessary founda-

tion for the prayer uttered in the second. To be able truly to

pray from the heart, we must firmly believe that God is really

in possession of the treasure, from which He is to communicate

to us. In the preceding verse the order is reversed.


                                     PSALM IV.


            Encompassed by enemies, the Psalmist calls upon the Lord

for help, ver. 1. He turns then to his enemies, and admonishes

them to cease from their attempts to rob him of his dignity, and

from their vain purposes; exhorts them to reflect that the

dignity which they sought to take from him was conferred on

him by God, and that this fact gave the Psalmist sure ground

for expecting the fulfilment of the prayer which he utters at the

commencement; for what the Lord has given He must also pre-

serve, vers. 2, 3. He warns them not to sin further by giving

way to passionate emotions; urges them to meditate upon this

admonition in their silent chamber, upon their bed; to cease from

their noise and bluster; and instead of hypocritical offerings, with

which they thought to make the Lord favourable to them, to

present righteous sacrifices; to put their trust in the Lord, instead

of boasting of their own power, and of the superiority of their

means to those of the Psalmist; for only these two things,

righteous sacrifices and confidence in God, can afford a well-

grounded hope of a prosperous issue, and those to whom these

conditions fail, flatter themselves with vain hopes, vers. 4, 5.

In vers. 6 and 7 the Psalmist declares how much the confidence

in the Lord, which his enemies wanted, was possessed by him-

self. He despairs not in his distress, as many do, but is firmly

persuaded that the Lord can and will help him; and this per-

suasion, wrought in him by the Lord Himself, makes him more

blessed than his enemies are in the very fulness of their pro-

sperity. In conclusion, he again expresses the firmest trust in

the Lord, in which he gives himself to sleep, ver. 8.

            The strophe-division has been correctly made by Koester

                                   PSALM IV.                                         55


thus: 1. 2. 2. 2. 1. He remarks, that the first verse obviously

stands by itself; then follows the address to the enemies in two

strophes, a third expresses David's delight, and the last verse

again stands alone, as a "good night." Koester's remark, how-

ever, that the selah is twice placed a verse too early, is not cor-

rect. On the contrary, it forms a most appropriate break in the

sense, in the middle of the two strophes, which are directed to-

ward the enemies. The first verse of both strophes contains the

dissuasion, the second the exhortation; in both instances there

is a pause in the middle, as if to give them space for reflection,

to make them thoughtful. We need only conceive a dash to

occupy the place of the selah.

            The Psalm begins with a prayer, and concludes with an ex-

pression of confidence in its fulfilment. In the middle, the

Psalmist seeks to make himself acquainted with the grounds

which assured him of this. It is only when we take vers. 2-7

so, viewing it as an address to the enemies merely in form, that

the Psalm appears in its real internal connection. The pillars

of the bridge, which in vers. 2-7 is laid between the distress

and the deliverance, between the prayer and the confidence, are,

1. The Psalmist's election, and the circumstance, that his ene-

mies were striving against this Divine decree, and seeking to rob

him of what God had given him. 2. The Psalmist's sincere

and fervent piety (the dysH, in ver. 3), the enemies' hypocritical

and outward religiousness, implied in their needing to be called

on to "offer sacrifices of righteousness," in ver. 5. 3. The

Psalmist's lively trust in God, vers. 6, 7, while his enemies were

placing their confidence not upon the Lord, but only upon

human means of help—comp. ver. 5, "put your trust in the


            Expositors for the most part refer this Psalm also to Absa-

low's conspiracy; and that they are right in doing so, appears

from the following considerations:--1. The Psalmist charges

his enemies, vers. 2, 3, with seeking to rob him of the dignity

conferred on him by God. On this ground alone, we cannot

refer the Psalm, with some, and in particular Calvin, to the

persecutions of Saul. It presupposes a domestic revolt against

the Psalmist, after he had actually ascended the throne. 2. The

Psalm so remarkably agrees with the preceding one, which is

connected with Absalom's conspiracy, that it must of necessity

be referred to the same period—comp. ydvbk, “my glory,” in ver.

56                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


2, with iii. 3, and ver. 8 with iii. 5. The objection of De Wette,

that the Psalmist does not address a faithless son, but only men

generally, apart from what was remarked on Ps. iii., is obviated

by the consideration that Absalom was the mere tool of an un-

righteous party dissatisfied with David, which made his vanity

subservient to its own purposes; hence David, who so willingly

regarded his son as the seduced, rather than as the seducer,

directs his speech mainly to these. The other objections pro-

ceed upon a false view of vers. 5, 7. So also Hitzig's opinion,

that the Psalm must have been composed after the danger spoken

of in the preceding one had passed away, is founded upon a

false exposition. Claus endeavours to show, that all the ap-

parently individual allusions in the Psalm might possibly also

be viewed as general; but he has proved nothing that is not un-

derstood at a glance, namely, that the individual always has at

the same time a general aspect, and is only sketchily indicated

on the ground of the general. We have already seen how this

structure of the Psalms arises from the nature of the case—

out of the living faith of their authors, which did not allow them

to narrate at length their own circumstances, and also from their

keeping always in view the wants of the whole community.

How much this peculiarity of the Psalms fits them for the general

use of the Church, is easily perceived. Only glance for a moment

at this Psalm. How much less edifying would it have been, had

David, in place of glory, which can be taken in the most ex-

tended sense, so that the very least can possess and lose it, put

his kingly honour and supremacy; or in place of vanity and lies,

by which each one can understand, according to his situation,

every kind of calumny and deception to which he may possibly

be exposed, had substituted the foolish counsels of Absalom, and

his companions in particular! Ewald, following many of the older

expositors, properly concludes from ver. 8, that the Psalm was

composed as an evening hymn and prayer. Night is the season

when painful feelings are most apt to stir up and inflame the hearts

of those who are far from God. That this night was the first of

David's flight, is probable from ver. 7, in addition to the reasons

already adduced in our introduction to the preceding Psalm.

            To the chief musician.—The word Hcnml (comp. Delitzsch

Symb. p. 25), which stands at the head of fifty-three Psalms, is

considered by many as an Aramaic form of the infinitive. They

render it, either "for singing," or as Claus more definitely, "for

                                        PSALM  IV.                                     57


singing through," with reference to that kind of music, of which

the same melody is continued through different strophes, in con-

trast to a composition embracing the whole Psalm. Both ren-

derings, however, are quite arbitrary, and not less arbitrary is

the explanation given of the form. The Aramaic form of the

infinitive is never found in Hebrew; and even if it were, it would

not be as it is here. Against this explanation may lastly be

urged, that with that word is always joined the article. The

form can only be the partic. in Piel with the article prefixed.

Now occurs frequently in the books of Chronicles and Ezra,

in the sense of "preside," and, as has been remarked by Ewald,

is used only of the ordering and directing which were committed

to the chiefs of the Levites—uncertain whether incidentally, or

whether the word is a Levitical technical term—and in 1 Chron.

xv. 2, it is specially used of the directing of the musical per-

formance. What could be more natural then, in the superscrip-

tions to the Psalms, than to remember the leader of the music?

Hcnm signifies merely a "president," and we gather only from the

context, that a director of music is specially meant. From the

article, which may with perfect propriety be understood generi-

cally, we are not to conclude with Ewald, that the directorship

of music was a standing office in the temple. The title, "to the

chief musician," is of importance in so far, as it affords a proof

that the Psalms which contain this in the superscription were

intended for public use in the temple. It is only with a refer-

ence to this that the word could hold the place it does in the

superscriptions. This place must have been assigned it by the

authors themselves of the Psalms, thereby begetting a very fa-

vourable prepossession in behalf of the originality of the other

information contained in the superscriptions. Ewald, in order

to neutralize this testimony for the superscriptions, would fain

translate Hcnml: of the chief musician. In his view, the word

indicates that the Psalm had actually been set to music, and per-

formed by the chief musician. But for the other rendering to

the chief musician, meaning that it was to be delivered up to him

to be prepared for performance (in which case the word must

have been prefixed by the author himself, before the musical per-

actually took place), a decisive proof is afforded by Hab.

iii. 19, the more important in its bearing on our exposition here, as

the prophet manifestly imitates the superscription of the Psalms.

The words ytvnygnb Hcnml, with which the song of the Church is

58               THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


there closed, can be no otherwise explained than as meaning,

"to the chief musician upon my (Israel's, for it is the Church

that speaks through the whole chapter) stringed instrument;"

which is as much as, assigned to the chief musician, that he might

have it publicly sung in the temple with the accompaniment of

sacred music: this might be considered to be the national music.

Negionoth is the general name for all stringed instruments. The

whole superscription, then, of the Psalm, is to be paraphrased

thus: A Psalm of David to be delivered to the music director,

that he may arrange for its performance with the accompaniment

of stringed instruments.

            Ver. 1. When I call, answer me, Thou my righteous God,

who givest me help in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my

prayer. The "my God" is here rendered more definite, by an

additional word. The Psalmist indicates that he expected help,

not on account of any partial predilection entertained for him

by God, but from his God being the Righteous One, who could

not but afford aid to His righteous cause. In this he supplies

a rule for every prayer in like extremities. To beg help, with-

out being able thus to designate God, is equivalent to blasphemy.

For, instead of wishing God to act according to His nature, one

then wishes Him to deny His nature. The suffix refers, as

it very frequently does, to the compound idea; Ewald, p. 580.

It is used precisely in the same way, for example, in Psalm

xxiv. 5, "The God of his salvation," = his salvation-God. The

explanation adopted by several, which takes "Thou God of my

righteousness," as equal to "Thou who takest the part of my

righteousness," can find no parallel to justify it.—yl tbHrh rcb, 

properly, in straits Thou makest me large, wide. Narrowness is

a figurative term for misfortune, as broadness for prosperity.

The meaning is, "Full of confidence, I call on Thee for help,

who hast already given me so many proofs of Thy goodness,

hast so often already delivered me from trouble, whose proper

business it is to do this." The verb may be rendered either,

"Thou hast enlarged," —in which case David would ground his

prayer for help merely upon past deliverances,—or, "Thou dost

enlarge," David being then understood to comfort himself with

the thought, that God stood ordinarily to him in the relation of

a helper in the time of need. This latter view, which is Luther's

also, "Thou who comfortest me in distress," is to be preferred

on this account, that the words, according to it, briefly compre-

                              PSALM IV. VER. 2.                                  59


hend what had been set forth in detail in vers. 3 and 4 of the

preceding Psalm, which stands so closely related to this. The

Psalmist shortly resumes in these words what in Psalm iii. had

been the foundation of his hope of deliverance, and raises him-

self up in the following verses, by means of a new ground of

hope, even his Divine election. The words have suffered a false

exposition in two ways. First, by De Wette, who explains the

pret. imperatively. Grammatically, this is inadmissible, for in

such cases the vau relat. never fails; Ewald p. 554; Small Gr.

§ 621. The parallel passages, Ps. vii. 7, lxxi. 3, adduced by

De Wette are to be explained differently. And, granting that

a single passage might be found, in which an exception occurs

to the general rule, yet we should not be justified in adopting

here an usage which is certainly very rare, and only to be ad-

mitted in a case of necessity; since the exposition we prefer gives

an easy and natural sense, and is confirmed by the parallel pas-

sages in the preceding Psalm. Comp. Psalm xxvii. 9, where

"Thou who art my helper" corresponds to "Thou God of my

salvation."—Then by Hitzig, who finds here a deliverance from a

certain particular distress, the same that was spoken of in Psalm

third. But that this still continued, is evident from the extra-

agreement between the whole substance of this Psalm

and that of the preceding one. And still more decidedly is this

supposition rebutted by a comparison of our Psalm with iii. 2-4,

and especially ver. 7.

            Ver. 2. 0 ye sons of men, how long shall my glory be for

shame? or be a matter of reproach; i.e. when will ye at length

cease wantonly to attack my dignity? According to De Wette,

the expression, sons of men, must be viewed as standing simply

for men. But in that case it would certainly have been, not

wyx ynb, but the more common expression, Mdx ynb. The correct

view was perceived by Calvin, who says:  "It is an ironical

concession, by means of which he mocks their insolence. They

conceived themselves to be noble and wise whilst it was only

a blind rage that impelled them to their shameful undertakings."

The word wyx, when used emphatically, conveys the idea of

strength, as man does in every language. That the expression is

"of the man," and not "of the men," obviates the objection, that

it is difficult to see why it should be "sons of the man," and

not simply "men."  The revolters considered themselves as sons

of the man in and for himself, as normal-men. In reference to

60                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


this foolish self-confidence, the Psalmist admonishes them, in

ver. 5, to put their trust in God. To the same haughtiness,

indicated in the first address, the subject-matter of the remain-

der of this verse, and of the next one, points; for it was pride

which made the glory of him whom God had chosen in-

tolerable to them. Agreeably to the character of the whole

Psalm, the description of pride is as mild and gentle as possible.

The expression, by itself, properly marks no more than power

and might. It is all the milder that the secret blame has for

its basis an open recognition, a free acknowledgment of their

power and strength. Besides, the expression, "sons of man,"

is in many places used unquestionably in an emphatical sense.

So, for example, in Psalm xlix. 2, where "the sons of man,"

and "the sons of men," stand in opposition to each other, as

denoting rich and poor; Psalm lxii. 9; Prov. viii. 4. If this

emphatical sense is rejected here, instead of a very significant

address, which carries us into the inmost heart of the subject,

opens up to our view the ultimate ground of the behaviour

charged in what follows upon those here addressed, there re-

mains only a meaningless form of speech. The question, "how

long," might appear, in opposition, to what we conceive to have

been the situation of the Psalmist, to import that the improper

conduct of the enemies had already continued a long period.

But in so wicked a project as that of Absalom's revolt, such a

question is not out of place, at the very commencement. That

the words, "my glory," are not a mere circumlocution for his

person, is obvious from the contrast in which it stands with


            How long will ye love vanity, and seek after lies! By the

vanity and lies, Kimchi understands the sovereignty of Absalom,

which is so called because it was to have no continuance, and

would disappoint the hopes of the rebels. To the same effect,

also, Calvin. He remarks, that the revolt was very truly named

a lie, on this account, that the persons concerned in it deluded

themselves and others regarding the real nature of their attempt,

which they decked out in the most splendid colours. But a

comparison with such passages as Psalm xxxiv. 14, "seek peace,"

Zeph. ii. 3, "seek righteousness," "seek meekness," shows that

the seeking, in parallelism with loving, is best taken to mean

pains with, to go about a thing,—and a comparison with such

passages as Psalm lxii. "They only consult to cast him down

                           PSALM IV. VER. 3.                          61


from his excellency; they delight in lies; they bless with their

mouths, but they curse inwardly;" Isa. xxviii. 15:  "We have

made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid our-

selves." Psalm v. 6, renders it probable, that by lies is to be

understood the mass of falsehoods through which the rebels

sought to help forward their bad cause; and if this be the

case, then by vanity, as in Psalm ii. 1, is primarily to be under-

stood, vanity in a moral sense, worthlessness. How important

a part lies played in the revolt of Absalom, may be seen from

2 Sam. xv. 7, 8, by a signal example. Without the lie of Absa-

lom, which is there recorded, the whole rebellion would have

been strangled at the first.

            Ver. 3. But know that the Lord hath set apart him, His pious

one for Himself. The meaning is, "Think not that I have

been appointed king by men: God Himself has chosen me,

whom He knew to be a pious worshipper, to that honour, from

among the people; and ye who presume to fight against me

really fight against Him, who also will take the management of

my cause." The close connection between this verse and the

preceding one is marked by the t at the commencement. This

is to be explained by considering the "how long," etc., as

virtually saying, "Cease now at length to defame my glory."

If this be the reference to the preceding verse, we cannot think

of explaining hlpH by "to distinguish," and of discovering an

allusion in it to the manifold proofs he had received of Divine

favour. It can only denote his separation to that which the

revolters strove to take from him, viz. to glory, to royal dignity.

hlp, besides, constantly has in Hiph. the sense of singling out

or separating; comp. Ex. viii. 18, and especially xxxiii. 16, where

Moses says to the Lord, "And we are separated, I and Thy

people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth."

As the Lord there separated Israel from all nations, so here

His godly one out of Israel; and that this is the meaning also

here, and not the one received by many commentators of dis-

tinguishing, is specially manifest from the following vl—God

has set apart for Himself. It is an arbitrary assumption, that

vl dysH stands for vdysH.  Luther translates: But know that the

Lord wonderfully guides His holy ones. He has combined vl

with dysH, and taken hlph mean the same as xlph=xylph, the

Hiphil of xlp, “to be wonderful,” which is also found in a

number of MSS. Hitzig, too, gives a similar exposition: that

62                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


God does wonders for His holy one. The reading xlph, how-

ever, is not sufficiently confirmed; and xlp and hlp are never

interchanged; nor does the latter lose its ordinary signification

of separating in Psalm xvii. 7: Separate Thy grace from the

number of common acts of grace, show me singular grace.

Parallel to this mode of expression, according to the only correct

explication, is the passage Psalm lxxviii. 70, 71:  "He chose

David also His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds;

from following the ewes great with young, He brought him to

feed Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance." When

the Psalmist designates himself dysh, the "pious one," he de-

clares the ground on account of which God had selected him,

or had called him out of the mass of the people to be His highest

servant in His kingdom. Venema: "Ut quem cognosceret, cum

erga se, tum erga homines optime affectum." Comp. 1 Sam.

xv. 28, where Samuel says to Saul, "The Lord hath rent the

kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a

neighbotir of thine, who is better than thou;" also 1 Sam. xvi. 7.

dsH signifies love, and is used not merely of the love of God,

but also of human love, of man's love to God in Hos. vi. 4:

"Your goodness (love) is as the morning cloud," and Jer. ii. 2;

of love toward men in Hos. vi. 6, "I have desired mercy (love)

and not sacrifice;" and in Isa. xl. 6, where the love of the flesh

is the love which men show to their fellow-men. dysH is one who

has love toward God, and toward his brethren. The form

with Chirek has not only, arising out of the passive form vbtk, a

purely passive signification, but it also frequently forms, arising

out of the form with Zere, adjectives of intransitive significa-

tion (Ew. p. 234), so that there is scarcely need for saying with

Winer that a passive form is here taken actively. That one of

the standing titles of the righteous should specify love as one

of his characteristic marks, is important from the bearing it has

on the religious moral standpoint of the Old Testament, as,

showing how little a service of dead words accorded with its

spirit.  The Psalms, in this respect, may be said to rest upon

the law; for there already appeared the two commands of love

to God and to our neighbour, as those in which all particular

ones are included, and the fulfilment of which carries along with

it obedience to all others, while without that, this is not possible.

The command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," is

delivered in Lev. xix. 18; love to God is expressly announced

                         PSALM IV. VER. 4.                                    63


in the Decalogue as the fulfilment of the law, Ex. xx. 6; and

the precept of love to God constantly returns in Deut., agree-

ably to its design of forming a bridge between the law and the

heart, and is expressly described as the e!n kai> pa?n, the one

thing needful, the fulfilling of the whole law, Deut. vi. 8, x. 12,

xi. 13. Hupfeld (in De Wette) has revived an older view,

according to which dysH signifies, not one who has love to God

and his brother, but one who participates in the love of God.

But for the refutation of the assertion on which this view is

grounded, that dsH is never used of love to God, the passages

already cited are sufficient; and that such a view has of late

years been rightly abandoned, is clear from the fact that dysH  

is used of God Himself, Jer. iii. 12; Psalm cxlv. 17; and from

hdysH, "the loving one," avis pia, as a name of the stork.

            It is a good conclusion which David here draws: The Lord

hath chosen me, therefore will He hear my prayer against those

who seek to rob me of the honour conferred by Him. This

conclusion may be appropriated by all those who are assailed in

the particular station and calling which God has bestowed on

them; they may confidently expect the Divine help to stamp

all the projects directed against them as vanity, and the reasons

by which these may be justified as lies. But everything de-

pends on the major premiss being right; and therefore were

our fathers so extremely careful and conscientious in the in-

quiry, whether their call were truly a Divine one. In David's

case, it was a matter of great comfort that he could be perfectly

certain of his election—that he had not arrogated to himself

his calling, but had quietly waited till it was conveyed to him

by God. All his cheerfulness during Absalom's insurrection

was founded on that. What could he well have said to the

rebels, if he had himself, at an earlier period, rebelled against

Saul, and driven him from the throne?  Besides, the unques-

tionable relation which the words, "The Lord will hear when

I call to Him," bear to those in ver. 1, "Hear me when I call,"

renders it manifest that the address to the enemies is a mere

form, by which the Psalmist endeavours to make clear to him-

self the grounds he had for thinking their project vain, and

expecting deliverance;—it is as if he had said, "Lord, hear

my prayer; yea, Thou wilt do it, for Thou Thyself gavest me

the glory of which my enemies try to rob me."

            Ver. 4. Be angry and sin not; say it in your heart upon your

64                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


bed and be silent. After the example of the LXX. o]rgi<zesqe

kai> mh> a[marta<nete, Ngr is to be taken in the sense of being angry.

The exhortation "to be angry" passes into its opposite, in con-

sequence of the condition thereto annexed, as in such a case as

theirs anger was inseparable from sin. It is substantially as if

he had said, Sin not through anger. The choiceness of the

expressions employed, accords with the mild character of the

whole Psalm, and conveys this meaning: I would indeed per-

mit your anger, if the only effect were the injury which might

thereby alight upon me; but since you cannot be angry with-

out sinning, I must warn you to abstain from it. The turn

given to it by Augustine, Luther, and others, is inadmissible:

"Be angry if you please, but see that ye do not proceed so far

as to think, say, or do what is hurtful to your souls, and so sin

against God, yourselves, and your neighbours." In the sup-

posed case, to be angry and to sin were one and the same thing.

"Be angry and sin not," is taken as an unconditional command

in Eph. iv. 26, which is a quotation from this verse, as is mani-

fest not only from the literal correspondence between the words

of the Apostle and the LXX. here, but also from the allusion

made in the succeeding words, "let not the sun go down upon

your wrath," to the clause, "commune with your own heart

upon your bed." The separation between being angry and

sinning, is there also only an apparent one, meant to bring out

more distinctly the internal connection. The exposition of

Harless: Be angry in the right manner, so as not to be guilty

of sin, has against it, not only the words, "let not the sun go

down upon your wrath," which he does not find it easy to dis-

pose of, but also the whole context, which, both before and

after, contains nothing but express and positive prohibitions,

and then particularly the command in ver. 31, to put away all

bitterness and anger. The exposition adopted by several,

tremble, gives a very tame sense, as compared with the one re-

ceived by us. The trembling is also too bald, and to the being

angry, the proper contrast is being silent or still. The whole

verse refers to the blustering passion of the enemies. Besides,

the trembling does not accord with the tone of this Psalm, which

is throughout full of soft expressions; neither would it suit the

character of these revolters, to say, "We will tremble and not

sin," while it would, to say, "We will not commit sin by being

angry;" nor, finally, does the trembling agree with the dis-

                              PSALM IV. VER. 4.                                     65


suasive character which is peculiar to this verse and ver. 2,

while it would destroy the boundary line between it and ver. 5,

which, along with ver. 3, contains the exhortation.

            Say it in your heart upon your bed. In the retired chamber,

upon their couch, in the lone silence of night, are the revolters

to meditate the affair, which hitherto they had discussed only in

their uproarious meetings, at which the better voice of the heart

was suppressed by the tumultuous outbreak of the passions.

bkwm never signifies the sofa or divan, on which Orientals sit

at their conferences. By imagining this, Michaelis and Dereser

have both given a false meaning to the passage. To a con-

trast of actual silence points also vmd, not "rest," "desist from

your sinful projects," as De Wette and others would have it,

but according to the usual and radical signification, "be silent "

(which is here required by the obvious reference it carries to

the rmx), "leave off the debates and wild cry of rebellion."

It is to be remarked, however, that rmx (rendering in Eng. Ver.

commune) differs always from rbd as our say from speak. rmx

can never stand alone: it must always be followed by that

which is spoken; see Gesen. Thes. In many cases, where the

thing spoken is easily gathered from the context, it is left to be

supplied by the reader. So, for example, in Ex. xix. 25, "And

Moses went down to the people, and said to them." The sacred

writer does not expressly say what, because it had just been

mentioned in ver. 24. as God's commission to Moses. In like

manner, Gen. iv. 8, "And Cain said to Abel, his brother, and

it came to pass when they were in the field." What Cain said,

"Let us go into the field," is not expressed, as any one can easily

gather it from the following words, "when they were in the

field;" comp. also 2 Chron. id. 9; xxxii. 24. Now, here the

deficiency is to be supplied from what immediately precedes:

“Let us not sin through anger.” Upon such saying there

necessarily follows silence. For when one is fairly driven into

himself, external noises and tumults cease of themselves. Be-

sides, a peculiar light is thrown on the admonition to the re-

volters by the circumstance that the Psalm, as was remarked in  

the introduction, is an evening hymn. David exhorted his enemies

to do that which he had just been doing himself, and from

which he was deriving a rich blessing. In the stillness of the

night he employs himself, when lying on his bed, with his God;

and hence is it that everything is so clear to him, so full of

66                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


light. Had his enemies but an experience of the same blessing!

What they would thus gain is shown by our Psalm, which is

the result of David's lonely night's meditation. The tone is so

calm, so mild, expressing no bitterness against the proud rebels,

but a tender pity and compassion for them, that they should rush

so heedlessly on destruction. The selah leaves them time, as

it were, to take to themselves the admonition to be angry and

sin not, and then the dehortation is followed by an exhortation.

            Ver. 5. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust

in the Lord. Expositors generally are at a loss regarding the

matter of this verse. Thus Ringeltaube remarks:  "It is diffi-

cult to account for such a transition, and to understand why

wicked blasphemers should so suddenly be called to confidence

in God." Venema thinks, that an admonition to repentance

and conversion might rather have been expected. The key to

a right understanding of it is the remark, that what here is spoken

in the form of an exhortation, like ver. 4, really contains, as to

its matter, a dissuasive from evil. The stress is to be laid upon

"righteousness," and "the Lord:" Bring not your hypocritical,

present a righteous offering; confide not upon your human

resources, but confide in the Lord. It is as if he had said,

The victory cannot belong to my enemies, since they want the

necessary conditions of Divine aid, righteousness and confidence

in God. Many understand by sacrifices of righteousness, such

sacrifices as men were by the law bound to present. Others

take the expression figuratively, as importing sacrifices consist-

ing in righteousness, or in righteous actions. The unsuitableness

of the former view is apparent from the parallel member, "trust

in the Lord," which leads us to expect here also not an external,

but an internal requirement; it appears, further, from the entire

religious character of the Psalms, in which, as well as in the

Prophets, the inward disposition is constantly brought out in

bold relief, in contrast to everything outward; and, finally, from

the character of David's enemies, who wanted not an hypocriti-

cal, but a true piety. The relation of this verse to the preceding

one comes also in confirmation of the same. For if there the

dissuasion relates to moral guilt, the exhortation here cannot

relate to something merely external. However, we must reject

the second exposition, not less than the first. Such passages as

Ps. li. 18, 19, do not justify us in considering the sacrifices here

mentioned as spiritual ones. For the opposition expressed there

                          PSALM IV. VER. 6.                                  67


between spiritual and fleshly sacrifices, does not exist here. To

us, sacrifices of righteousness are neither legal offerings, nor

offerings consisting of righteousness, but righteous offerings, such

as were presented by a righteous man, or on a principle of right-

eousness—see Ewald, p. 572. So, unquestionably, is the expres-

sion used in Dent. xxxiii. 19, "They shall call the people to the

mountains, there shall they offer sacrifices of righteousness;"

where to take a figurative spiritual, view of the sacrifices, is out

of the question. The quality here demanded was not found in

the sacrifices of the enemies of David, as may be clearly per-

ceived by looking to the sacrifices of Absalom, 2 Sam. xv. 7,

etc., which were most truly offered in the service of unrighteous-

ness. The passage is correctly expounded in the Berleburg

Bible: "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness; therefore must ye

desist from your sin and anger, and fulfil your obligations. For

otherwise your faith will be vain, and your whole service un-

profitable, even though ye sacrifice ever so much. It is not enough

to bring sacrifices, but they must also have a righteous ground.

Whosoever hates his brother, he can bring no acceptable gift

to the altar; his very prayer is sin. The Lord hates the re-

ligious services which are connected with unrighteousness,

enmity, injury to neighbours, and neglect of the obedience owing.

A penitent and contrite heart is required to a right sacrifice,

Ps. li. 17; and a humble and thankful faith, Ps. 1. 14, 23, that

one may present himself to God as a living sacrifice, and his

members as instruments of righteousness, Rom. vi. 13, xii. 1."

The righteousness sought here as a basis for the sacrifices, must

take the place of that sinful anger, which was directed against

the Lord's chosen one, and from which the Psalmist had dis-

suaded the rebels in the preceding verse. The exhortation "to

trust in the Lord," rests also on an implied contrast. The

rebels, intent in their fleshly state of mind on what was visible,

believed their cause to be sure, because while they possessed all

human means of support, David, on the contrary, was bereft of

all. David discloses to them the deceitfulness of their hope,

and the danger which belonged to their condition, by calling on

them to "put their trust in the Lord." The same contrast,

which is here silently implied, is expressly marked in Ps. xii. 5,

xlix. 7; that it is really made here, is manifest from a compari-

son of vers. 3 and 8.

            Ver. 6. Many say, Who will show us good? Lord, lift Thou

68                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


up the light of Thy countenance upon us. According to the

common interpretation, there is no connection between this verse

and the preceding one. So, for example, De Wette remarks:

"Without further connection the Psalmist passes on to the

thought, etc." But merely to state this, is to produce an evi-

dence against the soundness of the interpretation. The Psalmist

had said in the preceding context, that his enemies lacked the

indispensable prerequisite of salvation, confidence in the Lord;

and here he declares, that he had this prerequisite himself.

While in times of distress many said, Who will show us what is

good? he replies, in firm confidence on God, Lord, lift on us

the light of Thy countenance. The words, "Who will show us

good?" (i.e. "give us to possess it,") several expositors regard

as a kind of wish, as equivalent to "Would that some one would

cause us to see good." But the words are rather the expression

of hapless, wretched despair, which gives up all hope, because

it can find no ground for this in the visible aspect of things.

Whence can we expect help? Neither in heaven, nor on earth,

is there any one who is willing and able to impart it to us. In

opposition to this despair of unbelief, David in the second clause

places the hope of faith: I despair not, as many do, when earthly

things afford no ground of hope; I know that a single gracious

look from Thee, 0 Lord, can turn away our distress. To the

“many say,” he silently opposes: "but but I say." He does not

ask, who? He knows the man, who can help. Perhaps David,

while he speaks of many, has especially in his eye his companions

in misfortune, who had remained true to him, and who, because

they stood not upon the same high ground of faith, might partly

have given way to despair. This supposition, however, is not

absolutely necessary. The words, upon us, are intelligible if we

merely suppose that David contrasts himself with the many who

do generally respond in adversity. Only grant, 0 Lord, that

on me, and on all who may, like myself, find themselves in

troubles above the reach of human counsel, the light of Thy

grace may shine, that so help may be afforded us. hsAn; is to be

taken, with most Hebrew expositors, for a different form of writ-

ing xWAn;, imperat. from xWn, "to lift up." The expression xWn  

Mynp is used in the same sense in the principal passage, Numb.

vi. 26, of the Levitical blessing, to which David here unmistake-

ably alludes. This evident reference to the original passage

renders it impossible for us to adopt any other explanation of

                                  PSALM IV. VER 7.                                69


the form hsn. David knows, that it was not in vain the Lord

had commanded to bless His people with these words, and grasps,

with firm faith, the promise which is contained in them. Similar

allusions to the blessings of the priests are not rare in the Psalms;

for example, Ps. xxxi. 16, xliv. 3, lxxx. 7. "The light of Thy

countenance," several explain: "Thy bright serene countenance;"

though better, "Thy countenance-light," that is, "Thy counte-

nance which is a light," which, lifted upon us, or directed to-

wards us, dispels like a clear light the thickest darkness of ad-

versity, before which the night of sorrow flies away, as the literal

night before the sun. "To lift the countenance on any one,"

when used of God, who sits enthroned high above us in the

heavens, is equivalent to looking upon him. But on whomso-

ever the Lord looks, him He favours; whosoever is an object

of displeasure to Him, before him He hides His countenance,

from him He turns it indignantly away, and abandons him to

wretchedness and despair.

            Ver. 7. Thou givest joy in my heart more than in the time

that their corn and their wine increased. The Psalmist declares,

how blessed he feels in this confidence upon the Lord. The

hope, which the Lord Himself had awakened in him, in regard

to the return of His grace, makes him more joyful in the midst

of his distress, than his enemies were while they reposed in the

lap of fortune and abundance. The verse, like the preceding

one, with which it forms a pair, is occupied with the setting forth

of the Psalmist's confidence in God. How deeply-grounded

must that have been, when it could give such peace! The con-

trast is not between God (apart from His gifts), the only and

highest good (which David possessed, and his enemies lacked),

and the perishable goods which were in the hands of his enemies;

but rather a contrast between the hope of a coming salvation,

which rested upon God, and the possession of such an one as is

not only without God in the world, but has God for an enemy.

Comp. Hab. iii. 18, where, after a description of heavy calami-

ties, it is said, "Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will joy in the

God of my salvation."—More than in the time, elliptically for,

more than their joy in the time. The suffix in the two last nouns

is to be referred to the enemies. The abundance of corn and

wine, is an individualizing description of plenty and success.

At first sight such a description scarcely seems to accord with the

circumstances of the period of Absalom's revolt, and De Wette

70                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


has actually argued from this against the reference of the Psalm

to that period. But if we only compare 2 Sam. xvi. 1, 2, we

shall be satisfied that this trait is entirely suitable to the period

in question. David was entertained in his flight by the bene-

ficence of one of his subjects—Zibah brought forth bread

and wine, that he and his servants might eat and drink in the


            Ver. 8. The faith of the Psalmist draws from all that pre-

cedes, the general result. It is this, that he will rest secure

amid all surrounding dangers, under the protection of the Lord.

In peace, secure, and without needing to fear anything, I will

both lay me down to sleep, and shall go to sleep. Nwy is not to be

taken in the sense of sleeping, but in the original—as the com-

parison with the Arabic shows—and the predominating one of

going to sleep; Gen. ii. 21, 5; 1 Kings xix. 5, etc. Only

then is the expression both, at the same time, in its proper place;

he alone, who feels himself in perfect security, can at once go

to sleep when he lies down. The second clause is rendered by

many expositors, For Thou, Jehovah, alone wilt make me dwell

in safety; Thou wilt afford me what the assistance of the whole

world cannot do; Thou wilt protect me from mine enemies,

and grant me rest and security. David here places his present

position in contrast with his earlier one. Calvin: “He reflects

with satisfaction on the guardianship of God as so sufficient for

him, that he can sleep not less securely under it, than if he

had many guards stationed all around him, or was defended on

every side by many companions.” Others, again, refer the word

alone not to God, but to the Psalmist: "Thou, 0 Lord, makest

me to dwell alone, (and) secure;" conceiving that the words

carry an allusion to Numb. 9, Deut. xxxiii. 28, "Israel

then shall dwell in safety alone; the fountain of Jacob shall be

in a land of corn and wine." De Wette takes Sachs to be the

author of this latter exposition. But it is to be met with in

many of the older commentators; for example, in Venema.

Luther, too, brings out very prominently the reference to Dent.

xxxiii. 28, although he translates, "For Thou, Lord, alone

makest me dwell in safety."—"A saying," says he, "not un-

common among the prophets; as if he would say, Indeed, Lord,

in that I dwell safely, Thou art fulfilling what Thou didst pro-

mise through Moses, Israel shall dwell in safety alone." Now,

that the alone is really to be referred to the separation of the

                                       PSALM V.                                         71


Psalmist from his enemies, and his security against their attacks,

the passage in Deuteronomy shows the more decisively, as the

corn and wine mentioned in the last verse were an allusion to

the same passage, and as the prayer, "Lift upon us the light

of Thy countenance," also carries us back to a similar one in

the Pentateuch. But if we take this exposition by itself, and to

the exclusion of the other, there is something hard in it, since

the "alone," and the "in safety," are placed so loosely and un-

connectedly together. This difficulty vanishes if, uniting both

expositions together, we suppose that the Psalmist had in view

a sort of double sense "Thou, 0 Lord, makest me alone dwell

in safety;" for, "Thou only, 0 Lord (comp. Deut. xxxiii. 12),

makest me dwell alone and in safety." The expression, "Thou

makest me dwell," by its peculiarity, begets the suspicion of

there being some original passage previously existing, from which

it is taken, and in Lev. xxv. 18, 19, we find the words, "Ye

shall do My statutes and keep My judgments, and ye shall dwell

in the land in safety; and the land shall yield her fruit, and ye

shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety." With right does

the Psalmist appropriate to himself the promises which origi-

nally referred to Israel. What is true of the whole is true also

of the individual, in whom the idea of the whole is livingly

realized; so that we may again ascend from the individual to

the whole.



                                   PSALM V.


            We make our commencement here with an explanation of

tvlyHnh lx in the superscription. This has received a threefold

exposition.  1. According to the Chaldee and the greater num-

ber of modern expositors, these words denote the instruments,

with the accompaniment of which the Psalm was to be publicly

performed; hlyHn is held to be of like signification with lylH,

"flute," to which it is supposed to be related. But to this it

may be objected, that not a trace of connection is anywhere

else to be found between the two roots; further, that the in-

struments are never in the superscriptions introduced with lx;

finally, that the flute, although it is named among the instru-

ments of the disciples of the prophets in 1 Sam. x. 5, yet is never

mentioned as a component part of the sacred temple music;

72                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


and, in particular, never as one of the instruments with which

the singing of the Psalms was accompanied. For the most part,

it is only stringed instruments that are spoken of in this latter

respect, comp., besides the superscriptions, Ps. xcii. 3, xlix. 4, cl.;

the trumpets, which were used only in the solemn songs of praise,

are mentioned in Ps. 5, lxxxi. 3, xcviii. 6, cl.; but the flute

is never named, not even among the instruments of Ps. cl. 2.

Others suppose, that the words point to another Psalm, after the

air of which this Psalm was to be sung; so Abenezra, Hitzig

"After the inheritance." But a careful examination of the

superscriptions establishes the result, that they do not afford one

certain example of this sort; and it would require an extreme

necessity to shut us up here to a supposition, which is so devoid

of all certain analogy. 3. Others suppose, that the words de-

scribe the subject of the Psalm. So all the Greek translators,

who render the words: u[pe>r th?j klhronomou<shj, "upon the

heiress;" the Vulgate: Super ea, quae haereditatem consequitur;

and Luther: "for the inheritance," which he thus explains,—

"According to the title, this is the common purport of the Psalm,

that it asks for the inheritance of God, desiring that the people

of God may be kept and preserved for their Lord." It is a

general confirmation of this view, that, in by far the most dark

and difficult superscriptions, the words are found, on close in-

vestigation, to give a kind of enigmatical description of the con-

tents and object of the Psalms, of which David in particular

was fond. It is a special reason for this signification, that in

the only other place where lx occurs in a superscription; in

Ps. lxxx., it, in like manner, introduces the subject. This ex-

position is therefore to be preferred, provided the word tvlyHn  

admits of a sense which can serve as a suitable designation of

the subject of the Psalm. llHn signifies, to acquire, possess; the

feminine of the adjective with a passive signification can, there-

fore, only mean the acquired, the possessed; in plural, the pos-

sessions, the lots,—comp. Job vii. 3. Now, the whole Psalm is

taken up with a double destiny, that of the righteous, and that

of the wicked—the blessing which is appointed by God to the

former, and the misery to the latter; and in case of a single

word being employed to describe the contents, none more suit-

able could be found than that here used, "on the lots."

            After an introduction in vers. 1 and 2, in which the Psalmist

entreats the Lord that He would hear and answer his prayer,

                                 PSALM V.                                       73


the prayer itself follows in two strophes of equal length, each

consisting of five verses, vers. 3-7, and vers. 8-12, which run

parallel in point of matter, both treating of the same subject,

and their individual parts corresponding to each other. In 

the first strophe, the Psalmist prays the Lord, that as he made

haste to pray to Him—being his first business in the morning

—so the Lord might hasten to help him against his enemies,

ver. 3; vers. 4-6 grounds this prayer upon the circumstance,

that God, as holy and righteous hates sin and sinners, and

dooms them to destruction; and in ver. 7, the hope and confi-

dence is expressed, that he, the righteous, delivered through

God's grace, will give thanks to Him in His temple. The second

strophe, which is as it were the second table of the prayer, which,

as in the Decalogue, is comprised in the number ten, begins

anew in ver. 8, with a supplication for the Psalmist's deliverance

in his conflict with the adversaries; then follows in vers. 9, 10,

the ground of it, pointing to the sinfulness of the adversaries, 

which called for God's judgments on them, and for their de-

struction; and the conclusion here again, vers. 11, 12, contains

an expression of joyful hope for the righteous, whom God can-

not fail to bless.—The only inequality in point of form is, that in

the first strophe, the grounding of the prayer, and the delinea-

tion given of the lot of the wicked, take up three verses, in the

second only two: whereas the hope and the description of the

lot of the righteous occupy but one verse in the first strophe,

and in the second, two verses. As it is the peculiar aim of the

Psalm to elevate the hope of the righteous, it is quite natural

that the writer should close with a fuller expression thereof.

            Venema justly describes the Psalm as "a distinguished tes-

timony of Divine righteousness and mercy, in defending and

blessing the righteous, and in excluding the wicked from His

fellowship, driving them away, and destroying them." But he

errs in thinking that these truths are delivered by him, quite in

a general way, without any subjective starting point, without

any actual oppression of the righteous, by the wicked giving

occasion to the unfolding of these truths,—a supposition in

which he was already preceded by Luther, who says:  "It is

certain that this Psalm does not treat of external suffering and

opposition, for not a word in the whole Psalm makes mention

of that; but all the complaint is directed against the wicked,

the ungodly, and workers of iniquity. Hence it appears to me,

74                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


that the leading object and characteristic of this Psalm is, that

in it the Psalmist prays against hypocrites, against self-righteous

seducers and false prophets, who mislead the people of God, and

the heritage of Christ, with their human statutes." That the

Psalm originated in the oppression of actual enemies, appears

from the mention of these in ver. 8, from the "for" in ver. 4,

and the same in ver. 9. When the Psalmist grounds his prayer

for acceptance and blessing on the abandonedness of the wicked,

it is presupposed that the wicked were his enemies. He does

not say, as he should have done, according to that hypothesis,

Bless the righteous, destroy the wicked; but he says, Discomfit

the wicked because of their wickedness, and thereby deliver the

righteous. What has misled men into that hypothesis, and

given it probability, is the Psalmist's here specially bringing

out, as a ground of hope for the righteous, that his enemies in

general are wicked, while elsewhere, that which they actually

do as enemies is particularly declared—there it is: "Deliver me

from mine enemies, for they wrong me;" here: "Deliver me

from them, for they are evil, but I am righteous; and Thou canst

not but, according to Thy nature, destroy the wicked, and bless

the righteous." The authors of the Psalms divide the treasure

of consolation, which God has given them as householders, into

particular gifts, and sometimes they exhibit one, sometimes an-

other. Here, for example, the particular point brought into

notice is, that the enemies of the Psalmist are, at the same time,

rebels against God, to whom He cannot accord the victory, with-

out denying Himself; while the Psalmist, on the other hand, was

a righteous man,—that it was impossible God could interchange

or confuse the unalterably fixed, and perpetually separated lots

of the righteous and the wicked; while in Ps. vi. the ground

of hope is derived from the extremely sad position in which

the Psalmist had been placed by his enemies. In brief, the

Psalmist raises up the suffering righteous, by pointing to the

unchangeable Divine righteousness, which will see to it that the

righteous and the wicked shall each receive their respective lots.

He points out how his deliverance from the hand of the wicked

is as undoubtedly certain, as that God cannot deny and forget


            The superscription ascribes the Psalm to David; and that no

exception can be taken against this from ver. 7, where the house

and temple of the Lord are spoken of, we shall show in our

                              PSALM V, VER. 1.                                75


remarks on that verse. What Hitzig has advanced against its

Davidic authorship, viz., the slow motion and diffuseness of

expression, is only, in so far as it is well grounded, of force

against those who suppose a particular occasion. The racy style

and liveliness of feeling generally to be perceived in those

Psalms of David, which originated in particular occasions, we

certainly do not find here.

            Various defenders of the Davidic authorship have tried to

discover some such particular occasion here; usually, it has

been attributed to the revolt of Absalom,—but the endeavour

has been found to be quite fruitless. Ver. 7, which might be

connected with 2 Sam. xv. 25, is altogether general in its sub-

ject, and contains only such matter as every righteous man

might utter. Not a single trace is to be found in the whole

Psalm, of any particular reference. And what is the main

point, viz., that the Psalmist speaks, not in his own person, but

in that of the righteous, puts the words into his mouth, which

he is to use in times of oppression, is clear from the close in

vers. 11 and 12, where, instead of saying "I," he brings for-

ward those who "trust in the Lord," "who love His name," "the

righteous."  The Psalm is, therefore, in the most proper sense,

a didactic one.

            This Psalm probably owes its place here to the circumstance

of its being designed for a morning prayer, ver. 3. On this

account it appeared very appropriate to connect it with Psalm

iii. and iv., which are evening prayers.

            The significant part which the numerals play in our Psalm,

is worthy of remark. The three which the Israelites accounted

peculiarly important and sacred, are found in it. The whole

Psalm contains twelve verses; its proper building without the

ante-chamber, ten; the delineation of the malice of the wicked

twice over, makes up the number seven.

            Ver. 1. Give ear to my words, 0 Lord; understand my medi-

tation.  gygh, which, excepting this passage, occurs only in Ps.

xxxix. 3, is to be derived from the verb ggh, which is of the same

import as hgh. There is no reason for renouncing here, the

common signification, "to meditate," which is also quite suit-

able in Ps. xxxix.; indeed, the context favours this. David

puts first the general expression, "my words." This he now

divides into two parts, the low and the loud; the silent com-

plaint of the heat, the unutterable sighs, which are understood

76                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


by Him who searches the heart, of which Paul also speaks in

Romans viii. 26, 27; and the loud cry of the distressed soul

for help, in the following verse. Nyb, is not to be taken with

Luther, and most modern expositors, in the sense of to observe,

to consider, which the verb never has, when construed with the

accusative, but in the sense of understanding or perceiving,

which, as Muis has remarked, is favoured also by its connection

with meditation.

            Ver. 2. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King and my

God! This address proclaims the ground of the Psalmist's, or

the righteous man's right to demand help, and of his hope in

regard to it. God is named King here, not on account of His

resistless sovereignty over the whole earth, but on account of

His special relation to Israel. As King, God cannot permit

evil to triumph in His kingdom, and He cannot but defend

him, who, as righteous, can address Him as his King. This

address, therefore, reminds God candidly, as only a believer can,

of His obligation to help: it is, at the same time, an exhortation

of the Psalmist to himself, to trust in Divine help. Another

reminder lies in the words, for unto Thee do I pray—where the

for refers to the preceding imperative. David, as Calvin re-

marks, “sets out with the general principle, that those who call

on God in their necessities, are never cast off by Him. He

places himself in opposition to the unbelieving, who in misfor-

tune, neglecting God, either consume their grief within them-

selves, or make complaints of it to men, and are unworthy,

therefore, that God should take cognizance of them.”

            Ver. 3. My voice mayest Thou hear in the morning, 0 Lord;

in the morning I set in order my prayer to Thee, and look out.

Previously, the Psalmist had entreated the Lord generally to

render help; now, he desires Him to make haste to perform the

same. It is, says he, so soon as I awake, my first work in the

day to flee to Thee: do Thou, therefore, hasten also to help me.

Comp. in Ps. 8, "Cause me to hear Thy favour in the

morning," with that in ver. 7, "Hear me speedily." That fmwt  

is to be taken optat., and is not, with Hitzig, to be translated,

hearest Thou, is clear from the analogy of the corresponding

verse just referred to, where the imperative is found, as also

from the words, I look out, which, as to matter, equally con-

tains a prayer. j`rf, to set in order, is used of arranging the

wood upon the altar in Gen. xxii. 9, Lev. i. 7, 1 Kings xviii.

                               PSALM V. VER. 4.                            77



33; the bread upon the sacred table, Lev. xxiv. 8, comp. Ex.

xl. 23, Lev. xxiv. 6. The matter which is here set in order,

are the words of his prayer. Still the expression, "I will set in

order," has not merely the force of "I will direct to Thee;"

but the prayer, probably with a special allusion to the shew-

bread, is described as a spiritual oblation, which the Psalmist

prepares for the Lord with the break of day. And then I look

out. hpc, speculari, namely, whether the answer, the help, ap-

proaches. The Psalmist, having done his own part, waits in

faith that God also will do His. The image is taken from those

who, during hostile attacks, look out from a high watch-tower,

to see whether help is at hand. Comp. Hab. ii. 1, where the

same image is more fully expressed. Micah vii. "Therefore

I will look unto the Lord (rather, I will look out in the Lord),

I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me."

The Berleb. Bible: "One must keep on the watch, if one would

receive anything from God, and wait with longing for the de-

sired answer; also be constantly looking after the help, and

giving heed to whatsoever the Lord may speak." This verse

shows that the Psalm is a morning prayer, just as the two pre-

ceding Psalms contained prayers for the evening. That the pious

in Israel prayed at the same three periods, which the Christian

Church has also consecrated to prayer, appears from Ps. lv. 17,

"Evening, morning, and at noon will I pray, and cry aloud;

and He shall hear my voice." Of the morning prayer alone

is mention made in Ps. lxxxviii. 13, "But unto Thee do I cry,

0 Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer surprise Thee."

            Ver. 4. For Thou art not a God whom wickedness pleases;

the wicked dwelleth not with Thee. The for, which connects

vers. 4-6 with ver. 3, is only satisfactorily explained, when his

deliverance from his enemies is considered as the object, though

not expressly named, of the Psalmist's prayer, and of his earnest

expectation: Hear my prayer for deliverance from mine enemies,

for Thou art not a God that has pleasure in wickedness, etc.

But mine enemies are wicked; therefore Thou must subdue

them, and deliver me. Upon the number seven in the descrip-

tion of wickedness, Luther has remarked: "With seven words

does the prophet accuse the ungodly preachers and their dis-

ciples, those who seek holiness by works." It is the less likely

to have been an accident, as the number seven occurs again in

vers. 9 and 10. j~r;giy; is not to be regarded, with many exposi-

78                     THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


tors, as standing for j~mf rUgy; nor may we, with Ewald, account

for the accus. by saying, that to dwell with is here put for to be

confidential, to know any one as a friend; for in other passages,

such as Ps. cxx. 5, where the verb is in like manner joined with

the accus., this modification of meaning is inadmissible. There

it is used of such as dwell with any one by constraint, and un-

willingly. The construction is rather to be accounted for by

considering the person as comprehending its property in itself:

"to inhabit the Lord," for, "to inhabit the house of the Lord."

This supposition is strongly confirmed by the fact that lhxb rvg.

hvhy, “to dwell in the tabernacle of the Lord," usually is hvhy rvg;

that is, "to inhabit the Lord" (as we explain the words), de-

noting the near relation to the Lord, and His protection; comp.

for example, Ps. xv. 1, lxi. 4. The figure is taken from him

who receives a pilgrim, rge, hospitably into his dwelling. Who-

soever is received to such honour by God, he must take care

not to pollute His pure dwelling with unrighteousness. He

must be holy, even as God is holy.

            Ver. 5. The proud come not before Thine eyes, Thou hatest

all workers of iniquity. They must not appear in His sight; a

mark of the deepest abhorrence, taken from earthly kings, near

whom none are allowed to come, excepting those who enjoy

their favour. De Wette falsely: "They cannot bear Thy

presence on account, of their evil conscience," instead of:

"Thou wilt not bear their presence on account of Thy holi-

ness." Hab. i. 13 is parallel, "Thou art of purer eyes than to

behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity; wherefore lookest

Thou upon them that deal treacherously, etc." Myllvh, proud,

from llh, to shine, then "to be proud," in Hithp. to boast.

From the parallelism here and in other passages with "evil-

doers" and "ungodly," some would judge the word to have a

more general signification. But this is to be admitted only, in

so far as pride, together with covetousness and lust, is con-

sidered in Scripture as one of the main roots of all sinful cor-

ruption, so that every proud and lofty one is, at the same time,

an ungodly person, and a worker of iniquity. In regard to the

object aimed at by this representation of the hatred of God

toward the workers of iniquity, Calvin remarks: "It is an ex-

cellent conclusion: God hates unrighteousness, therefore He

will take righteous vengeance on all unrighteous persons."

            Ver. 6. Thou destroyest them that speak lies; the Lord ab-

                           PSALM V. VER. 7.                                    79


hors the bloody and deceitful man. Berleb. Bible: "In us are

selfish and vain thoughts, which, as liars, only seek after vanity,

and would fill our souls therewith; but these, Lord, Thou wilt

bring down by the sword and word of Thy mouth, and root out

all falsehood in us."

            Ver. 7. And I, through Thy great favour, will come into

Thy house, to worship in Thy fear toward Thy holy temple.

In the words and I, a contrast is presented to the enemies

who are doomed to destruction. So also do the words, in the

greatness of Thy favour, stand in opposition to the Lord's ab-

horrence of sinners expressed in the preceding verse. Coupled

therewith is a reference to the greatness of the distress, which,

irremediable by human means, called for a singular manifesta-

tion of Divine help. While mine enemies, whom the Lord

abhors, perish, I, whom He loves as His pious worshipper, shall

come, not through mine own power, but through the greatness

of His favour, etc. This contrast to the Lord's abhorrence

of the ungodly, is by itself a proof how falsely some expound:

"In the greatness of My love towards thee." This exposition

has not the slightest support even from the usus loquendi. dsH  

hvhy, is never love to God, but always the grace or favour of

God towards His people. It is also opposed by Ps. lxix. 13, 16,

where "the multitude of God's tender mercies" is celebrated

as the cause of deliverance.

            The coming into the house of God, and worshipping toward

His holy temple, is mentioned here only in respect to its occa-

sion, only so far as its aim was to give thanks to God for his

deliverance, and presupposes this. Comp. Ps. lxvi. 13, "I will

go into Thy house with burnt-offerings, I will pay Thee my

vows." In Thy fear, corresponds to in the greatness of Thy

favour. The fear of God, a reverent regard to Him, is the

fruit of the manifestation of His fulness of love, of the display

of His glory in the Psalmist's deliverance. As the product of

God's manifestations, fear is not unfrequently named; for ex-

ample, Gen. xxviii. 17, where, after one of God's richest mani-

festations of grace had been noticed, it is said, "Jacob was

afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place!" also Hab.

"0 Lord, I have heard Thy report (the report, viz., of Thy

glorious deeds in behalf of Thy people), and was afraid." Com-

pletely mistaken is the sense which De Wette and others give

to this verse, understanding it thus: "The Psalmist pronounces

80                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


himself blessed in opposition to the ungodly, in that he belongs

to those who can approach God; he visits His temple and serves

Him. But it is of God's great mercy, that he may do this."

Against such a view it is enough to compare this verse with the

corresponding 11th, which, like this, expresses, according to our

view, the hope of deliverance. The manifest contrast to the

miserable lot prepared by God for the wicked, vers. 4-6, re-

quires that here the happy condition of the righteous should be

described. Access to the outward sanctuary was free also to

the ungodly, and it did not require "the fulness of the love

of God" to keep open the way. The "fulness of the love of

God," as contrasted with His annihilating abhorrence of the

wicked, can only be considered here so far as it is the power

which delivers the righteous. The expression, "in Thy fear,"

is, according to the view in question, torn away from its con-

nection with the words, "in the greatness of God's favour."

And, what is the main point, this explanation gives the first

strophe, which is manifestly complete in itself, an unsatisfac-

tory conclusion. The Psalmist had begun with a prayer for

help and deliverance, grounded upon God's abhorrence of sin,

in consequence of which He cannot but destroy the wicked, his

enemies. The only conclusion we could expect, is the hope and

confidence of help. But instead of this, the Psalmist is made

to speak of his happiness in being able to visit the temple of the

Lord—how, we are not told; and of the result of his prayer

We learn absolutely nothing. jwdq-lkyh-lx: is not, as many expo-

sitors take it, in, but "to Thy holy temple." The interior of the

temple David was not allowed to enter. But he would, accord-

ing to the custom of the worship then established, turn, at the

time of prayer, towards the place where the gracious presence

of the Lord had its seat, from whence also his aid had come.

hvhy lkyh was the dwelling-place of the Lord, not so named as

being a great building, but from being His residence as King of

Israel. The house where a king or prince dwells, is a palace,

whether it be splendid or not. Hence the tabernacle bore this

name equally with the subsequent temple. Of the former it is

used in 1 Sam. i. 9, iii. 3: "And ere the lamp of God went

out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was,"—

passages which, with perfect arbitrariness (for there is no reason

to consider lkyh as exclusively used for designating the temple),

men have sought to get rid of by the remark, that the author

                            PSALM V. VER. 8.                                         81


unconsciously carries back to an antecedent period, a word

of later origin. But an incontestible proof that the word

was applied also to the tabernacle, is furnished by Ps. xxvii.

From that word occurring in ver. 4, De Wette concludes the

Psalm not to be one of David's. But he has overlooked the

circumstance, that in ver. 6 of the same Psalm, the Psalmist

vows to bring an offering to God in the tabernacle or tent-

temple. It is undeniable, therefore, that at a time when the

temple was still unbuilt, the holy tent was named lkyh; first the

old Mosaic tabernacle, then the tent which David erected over

the ark of the covenant on Mount Zion. It is, besides, false to

maintain, as is usually done, that the word denotes the Holy, in

opposition to the Most Holy Place. Those who hold this view

are perplexed with this passage, since the person praying could

only so far direct himself to the lkyh, as the Lord was throned

there,—comp. Ps. xxviii. 2, where David stretches out his hands

to the holiest of all; and 1 Sam. iii. 3, where the lamp belong-

ing to the sanctuary is represented as being found in the Hekal.

The right view is, that Hekal denotes the Holy and the Most

Holy Place together—the temple in the strictest sense, as op-

posed to the outer courts. Only in a few passages, such as 1

Kings vi. 5, is it used specially to denote the Holy Place, where

it is limited by being expressly distinguished  from the Most

Holy Place,—a relation similar to that of Israel and Judah,

Judah and Jerusalem,—so that we cannot properly say, that

Hekal of itself denotes the Holy Place, for the more limited

idea is only conveyed by the context.

            Ver. 8. The Psalmist makes here, as it were, a new onset.

Just as upon his prayer joyful hope had followed, so here out

of his hope a new prayer comes forth, to which new confidence 

attaches. The matter from vers. 8-12 runs parallel with vers.

3-7, first a prayer, then its ground, and lastly a hope.—Lead

me, 0 Lord, in Thy righteousness, because of mine enemies; make

Thy way smooth before my face. The Psalmist prays the Lord,

that He would display His righteousness in His dealings, and

bring salvation to His servant. A great many expositors,—of

more recent ones, De Wette, Ewald, Hitzig, Maurer,—translate

"in the righteousness" which Thou requirest, which is well-

pleasing to Thee. The words, "because of mine enemies," i.e.

from regard to them, that they may not triumph over me, if I

should make a false step; "make straight Thy way before me,"

82                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


make easier for me the course of action, which Thou lovest.

But the whole of this interpretation is certainly erroneous. The

righteousness here spoken of is rather the attribute of God,

according to which He gives to every one his own—befriends

the pious, who confide in His promises, and destroys the un-

godly. This is evident from the for in the next verse, which

assigns the reason. How little this accords with the first expo-

sition may appear from the remark of De Wette in the earlier

editions of his Com.: "yk, dropt out in the translation, is not

here a proper logical for, and is often an expletive;" and also

from the remark made in the fourth edit., on ver. 9, "the

ground, on account of which God should uphold him in right-

eousness, and protect him against his enemies,"—which last

words he is obliged to supply, though his exposition of the pre-

ceding verse does not justify him in doing so. The meaning is:

Because mine enemies are so godless, but my cause and object

are righteous, Thy righteousness demands that Thou shouldst

guide me, as I can find no other resource,--shouldst make

plain to me Thy way, the path by which Thou leadest me,

and remove the mountains of difficulty which Thou hast now

thrown in the way. This view is confirmed as the right one, by

a comparison with ver. 5, where David pleads for help on the

same ground, and also with ver. 12, where it is said, "Thou,

0 Lord, blessest the righteous." It is a further confirmation,

that this view alone brings the prayer here into a proper rela-

tion to the hope in ver. 11, which concerns not moral preserva-

tion, but salvation and blessing. Then, on no other interpreta-

tion can our verse be fitly connected with ver. 7, where not

moral support, but salvation and deliverance are hoped for—

and in particular, the words, "In Thy righteousness," with

"the greatness of Thy favour." Finally, our interpretation is

borne out by a great number of parallel passages in the Psalms,

the meaning of which has in no small degree been perverted;

for example, Ps. xxiii. 3, "He leadeth me in the paths of right-

eousness;" Ps. xxv. 4, 5, "Show me Thy ways, 0 Lord; teach

me Thy paths: lead me in Thy truth, and teach me; for Thou

art the God of my salvation;" Ps. xxvii. 11, "Teach me Thy

way, 0 Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine ene-

mies." The expression "in Thy righteousness," is, according

both to the parallelism and the parallel passages, to be thus

explained, that the righteousness of God is represented as the

                                 PSALM V. VER. 9.                               83


way in which the Psalmist desires to be led, by which nothing

more is meant, than that it should develop itself in what befell

him. When the Psalmist pleads, "because of his enemies," it

shows how much, being surrounded by powerful adversaries, he

stood in need of help. Through the whole he has only to do

with Divine aid against his enemies.

            In the word rwvh there is united a twofold reading. The

consonants belong to that of the text, which must be pronounced

rwaOh, the vowels to that of the gloss rway;ha. Both forms are the

imperative in Hiph. of the verb rwy, to be straight. The form

of the text is here, as always, to be preferred; for in Hiph.

the original verbs yp almost always borrow their forms from the

vp; comp. Ewald, p. 393. The Masorites have here, as very

often, only substituted the grammatical regularity, to which they

were also particularly led by a regard to Prov. iv. 25, where the

form rwyh is actually found. Just as in our text they satisfied

their love for regularity and uniformity by substituting rwyh for

rwvh, so in Isa. xlv. 2, for the same reason, they placed the Piel

in the Kri instead of the Hiph. of the text.

            Ver. 9. For there is no uprightness in his mouth; their inward

part is wickedness, their throat is an open sepulchre, they make

smooth their tongue. We remarked already, that here also the

description of the wickedness of the enemies is completed in the

number seven. The four points contained in our verse are

obvious; and to these must be added those in ver. 10—their

destructive counsels, the fulness of their transgressions, their re-

bellion against God. Our verse corresponds exactly to the 4th

and 5th verses, and ver. 10 to the 7th. In both places, the

seven fall into four and three. The for shows that vers. 9 and

10 lay the ground of the petition expressed in ver. 8. God

must take the part of the Psalmist, and grant him deliverance,

for his enemies are in the highest degree corrupt, are rebels

against God, whom He, as the Holy One, cannot but discomfit.

The suffixes refer to the adversaries in ver. 8. The use of the

singular suffix at the first, is to be explained by the entire mass

of enemies being represented by the Psalmist as one person, as

personified ungodliness. The enemies are only numerically dif-

ferent; in respect to wickedness, there is no distinction among

them. They are as a head with many members. "There

is no uprightness in his mouth." They speak nothing but

faithless deceit and lies. Comp. Ps. lxii. 4, "They bless with

84                     THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


their mouth, but they curse inwardly." "Their inward part"

many explain simply by "their soul." But this is not allow-

able; for in the whole verse mention is always made of the

bodily part that corresponds to the spiritual. So that here also,

the inward as opposed to the outward—the mouth as the organ

of words—denotes the heart as the seat of feelings. We too

speak of the heart in the body. hUAha, from hvh=hyh, to be, pro-

perly accident, casus; then in a bad sense, an ill accident, mis-

fortune, evil, and not simply such as one suffers, but, as here,

such also as one brings—hurt, wickedness. "Their heart is

wickedness," very expressive; it has so completely taken posses-

sion of their hearts, that there is no distinction between them.

The throat, according to several, is introduced here as the organ

of swallowing, to denote the insatiable thirst for destruction of

his enemies. So Calvin: "He compares them to graves, as if

he would say, They are all-devouring abysses; denoting thereby,

their insatiable thirst to shed blood." But the throat is com-

monly used as an organ of speech; comp. Ps. cxlix. cxv. 7, etc.;

and that it must here also be regarded as the same, appears

from the connection in which it stands with the mouth as an in-

strument of speech, with the heart as the source of speech, and

with the tongue. The point of comparison between the throat

and an open grave is, that each is pregnant with destruction.

Their talk prepares destruction for those who approach them.—

They make smooth their tongue, speak smoothly and hypocritically.

Venema "They pretend love to God and man, that they may

the more easily impose on the credulous, and overwhelm them."

Falsely many: with the tongue. Mnvwl is accusative, governed

by the verb NvqylHy, which in Hiph. is always transitive; and in

connection with the accusative, "the tongue," or "the words,"

as in Prov. ii. 16, vii. 5, signify "to flatter."

            Ver. 10. This verse, as to its matter, continues the plea for

deliverance, grounded by the Psalmist on the corruptness of his

enemies, which, according to the Divine righteousness, would

necessitate their destruction. But in place of: Thou must or

wilt hold them guilty on account of their counsels, etc., the im-

perative is introduced for liveliness of effect: Hold them guilty,

etc. Hold them guilty, 0 God; let them fall on account of their

counsels; on account of the multitude of their crimes, overthrow

them, for they have rebelled against Thee. Mwx signifies in Kal

to be guilty; hence, in Hiph., in which it occurs only here, to make

                             PSALM V. VER. 10.                                   85


or hold guilty. It is wrong to say, that the word in Hiph. exactly

means punish. It is perfectly sufficient to take it as meaning

"to make guilty," "to represent as guilty," in so far as the guilty

is thereby first exhibited before the eyes of men in his real

character: comp., for example, Ps. xxxiv. 21, "Evil shall slay

the wicked, and they that hate the righteous shall be guilty."

Michaelis: Reos eos pronuntia, ut qui multis modis rei suet.

Luther: "The word properly signifies such a decision and

judgment, as would show and manifest what sort of men they

are, when their ungodly nature is disclosed, and is made known

to every one." In the expression Mhytvcfmm vlpy, the preposition

is best taken as the causal m: comp. Hos. xi. 6, where the same

compound is used in the same sense; "on account, because, of

their counsels." This exposition is confirmed by the analogy

of the following clause, "Because of the multitude of their

crimes;" and also, "For they have rebelled against Thee."

Only when thus understood, can the clause fall into the circle

of the number seven. The cause of their perdition, and of the

Psalmist's deliverance from them, is, that their mouth is with-

out uprightness, etc. These ground's decide against other ex-

positions. Not a few, following in the footsteps of Luther—

that they fall from their own plans:—let them fall, perish from

their counsels, i.e. without their being able to execute them.

Others: "Let their counsels become vain," Nm lpn like the

Latin, spe excidere, ausis excidere. But against this, it is to

be urged, that no example can be produced of this signification.

Then there is the parallel, "overthrow them," which shows that

lpn must here mean "fall" in its proper sense. Comp. Ps.

xxxvi. 12, "There are the workers of iniquity fallen: they

are cast down, and shall not be able to rise:" Ps. cxli. 10.

Still others: "Let them fall by their counsels, or through

them."— brb signifies prop. in the multitude of. The effect

rests in its cause. For against Thee have they rebelled. The

verbs which express an affection, particularly those which mark

a hostile feeling, are commonly connected with the object to

which the effect adheres, by the prep. b. Since the Psalm, as

already shown, refers not specially to David, but to the right-

eous generally, we must not expound: "For not against me,

but against Thee, have they rebelled;" the contrast is one be-

tween enmity toward men, and rebellion against God. The

Psalmist's enemies must sustain a defeat, for they are rebels

86                  TIIE BOOK OF PSALMS.


against God, whose sacred rights they trample under foot.

God would not be God, if He should suffer them to go un-

punished. The wishes of the Psalmist are at the same time so

many predictions; for he prays only for that which God, on the

supposition that his enemies do not change—that is expressly

stated in Ps. vii. 12, and is always to be supposed in such

cases—must, according to His nature, necessarily do; the re-

quest, hold them guilty, has this for its ground and justification:

Thou must hold them guilty. For what God does, and must

do, that man not merely may, but should wish. So already

August. Sermo. 22 ad Script.: "The prophet utters in the form

of a wish, what he certainly foresees, will take place, showing

simply, as appears to me, that we may not be dissatisfied with

the known decree of God, which He has firmly and unalterably

fixed." Of a thirst for revenge, there can be no question in

cases like the preceding; it is not against personal enemies as

such, but only against enemies of God, that the Psalmist pre-

tends to give judgment.

            Ver. 11. And all those that put their trust in Thee shall re-

joice; they shall for ever shout for joy, and Thou wilt protect

them; and in Thee shall they be joyful, who love Thy name.

The and connects this with the announcement indirectly con-

tained in the preceding context, of the overthrow of the wicked.

That the Futures of the verbs are not, with Luther and others,

to be taken optatively (let them rejoice, etc.), but in the sense

of the Future, expressing not a prayer, but a hope, is clear from

the analogy of the corresponding eighth verse. That those who

trust upon the Lord, are not, as most expositors think, such as

are different from the Psalmist, rejoicing at the deliverance

granted to him, but rather those very persons who participate

in the deliverance,—that the gladness and rejoicing here, are

considered only in respect of their object and occasion: "they

shall rejoice, etc.;" as if he had said: "Thou wilt, through Thy

salvation, afford them cause for joy,"—is evident, 1. From the

analogy of ver. 7, where, in like manner, the hope of salvation

is indirectly declared,—the joy and rejoicing here correspond

to the coming into the temple there: 2. From the circumstance,

that if the Psalmist spoke of others, who would be glad at his

deliverance, this object of their delight would probably have

been more minutely described: 3. From the words, "they shall

for ever shout for joy," which, as others could not possibly be

                             PSALM V. VER. 12.                                    87


supposed to rejoice perpetually at the deliverance of the Psalmist,

necessarily imply, that the persons rejoicing are the delivered

themselves, and that the rejoicing is spoken of only as the con-

sequence of the deliverance; Thou wilt give them perpetual

cause for rejoicing: 4. From the consideration, that "they

shall rejoice," "they shall shout for joy," "they shall be joyful,"

stand entirely on a par with, "and Thou wilt protect them,"—

which the defenders of the exposition we oppose, in vain strive

to separate from the preceding and succeeding context, render-

ing "since Thou protectest them," or, "whom Thou pro-

tectest:" 5. And, finally, our view is confirmed by the entirely

general character of the Psalm; so that it cannot appear strange,

if, at the close, the plurality concealed under the unity should

clearly come to light, and the righteous at large should be sub-

stituted in the place of the righteous individual. The meaning,

therefore, is simply this: Whereas destruction befalls impious

rebels, salvation is experienced by the pious.—Upon j`b-ysvH

comp. on Ps. ii. 12. The former is the full pausal form; Ewald.

p. 137. j`st is Fut. in Hiph. from jks, to cover, with lf, to

cover upon, to protect.— Those that love Thy name. The name

of God never stands in the Old Testament as a mere designa-

tion, but always emphatically, as an expression of His nature.

Hence, "to love the name of the Lord" is as much as to "love

Him," so far as He has manifested His nature. If God were

nameless, He could not be the object of love; for then He

could not manifest Himself, as the name is the necessary pro-

duct of the manifestation, that in which the Church gathers up

the impression which it has received through the manifestation,

so that the name only needs to be named, in order to renew the


            Ver. 12. The Psalmist here lays the foundation of the hope,

expressed in the preceding verse. The pious shall have occasion

to rejoice, on account of the salvation of God; for the manner

of God, founded in His nature, is to bless the righteous, or him

who trusts in God, and loves His name. For Thou blessest the

righteous, 0 Lord; with favour Thou compassest him about as

with a shield. The Fut. is used in the sense of custom. Hope

in regard to that which the Lord will do, is only well founded

when it rests on what He constantly does. The hnck is prop.

to be rendered: "as a shield," i.e. covers. The comparison is

often not fully expressed, when a mere indication will suffice;

88                     THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


for example, Is. i. 25, "I will cleanse thy dross, as soap," that

is, as soap cleanses; comp. Ew. p. 614. Just as improper as

to supply a b is it to maintain, that hnc stands in the accus.

governed by the verb. (De Wette.) Then the shield would

be not that which covers, but that which is covered. vnrFft is

Fut. in Kal. To take it as Fut. in Hiph. with Rosenmüller, is

unwarranted. The Hiph. is never used in the sense of covering

or crowning, but only in a single place, Isa. xxiii. 8, as Denom.

from hrFf, a crown, in the sense of "distributing crowns."

Luther is not exactly right in rendering: Thou crownest him

with favour. The signification of crowning does not belong to

the Kal, but only to the Piel.


                                      PSALM VI.


            Surrounded by enemies, the Psalmist cries to God for help,

vers. 1-7. He receives from God the assurance that He will

hear him, and calls upon his enemies to desist from their pro-

jects, since the Lord has vouchsafed to him support, vers. 8-10.

The two main divisions here marked, are very obvious. Koester

divides the first into three strophes, 1-3, 5 and 6, 7 and 8; so

that the measure would be 3. 2. 2. 3. But it is better to divide

the Psalm into clear strophes of two verses, with a beginning

and concluding verse. Then the strophical arrangement ex-

actly agrees with the divisions in sense. In vers. 2 and 3 the

Psalmist grounds his prayer for deliverance on the fact, that

through suffering he had become quite exhausted, faint in body

and soul. In 4 and 5 he goes so far as to declare, that he had

come nigh to death, and was consequently in danger of losing

his highest good, that of being able to praise God, which God

in His mercy ought not to take from him. In vers. 6 and 7, he

justifies his affirmation, that he had reached the precincts of

the dead: consuming grief at the malice of his enemies had ex-

hausted the springs of his life. Vers. 8 and 9 form the strophe

of his acceptance and confidence. The first and last verses con-

tain the quintessence of the whole; vers. 2-7 being simply a

further expansion of ver. 1, and ver. 10 drawing the conclusion

from vers. 8 and 9. If we bring vers. 1 and 10 together, we

have the Psalm in nuce.

            Traces of a formal arrangement, apart from the division into

                                PSALM VI.                                     89


strophes, may be perceived. The Psalm has its course in the

number ten; it contains, as it were, a decalogue for those who

are sadly oppressed by their enemies. Further, we cannot look

upon it as accidental, that, in accordance with the superscrip-

tion according to the eight, the name of God occurs in it precisely

eight times. The fact, also, that in the first part the name of

God is found just five times, cannot be overlooked, when viewed

in connection with the whole number of verses, ten. It would

seem that the author wished in this way to mark the first part

as the one half of his decalogue. See on the five, as the broken,

half-completed number, Baehr Symbolik Th. I. p. 183. The

repetition thrice of the name of God, in the second part, makes

one just the more inclined to perceive a reference to the thrice

repeated name of God in the Mosaic blessing, the fulfilment of

which in himself the Psalmist here triumphantly announces,

especially as in Ps. iv. 7, and elsewhere frequently in the

Psalms, there are distinct verbal allusions to the same.

            The superscription ascribes the Psalm to David, and there

is certainly nothing to throw a doubt upon its accuracy. What

makes David so great—the deep feeling of his sins, and his un-

worthiness before God, united with firm confidence that God

will not withdraw His favour from those who implore it with a

broken heart—is all uttered here. Hitzig, indeed, maintains

that the Psalmist exhibits a different character from that of

David,—a desponding spirit, which permits itself to be easily

dismayed,—a weak, languishing heart, certainly not that of a

warrior; David did not behave so unmanfully when in danger

of death, but always discovered a lively confidence in God,

which is awanting here. To begin with the last point, that the

Psalmist does not abandon himself to a comfortless despair, but

has a lively confidence in God, is evident from his addressing a

prayer full of expectation for help from the Lord. But if any

one might overlook this in the prayer, he cannot fail to perceive

it in the second part, which breathes nothing but triumphant

confidence. That in David, however, when heavily oppressed

with suffering, the natural man sunk not less than with the

Psalmist here, is capable of abundant proof from his history.

According to 1 Sam. xxx. 6, "David was greatly distressed, but

he encouraged himself in the Lord his God." According to 2

Sam. xii. 16 sq., he fasted and wept for seven long days, after

the prophet announced to him the death of his child. In 2 Sam.

90                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


xv. 30, he is said to "have gone up Mount Olivet weeping,

and with his head covered,"—traits which ill agree with the ideal

of a great man formed by the world. The whole argument

rests upon the transference of this ideal to a sphere to which it

does not belong. That supposed greatness of soul which con-

siders suffering as a plaything, above which one should rise

with manly courage, is not to be met with in Scripture: there

we find constantly faint, weak and dissolving hearts, whose

strength and consolation are in God alone. This circumstance

arises from more than one cause. 1. Suffering has quite

another aspect to the members of God's Church than to the

world. While the latter regard it only as the effect of acci-

dent, which one should meet with manly courage, the pious

man recognises in every trial the visitation of an angry God, a

chastisement for his sins. This is to him the real sting of the

suffering, from which it derives its power to pierce into the

marrow and bone. "Rightly to feel sin," says Luther, "is the

torture of all tortures." He who considers sufferings in that

light cannot without impiety attempt to cast it to the winds.

He must regard it as his duty to allow it to go to his heart; and

if this is not the case, even that must become again the object

of his pungent sorrow. To make light of tribulations is equiva-

lent, in the view of Scripture, to making light of God. 2. "The

tenderer the heart, the deeper the pain." Living piety makes

the heart soft and tender, refines all its sensibilities, and,

consequently, takes away the power of resistance, which the

world possesses, from the roughness of its heart. Many sources

of pain are opened up in the Christian, which are closed in

the ungodly. Love is much more deeply wounded by hatred,

than hatred itself; righteousness sees wickedness in a quite dif-

ferent light from what wickedness itself does; a soft heart has

goods to lose, of which a hard one knows nothing. 3. The

pious man has a friend in heaven, and on that account has no

reason to be violently overcome by his sorrow. He permits the

floods thereof quietly to pass over him; lets nature take its free,

spontaneous course, knowing well, that besides the natural prin-

ciple, another also exists within him, and that the latter develops

power in the proportion in which the former gains its rights

—that according to the depths of the pain, is the height of the

joy derived from God—that every one is consoled according to

the measure of the sufferings which he has borne—that the

                                       PSALM VI.                                    91


meat never comes but from the eater, and honey from the ter-

rible. On the contrary, whosoever lives in the world without

God, he perceives that, having lost himself, he has lost all. He

girds himself up, gnashes at his pain, does violence to nature,

seeks distractions, endeavours to supply to nature on the one

side what it lacks on the other; and thus he succeeds in obtain-

ing the mastery over his pain, so long as God pleases. 4. The

pious man has no reason to prevent himself and others from

seeing into his heart. His strength is in God, and so he can

lay open his weakness. The ungodly, on the other hand, con-

sider it as a reproach to look upon themselves in their weakness,

and to be looked upon by others in it. Even when inwardly

dissolved with pain, he feigns freedom from it, so long as he can.

            What relation to sufferings is the right one, may be seen

from the consequences to both classes. The pious man, regard-

ing all suffering as a punishment, suffers it to lead him to repent-

ance, and derives from it the fruit of righteousness. He, on the

other hand, who looks upon suffering merely as the sport of

accident, thereby deprives himself of all blessing from it. And

while, in this respect, he is not the better for his suffering, he is

decidedly the worse in another. He only gathers himself toge-

ther, only raises himself above his suffering, in such a way as to

strengthen as much as possible the fancy of his own worth,

dignity, and excellence; and in proportion as pride grows, love

decays; hardness becomes his inseparable companion. So that

he in reality feeds upon his own fat, and quenches his thirst

with his own heart's blood; and those words apply here, "What

shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, and lose

his own soul?" But suffering, when endured in faith, serves

to free the heart of its natural hardness, to make it softer, and

to open it to love. Finally, only the lighter sufferings can find

consolation apart from God, even at this dear rate. Whereas

no misfortune can crush the righteous, however great it may be

—for he strengthens himself in God, whose power is infinite

—on the contrary, the man who trusts in himself bears up only

so long as "fate," or in truth, He who sends the affliction, per-

mits. Every moment he may be precipitated into the abyss of

despair. He who never fainted, who mocked at the faintings

of believers, and spake in a contemptuous tone of the "plain-

tive Psalms," must then feel utterly undone. Human strength,

even though everything be done to increase it, is still but a

92                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


limited resource: it needs only find its proper antagonist to be

wounded in the heel; then it gives way, and, along with the

steadiness gained by force, vanishes also that which was feigned.

Nothing is better fitted to show the insufficiency of all human

power in the struggle against suffering, than the confession of

King Frederick II., who spared no cost to elevate this power,

and whose great and mighty soul certainly accomplished all that

can be accomplished in that field. He says, among other places

in the Ep. to D'Alembert, sec. 12, p. 9: "It is unfortunate,

that all who suffer are forced flatly to contradict Zeno; for there

is none but will confess pain to be a great evil." P. 12: "It

is a noble thing to rise above the disagreeable accidents to which

we are exposed, and a moderate stoicism is the only means of

consolation for the unfortunate. But whenever the stone, the

gout, or the bull of Phalaris mix in the scene, the frightful

shrieks which escape from the sufferers, leave no doubt that pain

is a very real evil." Again, p. 16: "When a misfortune presses

us, which merely affects our person, self-love makes it a point

of honour to withstand vigorously this misfortune; but the

moment we suffer an injury which is for ever irreparable, there

is nothing left in Pandora's box which can bring us consolation,

besides, perhaps, for a man of my advanced years, the strong

conviction that I must soon be with those who have gone before

me (i.e. in the land of nothingness). The heart is conscious of

a wound, the Stoic says indeed to himself, ‘thou shouldst feel

no pain;’ but I do feel it against my will; it consumes, it lace-

rates me; an internal feeling overcomes my strength, and extorts

from me complaints and fruitless groans."

            We have not extended our remarks further than the subject

demanded; for what Hitzig urges against this Psalm is but a

particular shoot of that modern cast of thought, which finds a

stumblingblock in the tone of deep lamentation that pervades

the Psalms. Hence it appeared proper to employ this oppor-

tunity, in order, once for all, to cut up such objections by the root.

            It is of importance for the exposition, to determine some-

what closely from the Psalm itself the situation in which the

speaker was placed. From ver. 7, and vers. 8-10, it appears

that he was sorely pressed with enemies. This serves of itself

sufficiently to manifest the objectionableness of that view which

represents the distress as consisting in a mere corporeal illness.

There are certainly passages, such as ver. 2, which could not,

                                 PSALM VI.                                 93


without the greatest violence, be understood of anything but of

exhaustion of all bodily powers. But the whole becomes plain,

when we represent to ourselves the position of the speaker thus:

His distress proceeded at first from external enemies. But upon

this arose another of a far heavier kind. He saw in that out-

ward distress a punishment of his past sins, which now returned

upon his soul with the weight of an oppressive load. He fell

into a severe conflict, which left even his body weak and im-

poverished. At length he gives vent to his oppressed soul in

this supplication; and then to his deep notes of lamentation,

succeeds the most triumphant tone of joy. Now he mocks at

outward distress, and in spirit sees his enemies already van-

quished. De Wette and Hitzig, without the least ground, give

the Psalm a national reference, and suppose, that under the

image of a suffering individual, is represented the Israelitish

people in exile. Not the slightest trace is to be found of such

a reference. When De Wette appeals to the great resemblance

this has to public songs of a plaintive nature, as chap. iii. of

Lam., he overlooks the fact, that these poems, descriptive of a

nation's grief, were imitations of personal poems of a like na-

ture. Ewald remarks, in opposition to De Wette, of this and

similar Psalms: "No exposition of such poems can be more

erroneous than that which considers the representation of a

severe illness as figurative, or which connects therewith the idea

of a whole people's lamentation being contained in it, instead of

that of a single individual." But we must not, on the other

hand, attribute too much importance to the disease,—must not

take it as something independent. The second part speaks

decidedly against this. Inasmuch as the Psalmist here only

expresses his triumphant confidence, that the Lord will deliver

him from his enemies, and never mentions bodily sickness, such

sickness can only have been the result of hostile attacks, the con-

sequence of the anxiety which they occasioned him; hence, when

the cause ceased, the effect ceased. The considerations which

oppose the reference to mere bodily trouble, also oppose the

exposition of Luther and others, who regard the Psalm as relat-

ing to a high spiritual conflict in the hour of death. "It is not

to be supposed," says Luther, "that all Christians are afflicted

with the vexation and painful trials of which this Psalm speaks;

for all are not exercised with the same kind of tribulation,

although God tries all with many tribulations and hardships

94                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


—He contends here with death and hell, a battle which is not

waged with men, nor concerning temporal or spiritual tempta-

tions, but in the spirit within, nay, without and above the spirit

in that last struggle, when no one either sees, or hears, or feels,

save alone that Spirit, who with unutterable groans prays and

intercedes for the saints." The words, "because of all mine

enemies," in ver. 7, and "depart from me, all ye workers of

iniquity," in ver. 8, are quite inexplicable on this view.

            As the Psalm does not contain a single feature of a per-

sonal kind, it is highly probable that David here expresses the

feelings of those who are vexed to death with the long-con-

tinued assaults of malicious enemies. For this view, perhaps,

vers. 6 and 7 may be adduced, where the profound grief is de-

scribed in a manner which seems to indicate a supposed, rather

than an actual position. David's desire is to impress on the

minds of his companions in tribulation that even at the worst they

ought not to despair: the desolation itself should be converted

into a source of comfort, in that, on the ground thereof, we may

implore God for help, who is ever ready to assist His own, when

things are at the worst,—so that the lowest depth of sorrow is

a sure harbinger of salvation, the approach of death a pledge of

life. This general characteristic of the Psalm was perceived by

Luther: "I conceive that we have here a common lesson and

instruction, which is suited to every Christian who is plunged

in such distress."

            It is of course plain, that what is here said primarily of the

oppression of enemies, may be, substantially, equally applied to

every other sort of trouble. The particular is the accident—what

is true of the species is true of the kind, and of every other species

of the kind. The remarks of the Berleburg Bible on, "Depart

from me, all ye workers of iniquity:" "Depart from me, ye false

tormenting accusations, ye rage and fury of menacing spirits and

powers, that terrify me to death, and have shut up my blessed life

as in the abyss of hell; ye are the real evil-doers, whom my

external foes merely represent,"—are perfectly correct, when

considered as a theological exposition, but not as a grammatical

historical one. That the special kind of affliction with which the

Psalm is occupied does not so prominently appear under the

New Testament dispensation, so that many cannot understand

these incessant complaints regarding the malice of enemies, is a

mighty proof of the world-transforming power of Christianity.

                                 PSALM VI. VER. 2.                               95


            In regard to the principle which forms the basis of the Psalm,

viz. that outward suffering is a chastisement for sin, nothing can

be more superficial than to maintain, that this view is peculiar

to the lower stage of the Old Testament. The same precisely

is found in the New Testament; for example, in the declarations

of our Lord Himself; John v. 14; and Luke v. 20, xiii. 1, etc.

In the first passage, sickness is threatened as a punishment for

sin; in the second, taken away as such; in the third, the Lord

threatens, on occasion of a heavy calamity, a similar calamity to

all, if they repented not,—implying, therefore, that the evil al-

ready inflicted was to be regarded as a punishment for sin. If

the suffering be not viewed as a punishment, it cannot be re-

conciled with the Divine righteousness, it loses all its influence

for good, and it is no longer a call to repentance. The only

error is to refer the suffering to some special sin, to some coarse

offence, instead of to sin in general,—an error characterized as

such by our Lord in John ix. 2, 3. Far, therefore, from turn-

ing up the nose at the religious standpoint of the old covenant,

we should rather follow the admonition of Muis: "As often as

we are visited with sickness, or any other suffering, we should,

after the example of David, call our sins to remembrance, and

flee to God's compassion; not like the ungodly, who ascribe

their evil, as well as their good, to any cause rather than God,

and hence are never led, either by the one to repentance, or by

the other to gratitude. Sickness or calamity is not to be esti-

mated according to the mind of the flesh, but of the spirit; and

we must reflect, that if God afflicts us, He deals with us as sons,

that He may chasten and improve us."

            tynymw is taken by many expositors for a musical instrument,

and because ynymw, signifies eight, the kind of instrument is gener-

ally considered as a guitar with eight strings. It is impossible,

however, that "the eight" can denote an instrument of eight

cords. Besides, both here and in Ps. xii., the musical instru-

ment is mentioned in addition, as also in 1 Chron. xv. 21. The

correct explanation is given by those who take it for an indica-

tion of the time. The lf is then put to mark the relation of the

particular to the general; that which forms its substratum, upon

which it is laid, and according to which it is measured and regu-

lated. But our ignorance of Heb. music renders all more minute

explanations impossible.

            Ver. 1. 0 Lord, rebuke me not in Thine anger, neither chasten

96                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


me in Thy hot displeasure. Calvin: "I acknowledge, Lord,

that I am indeed worthy of being destroyed by Thee; but as I

am not in a condition to sustain Thy power, deal with me, not

according to my desert, but rather pardon the sins, through

which I have drawn Thine indignation upon me." Most ex-

positors remark with De Wette: "The sufferer prays not for a

removal, but only for an alleviation of the calamity." So also

Luther: "This he regards not, nay, he will readily yield to be

punished and chastened; but he begs that it may be done in

mercy and goodness, not in anger and fury . . . . Therefore

the prophet teaches us here, that there are two rods of God,

one of mercy and goodness, another of anger and fury. Hence

Jeremiah prays, chap. x. 24, '0 Lord, correct me, but with

judgment, not in Thine anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing.'"

But that this exposition, flowing from an unseasonable compa-

rison of the above passage in Jeremiah, is unsound, is evident

from this, that the Psalmist, in what follows, always begs that

chastisement in general may be taken away; but especially from

the assurance in the second part, where he still experiences

nothing but what he had prayed for (comp. "The Lord hath

heard my supplication, the Lord will receive my prayer"), not

merely of an alleviation of his suffering, but of an entire re-

moval of it. The contrast is, therefore, not between a chastise-

ment in love and a chastisement in anger, but between a loving

deliverance and a chastisement, which always proceeds from a

principle of anger. The sufferer prays that, as matters had come

to an extremity with him, and his powers of endurance were now

completely exhausted, the sun of grace might shine through the

cloud of indignation, by which it had been so long obscured.

Whereas the ungodly is subject to Divine wrath alone, the

righteous, though always at the same time a sinner, is an object

of Divine love, even in the midst of wrath; which love must

manifest itself as soon as the expression of anger has fulfilled

its purpose, and the sufferer is brought to the verge of destruc-

tion, which can alight only on the wicked. God does not deal

in a soft way with His own: He consumes what remains in them

of sin by hard sufferings, but He always orders it so that they are

able to bear it; when it has proceeded to a certain point, then

He turns, and, instead of concealed grace (for even the exhibi-

tion of anger has a part to serve in the work of grace), there is

now given an open manifestation of it. But that the sufferer

                               PSALM VI. VER. 2.                             97


belongs to the number of the righteous, for whom the exchange

from anger into grace is certain, he makes to appear by this, that

though he feels nothing but anger, he still sees the light of grace

shining through the midst of thick darkness. This he alone

can do, who is closely related to God, and has a living faith. In

the midst of distress, to pray for grace, to hope for grace, is a 

sure sign of being in the state of grace, a clear pledge that grace

may be looked for. Luther: "This Psalm then teaches us, that

when one is plied with such assaults, he must have recourse to

no other refuge than to the angry Lord Himself; but that is a

matter of difficulty and labour, and is always to believe against

hope, Rom. iv. 18, and to strive against impossibilities.—But it

is carefully to be borne in mind, that they who experience such

distress should adhere with their whole heart to the doctrine

of this Psalm, viz. that they should not let their feelings carry

them too far, should not howl and cry, nor seek for human con-

solation; but should stand out against the heaviest trials, and

suffer the hand of God, and, with the prophet here, apply no-

where but to the Lord, and say, Ah! Lord, rebuke me not in

Thine anger, and chasten me not in Thy hot displeasure. When

men do not conduct themselves in this prudent way, they fall,

to their great hurt, out of the hand of God, who in this manner

heals and purifies them; especially if they seek consolation in a

worldly way, and have recourse to some poor creature, the issue

cannot be otherwise with them. If the clay, while being turned,

falls out of the hand of the potter, it becomes more completely

shattered than before, insomuch that it is useless, and the potter

throws it away as good for nothing." –Hykvh to reprove. But

the discourse here is of a sermo realis. God reproves the sinner's

guilt through the sufferings which He lays upon him. It is in-

correct to say, that the verb here signifies precisely "to punish

by deeds," but elsewhere, "to punish with words." hmH prop.

heat, glow, then "the glow of anger."

            Ver. 2. Have mercy upon me, 0 Lord, for I am faint; 0

Lord, heal me, for my bones are terrified. The Psalmist, re-

nouncing all disputes with God, and recognising thoroughly the

righteousness of his sufferings, appeals alone to the Divine com-

passion. In this he lays down for his foundation the principle,

that God can never suffer His own wholly to perish; and thus

supporting himself, entreats help from the Lord, since matters

had already gone to extremities with him. Muis: "He deals with

98                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


God as with a father, and sets before Him his pain, in order to

move Him to the communication of aid." Such childlike confi-

dence, far from being excluded by the conviction, that sufferings

have the nature of punishment, only grows upon this soil, and the

one disappears with the other. llmx, withered, faint, properly of

plants, cannot, on account of the Patach, be the partic. in Pulal  

with the m dropt, but must be the pret., which, with the rela-

tive word intended to belong to it, is a substitute for the adjective

—prop. I am one who is faint. The pret. is used precisely in

this way in Isa. xxviii. 16. That the healing is not here to be

taken for delivering, helping in general, is clear from the declara-

tion, "I am faint, and my bones are terrified." The healing,

therefore, must be primarily understood of the removal of his

state of bodily distress. But the means of healing is the re-

pulsing of the enemies, with which the bodily exhaustion would

cease of itself. The words, "My bones are terrified," are ad-

mirably explained by Luther: "It is certain, that with those

who suffer such assaults, their bones are so terrified in their

body, that they cannot even do what bones are meant to do in

the body. Just as, on the other hand, we see that those who

have a merry heart, overflowing with joy, have also strong bones,

apt to leap, and capable of lifting up and bearing along with

them the heavy and sluggish body; so that they feel as if joy

were spread through their bones, like as when one pours some-

thing moist or liquid over the whole body, which refreshes it, as

Solomon says, Prov. iii. 8, ‘It shall be health, to thy navel, and

marrow (pro. moistening) to thy bones.’ Where the heart, then,

is troubled and sorrowful, the whole body is faint and broken; and

where, again, the heart is full of gladness, the body becomes so

much the stronger and more agile. Therefore, the prophet here

speaks rightly, when he prays the Lord to heal him, and was so

weak in body, that he could not stand upon his legs. So mighty

end violent is the power of such assaults, not leaving a corner

in the whole frame that is not appalled and bruised thereby.—

But man cannot love God, much less have a heart-felt desire

after Him, without being vexed with such great troubles, which

constrain and drive him to seek God's help and consolation with

a vehement cry of the soul, especially when he has been sunk

deep in sin, and his life has been spent in an indolent, corrupt

death of flesh."

            Ver. 3. And my soul is greatly terrified; and Thou, 0 Lord,

                              PSALM VI. VERS. 4, 5.                             99


how long? The soul is placed in opposition to the bones. The

general complaint, "I am faint," the Psalmist carries out first

in reference to his body, then to his soul. In the expression,

how long, there is not properly an ellipsis, but an aposiopesis,

occasioned by the violence of the pain, which caused the words

to escape in a broken manner. This Domine quosque was

Calvin's motto. The most intense pain under trouble could

never extort from him another word. Luther: "He not

merely begs God to hasten to him with help, but, as one impa-

tient of delay, he complains that this is very painful to him,

since in all emotions of the heart, such as fear, love, hope,

hatred, and the like, a state of suspense and delay is vexa-

tious and difficult to be borne, as Solomon says in Prov. xiii.

12, ‘Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.’ But in troubles of

this kind, delay is the most severe and insupportable pain."

            Ver. 4. Return, 0 Lord, deliver my soul; Oh save me for

Thy mercies' sake. The words, my soul, are not here placed

instead of the personal pronoun. The Psalmist feels himself

so wretched in soul and body, that he believes himself to be

near death. This clearly appears from the following verse.

But the soul is the principle of life. Luther: "Not for mine

own merits, which indeed are nothing, as is enough and more

than enough proved by this terror at Thine anger, and my

trembling bones, and the sadness of my heart and soul. There-

fore, help me for Thy mercies' sake, that Thine honour and the

glory of Thy compassion may be for ever connected with my


            Ver. 5. For in death there is no remembrance of Thee; in

the grave (in sheol) who shall give Thee praise? David had

prayed, that his God would deliver him, and not permit him to

sink in despair. He seeks to move Him to grant the prayer by

the consideration, that the dead do not praise Him and celebrate

His goodness, but only the living. Comp. Ps. cxv. 17, 18, "The

dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence;

but we shall bless the Lord from this time forth and for ever-

more." Ps. lxxxviii. 10: "Wilt Thou show wonders to the

dead? Shall the dead arise and praise Thee?" Comp. also

Ps. xxx. 9; Isa. xxxviii. 18. According to the common expla-

nation, the thought that the Lord is not remembered and

praised in death is here urged as a ground of deliverance, inas-

much as God Himself, to whom the praise of the righteous is

100                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


the most acceptable sacrifice, must therefore be inclined to pre-

serve them in life. The supposition on which the ground thus

made out proceeds, viz. that the Lord delights in the praise of

His people, is no more peculiar to the Old Testament than to

the New. Comp., for example, Heb. xiii. 15. As the living

God has made men for His praise, He rejoices when this end

of His creation is fulfilled, when the fruit of the lips that praise

Him is offered. The God of the Bible is as far removed from

the cold indifference and self-satisfaction of the Stoic's God, as

the Christian is from a Stoic. But for us this ground receives

its full meaning, only when we place eternal death in the room

of the bodily, agreeably to the clearer light which we have re-

ceived regarding the state after death, and to the vast change

which New Testament times have effected in reference to that

future state. See the treatise on the Doctrine of the Psalms,

where also will be investigated more fully the import of sheol.

Then ought we also, having found consolation, to venture to

plead the same ground before God, and, appealing to it, beg

Him to turn away from us the troubles which threaten to shut

our mouths for ever to His praise. There is another way, how-

ever, of explaining the ground:—the prayer for deliverance may

so far be grounded on the fact of one's not being able to praise-

God in death, as the praise of God was the Psalmist's most

blessed employment, to be deprived of which would be to him

the heaviest loss. And this view is strongly confirmed by the

preceding words, "for Thy mercies' sake," which naturally lead

us to expect some reason connected with the Psalmist's own

interest. It would be contrary to the love of God to rob His

own of their highest good, to make them inexpressibly miserable,

by closing their mouths from praising Him, before the time

fixed by the general law of mortality. Understood thus, the

words afford a deep, and for us humiliating, insight into the

heart of pious men under the old covenant. To consider the

praise of God as the highest good, as the most essential thing in

life, to love life only as furnishing the opportunity for that, is

the highest proof of near fellowship with God.—The constr. of

hdvh with l is explained by a modification of the meaning: to

render praise to any one.

            Ver. 6. The Psalmist shows in this and the following verse,

that it was not in vain he asked for deliverance, that he had

not without cause described himself as one whose mouth death



                          PSALM VI. VERS. 7, 8.                           101


was threatening to shut up from praising God. Consuming

grief preyed upon his heart, and would soon carry him away.

I am weary with my groaning, every night I make my bed to

swim; I make my couch to dissolve with my tears. The groan-

ing is here represented as the cause of all his exhaustion. The

prep. b however, commonly marks the relation of effect to the

cause. I make my couch to dissolve. hsm is of one meaning with

the more common form ssm, to dissolve. Calvin: "Those who

have even moderately experienced what it is to contend with

the fear of eternal death, will find no straining in these words."

            Ver. 7. My eye consumes from vexation; it waxes old, be-

cause of all my enemies. wwf, "to fall in, to go to decay," is

used of the eye in Ps. xxxi. 9, as also of the soul. Some very

improperly maintain, that the eye here is taken for the face, in

which sense it never occurs. The eye is a mirror and gauge

of soundness, not merely as respects the soul, but also the body.

By long-continued suffering, the eye sinks, becomes dull and

languid, like that of an aged person. Both verbs are hence

perfectly suitable to the eye. sfk may here be appropriately

taken in its common signification of displeasure, vexation. It

is not necessary to give it the sense of grief, which is never

ascribed to it without arbitrariness. Nay, the former sense is

here recommended by the corresponding expression, "because

of mine enemies," where the b again is to be explained thus,

that the effect is considered as rooted in its cause.

            Ver. 8. David, as Calvin remarks, assumes now, as it were,

a new person. He announces, that God has heard his prayer,

and admonishes his enemies to desist from him, as he had now

again come under God's protection. Amyrald: "Those violent

motions, in which, after the most bitter and dolorous lamenta-

tions and testimonies concerning human weakness, faith sud-

denly regains the ascendant, and, through the offered hope of

deliverance, sheds light and serenity over the mind, are very

common in the Psalms." Koester falsely: The Psalmist, in

thankfulness, renounces the fellowship of sinners: this is con-

tradicted by a comparison of the verse with the preceding con-

text—also ver. 10. Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity,

for the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Berleb.

Bible: "So soon can the righteous Lord change everything,

and illuminate with the rays of His love the dark earth of men,

which was before covered with thick clouds, while in the depth

102                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


of their heart also all was dark." It remarks on the for:

"The winter is past, the rain is gone, the turtle-dove is again

heard." The voice of my weeping, my audible weeping. Roberts,

Orient. Illustr. of the Sacred Scrip. p. 316: "Silent grief is not

much known in the East. Hence when the people speak of

lamentation, they say, Have I not heard the voice of his mourn-

ing?" It is not necessary to give to fmw here, and in similar

places, the sense of "hearken." If God hears the cry of His

own, He also accepts of it: if He will not do this, then He

turns away His ear from it.

            Ver. 9. The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord re-

ceives my prayer. The matter of this prayer we learn from

ver. 10, where the Psalmist more minutely describes what he

obtains in consequence of his being heard.

            Ver. 10. All mine enemies shall be ashamed and terrified;

they shall return, be ashamed suddenly. Their being terrified

points back to vers. 2, 3. The terror passes over from the

Psalmist to those who prepared it for themselves, according to

God's righteous retribution. vwby vbwy may be expounded by,

"They shall be again ashamed;" see Ewald, p. 631. But a

more expressive meaning is yielded, if we take the word as

standing by itself, and render, "they shall return." David sees

his enemies, gathered around him for the attack, all at once

faint-heartedly give way. In confirmation of this speaks the

"Depart from me," ver. 8, and still more, the "Return, 0 Lord,"

in ver. 4. The returning of the Lord, and the turning back of

the enemies, stand related to each other as cause and effect.


                                   PSALM VII.


            The Psalmist prays the Lord for help against his cruel and

blood-thirsty enemies, vers. 1, 2. He protests that he had given

no occasion to their hatred, vers. 3-5. In the confidence of this

blamelessness, he calls upon the Lord for assistance, and for

judgment between him and his enemies, vers. 6-9. God's

righteousness affords him hope that this decision and the over-

throw of his enemies is near, vers. 10-13; of the fulfilment of

which he has an inward assurance, so that he is able to conclude

with gratitude for granted deliverance, vers. 14-17.

            Vers. 1-5 constitute as it were the porch, and the-entrance

                                     PSALM VII.                                       103


into the proper edifice of the Psalm is ver. 6. This is divided

into three parts of equal compass, three strophes, each of four

verses. First is the strophe of prayer. The prayer here has a

much fuller swell, and is far more earnest and important in

character, than the one uttered in the introduction, for the rea-  

son that, according to the basis laid down in vers. 3-5, it is

upheld by God's righteousness, which never leaves those to sup-

plicate in vain, who are justified in appealing to it. Then comes

the strophe of hope, which, as the prayer was grounded upon

God's righteousness, in its turn grows out of a lively conviction

of the same. Finally, the strophe of confidence, resting on the

inwardly received assurance of being heard, and celebrating the

deliverance as one already obtained. It is distinguished from

the second strophe by the Behold with which it begins, and also

by the preterites in vers. 14 and 17. The internal character of

the two first strophes, as those which contain only what is pre-

liminary, is expressed in the proportion of their length to the

length of those which form the proper building of the Psalm.

They are as it were the steps by which one ascends to it. This

becomes still more evident, if we bring the superscription

into the body of the Psalm, which we should be justified in

doing by its peculiar character—its obviously poetical con-

struction. Reckoning that as ver. 1, the scheme would be, 1.

2. 3. 4. 4. 4. Like the building itself, the porch then falls into

three parts—the occasion and subject, a preliminary prayer, the

removal of the hindrance to its fulfilment. The proper build-

ing (twelve verses) measures double the compass of the porch

(six verses).

            For understanding more exactly the position in which David

was then placed, we must examine the superscription. In this

yrbd lf is commonly taken in the sense of, on account of, in re-

ference to. But this exposition is manifestly false; the correct

one being, on account of the words, occasioned by the calumnies.

This is clear for a philological reason alone. The phrase is

always rbd-lf, and never, yrbd-lf, when it means simply on ac-

count of. The passages adduced by Gesenius in support of the

signification, on account of, are, besides this, Deut. iv. 21; Jer.

xiv. 1, vii. 22; but they do not bear examination; they rather

imply that the Myrbd in them all signifies speeches or words. In

Deut. iv. 21, "The Lord was angry with me," Mkyrbd lf, "for

your words," is to be compared with Numb. xx. 3-5, where the

104               THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


talk of the people is recorded, by which the faith of Moses was  

overcome. Jer. xiv. 1 is to be rendered, "The word of the

Lord came to Jeremias, on account of the words of the dearth."

The words of the dearth, the prayer which Jeremias sent forth

on account of the dearth, and to which the word of the Lord

refers, follow in vers. 2-9; the word of the Lord does not come

till ver. 10. If we expound, "on account of (or concerning)

the dearth," then the superscription—which, 1. announces words

of the dearth, and, 2. the answer of the Lord to these words—

does not seem appropriate. Hence Hitzig, in his hasty manner,

has pronounced it spurious. In Jer. vii. 22, we are, finally, to

expound, "I have not commanded them upon words of burnt-

offering or sacrifice." Words of, sacrifice are words which re-

spect sacrifice, as much as: "I have laid upon them no com-

mands," resting upon, or consisting in words regarding sacrifice.

The correctness of this exposition is rendered clear by the con-

trast in ver. 23, "But this word did I command them;" for

the rbd must necessarily be taken in the preceding verse in the

same sense that it bears here. The LXX. also translate the

words before us, u[pe>r tw?n lo<gwn Xousi<. But what especially

decides in favour of our rendering is, that David, vers. 3-5,

defends himself, with the strongest protestations, against calum-

nies. From this defence we see also wherein the accusation

consisted. He had been charged with having sought the life of

Saul, and, in general, recompensed good with evil.

            It is important now to determine who Cush the Benjamite

is, whose calumnious charges against David gave occasion to

the inditing of this Psalm. According to the supposition now

generally current, there was an individual Benjamite of the

name of Cush, who, by his calumnies, stirred up afresh Saul's

hatred against David, and with such effect that David found

himself exposed to constant danger of death. Now, that such

calumniators and go-betweens were busy in the matter of Saul

and David, we learn from 1 Sam. xxiv. 9, where David says to

Saul, "Wherefore hearest thou men's words, saying, Behold,

David seeketh thy hurt?" and in ch. xxvi. 19, "But if the

children of men stirred thee up against me," etc. It cannot but

appear remarkable, however, that no Cush is mentioned in the

comparatively full historical details of this period, if the part

which he played was of such importance as to have led David

to compose this Psalm, and immortalize his name in the super-

                                      PSALM VII.                                     105


scription of it, —which must have proceeded from David himself,

from its appearing to form a necessary member of the Psalm,

from its internal character, and from the undeniable fact that

Habakkuk refers to it, in a way which implies that it was even

then reckoned an integral part of the Psalm. It must further

appear extraordinary that the words of Cush, according to vers.

3-5, do not refer to any peculiar fiction, to any new calumny by

which he sought to rekindle the fire of Saul's anger (the words

of Cush appear as the efficient cause of the persecutions); but

rather allege, quite in a general way, that David was laying wait

for Saul,—an allegation which, from the very first, was in the

mouth of Saul; 1 Sam. xxii. 7, 13. One does not rightly under-

stand how an individual of the name of Cush could put David

into such a commotion, by merely adding his own to the many

slanderous tongues which uttered this calumny, with the view of

ingratiating themselves into the favour of their master—why he

should have selected him in particular from the mass of such

persons—why he should not rather have kept to the words of

Saul himself. Others, again, consider the name Cush as sym-

bolical, and suppose David to have applied the epithet to his

enemy on account of his dark malice, which was too inveterate

to admit, of a change for the better. So almost all the Jewish

expositors, with the exception of Abenezra, who adopted the

opinion now generally received; so also Luther, who translates,

“on account of the words of the Moor,” and remarks, "He calls

him Moor, because of his shameless manners, as one incapable of

anything, good or righteous. Just as we commonly call a lying

and wicked fellow black. Hence the language of the poet: He

is black, 0 Roman, be thou ware of him. As we also call him

fair, who deals with people in an honest and upright manner,—

who has a heart that is free of envy. Therefore it is said,

David has willingly left out his proper name, and given him a

new name in accordance with his perverse heart and ways."

This rendering derives support from two passages in the pro-

phets: Jer. xiii. 23, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or

the leopard, his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are

accustomed to do evil." And Amos ix. 7, "Are ye not as the

children of the Ethiopians unto me, 0 children of Israel? saith

the Lord;" Chr. Ben. Michaelis: "Who change not the skin,

as ye change not your ways." Besides, this view is exceedingly

favoured by the character of the Psalms of David, in which a

106                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


great predilection for the enigmatical may be discerned; comp..

for example, Ps. ix., xxii., lx., where precisely similar

enigmatical designations of the subject-matter are to be found,

and of such a nature as to show that one can only ascribe to a

predilection for the enigmatical, David's here not calling his

adversary by his proper name, and that the superscriptions, as

well as the body of the Psalms, are poetical: a fact which has

been too often overlooked. Now, those who follow this mode

of explanation are again divided in regard to the person whom

David had in view. The Jewish expositors all agree upon Saul;

but Luther and others upon Shimei, whose slanders are given

in 2 Sam. xvi. 11. The latter supposition is, for various reasons,

to be rejected, of which we shall adduce only this one as suffi-

cient, that David could not pray during the rebellion of Absa-

lom, "Save me from all my persecutors," as he does in ver. 1.

He had then to do, not with persecutors, but with revolters. A

special reason may be assigned in support of the reference to

Saul, which probably led the Psalmist to the choice of a symbo-

lical designation for his enemy. Saul was the son of Kish, and

David plays upon this, name of his father. Since it is a mere

play on words, it is no objection that Kish is written with a

koph; and the less so, as the two letters, so like in sound, are not

rarely interchanged. See Gesell. on k.

            From the preceding investigation, we have gathered the re-

sult, that this Psalm belongs to the period of Saul's persecution.

The more exact time within this period may be in some measure

learned from ver. 4. There, allusion is made to the fact of

David's not having employed the opportunity presented for

killing his persecutor. According to the history, such an op-

portunity was presented to David twice; 1 Sam. xxiv., xxvi.

Here it can only be the earlier occasion that is meant. For,

after the second, David immediately passed into the land of

the Philistines, 1 Sam. xxvii. 4: "And it was told Saul, that

David was fled to Gath; and he sought no more again for

him." On the present occasion, however, David is still in-

volved in the most pressing danger. The fact, gathered from

our Psalm, that David had Saul once already in his power

before the close of his persecutions, is of importance in esti-

mating the relation of 1 Sam. xxiv. to xxvi. Hitzig's view,

which maintains that only one circumstance of the kind existed

as the foundation of the two narratives, and throws away

                                   PSALM VII.                                       107


the one in ch. xxiv. as too marvellous, is thereby proved to be


            Luther remarks:  "Although he composed this Psalm after

the assault, that it might be seen how he now, taught by the

end and issue of the assault, holds out a consolation to those

who are involved in tribulation, and God's anger to those who

vex and persecute pious men, furnishing instruction to others

by his own and his enemies' danger and hurt; yet it is still to

be believed that, in the midst of this transaction, he had the very

thoughts which he afterwards expressed in this Psalm. For he

never despaired regarding God; and he therefore knew well

that it would turn out so, that such misfortune would befall his

adversaries and opponents." This view will be admitted, when

it is seen that, as in all the Psalms which, whilst in the first

instance originating in a subjective experience, yet have at the

same time a general reference, so this Psalm did not, at some

later period, acquire this general reference, but from the first

was designed to possess it. Luther, however, goes into the other

extreme, by altogether doing away with the significance of the

Psalm, for, the Psalmist himself. No reason exists for the sup-

position that David composed the Psalm only after the close of

Saul's persecutions, and transferred himself to that period in

thought simply to benefit the Church; and yet that supposi-

tion, as the more remote one, would require clear grounds to

legitimize it.

            De Wette is inclined to deny the Davidic authorship of this

Psalm, and its personal character, and to put it amongst the

large class of plaintive Psalms. But against this argues, 1. The

superscription, the originality of which is supported by the reasons

already adduced. 2. The unquestionably very distinct reference

to David's connection with Saul, in ver. 4, not to speak of the

by no means unimportant general agreement in the position,—

in both cases alike, a malicious persecutor hunting after the life

of a blameless man, under the pretext that he was brooding ill

against him. 3. The correspondence of many expressions here,

with those of David as reported in the historical accounts of the

period—comp., for example, ver. 1, "Save me from all my perse-

cutors," with 1 Sam. xxiv. 14, "After whom is the king of Israel

come out? After whom dost thou pursue? Also xxvi. 20, "As

when one doth hunt a partridge upon the mountains." Ver. 3:

"0 Lord, my God, if I have done this, if there be iniquity in

108                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


my hands," with 1 Sam. xxiv. 11, where David protests that

there was "neither evil nor transgression in his hand." Ver. 8

Judge me, 0 Lord, according to my righteousness, and ac-

cording to mine integrity;" and ver. 11, "God judgeth the

righteous, and God is angry every day," with 1 Sam. xxiv. 12,

"The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge

me of thee," and ver. 15, "The Lord therefore be judge, and

judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and

judge me out of thine hand." Ver. 16: "His mischief shall

return upon his own head," with 1 Sam. xxv. 39, where David,

on hearing the report of Nabal's death, said, "The Lord hath

returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head." All

these corresponding expressions of David belong exactly to the

point of time to which the composition of this Psalm must be


            A twofold didactic element particularly discovers itself in

the Psalm. It teaches, 1. That to be able to stretch forth pure

hands to God, is an indispensable condition of Divine help under

the oppression of enemies; and, 2. That where this condition

exists, the Divine righteousness affords undoubted certainty of


            Superscrip. Erring, of David, which he sung to the Lord, be-

cause of the words of the Moor, of Benjamin. It only remains

for us here to explain the meaning of Nvygw. So much is certain

that we are not warranted, when the root hgw is of such common 

occurrence in Hebrew, to derive our explanation from a doubt-

ful comparison with the cognate dialects. At the outset, there-

fore, are to be rejected the current renderings from the Syriac

by carmen, and from the Arabic by mourning song. The latter

reference accords with the subject neither of our Psalm, nor of

Hab. iii., where the same word is found in the superscription,

but nowhere else. For lamentation and pain are in both places

not the predominating ideas. The general signification, poem,

is not at all admissible in Habakkuk. Neither can we with pro-

priety take the word, with the greater part of those who rightly

go back to Hebrew usage, as a musical designation. For it

would then be very difficult to explain how it should occur only

in the superscription of this one Psalm. hgw always signifies to

err, in a physical or moral sense; but never of itself has the

meaning, which Clauss improperly supposes to be the radical

one, to be drunk. Derived from this, then (comp. on the form,

                             PSALM VII. VERS. 1, 2.                         109


Ewald, p. 246), it would signify erring, error. In accordance

with the concise style of the superscriptions, one might very

well designate a Psalm thus, which had respect to the errors and

transgressions Of the wicked; the more so, as it is further defined

by the following rw, under which lies ryw, "erring which sang,"

q. d. "a song upon the erring, which sang." An explanation

of the concise expression is to be found in that of Habakkuk,

which alludes to the one before us. He describes his song as

one upon Shiggionoth,—a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet "on

the errings, or transgressions." The whole of that chapter is

occupied with the transgressions of the enemy. Against these

the people of God seek help, and express their confidence of

receiving it. Thus the gist of the whole Psalm is indicated by

these words. It is also worthy of remark, that the verb hgw oc-

curs in the address of Saul to David, in 1 Sam. xxvi. 21, "Be-

hold, I have played the fool and erred exceedingly," hbrh hgwxv

dvxm —a passage which, at the same time, confutes those who

would maintain that Nvygw is too mild a word for designating such

transgressions as those of Saul against David; comp. also Ps.

cxix. 21, 118. So that we are here also confirmed in supposing

that the dark and difficult words of the superscriptions refer

generally to the subject, and that we obtain the key for under-

standing them whenever we have become acquainted with this.

Luther understood the word as referring to the subject, but

erred in giving it the sense of "innocence:"

            Ver. 1. 0 Lord, my God, in Thee do I put my trust; save

me from all my persecutors, and deliver me. Calvin: "This is

the true proof of our faith, that we cease not, even in our greatest

distress, to trust in God. From this also we conclude, that the

door is shut against our prayers, if we cannot open it with the

key of confidence. Nor is it a superfluous thing for him to

name the Lord his God; but he sets this up as a bank against

the waves of temptation, that they might not overflow his faith."

Berleb. Bible: "If we honour God, and seek no support besides

Him to which we would commit ourselves, He shows us, and gives

us to experience, that we also need no other, but that He will be

to us quite sufficient." The words, from all mine enemies, show

the greatness of the distress and danger, the necessity of God's

agency to deliver.

            Ver. 2. Lest he tear my soul, like a lion., rending in pieces,

while there is none to deliver. In the preceding verse mention

110                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


was made of many persecutors, while in this David speaks only

of one. Expositors have, for the most part, united the two, by

understanding under the many, those who calumniated David

to Saul, and whom the latter made use of for the purpose of

persecuting David; but under the one enemy, Saul, who was the

originator of the whole persecution, and who was, properly, the

one enemy of David, because all the others only acted under his

commission. As we find the same thing, however, where such

an explanation cannot be adopted, it is much better to explain

the singular on the principle of personification. The multitude

of his enemies David represents as one person, as that of the

ungodly and evil-doer. This person, though primarily ideal,

was indeed represented here by Saul. He speaks of his soul,

because it concerned his life. The similitude of the lion, who

cruelly rends in pieces a helpless sheep, is intended to make

God, the only and ever present deliverer, the more inclined to,

help. qrp stands here in its common signification, to tear


            Ver. 3. Since God cannot be called on, without exciting His

anger, to vindicate an unrighteous cause, David therefore pro-

tests his innocence before he proceeds with his prayer. The

apodosis follows in ver. 5. 0 Lord, my God, if I have done this;

if there be iniquity in my hands. Most expositors interpret the

word this, "that which my enemies reproach me with, and on

account of which I am persecuted by Saul." Ven.: "hoc quod

mihi impingitur, et in vulgus notum est." Others understand by

it the crime, the mention of which immediately follows. Sub-

stantially, both are the same; for the publicly proclaimed accusa-

tion against David, is that which is spoken of in the following

verse. But the first mode of explanation is the more natural

one. The crime is attributed to the hands, because they serve

as instruments for its execution, and are consequently polluted.

So also purity of hands is not rarely taken for innocence.

            Ver. 4. If I have rendered evil to him that was at peace with

me, or spoiled him that without cause was mine enemy. ymlw, is

rendered by most expositors, him that is at peace with me, that is

my friend. Luther: "Him who lived with me so, peacefully."

Ps. xli. 10. According to this exposition, David first clears him-

self of the crime of neglected gratitude and friendship, as Saul's

retainers characterized the attempt slanderously attributed to

him; then of revenge toward one who had causelessly become

                              PSALM VII. VER. 4.                                  111


his enemy, which Saul in reality had. Or, perhaps David

divides the wrong which he might have done, and which would

have rendered him unworthy of Divine help, into two parts:

1. "Wrong toward Saul, during the time that David was in good

understanding with him,—to which the reproaches of Saul par-

ticularly referred: he grounded his persecution on the belief

that David laid snares for him. 2. A revengeful behaviour

toward him during the time of his unrighteous persecution. It

is otherwise understood, however, by the older translators,—in

particular, by the LXX., Vulg., Syr., which take the word as

equivalent to ymlwm "one who recompenses me;" comp. Ps.

xxxviii. 21, xxxv. 12. The clause is then perfectly parallel to the

following one: If I have requited him who has done evil to me,

and spoiled him who without cause was mine enemy. Against this

explanation may be urged that Mlw never has the signification of

recompensing in Kal, but always in Piel,—a consideration which

is certainly somewhat obviated by the fact, that the verb also, in

the sense of being at peace, in friendship with, which appears to

be borrowed from Mvlw, does not elsewhere occur. Besides, in

the case of David, with respect to Saul, it cannot be appropriate

to speak of recompense. But there is a decisive reason against

the interpretation, in the circumstance, that the sense of retali-

ating, which it ascribes to lmg, does not belong to this verb.

If we can only expound it by render, then the fr must of ne-

cessity belong to ytlmg, and the interpretation in question falls

to the ground of itself. Hitzig does indeed translate: "If I

have done evil to him, who requites me for it." But it is ob-

viously harsh to suppose that the suff. is to be supplied.1 ClH


            1 lmg signifies in Arab., Pulcher tam corpore, quam moribus, elegans,

decorus fuit; in the 2d conj., bonum pulchrumque et bene atque eleganter

fecit; in the 8d, pulchre, benigneque et humaniter egit, therefore, to be

beautiful, to make and act beautifully, and do beautifully. The many

derivatives are easily traced back in the Arab. to the original meaning. In

Heb. also, the verb first signified to be good, beautiful; in which sense it

occurs Isa. xviii. 5: lmg rsb omphases maturescentes, ripening clusters; and

from it is camel, derived, as the Arabic          shows, camelus, sc.,

pleniore adultus robore. Then to make good, beautiful; so Numb. xvii. 8,

"And it yielded (made good) almonds," brought them to ripeness. Hither

also belongs lmg as used of the weaning of children, which is considered as

a transplanting of them into a more perfect state; and on this account,

even in patriarchal times, the weaning day was spent festively. Gen. xxi.

8: "And Abraham made a great feast the day that Isaac was weaned,"—a

112                     THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


"to strip," specially of the spoiling of a dead enemy, 2 Sam. ii. 21;

Judg. xiv. 19. David alludes here to his conduct toward Saul,

as the best refutation of the calumnies circulated against him.

As a proof that it was in his power to have killed him and carried

off his armour, he cut off the skirt of his garment. Otherwise,

David makes asseveration of his innocence in quite a general

manner, although he has in view his behaviour toward Saul,

intending specially to refute the calumny uttered in regard to

him. He thus shows that his conduct towards Saul was not

something peculiar, but was rooted in his whole disposition and

mode of action. "If I ever have requited evil with evil, as you

reproach me with doing, in reference to Saul; and that the more

wrongfully, inasmuch as towards him in particular, I showed

quite a different spirit," etc. In reference to the spirit here dis-

played, Calvin says: "If any one not merely does not repay

the injury that has been received, but also strives to overcome

the evil with good, he gives a solid proof of Divine goodness,

and shows himself to be one of God's children; for it is only

from the spirit of sonship that such a gentleness proceeds."

Luther: "Let this also be marked, that David here manifests

an evangelical degree of righteousness. For, to recompense evil

with evil, the flesh and old Adam think to be right and proper.

But it was forbidden even in the law of Moses, except as in-

flicted by the magistrate; consequently, not of one's own malice


consideration which readily explains how, on that particular day, the

mockery of the envious Ishmael should have broken out so wantonly.

Finally, to show one's self good or beautiful, to act so, to give or bestow.

This last signification is to be retained, even where the word is used of evil;

for in such cases, there is always an unexpressed contrast to some good

which should have been given. Particularly deserving of notice on this

score is 1 Sam. xxiv. 17, where Saul says to David, "Thou hast rewarded

(done) me good, and I have done thee evil," for, I, who should likewise have

done thee good, have, instead, extended to thee evil. Comp. also Gen. i.

15, 17; 2 Chron. xx. 11; Isa. 9. Gousset was on the right track, when

he remarked; "I confess, that when used in a bad sense, a noun such as hfr,

etc., is often added, whence I gather that, in its radical meaning, the word

was not of ambiguous import, but rather referred to what was good. With

lf it is used only of good, not of evil, excepting in 2 Chron. xx. 11, but

applied ironically, and so is reduced to a good, since it is only in a figure

that the evil is done. Also, in Joel iv. 4, there is the same sort of irony,

as appears from the subjoined antithesis." He has not, however, pursued

his line of thought to its proper issue, and it has wholly escaped modern


                              PSALM VII. VER. 5.                               113


and authority." This evangelical degree of righteousness De

Wette will not accord to the Old Testament. It appears to him

inconceivable that it should be here marked as a serious crime,

to recompense evil with evil. He would therefore take the sense

to be "Did I wrong him, who now deals toward me as an

enemy? No, he is an enemy without cause." But what pur-

pose is served by banishing from the Psalm "the evangelical

degree of righteousness," since it cannot be banished from the

history? Saul himself accords to the Psalmist what De Wette

would withhold from him! In 1 Sam. xxiv. 19, he says to him,

"For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away?

Wherefore the Lord reward thee good for that thou hast done

unto me this day." But that rendering of De Wette proceeds

upon an ungrammatical explanation of ClH by doing wrong. If

it can only signify to strip, the subject in hand cannot be a

wrong which preceded the persecution. To strip, to spoil, can

only be used of a vanquished enemy; and when he is vanquished,

the persecution ceases as a matter of course.

            Ver. 5. Apodosis: If I have done this, then let the enemy

persecute my soul and take it, and tread down my life upon the

earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. In vers. 1 and 2 the

Psalmist had prayed for the deliverance of his life from all his

persecutors. Here he solemnly offers his life to destruction,

nay, expressly invokes it, and renounces all claim to Divine

deliverance, if the soul, which the enemy sought to take from

him, were one laden with guilt. The most inward conscious-

ness of innocence, and the deepest horror of guilt, are here at

the same time manifested. The declaration has a high parae-

netic meaning. It teaches the oppressed more forcibly than

any direct exhortation, that they can only share in the help of

God so far as they keep themselves free from guilt; it demands

of them, first of all, to commune with themselves, to investigate

their walk before God, inasmuch as the righteous God can

undertake nothing but a righteous cause. The form JDorayi has

been very differently explained. The most probable view is

the following: In the text stood originally the Fut. in Piel, JDeray;.

The Masorites wished to read for this the Fut. in Kal, JDor;yi,

because the Kal, in the sense of persecuting, is much more com-  

mon than the Piel; which, however, as being the intensive-form

(Ewald, p. 1.95), is the most suitable here, where the most vio-

lent, repeated, and continued persecution, are intended. The

114                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


difference being merely in the vowels, no Kri could be placed

in the margin. They called attention to this by uniting both

punctuations. The one standing in the text is therefore no

form at all; but we must read either JDeray;, which is the correct

one, or JDor;yi, which latter form is found in many MSS., whose

transcribers were bolder than the Masorites. It is customary

also with the Arabians, when the punctuation is doubtful, to

write the points in two or more ways; comp. Ewald, p. 489.

The notion still found in Ewald, p. (302, that l sprung from lx,

is still often of like import with it, and, in particular, is used of

direction to a place, turns out, on a closer examination of the

examples collected by Winer, Lex. p. 510, to be incorrect. The

l always marks, quite differently from lx, the relation of be-

longing to. Accordingly, here Crxl smr is to "tread down so,

that it belongs to the earth;" and the honour also is made to

dwell so, that it henceforth is a property of the dust. The

dwelling signifies that it is lasting—an overthrow from which

there is no recovery. According to De Wette, the expressions,

my soul, my life, and mine honour," are a mere circumlocu-

tion for the pers. pron. But this is manifestly false. "My

soul," as the parallel; "my life," shows, which is never a sub-

stitute for the pron., is used here, as in ver. 1, because it was a

question of life to David. That "my honour" does not stand

for the pron. is obvious even from the contrast in which it

stands to the dust. According to many expositors, David offers

here, in case he should be found guilty, to suffer the loss of the

two earthly possessions which were most highly prized, and were

claimed by Saul,—life and glory. So already Calvin:  "The

sense is,—"not only let the enemy destroy me, but let him also

add all manner of insult to the dead, so that my name may

abide in filth and dirt:" in this case, however, the loss of

honour is too strictly referred to the disgrace of his memory

after death, instead of to dishonour before, in and after,

death. Others, however, take the honour as a designation of

the soul, corresponding to "my soul and my life," and as im-

plying that David was ready to sacrifice his noblest part. For

this latter exposition there are two conclusive reasons: 1. The

putting of "mine honour" for "my soul," in so far as this con-

stitutes the glory of man, and is that which elevates him above

the whole animal creation, to which, as to his body, he is re-

lated—he alone being in respect of his soul a breath of God,

                            PSALM VII. VER. 8.                               115


Gen. ii. 7—is, according to the precedent in Gen. xlix. 6, of

such frequent use in the Psalms of David (comp. Ps. xvi. 9,

lvii. 8, cviii: 2), that it is very natural to take the honour in

this sense, when we find it connected with the soul and the life.

2. The reference of our verse to ver. 2 is also in favour of this

sense. The Psalmist here manifestly consents that the enemy,

in case of hid guilt, should attain the end there said to be aimed

at by him. There, however, only the soul is spoken of: "lest

he tear my soul like a lion." The enemy seeks after David's

soul, and his soul he will readily give him, if it be laden with

guilt; but, since the accusations of the enemy are only lying

inventions, God must needs deliver his soul. To make to dwell

in the dust, denotes a shameful and humiliating destruction.

In accordance with the relation of "mine honour" to "my life,"

it is a stronger expression than "treading upon the earth." The

honour of the Psalmist, his glory, must lie covered with dust

upon the ground.

            Ver. 6. Conscious of his innocence, the Psalmist summons

the Lord to execute judgment against his enemies. The Berleb.

Bible points out well the relation to the preceding context, "But,

because my conscience acquits me of such things, and testifies

that I am innocent therein, therefore I seek Thy protection, and

call upon Thy righteousness, which is wont to defend the guilt-

less." Arise, 0 Lord, in Thine anger, lift up Thyself at the

raging of mine, enemies; and awake for me, Thou who hast or-

dained judgment. The "lift up" is stronger than "arise," and

is q. d.: "Show Thyself mighty;" comp. Isa. xxxiii. 10, where

the "rising" is connected with "exalting one's self." hrbf  

prop. an overstepping, then especially of a violent rage, breaking

through all bounds of order. The stat. constr. in plural has

tOrbf, in Job xl. 11. But the variation is explicable from the

general inclination of the gutturals to the A sound, Ewald, p.

110; which was the more easily to be satisfied here, as the

vowel is merely an assumed one, formed from two shevas.

Expositors generally translate:  "Against the rage of mine

enemies." But this rendering weakens the sense, by confound-

ing the obvious contrast between the anger of God and the

anger of the enemies. tvrbrfb stands in close relation to the pre-

ceding jpxb, and the b must therefore be similarly rendered

here. This was already seen by Calvin:  "To the rage of his

enemies he opposes the anger of God. Whilst the ungodly

116                THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


burn, and belch out the flames of their rage, he begs God that

He also would wax hot." "Awake for me," is for, "turn Thy-

self wakingly toward me." Thou hast ordained judgment. As

regards the matter, the clause is a relative one: Thou, who hast

ordained judgment; and that this is not externally indicated,

is to be explained from the circumstance, that poetry loves the

abrupt and concise. David begins here to ground his prayer

for help on God's being the righteous judge of the world. This

thought is further expanded in what follows. We must not

translate with De Wette:  "Order judgment, command that a

day of judgment be appointed," for then the v relat. could not

be absent. Moreover, the sense of the first explanation is more

suitable. David says here, the Lord has ordained judgment,

inasmuch as to exercise judgment is a necessary outflow of His

nature, of His holiness and righteousness, with a reference, per-

haps, to the numerous declarations of the law concerning this

exercise of judgment—which, however, only are so far con-

sidered, as they testify to the fact of God's having appointed

judgment. We are not to understand, "Thou hast ordained

judgment in, but according to Thy word;" for in the law, judg-

ment is not ordained, but announced. In what follows, then, he

calls upon God actually to hold this judgment: "Help me, for

Thou hast ordained judgment; Thou hast ordained judgment,

therefore judge the people first, and then, in particular, me."

            Ver. 7. And let time congregation of time peoples compass Thee

about; and over it return Thou on high. The main idea of the

verse is, Show Thyself, 0 Lord, as the judge of the world. Every

special act of God's judgment is a consequence of His being

judge of the whole world. If this were not the case, the expec-

tation of such a thing would be groundless, a mere act of arbi-

trary procedure. Hence, the Psalmists and Prophets not un-

frequently point to an universal judgment, before announcing

a special judgment, or a prayer for one—comp. Mic. i. 2 ss.,

Isa. ii. 9 ss. The proper wish of the Psalmist is contained in

ver. 8, "Judge me." But because a special judgment is only a

result of the general and comprehensive judgment, the Psalmist

first of all prays that the latter might begin: "Thou hast ar-

ranged judgment; come then to the judgment of the world;

come also to the judgment between me and my enemies." The

clothing of this idea is taken from the manner of pronouncing

judgment, which still prevails in the East, where the king, sur-

                               PSALM VII. VER. 8.                                117


rounded by the crowd of contending parties, ascends the throne,

and then gives forth the judgment. The Lord comes down

from His lofty seat in the heavens;—(this is what is to be

understood by Mvrmh, "the height," as appears from the quite

similar representation in Ps. lxviii.; see especially ver. 18,

"Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive,

Thou hast received gifts for men")—around Him are gathered

all nations of the earth; after the judgment has been held, He

returns back to heaven. This representation is in perfect ac-

cordance with the common figurative, description of every mani-

festation of God, as a coming down from heaven to earth. The

true God is at once above and in the world; whilst the self-made

god is either wholly shut out from it, after the manner of the

naturalists, or wholly depressed to the world, and amalgamated

with it, after the manner of the pantheists. Neither Mymxl nor

Mymf ever designates the family of Israel, of whom various ex-

positors, incapable of apprehending the true sense, here think.

(In Deut. xxxiii. 3, 19, the word Mymf signifies, not nations, but

peoples or persons.) Nor are the nations to be considered

merely in the light of witnesses of the judgment, but rather as

those on whom the judgment is to be exercised. This is unde-

niably clear from the words in next verse, "The Lord shall

judge the people;" comp. also Mic. i. 3. hlf, over or,

raising Thyself above it, refers to the assemblage of the nations.

Mvrml-bvw, to return back, that one may belong to the height;

as to the sense, but not grammatically, equivalent to "return

to the height.” Venema: Universo coetu inspectante coelum,

unde descendisti, repete. In disproof of De Wette's forced

interpretation: "Over it turn to the height, i.e. to Thy elevated

seat upon Mount Zion," "This His seat, Jehovah had in a

manner left, as He was not exercising righteousness among the

people, and permitting the good to be oppressed," it is enough

to remark, that Mvrmh is never used of Mount Zion, but always

of God's lofty dwelling-place in the heavens. Besides, at the

time of this Psalm's composition, Mount Zion was not yet the

seat of the Lord; and the words, "over it," are not suitable,

etc. Luther has also quite failed in giving the right meaning:

"That the people again assemble before Thee, and for their

sakes rise up again."

            Ver. 8. The Lord judges the people; judge me also, 0 Lord,

according to my righteousness, and integrity in me. Many ex-

118                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


plain ylf, "over me," from David's representing his integrity as

a cover and shield, protecting him against hostile assaults, and

insuring him of Divine assistance. We may, however, simply

explain, "in me," "which is peculiar to me." The qualities of

the man are, as it were, over, or cover him in whom they inhere.

That the Psalmist here prays God to judge him according to

his righteousness and innocence, agrees quite well with that in

Ps. cxliii., "Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, for in

Thy sight shall no man living be justified." The discourse here,

as may be seen by comparing vers. 3-5, is properly of righteous-

ness in reference to a determinate matter, which certainly can

only be conceived as an outflow of righteousness generally; yet

still only presupposes such a righteousness as does not exclude

the exercise of Divine mercy in pardoning, but only fits us for

becoming partakers thereof.

            Ver. 9. Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end,

and establish the just; and the trier of the heart and reins art

Thou, 0 righteous God. David's conflict with Saul was not a

conflict between individuals, but between parties; Saul's cause

was espoused by the wicked as theirs, and David's by the right

Rous. Comp. the often misunderstood passage, 1 Sam. xxii. 2.

Therefore, the Psalmist prays, that in Saul the wicked might

be judged, in him the righteous delivered. Many render: "May

He, the Lord, bring to an end." But as there is an address to

the Lord both in the preceding and following verse, we should

scarcely expect Him to be here spoken of in the third person.

rmg occurs also elsewhere in the Psalms in an intrans. sense;

xii. 1, lxxvii. 8. The words: "The trier art Thou," etc., point

to the Divine righteousness, which does not permit God to be

indifferent toward the righteous and the wicked, but constantly

makes use of His omniscience to penetrate into the inmost regions

of the heart, in order to discern the one and the other, and to

visit them with blessing or punishment accordingly. "The

proving of the heart and the reins" is mentioned, as is evident

from the expression, "0 righteous God," not as pledging the

mere possibility, but the reality of the Divine judgment, not as

an outflow of the Divine omniscience, but of the Divine right-

eousness. Comp. Jer. xvii. 10, "I, the Lord, search the heart,

I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways,

and according to the fruit of his doings;" xx. 12, "And, 0 Lord

of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the

                     PSALM VII. VERS. 10, 11.                         119


heart, I shall see my revenge on them." The and also is better

explained on this view than on the other, which would rather

lead us to expect a "for," insomuch that some of its supporters,

for example Ewald, are disposed to throw it out of the text

entirely. If the trying of the heart and reins is a spontaneous

activity of God, then there is involved in the words before us,

which, primarily, simply ascribe this activity to God, when viewed

in connection with the preceding entreaties, an indirect solicita-

tion to exercise such activity—"Thou art a trier," etc., so try

then--and the second clause of the verse comes into parallelism

with the first. If God does try the heart and the reins, He

cannot but bring to an end the wickedness of the wicked, and

establish the righteous. Many translate: And the righteous

God tries the heart and the reins; but it is better to regard

this as a direct address to God, in accordance with the pre-

ceding one.

            Ver. 10. In the room of the prayer, appears now the hope

grounded upon the righteousness of God, which manifests itself

in defence of the righteous, and for the destruction of the wicked.

My shield is with God, who delivers the upright in heart. The

lf cannot mean precisely with here. Wherever this appears to

be the sense, the connection with the radical meaning upon must

still be able to be pointed out. Here the use of the preposition

may be explained thus, that the shield stands figuratively for

defence either it devolves on God to protect me, to hold His

shield over me (comp. Judges xix. 20, "All thy wants are upon

me," it lies upon me to relieve them; Ps. lvi. 12, "Thy vows

are upon me, 0 God"), or my defence rests upon God, has Him

for its foundation. This latter supposition is favoured by Ps.

lxii. 7, “Upon God is my salvation and my glory.” In that

David expects deliverance only on the ground of God's saving

the upright, he supplies a new evidence of his having a good


            Ver. 11. God judges the righteous, and the Almighty is angry

every day. This is David's double ground of hope. For he is

a righteous man, and his enemies are the ungodly. Many take

Fpvw as a subst., and qydc as the adjective belonging to it: God

is a righteous judge. But the parallelism with Mfz requires that

Fpvw also should be taken as a participle standing for the verb

finite. This is confirmed by a comparison with ver. 8. To the

"Judge me, 0 Lord, according to my righteousness," there,

120                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


corresponds here, the "God judges the righteous;" there the

prayer, here the positive principle, which guarantees the fulfil-

ment of the prayer. The every day, continually, points to the

fact, that the Divine judgment on ungodliness is one always

realizing itself in the course of history, so that they who practise

it can never be secure, but are always in danger of a sudden


            Ver. 12. If he turn not, He will whet His sword, bend His bow,

and make it ready. The subject of the verb turn, the ungodly,

is to be borrowed from the second half of the preceding verse,

where it occurs by implication. It is erroneous to suppose with

many that a particular enemy, Saul, is here described as such.

That the Psalmist delineates here only in a general way the

punishment of the ungodly, is clear even from the preceding

context. This and the next verse are merely a further expan-

sion of the words, "God is angry every day," which, on account

of the "every day," must not be restricted to the enemies of

David. The punishment of the enemies of David follows from

this, with the same necessity as, from the general principle,

"God judges the righteous," does the deliverance of David.

The "turning back" is wider than the "turning back to the

Lord." It denotes merely in general the ceasing from former

doings and strivings, while the latter, at the same time, indi-

cates the aim toward which the changed course is directed.

Koester justly remarks, that it perfectly accords with the plac-

able spirit of the Psalm, comp. ver. 4, that David should first

wish the conversion of the enemy. He will whet His sword. The

Lord is represented under the image of a warrior who prepares

himself for the attack; comp. Deut. xxxii. 41, "I whet My glit-

tering sword, and My hand lays hold on judgment." This

passage, which, the mention of arrows immediately a